Customer Journey Maps Don’t Work Anymore… So Upgrade Them

The Adaptive Marketer Top 10

Part 1: Opportunity Trees

As we’ve covered before, customer journey maps just don’t work anymore. They’re old school. Like, sooo 2006. Your customers are in control of their journey with your brand, not you. And that’s okay!

Look at it this way: We are all customers. With all the different channels and devices these days, we decide when and where we want to interact with a brand. Sure, our decision-making can be influenced by the right message, but it can also be quickly impacted in a negative way when we don’t feel known and catered to by our favorite brands.

Back to the marketer mindset: If we can’t control our customers, then let’s stop trying to. Let’s focus on truly knowing them at all times, regardless of time and place. 

Customer Journey Maps vs. Opportunity Trees

Sorry, but customer journey maps are obsolete.

So, if our customers are in control, then why are we still using customer journey maps? We’ve proven they don’t work anymore. And if you haven’t even started using them yet or find yourself in the infancy of implementing basic marketing automation, don’t even bother. Simply ask yourself, “what happens when the customer (inevitably) deviates from the planned path and interacts with my brand out of the predicted order?”

Customer journey maps used to be amazing tools… you know, back when the number of available channels was limited to two or three. This decade-old method is now failing because it’s a linear, channel-centric, list-based approach to marketing automation. It’s no longer possible to predict the customer’s exact order of a vastly growing number of channels, even with thousands or tens of thousands of customer journey maps. The possibilities for purchase paths have become exponential.

The real kicker is that each tool being used in this system was originally built independently from one another. As new channels arose, so did specific solutions for each. Now, marketers are left with disconnected decision layers that fail to talk to one another, which means they can’t adapt quickly enough to move at the new speed of your empowered consumer. What does this mean? You’re not maximizing every opportunity with your customers. In fact, you’re missing out on new opportunities as well! Talk about marketing #FOMO.

Your current customer experience is probably… lackluster.

Let’s break down the stereotypical abandoned shopping cart campaign. Your customer puts an item in their cart, is interrupted, then bails. Your event trigger is set up to automate an email that reminds them of the item that is still in their cart, but they actually just purchased the item in your store an hour after they abandoned their cart.

Are they still going to receive that reminder email after the in-store purchase? Yep. Is that the best customer experience possible? Nope. Is that a missed opportunity to build additional rapport or even upsell and cross-sell? Yep. Is that maximizing the opportunity with your customer? Nope.

Everyone has had an experience where they are chased around the internet with irrelevant messaging and ads these days. It’s annoying and bad for brands, so how do we fix it? 

Customer Journey Maps

Shift the marketing paradigm. Stop trying to plan everything. Don’t worry about when and where your customers are going to interact. Instead, treat each interaction as a channel-agnostic, dynamic opportunity, not a linear, channel-specific opportunity. In other words, focus on knowing as much about each customer profile as possible at the time of any interaction. This should happen in real time so you always have every piece of customer data ready to adapt messaging quickly enough, regardless of the channel, device, or timing. 

Move aside, maps… the trees are taking over.

Enter: Opportunity Trees. What the heck is that, you ask? They’re dynamic decision models that expose all potential opportunities that an Adaptive Marketer has to create the best possible customer experience in order to achieve a specific business objective.

I like to think of an Opportunity Tree as more of an exercise than anything else. It’s way to organize the vast number of possible opportunities that you have to maximize with a specific customer. They can be used for the simplest email campaign all the a way to a super sophisticated omnichannel campaign, because it’s not about the amount of channels anymore—it’s all about understanding the customer data needed to consistently produce a relevant experience. It’s the blueprint for your Adaptive Customer Experience campaign.

Building an Opportunity Tree™

Let’s face it, your old customer experience just isn’t good enough in the world of modern marketing. It needs to adapt with ease and speed to the unpredictable behavior of your customers. Let’s lay it out:

Step 1: Prioritize your business objectives & confirm persona.

Opportunity Trees always begin with a business objective and persona. We do this by creating an ACX Story. This helps organize the details of your real-time adaptive campaign. It simply explains who your target audience is, the conversion that needs to happen, your business objective, and the customer need/desire. It also makes sure you’re always creating a win-win for the business and the customer. For example:

Persona Icon

Persona: Mikes are high-value, loyal customers that haven’t renewed their subscription yet.

Business Objective:

  • As an Adaptive Marketer, I want to create an Adaptive Customer Experience for my… Mikes.
  • By influencing their decision to… renew their contract.
  • So that my business can… reduce churn and increase LTV.
  • And my customers can… receive a personalized renewal experience.

