Customer Journey and AI
Felipe-Lopez, Unsplash

Today’s consumer expects nothing short of an earth-shattering experience as they interact with your brand, no matter where they are in their journey. And they want the same unique, personalized experience to travel with them as they venture across channels, offline and back again.

Mapping your customers’ journeys from prospects to loyal advocates is one thing, but delivering empowering experiences that adapt in real time across marketing, sales, and service is quite another.

Rising customer expectations are pushing change at an unprecedented rate. So smart businesses are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and its subfields — machine learning (ML), deep learning, and natural language processing (NLP) — both to meet these challenges and surpass cautious competitors. Here’s how AI is making an unforgettable customer journey not only possible, but also a competitive imperative.

1. Improved Visibility Into Customer Sentiment

It’s tough to create a compelling experience for your customers if you don’t have good insight into where they’ve been, where they are now, and most importantly, what they think. Which channels and offers are most effective at which stage and why? Where are customers getting frustrated? Why are some falling off completely?

While sentiment analysis is nothing new, ML applications are doing it more accurately and in real time, for deeper, more meaningful insights into customer attitudes throughout the lifecycle.

Brands are able to capture and analyze data on customer sentiment in the moment, unraveling values and motivations that impact buying decisions.

Text extraction, for example, can pull content from social media posts as they occur, revealing how people talk about the products and services they’re considering. Improved visibility into opinions along the customer journey can highlight what’s working, what’s not, and why, making it easier to anticipate customer needs and meet demands as they unfold.

2. Right Content, Right Time

Once you have some idea of how your customers feel, it’s easier to match them with the right content. The decisions you make about the type of content, messaging, and service offerings you present to them along their journeys determines whether you build happy, informed advocates. Get your content wrong, and the journey ends there.

The good news is, a wide range of campaign automation tools powered by AI is available to help develop better customer journey maps and storyboards for improved targeting and customized messaging based on where customers are and how likely they are to buy. ML algorithms recalculate in real time, allowing marketers to place the best offers in front of customers instantly — even as they change their minds.

Based on interactions with your content, ML can help you create dynamic customer profiles. Using both offline and online data, a single, integrated customer profile is created, allowing you to personalize campaigns across channels and target customers with precision.

Other AI applications can analyze buying signals and trends to identify customer preferences that can then be aligned with where the customer is along the buying journey.

3. Increasingly Smarter Bots

Gartner predicts that, “[b]y 2021, more than 50% of enterprises will spend more per annum on chatbot creation than traditional mobile app development.” Amazing.

Smarter, more sophisticated chatbots are doing a better job of anticipating customer needs and building relationships that drive outstanding experiences. Relying on an external knowledge base, AI-powered bots learn and adapt with each new interaction. Today, they’re not just handling customer inquiries and placing orders, they’re engaging customers throughout the entire lifecycle — from awareness to purchase and beyond.

Progressive Insurance created the “Flo Chatbot” — an auto-quoting tool that lives on Facebook Messenger — to simplify the process of getting an auto insurance quote. The Flo Chatbot answers popular insurance questions such as, “what is a deductible?” and even personal questions directed at the Flo Chatbot such as, “what is your full name?”

Dan Witalec, Customer Acquisition Leader at Progressive, believes the Flo Chatbot will improve the customer experience “by talking with them exactly where they are: on Messenger.” With 4.8 million followers on Facebook, it seems Progressive chose the perfect platform to reach both potential and current customers along their car insurance journeys.

4. Personalized Dynamic Pricing

The right price is often the deciding factor in a purchase, and ML-powered regression models drive real-time pricing — only personalized. Moving beyond yesterday’s dynamic pricing, AI applications allow unique offers to be made on an individualized level. As customer preferences change, so will pricing, resulting in one in-store price and one personalized price for you.

Personalized dynamic pricing lets you extract the right information about buying behaviors as they occur so you can present the best products to your customers at the right prices and on the fly.

Final Thoughts

The customer path to purchase is becoming more complex every day. And while most businesses recognize the need to understand the voyage, few have a handle on it.

Here’s the takeaway: practical applications of AI, like those discussed above, can help improve workflow and increase efficiencies while offering your customers the products and services they demand.

However, whichever digital path you decide to take, driving superior customer journeys requires more than assembling the right combination of data, insights, and digital content. It involves building and executing smart strategies that end in award-winning, omnichannel, personalized experiences that wow.