Identifying moments in the customer journey: Interview with McKinsey's David Edelman

February 2016

Mobile is changing how brands communicate with customers – from the way they identify key moments of opportunity to how they create a great user experience. Google's VP of Marketing, Lisa Gevelber, spoke with McKinsey's David Edelman about moments and how they fit into the customer journey.

David Edelman has spent 20 years helping business leaders understand the implications of the evolving digital consumer landscape. Now, in his role as global co-leader of digital and marketing & sales practices at McKinsey & Company, he is recognised as a leading expert on the evolution of the customer journey in the era of mobile.

Lisa Gevelber, Google: You've helped many companies keep up with the dramatic impact mobile has had on consumer behaviour. How has the customer journey changed?

David Edelman, McKinsey & Company: Consumers now have the power to get information or get something done immediately. Because people have a computer in their hands at any given second, the individual moment they're in is now the most important part of the customer journey.

So, that's one thing. The other is that the customer journey is continuing after the purchase. People keep up on new ways to use a product or what accessories they might get. They also want to validate their purchase and read reviews even after they’ve bought a product.

So what are you seeing as the best ways for companies to engage with these consumers along the path?

We break up the path into a set of general stages. The first is when they're just starting to consider a category or a product. The second is when they’re evaluating and actually making comparisons. Third is when people buy something. And last is the time after a purchase.

The key for marketers is being present in the kinds of environments that somebody might be in during different stages of the journey – whether it's in a search engine, in a video environment/YouTube, on a retailer site, on your own site or on social media. Each stage needs to be thought through pretty carefully to determine the kinds of content people might need.

At key moments along this journey, consumers are demonstrating their intent very clearly – in what have been dubbed "moments" – and these are the most compelling opportunities along the new journey path.

How do marketers connect effectively during moments?

Brands can identify moments by recognising times when someone has a particular type of need. Someone may need to learn something, somebody may need to get something done or someone may need to buy something. It's about creating the content or tools to enable people to accomplish whatever they want in that particular moment.

Let me give you a very clear example of that. A moment when you're travelling is wanting to get into your hotel room and not have to queue to check-in. With the Starwood app, you can check-in right on the app. As soon as you enter the property, beacons recognise that you're there. You verify your identity with a fingerprint (if you’re on an iPhone), the app provides your room number and then you simply hold your phone up to the entranceway to the room and in you go. That's an amazing way for a brand to help you in a moment.

There could be even more moments throughout this experience. Once you're in the room, if it's late and you've just got in, the app could offer room service options. If you've ordered through the app before, it could suggest your favourites.

It takes careful thinking through the compromises people face in different stages of their journeys – when they can't get something done or can't get information – to provide solutions that enable people to get access to functionality or content in the moment.

"At key moments along this journey, consumers are demonstrating their intent very clearly – in what have been dubbed 'moments' – and these are the most compelling opportunities along the new journey path."

How does mobile fit into this new world of moments?

Mobile has basically caused everybody to demand things now. People are saying, "We want it now; we want it simple." The functionality of the phone (things like location, picture, orientation or movement) can be used to generate a capability, and to personalise that capability based on all that data in the moment – to figure out what kind of tool somebody might need immediately.

For example, L’Oréal created a personalised mobile app called "Makeup Genius", which is being used by millions of people around the world. When you take a picture, it can use all that data about your face to customise recommendations for different styles of make-up, render those on the screen and then allow you to actually buy that make-up on your phone. It can do that all using the functionality of the phone, wherever you are, by just simply turning a picture of you into 64 points of data and figuring out the right make-up recommendations for you.

My last question is, how have you seen organisations change their structures to focus on understanding and investing in this updated customer journey?

A number of companies we work with are actually realigning themselves around journeys, physically changing their organisation structure to a journey-management approach. One of our clients, a large financial services company, looks at its business in terms of the 13 major journeys that customers take, some of which vary by product, some of which vary by type of customer.

Take the journey of somebody changing jobs. That's not a financial services journey, but there are a lot of financial service needs people have when they're changing jobs: obtaining new insurance, or even changing geographies (which might trigger them to think about changing banks). This client is thinking about managing a whole set of customer journeys around changing jobs; another set of journeys revolves around changing family structures, like getting married or having a baby.

The company has journey managers who are just focused on all the different marketing, service and product issues associated with each journey. Journey managers focus on these different areas and lead teams dedicated to marketing, analytics, UI and IT; they also work with product managers. We're seeing more and more companies thinking explicitly about journeys as an organisation dimension, aligning teams to deliver on the journeys and then measuring how those teams are doing in capturing someone in the journey.

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