User Context: The Next Wave of Journey Analysis

 

Business managers know that delighting customers requires understanding customers’ needs and expectations and how best to meet (or exceed) them. However, by 2020, Gartner¹ predicts that customers will manage 85% of their relationship with enterprises without interacting with a human- including journey experiences before, during and after a purchase. How does an enterprise better understand its (human) customers when the vast majority of interactions will only be digital?

Context continues to be everything, but does this statement have any context itself in a digital interaction world?

The investments, of course, are pouring in to solve the challenges posed by this dominant trend towards digital interactions. A 2017 Gartner² survey found that 84 percent of organizations expected to increase investments in customer experience (CX) technology in the year ahead. Session-based and more recently journey-based behavior analytics tools provide event-driven data to let customer success teams and marketers track what the customer does and when. Voice of Customer tools capture customer’s expectations, preferences, promoter/detractor scores and problems they encountered, adding qualitative research to the quantitative analytics data. Session replay platforms provide marketers the ability to replay a visitor’s journey on a website or within a mobile app, which can include mouse movements, clicks and form entry, (as Wikipedia³ defines it).

If there is any doubt about the increased spending for these tools, a Forbes/ Sitecore survey⁴ three years earlier stated that on average, larger organizations used 36 different data-gathering systems and vendors for marketing efforts- to no doubt, better understand customers’ touch points across their user journeys. However, the proliferation of these tools appear to have created another problem, understanding the cause and effect between CX and ROI. During the vast majority of our client discovery discussions, we continually experience that even with today’s sophisticated tools and investments, B2B and B2C enterprises still struggle to adequately understand their customers’ shopping/purchase journeys and how customer experience (CX) impacts the top or bottom line of their business.

It’s (still) the context…stupid (Wired ‘94⁵)

Today’s digital tools are great at capturing what the customer is doing. If the digital experience were metaphorically a floor showroom, the flood of data flowing through these tools would let you track the equivalent of how many products your customer searched or browsed, what they looked at, reviewed the price of, added to their cart and of course, purchased. You can know at any moment in time, how many customers your advertising is driving into your store, visitor volume by channel, conversion rate by channel, the real-time average ROI of your marketing spend and which products or brands are selling, or not. Mobile-first dashboards will let you know all of these metrics in near real-time anywhere on the planet, and which of them are flat or increasing/decreasing and at what rate.

These digital tools are pretty cool in letting you know WHAT customers are doing on their digital journey, but in our opinion, don’t sufficiently tell you WHY they are doing it. Without the WHY behind customers’ behaviors, we feel enterprises will continue to struggle in understanding their customers’ digital experiences. These tools provide vast amounts of data about an individual customer’s experience but don’t easily let marketers actually experience it for themselves.

We feel that to understand and experience the reality of your customers’ journey, knowing their user context is still everything.

Experiencing your customers’ digital journeys through the eyes of your customers is the most direct path to understanding the obstacles in their way before, during and after purchasing your products and services. Since today a 15% conversion funnel is considered “high performing”, knowing why the other 85% are not purchasing is a direct path to moving the needle.

Shifting Contexts

Since digital purchase journeys blur the lines between marketing and customer success, when fully abstracted, they can be thought of as mere changes in user context along the customer loyalty loop. The labels of digital “visitors”, “shoppers”, “buyers”, and “customers” blend into “users” whose “user context” is changing on their journey with your enterprise. In fact the change from a “visitor” to a “customer/buyer” is by definition, a shift in user context. CRM and transaction systems are essential to understanding customers, but without context, are not complete. Without the tools to fully understand the context of your users and what they are actually experiencing on these journeys, customer success teams are often left guessing what is happening between the data in their customer touchpoints. Our physical store metaphor is useful in illustrating this (missing) context

For example, today customers entered your store, but where did they go and what did they look at first? Second? How many shirts did they browse before putting one into their cart? Were they price-conscious shoppers looking at every price tag, shopping brands independent of price, or just shopping value? What did the store feel like at the time they were shopping? Was there any unsightly (digital) garbage on the floor, confusing signage during their experience (Error 404 codes) or was it hard to navigate the showroom? Was the merchandise priced correctly or how often did they look for something and find nothing? Could they easily find someone (or anyone) who could answer their question? When they provided their feedback, what experience did they have that caused them to offer that specific feedback? What customer experience did they have that caused them to tell a positive story about your store experience (promoters) or a negative one (detractors). It is understanding the answers to these questions from our Auryc clients, that we have found can move the needle for their enterprise.

