Bluewolf CMO: Augmented intelligence is a ‘game changer’ in customer journey mapping

Consulting firm's marketing chief says augmented intelligence, or AI, allows marketers to make sense of massive amounts of structured and unstructured data to get a clear picture of customer attitudes, motivations, and behaviours

Corinne Sklar
Corinne Sklar

Augmented intelligence is a ‘game changer’ for marketers in their ability to predict customer journeys and enhance experiences. That’s according to Bluewolf CMO, Corinne Sklar, who is on a mission to de-mystify a current marketing buzzword - customer journey mapping.

In a recent interview with CMO, Sklar said marketers are long past the point of perceiving the customer journey as a linear funnel. Instead, they need to adopt the complex, but effective process of customer journey mapping. But current manual approaches to customer journey mapping meant marketers fail to incorporate crucial customers insights from unstructured data or “dark social” data, she explained.

“They’re also spending extensive time tracking and analysing customer behaviour and actions, mapping potential next actions and identifying the right channels and timing to target unique individuals,” she said. 

The growth of customer touchpoints, coupled with the increase in customer expectation of a great experience, makes it’s clear that manual analytics can no longer cut it, Sklar claimed. She noted how predictive intelligence is critical for the marketing department to achieve personalised journeys for individual customers in a scalable way. Bluewolf, an IBM company, is a global business consulting firm.

And while Sklar touched on the barriers marketers face with manual customer journey mapping, she first defined the concept.

What is customer journey mapping? 

Corinne Sklar: Marketers have long been developing personas and understanding buyer behaviours, but deep customer journey mapping is a fairly newer concept and is meant to work beyond just marketing. I view it as the process of documenting the emotional high and low touch points and moments of engagement with our customers to better understand their motivations and behaviours.

Marketers look at a lot of different touchpoints across different parts of a customer’s journey. By looking at that holistically, and at what point customers engage or not engage in our communications, marketers can make an impact and optimise on each unique ‘customer moment’.

How will augmented intelligence impact the customer journey mapping arena? 

CS: AI will help marketers better understand and empathise with their customers. Augmented intelligence allows us to make sense of massive amounts of structured and unstructured data in order to get a clear picture of customer attitudes, motivations, and behaviours. If we can understand and then predict how data can benefit our customers, we can better serve them at a future moment of need. 

As an example, through our recent IBM and Salesforce partnership, IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein will seamlessly connect to enable a new level of customer engagement. Watson has the ability to have artificial intelligence connected to weather through IBM Weather Insights for Salesforce. If we knew that hail was about to hit, with Salesforce connectivity, we can email customers and let them know to get their cars into the garage. It’s that quick and actionable.  

That’s just one example, but there is also potential to automate behaviour based on campaigns and proactively design their entire journey based on the outcome we're trying to achieve. This is transformational.

Why is this significant? What are the ramifications? 

CS: One-to-one marketing is a marketer’s dream; we always want to provide very personalised experiences to drive conversion. But the marketing landscape constantly evolves. We find ourselves managing more types of content and channels year after year. Through artificial intelligence and machine learning, marketers can scale and automate campaigns at a level that we haven’t been able to before. There’s still a lot of things that need to be automated in creative and content, but that’s the future.

Today, marketers can drive campaigns in an intelligent manner that results in increased customer retention and acquisition rates, as well as lower customer servicing costs. Through augmented intelligence, a single marketer can better identify patterns and trends in customer behaviour, anticipate the customer’s reactions, and pinpoint areas to be improved as needed. 

How can marketers, CMOs, apply this to their overall marketing strategy?

CS: Data is the most important resource marketers have in delivering exceptional customer experiences. In order to take advantage of the benefits of intelligent systems, a CMO’s marketing strategy must be tied to a company’s overall data strategy; they are not mutually exclusive and can’t be siloed.

Marketers need to become data guards and partner with others for data quality and augmentation, and then design the journey around that. We need to pick the right technologies that can support automation and create the level of personalisation that’s required to create a great customer experience.

What are the main challenges for marketers today in terms of customer journey mapping?

CS: One of the biggest problems  marketers have is that they don’t own all the channels that impact an experience for a customer. It’s about partnership, cross collaboration, and elevating the value of engagement in a customer journey experience, from IT to customer call centres, sales, e-commerce, and back to marketing.

Marketers need to be a conduit to bring everyone together and focus on customers. We need to be customer obsessed. Successful strategies move beyond simply capturing data to asking the right questions of the data. We need to act on real-time customer insights in order to truly provide the best customer experience possible.

What should marketers be focusing on?

CS: Marketers need to focus on understanding the changing dynamics of their customers. They need to help their team innovate to bring offerings that matter to consumers. They need to focus on how they can use data and intelligent systems to get inside the shoes of their customers - to better understand how to empathise with them and serve them at a moment of need.

It’s all about living to your brand’s standards. Building content and an experience that reinforces your brand’s standards is critical to everything marketers do.

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