[Free Takeaway Inside – Must-Use Analytical Techniques Across Marketing Life Stages]

Modern businesses try to script the “perfect” journey that provides frictionless, elegant experiences for their customers. But what happens when customers don’t necessarily follow the script?

Consumers today are more connected than ever. According to a study by Neilsen, consumers moved back and forth across several touch points, consuming a sequence of content before they were ready to make a purchase.

They use the internet to research products and services on company websites, read reviews from crowd-sourced sites, ask questions on chat bots, interact with IVRs, look for deals via self-service sites, and talk to agents on the phone or in stores to get more information…

A sophisticated approach is required to help marketers navigate this environment, which is less linear and more complicated than the traditional marketing funnel suggests.

As an individual makes his way across multiple channels, businesses must also constantly recalibrate their position and be a step ahead of their consumers. They should continuously read and react to specific customer signals – resisting the temptation to push them and instead guide them along the right path to their destination.

This has led to a paradigm shift in marketing with the emergence of a new customer-centric strategy known as ‘Next-Best-Action’.

What is the Next-Best-Action and how does it Work?

The next-best-action is a customer-focused strategy that molds the business model to fit the needs of the consumer. A personalized, next-best-action engagement approach begins with the customer, rather than your products or services. A next-best-action is, at its core, meeting customers where they are with an action, an offer or a piece of information that precisely matches the customer’s desires and inclinations.

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. Using this data, it then determines what the next step should be in order to drive the buyer to a desired outcome.

Next-best-action marketing is instrumental to achieving a one-to-one engagement, and allows you to determine the optimal action for every customer based on their shifting context.

Strategies to Determine the Next Best Marketing Action for Customers

Today, traditional one-to-many marketing approaches just can’t compete. It’s essential to make the shift to one-to-one marketing by leveraging the next-best-action pathway towards customer success. Here are some strategies that will help to determine the next best action for customers and optimize their journey:

1. Assemble a Comprehensive Customer View

In a study by the CMO Council, just 3% of marketing professionals felt they truly could access a comprehensive view of their customers’ journeys. However, it’s essential to integrate all customer touch points and build a single customer view to comprehend their complex cross-channel journey.

The first step in predicting the next-best-action for the customer is to connect all first, second and third-party data into one universally accessible Golden record. This can be done using a Customer Data Platform or CDP that ingests and unifies data from multiple sources. As a result you can put together a holistic customer view of demographics, preferences, online and offline behaviours in one place.

2. Create Multi-Dimensional Behavioural Segments to Formulate Next-Best-Action Strategies

Once you have a holistic view of the customer, it becomes easier to identify browsing and buying trends among prospects and customers. This will enable you to segment customers based on multi-dimensional behavioural attributes such as the stage of purchase journey, engagement level, buying propensity, affinities and more.

Traditional attribute-driven segmentation can only tell marketers how to sell to a homogeneous group; it cannot describe exactly who to market a specific product to. With behavioral segmentation, an individual can be narrowed down to granular micro-segments. As a result, you can select the right offer or action for the right individual who belongs to a specific micro-segment.

3. Focus on Micro-Journey Workflows

Each customer journey is made up of several interactions through a variety of channels with multiple steps and stages. For instance, at the interest stage of the customer journey, the buyer may want to learn more about a specific product or service. They may read your blogs, explore your social media pages or speak to a customer service representative.

These “micro-journeys” are the level at which a brand must focus and operate – taking care to streamline the process, being mindful not to push the customer where they aren’t ready to go, and constantly adapting to that individual’s shifting needs.

This will help to hone in on the best action for the customer based on the unique path they take to complete their journey. If you find that a customer is spending a long time researching your site and blog pages, you can send them a personalized email offer with a discount for the specific product they are interested in.

4. Evaluate Actions in a Journey Context

You may be having several possible next best actions for a certain stage of the micro-journey. But, it’s critical to evaluate which are impactful in each stage and which failed to support the customer. In turn, you can optimize your strategies and understand how to lay out actions to help the customer move forward in their buying journey.

5. Build a Real-Time Decision Hub to Generate Next Best Actions

In order to create a robust next-best-action model, it’s vital to build a centralized decision engine that guides each inbound and outbound customer action and communication for every channel and line of business. This decision engine must be operationalized with machine learning and AI technologies that trigger and recommend the best course of action based on pre-defined rules and the context of the customer journey.

Fundamental to the Next-Best-Action paradigm is that there is no such thing as one-size-fits all approach. Therefore the model must be built on iterative and interactive algorithms that ingest customer interests and current context of journey to present dynamic and differentiated propositions at the points of interaction.

Next-best-action model revolutionizes customer interactions by guiding customers through a personalized path to purchase. Leveraging the power of data and analytical insights, it gives the company an edge in understanding customers and placing their needs in context of their journey to deliver relevant, timely and consistent experiences.