Report: Retailers Begin to Master the Customer Journey, But Face a Skills Shortage
Optimizing the customer journey regularly tops the list of priorities for retailers, and it seems like 2019 was the year that those efforts started to pay off.
The second annual State of Customer Journey Optimization (CJO) report from Yieldify reveals a step-change from 2018: where only 62 percent of marketers were satisfied with their optimization of customer journeys across multiple channels in 2018, 88 percent of retail marketers were happy with their achievements in 2019.
But retailers aren’t resting on their laurels. Despite this greater level of satisfaction, customer journey optimization remains a top priority in 2020. Only 1 percent of marketers surveyed said they had no plans to work on customer journeys next year, down from 15 percent who said the same going into 2019.
So what are retailers’ plans, and what challenges do they need to overcome to succeed with improving the customer journey in 2020?
Customer Journey Challenges: From Platforms to People
Part of the reason behind the increased levels of satisfaction with customer journey optimization is that retailers have focused on overcoming the technical barriers to success. In 2018, having the right tools was ranked among the top challenges, but in 2019 this dropped to fifth place for retailers, indicating the ground gathered in the hunt for the right tech stack.
This year, there’s a clear pivot from technology challenges toward more people-focused ones. Retail marketers cited "sourcing staff with the skills required to make sense of customer journey optimization efforts" as their top CJO challenge overall, up from fourth place in 2018.
Retailers were more likely to see time and resource as a challenge (31 percent) compared to travel marketers (19 percent). As a result, retail marketers are planning to invest in training to fill the skills gap, with 50 percent planning this (vs. 41 percent in travel), and 36 percent will hire more specialists.
Finally, while research published last year revealed that retailers reported strong post-GDPR email database recovery, having the right data remained their second-biggest CJO challenge. Retailers would do well to re-examine any data capture strategies in place to ensure they’re delivering clean and actionable information.
Customer Journey Tools: Personalization a Top Priority
In 2019, the most used customer journey tool for retailers was website personalization (45 percent), followed by marketing automation (44 percent) and data analysis (37 percent). Where marketers in other industries are busy with A/B testing and marketing automation, retail marketers are also more likely to be using tools focused on understanding the customer journey (customer journey mapping, usability testing) and improving the customer experience (website personalization).
In 2020, the top tools and strategies retailers plan to rely on are customer feedback (43 percent), website personalization (42 percent) and data management (42 percent).
Despite making strides in finding the right technology stack for customer journey optimization, investment in this area will continue: 45 percent of retailers will prioritize investment in dedicated tools and solutions this year. Much of this will go into marketing automation solutions, which 41 percent cited as a priority for improving their CJO efforts in 2020.
Customer Journey Leaders Will Emerge in 2020
If 2019 was the year marketers began to master CJO, could 2020 be the year CJO leaders emerge?
There’s been a lot of progress, with nearly two-thirds of retail marketers (60 percent) now realizing more than half of their customer journey ambitions, but this leaves room for growth. With just 8 percent of retailers "underachieving" — i.e., doing 25 percent or less of what they would like to with CJO — the outlook is good. If planned investments pay off, we’ll likely see more CJO winners start to separate themselves from the pack in 2020.
Jay Radia is CEO and founder of Yieldify, a customer journey personalization platform.
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