Judd Marcello, EVP of Global Marketing at Cheetah Digital suggested that marketers should stop focusing on the customer journey, that in fact the “customer journey” as we’ve come to know it doesn’t exist. As a 20+ year marketing veteran who has worked on a number of global brands, such as Salesforce, Canon and Smartling, he focuses on helping brands create lasting relationships with their customers. Below are excerpts from the interview.
Kimberly Whitler: In your current role, you focus on helping your clients create lasting relationships with their customers. Isn’t customer loyalty part of the customer journey process…the part that happens after consideration, trial, and satisfaction? You’ve indicated that the customer journey doesn’t really exist, but it seems like loyalty (repeat purchasing) is part of a journey? Am I missing something?
Judd Marcello, EVP of Global Marketing at Cheetah Digital contends the “customer journey” as we’ve … [+]
Judd Marcello: It’s a great point. The idea of creating lasting customer relationships is what we do at Cheetah Digital. B2C marketing is about creating an emotional connection that lasts. We think emotional loyalty is the pinnacle of marketing success. To understand, manage, and lead the customer through a funnel or specific journey is an unreasonable expectation. Much of the way marketers think about the customer journey is predicated on the shortcomings of some technologies that exist today. Marketers are told to go plan the journeys that customers will take, distill all of their customer journeys into 8 primary types, and then measure performance. Is it possible that thousands or millions of customers will perfectly fit into those specific journeys? No, and it’s impossible for marketers to create a meaningful experience by taking this approach.
Whitler: Why do you think it’s impossible?
Marcello: Today, customers have more power, more access to information and more mediums than ever before. It’s nearly impossible for marketers to understand every single step for thousands or millions of customers. There are essentially an infinite number of steps and journeys that customers can go through. This has obliterated the idea of a single customer journey.
Today, marketers are still trying to design the experience in a step-by-step fashion. If you are taking this approach, you are setting yourself up for failure because you are trying to predict exactly where the customer will go, putting them in boxes and measuring everything based on this process that you assume is correct.
Whitler: What should marketers do instead?
Marcello: Instead, marketers should focus on creating personalized brand experiences that offer a unique value exchange for the customer. Every time the customer engages with the brand, it has to drive affinity and attachment that keeps them coming back and will lead to greater trust over time. Rather than creating a journey or managing a journey, if marketers continuously deliver value, it will establish a lasting relationship. This is a paradigm shift from focusing on steps and communication at each step to creating solutions and value for consumers—regardless of when and where they are in their buying process. Over time, this will lead to greater emotional loyalty.
Whitler: You referred to “emotional” loyalty. Is this different from other types of loyalty?
Marcello: There are three types of loyalty. The first is habitual loyalty. For example, I shop at Amazon Fresh and I continue to be loyal to Amazon Fresh out of habit. In fairness, they have created a switching cost should I want to buy groceries a different way, so they have created value, but in general, it is a habit. I’m not emotionally connected to the brand. The second type is transactional loyalty. In this case, I want the product that I am looking for from whoever and wherever I can find it. The most desirable type of loyalty is emotional loyalty. This is when I’m emotionally connected to a brand. You see this with lifelong fans of sports team. The degree to which they defend, support, and commit to their team is the highest level of loyalty. They go beyond purchasing tickets to games and apparel with the team’s name; they will actually argue and defend their team to the fans of other teams.
Instead of focusing on steps in a journey, focus on creating hyper personalized experiences that deliver a unique value exchange. Instead of putting customers in boxes, draw insights from the data that they provide, and understand their product and services needs in order to provide what they want when they need i in a way that only your brand can. This is the way to establish emotional loyalty—not by managing a preconceived journey.
Join the Discussion: @KimWhitler