American novelist and poet, Don Williams Jr., once wrote that “our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”

I’m sure you’ve come across a slew of quotes that share a similar sentiment, but I think it’s fair to say that for most folks, myself included, the destination is but a small part of the journey. Indeed the latter can oftentimes come to define the former.

Lessons from the journey, not the destination

Now, without wanting to belittle such a beautiful quote, I will say that the same message can be applied to the heady world of B2C marketing. How? Well, while the destination will (hopefully) manifest itself as a purchase on the part of your customer, that purchase is little more than one of many milestones along the customer journey, and if we can better understand that journey, then we can better understand how to drive predictability, increase engagement and convert more frequently and consistently.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? The short answer is yes, now it is, but that hasn’t always been the case. You see, until recently, fully understanding the customer journey has been a frustrating task – especially for B2C brands – because the marketing channels available to us are inherently disconnected. Not only that, but collectively those channels use a smorgasbord of conflicting metrics, and can oftentimes suggest paradoxical action items. Basically, we can consider individual milestones on their own merits, but we can’t see how those milestones relate to the overall journey.

For example, let’s assume Shamita, the woman in the picture, is one of your customers. Now, while Shamita purchased one of your products from an email that contained a too-good-to-turn-down offer, that purchase doesn’t account for the fact that Shamita was introduced to your brand by a friend who is one of your biggest advocates, and subsequently became enamoured with your brand courtesy of an entertaining social feed and hilarious blog posts.

In short, if we fail to consider Shamita’s purchase from a “journey” perspective, we will likely just focus on sending her more emails since, on the face of it, they seem to drive the “ideal action”. But in reality, Shamita tends to respond more quickly and interact more positively with the brand’s social feed. The key is to have insight into which channels drive the best response from your customers and you’ll probably discover a blend of channels contribute. This is why having a full view of the customer journey is so important.

Track the journey to deliver a memorable customer experience

Indulge me for a moment as I liken the journey framework to a more literal type of journey, a road trip. Imagine two people want to travel from, say, Seattle to San Diego, and each rent a car. Both rent similar cars from similar companies, but the second guy’s car has a super-smart tracking technology installed. Now, let’s look at each journey from the customer’s perspective.

Customer A:
The car got me from point A to point B. It was fine, I guess…. pretty much what I expected.

Customer B:
So, we stop at this tourist attraction, and out-of-the-blue we get an email from the car rental company, whose customers had recommended this other incredible spot to visit, right close by… amazing! Later we decide to grab lunch at a Mexican restaurant and shortly after we receive an email with a kick-ass recipe for vegan tacos attached – vegan tacos! Who’d have imagined it? Then, just as we reached the city that night, we get an email with a list of recommended hotels to stay at, with a few vouchers from partner companies included. Totally not what we expected from a car rental company but totally made our trip more memorable.

You get the point here I’m sure… by tracking the journey and not just the destination, brands can make the customer experience much more memorable, which will invariably drive positive action in the form of an increased purchase frequency, a higher CLTV, unquestioning advocacy, etc.

Truth is, customers just aren’t buying like they used to. Because most B2C brands favor aggressive ad campaigns, mega-hyper-sales, and the old spray-and-pray mass email methodology, customers are left feeling numb toward the brands and products that they end up buying. And I say “end up” because purchase decisions are rarely ever driven by a feeling of pride or loyalty or belonging… these days our decisions are cold and practical, out of necessity rather than want. I mean, yes, the above tactics may do a semi-decent job of getting customers through your physical and virtual door, but they can’t, don’t, and won’t ever create the types of meaningful relationships that truly engage them.

Wrap up

The new age of data-driven marketing is here and it’s time brands embrace the journey not just the destination to deliver truly memorable experiences for their customers.