Maximising engagement with predictive customer journeys – a showcase

In this article, Ben McDermott, lead consultant at Teavaro, looks at the omni-channel nature of the customer sales journey and how the needs of the customer have driven the firms continuing involvement in a TM Forum Catalyst – Maximizing Engagement with Predictive Customer Journeys – with champions Nokia and NCell, and other participants Comarch, ArtofArc, ZTEsoft and Nokia.

A man walks into a store…
This may sound like the set up for a yarn leading to an inevitable punchline, but for digital marketers the cross-channel nature of customer journeys is no laughing matter. Despite growing eCommerce sales, the vast majority of customers prefer to buy in brick-and-mortar shops. However, digital — and especially mobile — has fundamentally changed the shopping process for those that buy in-store too. Omni-channel engagement has long been the focus of many a marketing strategy, but has remained more or less elusive.

Omni-channel retailers have increasingly looked at closing the gap between digital channels and the physical store. The disconnect between legacy systems governing different channels, fragmented data sealed within disjointed siloes and the seeming impossibility of effectively identifying someone across different devices and even in the flesh have all impacted upon the efficacy of best laid plans. Despite many selling their services as the answer to this conundrum, the progress that has been made might be considered laughable, had that joke not fallen flat…

Maximizing Engagement with Predictive Customer Journeys is a TM Forum Catalyst set up to tackle these issues, and provide a solution that allows for relevant customer engagement, no matter the nature of the next customer contact. Champions Orange and NCell have led a number of participants, including long-term partners Teavaro, ArtofArc and Comarch, towards the project’s goal to provide personalised customer experiences in an omni-channel environment.

Now in its second year, and with Nokia and ZTEsoft joining the project, Teavaro is proud that its FunnelConnect platform has been integral to addressing the difficulties currently faced by companies struggling to make that vision a reality – from GDPR to fragmented infrastructure.

Customer Identification is Key
The first phase of this Catalyst tackled how companies offering omni-channel (self-service) shopping need to know in what phase the customer stops the user journey so that they can better understand how to motivate the customer to complete the sales process, by combining the unique capabilities of online and offline channels. To do this, companies needed to identify customers and prospects across initial touch points and demonstrate that service providers can leverage the knowledge about the customers and utilise customer-process-phase specific metadata.

The second phase looks to up the ante by enriching this identification event with real-time data and predictive modelling to offer a Next Best Engagement (also known as Next Best Action (NBA) or Offer (NBO)), providing a personalisation of interaction that is underpinned by machine-driven optimisation.

Joining the Customer Journey
Much of the first phase of this Catalyst was focused on reaching the customer early and ensuring the customer journey continued. By building brand awareness at the crucial stages of the customer journey, the likelihood that the brand remained in consideration at the time of the purchase decision is greatly improved. By identifying where the customer journey ends without a sale, the capability to engage the customer increases the likelihood that the sale can be revived.

The recognition of the omni-channel journey was key to this and the research pointed to a key movement from online to offline during the customer journey. Telco customers, for example, typically visit multiple channels (e.g. social, web, retail, contact center, etc.) before completing their purchases. While most customers start their shopping journey online, 69 percent of customers turn to retail stores to complete their purchase.

Timely Interaction with the Right Data
The second phase allows the brand to build upon this awareness by continuing to offer compelling experiences no matter what channel the customer’s journey moves to next. The solution uses predictive technologies to fuel customer engagement and deliver compelling interaction for identified micro-moments utilising a customer data platform (CDP) that combines behavioural intent and companies´ customer data from various sources.

Brands who fail to provide customers with a consistent, effortless omni-channel sales process experience and maximize every interaction during the purchase journey – especially in the high-impact retail store channel – are vulnerable to losing out to those who can. However, without real-time access to rich metadata about customers’ user journeys, profiles and behavioural information, brands find it difficult to motivate the customer at the right time.

Catalyst partner Nokia’s input highlights the real-time focus of the phase’s proof of concept to create an interface that can effectively apply contextual and behavioural data in real-time to update their customer interactions:

“Customer expectations have changed dramatically,” said Steffen Paulus, director of BSS product marketing for marketing and corporate affairs at Nokia. “As part of this Catalyst demonstration Nokia is pleased to provide the artificial intelligence (AI)-based insights that allow to better personalize offers and target subscribers more effectively. Combined with our real-time customer engagement and machine learning capabilities this ensures that meaningful offers can be delivered at the right moment through the right channel. The result is improved subscriber experience and service provider profitability throughout the customer journey.”

By considering customers’ intent, segmentation, user-generated content, network and subscription data, the Catalyst’s proof of concept provides the best personalised customer experience on a real-time basis across any touchpoint. From a technical perspective, this real-time use of data requires machine-driven optimisation; and new APIs have been produced in this phase that provide insight into how to formulate a next best engagement (NBE) during a customer journey micro-moment (i.e. in real-time) creating a very flexible and configurable solution.

The Right Side of the Customer
Of course, with the new EU data privacy regulation (GDPR) coming into effect this month, all marketing activity needs to be compliant. The fact that the Catalyst provides enhanced engagement capabilities does not mean that the customer is open to them. In such situations, unwanted contact can sour the customer experience more than enhance it.

Following the new customer-led approach to data privacy, Teavaro’s FunnelConnect provides a means to check whether the customer is receptive to personalised engagement. As part of the real-time data activation, customer permissions are checked, ensuring that any interaction does not cross the line, and is met with only a responsive customer. By building relationships based on transparency and the usage of data for a limited purpose that creates a mutual benefit, the brand can build lasting trust with both prospective buyers and customers becoming more conscious of the role their data takes in the process.

The Catalyst has overcome a variety of issues through a collaborative approach that will reflect the necessary practises in this new regulatory landscape, with each partner in the project combining to produce to a common aim. Much like a unified omni-channel customer journey, the result has been greater than the sum of its parts. With the capability to understand and engage the customer at all stages of the customer journey, this Catalyst ensures that now when a man enters a store, the brand may have a greater hand in writing the punchline.

The second phase of the Maximizing Engagement with Predictive Customer Journeys Catalyst will be demonstrated at TM Forum’s Digital Transformation World in Nice, May 14-16.