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December 6, 2016

Journey Analytics: A Killer App for Big Data?

Alex Woodie

(Artenatura Images/Shutterstock)

So you’ve got lots of data about your customers. Now what? One potentially impactful application emerging for big data is customer journey analytics, or just “journey analytics,” as Forrester likes to call it.

Forrester analysts Tina Moffett and Joana van den Brink-Quintanilha are generally credited with coining the term “journey analytics” in late 2014 or 2015. As an offshoot of customer journey mapping, journey analytics “helps companies combine quantitative and qualitative data to optimize customer interactions and predict future behaviors,” they write.

McKinsey and Company has also jumped into the journey analytics fray. “Journey Analytics combines big data technology, advanced analytics, and functional expertise to help companies perfect their customer journeys,” the company says on its website.

Today, journey analytics has blossomed into its own product category, with Forrester recognizing no fewer than 42 vendors creating tools that tackle various parts of the problem, including data fusion, journey design, journey testing and optimization, and journey automation.

Gartner has also jumped into the journey analytics game. In his “Customer Journey Analytics: A Manifesto,” Gartner analyst Martin Kihn calls for “a new approach to measuring and improving the way we talk to our people” (i.e. customers).

“It’s time to assemble an analytical system that recognizes the reality of digital life,” Kihn writes. “One that combines the best of customer identity resolution, channel and media measurement, static and time-series methods, and text analytics–time to create a single version of the truth at the individual level, across marketing and media, to estimate the impact of our efforts on the things we are trying to do.”

All About the UX

As the CEO of UserMind, which works the journey orchestration end of the spectrum, Michel Feaster understands how important it is that customers have a good user experience in the new digital age.

(Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Their journey may not be that different from yours (Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

“Customer data is the future. It’s going to be the most important thing for businesses to own and understand,” she tells Datanami. “Companies that are great at customer experience are going to win and are going to take business away from companies that are bad at customer experience.”

That sounds like a simple explanation. Who doesn’t want to offer an awesome experience to their customers, whether they’re signing up for a new account from a smart phone, calling up to change a beneficiary on a 401(k) plan, or going online to submit a claim to their insurance company for a stolen car?

The paths we take to interacting with these systems of engagement may seem unique to us, as consumers who are requesting a product or a service. But at the 30,000-foot level that big corporations operate, patterns begin to emerge among the millions and billions of interactions that they govern, and the problems that you experience may not be that different from others who are busy experiencing their own seemingly unique journeys.

Big data absolutely plays a role in identifying bottlenecks in these journeys. Vendors like ClickFox have emerged to provide the tools needed to acquired, blend, and analyze customer experience data through the lens of the journey. “Human lives are a series of journeys, often broken and difficult to maintain,” ClickFox says on its website. “Journeys tell a story, ClickFox illuminates them.”

Companies like UserMind take the next step and actually implement the changes to the back-office systems that will help create these customer journeys. Doing this requires a mix of data science and analytics smarts. But it also requires business process expertise and the capability to integrate with a lot of different back-office systems.

“We take a journey that ClickFox has identified–it could be something customer are having bottlenecks in–and we actually operationalize that next-best action,” Feaster says. “How do we put a running journey into production to change the customer experience?”

Emerging Journeys

To say that customers are fickle today would be a gross understatement. In fact, consumers today expect to be treated like celebrities across every channel, and big data analytics has enable that, to a large degree.

(Billion Photos/Shutterstock)

There’s a significant data science element to journey analytics (Billion Photos/Shutterstock)

Consumers today expect the retailers, service providers, and other businesses they work with to know who they are and what they want and need. And if the company appears not to have a clue, they have no qualms killing the relationship and starting a new one.

Journey analytics and journey orchestration is all about using big data to grease the wheels towards delivering a good experience to customers. Once the Customer 360 or Golden Record project is in place and the business can at least agree what the important metrics are and how best to measure them, then journey analytics and journey orchestration takes the customer interaction to the next level by optimizing the company’s engagement with the customer.

The payoff for a successful journey analytics project can be substantial. According to McKinsey, journey analytics can reduce cost-to-serve by 15%, grow customer satisfaction by 20%, reduce customer churn by 20%, and decrease complaints by 20%.

If your business deals with consumers at any kind of scale, you’ll likely incorporate some aspect of journey analytics into your IT systems, if you haven’t already. As Forrester analyst Brian Hopkins writes, “Journey analytics will weave together every touchpoint a customer interacts with to dismantle product, brand, and geographic silos.”

Whether you deal with customer via mobile apps or websites, or via fax or sky-writing, there’s a relationship there, and it’s probably worth protecting and enhancing. Journey analytics is there to help you ensure that the customer is happy with the experience. Because when your customers are happy, then odds are that your CEO and shareholders will be, too.

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