Customer Journeys Don’t Start on Your Website

Let’s forget about all the technology and data stuff for a moment, and bring in some common sense here: We all are the sum of our past experiences, not just a snapshot of the present moment. Without having a degree in psychology, anyone who has any long-term relationship with other human beings knows that.

If my response is “Oh, I really don’t need another golf driver with my less-than-ideal swing, but I’ve got to get me this new and shiny Titleist driver!” then you can say someone created a need for me. Not out of thin air, as I’m sure I must have left all kinds of hints about my hobby.

What would I do next? I would jump on the Internet and research the heck out of it. All kinds of keywords will be used, pages will be customized (or not customized) for me. Even if I get distracted during my research, reminders will follow me through all kinds of related or unrelated websites, or even to my personal wall on Facebook.

Then I realize there is a golf outing this coming weekend, and I really don’t want to wait another week for my new toy. So I visit a store and hit a few balls with it, and purchase the item right then and there for instant gratification.

Now, tell me, am I an online person or an offline buyer? Do I still exist as a few keywords that I happened to have typed into a little search box? Of course, some marketer must have reacted to what I was doing every step of the way, but what about the sum of all of my data trails? Aren’t we supposed to use all of that for the next time? I’m sure some marketer wants me to be a coveted “repeat buyer”?

I have been saying all along that marketers must escape from the one-dimensional world of channels. Let’s add the timeline on top of that. After all, the customer journey is a continuous one, and it started long before any one-channel marketer ever noticed.

With all of these technologies and data around us, it would be a real shame if we still treat customers like blind people touching an elephant. And the grand exodus from the channel-oriented mindset begins with realization and commitment of marketers. Not some cool piece of technology.

Author: Stephen H. Yu

Stephen H. Yu is a world-class database marketer. He has a proven track record in comprehensive strategic planning and tactical execution, effectively bridging the gap between the marketing and technology world with a balanced view obtained from more than 30 years of experience in best practices of database marketing. Currently, Yu is president and chief consultant at Willow Data Strategy. Previously, he was the head of analytics and insights at eClerx, and VP, Data Strategy & Analytics at Infogroup. Prior to that, Yu was the founding CTO of I-Behavior Inc., which pioneered the use of SKU-level behavioral data. “As a long-time data player with plenty of battle experiences, I would like to share my thoughts and knowledge that I obtained from being a bridge person between the marketing world and the technology world. In the end, data and analytics are just tools for decision-makers; let’s think about what we should be (or shouldn’t be) doing with them first. And the tools must be wielded properly to meet the goals, so let me share some useful tricks in database design, data refinement process and analytics.” Reach him at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *