by Greg Kihlstrom, President and Chief Experience Officer at Cravety.
Organizations are increasingly thinking more holistically about how to guide consumers through the buyer’s journey in order to maximize results. A combination of marketers, experience teams, technology teams and others have been gravitating toward optimizing their entire customer experience in order to attract and retain the most valuable customers.
While these are positive movements for both customers and organizations as a whole, there are two big questions that these teams still grapple with: What if the buyer’s journey I spent so much time designing and orchestrating doesn’t match some of our customers’ needs and they drop out of the sales funnel? Does that necessarily mean they aren’t a good customer and should be abandoned altogether? As much as an organization designs the buyer’s journey around the customer, it should be known that not all customers are alike, thus a one-size-fits-all journey doesn’t work for everyone.
Enter the next-best-action approach. This is a more dynamic method of orchestrating a customer’s experience, as it takes a user-centered approach to determine exactly what a buyer wants and not necessarily what a seller hopes they will do. It takes into account a number of different factors, such as a person’s demographics, past actions and behaviors, and other criteria unique to an individual, and then determines what the next step should be in order to drive the buyer to a desired behavior.
This article will discuss what an organization — and marketers, in particular — need to know about next best action in order to get started.
Existing Platforms And Tools
Next best action can be a powerful tool that can increase your sales and decrease the average length of a sale. Fortunately, it can also be incorporated into many existing orchestration and automation tools.
This means that you don’t necessarily have to start from scratch if you want to implement next-best-action marketing. In my agency’s work, we’ve built custom decision engines based on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that are able to calculate the next best action and send this decision to a journey orchestration platform. Sometimes this consists of what creative to show, or what offer or incentive to give them.
There are several out-of-the-box journey-building and orchestration platforms already available that have AI-based tools that help with next best action. While some are not as robust as a custom-built platform, they can still help guide your customers in the right direction. When evaluating tools and platforms, you will want to ensure that integration with your existing systems is currently supported as well as easy to configure. Next best action works best when it is a seamless connection between systems. If API connections are easy to configure, you shouldn’t experience a lot of headaches during setup. Instead, more of your time will be spent where it should: on the strategy and approach.
Next Best Offer
While there are many ways to utilize a next best action, using it to present the best offer or incentive to a customer, known as “next best offer,” is a common approach for marketers to take. This means that, out of a series of options, the system will present a customer with what is deemed to be the most likely deal, discount or other type of offer that will move the buyer to the next step in the journey.
For instance, if a buyer has been shown a few different types of offers for a product or service and hasn’t converted yet, the next best action might be to show them a steeper discount. If a 10% discount wasn’t enough to get them to buy, yet they keep exhibiting buying behaviors like reading product descriptions and reviews, the next best offer might be to go up to 15% to try to close the deal.
This can get more sophisticated as well. For instance, if you are able to determine if a customer is a risky one — either likely to drop out of the sales funnel, or likely to be only a one-time customer versus a lifetime one — you may not want to give them as deep of a discount as someone who may seem like a potential customer for life. Thus, the risky individual’s next best offer may not be as steep a discount as the offer you give to the potential long-term supporter.
The Dynamic Journey
Next best action can be extended to venture well outside of a static customer journey. While the last example showed how next best action can work within an existing journey and orchestration and automation tools, one of the most powerful potentials is to create a more dynamic buyer’s journey that is guided by the customer, not designed ahead of time. (Note that this is a solution that requires a customized approach.)
This means that with the right type of decision tool, you can truly put a customer at the center of their journey instead of prescribing the exact steps they should take. This is also where next best action can get both fun and complicated.
For instance, if you sell multiple product lines, and a potential customer enters the buyer’s journey for shoes, it’s possible they are actually in the market for socks instead. A more rigid, static approach might stick this individual in the “shoes” buyer’s journey and not let them leave until they complete it, abandon the company altogether or, just as worse, add them into the “shoes” and “socks” journeys at the same time. Instead, a dynamic next-best-action approach is smart enough to take the buyer out of the “shoes” journey and insert them into the “socks” journey based on their behavior and action. This makes for a happier customer and increased sales for companies that understand how to harness its power.
Next best action can be a powerful approach to putting your customer at the center of the buyer’s journey and thus the customer experience. Instead of strictly prescribing what they see and when they see it, next-best-action marketing helps the buyer design their own experience.
Article originally appeared on Forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2019/09/25/getting-started-with-next-best-action-marketing/#3c6074a8174b