The old saying ‘the only constant in life is change’ has never been truer when it comes to how marketers are approaching the customer journey in 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic, which emerged in early 2020, has set a fire under digital acceleration and transformed consumer habits in two short years. Today, 81% of customers are omnichannel shoppers by default, according to 2021 data from YouGov

Apps, social media platforms, digitally-connected stores and direct-to-consumer have emerged as major channels for commerce, requiring different approaches to customer journey planning.

The WARC Guide to customer journeys in an omnichannel world, released early February 2022, examines how marketers can equip their businesses to respond to changes in the customer journey over the last two years. The Guide draws from WARC’s recent publications on the topic and focuses on three key themes: new thinking on the customer journey, foundations of customer journey planning, and building consistent omnichannel experiences.

The first chapter focuses on new thinking in customer journey planning. 

  • The Hankins Hexagon presents a flexible new model to analyse and optimise the changing path to purchase. 
  • Forrester’s approach to ‘journey orchestration’ involves designing experiences as they happen by using data at an individual customer level to analyse behaviour, predict future behaviour, and tweak the customer journey to drive operational efficiency, flexibility and business results. 
  • Jin Kim, CEO of US-based Creative Digital Agency, examines the role of shoppable media in shortening the customer journey, which demands a fresh approach to media planning from brands.
  • China’s models of ‘new retail’ are permeating a rapid transition that provides best practice inspiration for brands in Western markets, according to Creative Capital China’s Gianvito D'Onghia and Tanguy Laurent.

The second chapter examines the new foundations of customer journey planning. 

  • As customer experience becomes more ‘faceless’, brands can build relationships through offering a shared sense of purpose, values or community benefit across both online and offline touchpoints, according to R/GA’s Tom Morton.   
  • Dr Shorful Islam offers in-depth insight into how first-party data can help a brand be more profitable, more innovative, and more relevant across the customer journey.
  • Taking a real-time approach to customer journey planning in a crisis can help brands understand their target audience at a time when their motivations and behaviours are changing day by day.
  • Failure to acknowledge the importance of cultural nuances in customer journey planning will put brands at a competitive disadvantage, says Wunderman Thompson’s Virginia Alvarez. 

The third and final chapter looks at how marketers can create relevant and engaging omnichannel brand experiences.

  • According to John Clark, Strategy Director at Coley Porter Bell, brands today must have a digital presence, but one that is seamlessly integrated with online and offline touchpoints. 
  • The ‘digital shelf’ is now fundamental to any retailer’s omnichannel customer journey as the primary interface through which shoppers discover, select, purchase and engage with products online, writes Edge by Ascential’s Xian Wang. 
  • Research from Ipsos indicates that a proliferation of research channels now means that buying something may not involve a multi-stage shopping ‘journey’ at all if it is a one-click ‘see-and-buy’ decision.
  • Working across the whole of the purchase journey creates better results, argues Wavemaker’s Mudit Jaju. Knowing and understanding which touchpoints matter to consumers is critical to how brands think about the interplay between branding and performance media.

Enjoy this issue of the WARC Guide.