Step 2: Select the necessary slow and fast data. 

Unlike customer journey maps, Opportunity Trees require full and consistent real-time knowledge of each customer profile in order to send the most relevant message possible. This means your campaign needs to be able to account for any interaction with the brand and update the customer profile in less than 100 milliseconds. The type of slow and fast data you need to inform relevant messaging is driven by the objective outlined in the ACX story.  

Step 3: Review all potential customer opportunities. 

Review all the potential touch points and placements where you’re able to deliver a message to your persona for each given campaign. In other words, Mike is a customer that needs to renew his subscription with you, so figure out where renewing customers like Mike interact with your brand. Break down your channel and device ecosystem to the point where you know all potentially relevant opportunities to influence Mike’s decision to renew his account. Notice I said influence, not control.

Customer Journey Maps Alternative: Mike's Opportunity Tree Example

Two words: Game changer.

You’ll notice as you design your Opportunity Tree, your mentality shifts from focusing on the when and where to focusing on the who, what, and why. With a data-driven approach to building a campaign, you learn how to use your slow and fast customer data in ways you never have before.

The beauty of this exercise is that if forces you to have an adaptive mentality, regardless of what your current tech stack and toolset looks like. You’ll also find that it forces you to evaluate your current tools and assess what changes need to be made in order to create a truly Adaptive Customer Experience.

So what?

Even if you plan out 10,000 customer journey maps, a customer will invariably deviate from the planned path. Then what? Needless to say, we’d rather not find out… and there’s no need to, because we now have the technology to adapt in real-time to any customer behavior anywhere, anytime.

For Your Customer

With personalized, dynamic, and omnichannel messaging, your customer feels understood, attended to, and taken care of through a relevant customer experience at all times. In a world where you can’t always compete on price, your customer experience should be your No. 1 differentiator.

For You, the Marketer

Take advantage of 100% adaptability. This means maximizing every single opportunity, not just some. With the number of channels and touch points today, there are infinite possibilities for a customer’s path to purchase; with Opportunity Trees, you can be prepared for all of them.

Ditch the linear approach.

To bring this full circle (pun intended), only Adaptive Marketers can use Opportunity Trees to upgrade their linear and controlling customer journey maps into dynamic and Adaptive Customer Experiences. If you advance the abandoned cart customer journey map above into an Opportunity Tree, you’ll quickly notice that it doesn’t matter where or when the customer buys the item; your entire ecosystem would have been notified instantly (in less than 100 milliseconds) that Mike just bought, using the slow data from his customer profile history and the fast data from the in-store purchase. His new and latest customer state would then be made readily available across any channel to use and adapt the next message accordingly. This means you as a marketer benefit from 100% adaptability, while your customer gets the most relevant brand experience ever, feeling known and catered to! That’s what we call a win-win.

So, stop worrying about channels and upgrade your customer journey maps to Opportunity Trees so that you can provide a better customer experience that maximizes every opportunity, not just some of them. The time to become Adaptive Marketers is now. Let’s do this.

Up Next: Adaptive Marketer™ Data Environment

This is just the first in a series of ten blogs based on The Adaptive Marketer Top 10. This eBook outlines the top ten things that only Adaptive Marketers can do, and I’ll be posting a blog about each chapter in the weeks to come. My goal? To help you become a better marketer for the sake of your brand, your customers, and your career! Be sure to follow our blog for the next installments using your favorite RSS feed tool and by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Next we’ll be discussing how list-based marketing is most definitely not the same thing as database marketing. But don’t worry, database marketing isn’t some crazy complex endeavor—it’s actually a more direct approach to improving your marketing than many buzzword-worthy solutions.

Read the next blog: Stop! List-Based Marketing Is Not Database Marketing

Mitch Folks Headshot

Mitch Folks, Director of Product Marketing

With more than seven years of experience inside the technology startup realm, Mitch has had a blast selling, building, marketing, managing, and deploying the convenience of technology inside various industries. The restaurant/hospitality, PR, consulting, digital advertising, and now digital marketing worlds have all been playgrounds that he has been invited to play in. Mitch is currently leveraging his sales and product management background to help drive product marketing efforts for Alterian. He’s responsible for being the liaison between product management and sales, driving strategic messaging and thought leadership through content creation and campaign execution.  

When he’s not writing his own bio or busy losing his eyesight from staring at a computer screen for 14 hours a day, he’s risking his life by sending it down single-track mountain bike trails, jamming out on the drums, or throwing weights around in the gym (while trying hard to not be too much of a bro).