Analytics Data Silos, Sans Context

Unfortunately, today’s marketing analytics platforms offer analytics, replay, and voice of customer mainly in isolation of one another with data that is very hard to integrate across siloed data repositories. For the most part, these point solution tools do not accurately answer why customers behave the way they do along their customer journeys and do not adequately reveal the user context — the WHY behind each WHAT at specific moments in time. The effort to stitch together the WHY across datasets is often a multi-week adventure, filing engineering tickets to extract data and join it across data silos to gain even the simplest of insights. In our client experience, the lack of integration across these tools is a massive hurdle in understanding the user context of customer experience.

Today’s analytics providers without session replay do not offer any user context- only aggregating customer data at touch points pre-defined by the enterprise, but not likely representative of the customers’ true digital journey.

  • The analytics data by itself simply does not reveal the contextual insights required to make sense of users’ behaviors and in today’s market, hiring a data scientist to create these valuable insights can cost on average a quarter of a million dollars in annual salary.
  • This user journey data is often missing key facets such as multi-channel attribution to track conversions across multiple visitor sessions. The user may return to your store multiple times via various channels before choosing to fully engage or purchase and single session analytics tools do not capture this multi-session lifetime journey originating from different channels. Instead, most session-based platforms count these visits as separate sessions, one of which purchased, making it hard to understand the full context of a user’s journey before, during and after purchase.

Replay platforms without analytics indeed offer insightful user context for each session, but often without the data to quantify and track the shifting user contexts along the digital journey.

  • Without the analytics to let you isolate which shoppers stayed in the funnel and which shoppers left, it’s hard to quickly find which sessions to review to understand why the first shoppers continued in the funnel and why the latter abandoned it. Finding an individual session is next to impossible- the proverbial needle in the haystack.
  • Many of the operators of today’s replay solutions also rely on session sampling to provide directional trends on user cohorts. However, session sampling is precisely the reason why marketers cannot find and replay a broken shopping experience to repair it and address your customer’s feedback. Marketing managers require 100% coverage of user experiences to truly delight their customers.

Last, voice of customer without replay is also wholly absent user context. Enterprises today tirelessly review relentless volumes of user feedback responses daily without knowing anything about what was driving the customer to submit the feedback in the first place.

  • The user feedback itself will almost never contain enough information to be actionable- customers will tell you (complain about) what happened (“the site broke”) but will almost never tell you the necessary context of their digital experience for you to confidently take action.
  • This forces organizations to guess or at best extrapolate the “why behind the what” from multiple user feedbacks which very often results in many internal (unproductive) debates about what action to take across engineering, product management, and UX/CX design.
  • Voice of customer feedback, user surveys and NPS with accompanying individual session replays provides a single, undeniable source of truth resulting in immediate, decisive and confident actions for cross-functional customer success teams to remedy problems quickly.

Context: The Engine for Exceptional Customer Journeys

If you are digital, you are in the customer experience business whether you like it or not, which means nearly every business enterprise is in the CX business. Your customer experience is part of your brand (the set of expectations customers form during their journey experience with you), which means it is really important to your bottom line. McKinsey Quarterly⁶ states “companies that create exceptional customer experiences can set themselves apart from their competitors”. You only need to use Amazon or Uber once to know that enterprises that embrace user journey context will outperform those that do not. Providing exceptional customer experiences along user journeys requires having an exceptional quantitative and qualitative understanding of user context. This contextual understanding lets teams iteratively improve customer experience and also makes the data and feedback provided by today’s analytics and voice of customer platforms more actionable.

We feel the technologies and capabilities to understand the context of human behavior in a digital touchpoint world increasingly mark the next wave in journey analysis to improve customer satisfaction and build customer loyalty.

Journey intelligence platforms that can provide a single source of visual truth of their customers’ journeys are an essential tool for remaining competitive because they let enterprise customer success teams deeply understand user context to create exceptional customer experiences. These journey-centric replay platforms provide an unparalleled opportunity to understand your users’ point of view and what they experience as they journey from a visitor/shopper context to a buyer/owner context along your customer loyalty loop. The intelligence these platforms provide helps you know what your customers want to do, when and why, and how best to deliver what they want- or remove the obstacles that prevent you from successfully delivering it. Auryc believes providing session replay on 100% of user sessions to understand the WHY behind behavioral analytics and customer feedback is the golden key to delighting customers and unlocking the value and revenue potential hidden just beneath the surface of your digital customer journeys.

¹ https://www.gartner.com/imagesrv/summits/docs/na/customer-360/C360_2011_brochure_FINAL.pdf

² https://blogs.gartner.com/jessica-ekholm/2017/04/24/customer-experience-future/

³ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Session_replay

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbespr/2014/09/10/companies-struggling-to-win-customers-for-life-says-new-study-by-forbes-insights-and-sitecore/#27c13e151407

https://www.wired.com/1994/03/context-2/

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/the-ceo-guide-to-customer-experience