Digital StrategyMany businesses that develop a digital strategy soon find that they also need an overarching customer experience strategy, one that helps them manage the full range of customer interactions.

The payoff: A fully coordinated, all-encompassing approach to customer engagement, which can improve customer retention and brand loyalty while helping the business better manage its investments in customer interactions, both online and offline.

In recent blogs, I've written about the value of a digital strategy, which helps businesses and other organizations establish a seamless customer experience across mobile, web, social, and e-mail channels.

In our work with clients, however, we've found that, once a solid digital strategy is in place, many organizations soon recognize a need to go further, and want to consider all customer interactions with the brand.

A retailer, for example, might want to ensure that the in-store experience truly complements the digital experience. Therefore, they may wish to make certain that advertising and marketing campaigns complement other touchpoints with the brand.

Where to start? Understanding where you are today - and what your customers are experiencing today - is a great place to begin developing a strategy. A practice that we've found especially helpful is journey mapping, which involves itemizing all the interaction points within specific use cases; for example, purchasing a product or service.

A journey map will cover the full life cycle of the customer experience, from the consumer's researching the product or service, to purchasing it, to engaging the company's support services afterward. The map provides a customer-centric view of all interactions, whether these involve a website, mobile app, in-store experience, call center, advertisement, or delivery person.

Journey maps help your business gain a clear view of the current state and identify deficiencies within it so that you can develop a vision of the future state and create a pragmatic roadmap for getting there. The objective is to ensure that, in the future state, your business provides the customer with all the information needed in order to be successful in using your product or service.

In-depth customer interviews and focus groups can also inform the customer experience strategy, giving your business opportunities to talk one-on-one with actual or prospective customers and observe how they interact with your brand. You can even find out, through ethnographic research, what environmental factors influence customer behaviors and decisions; for example, cultural trends, attitudes, and lifestyle choices.

For some businesses, getting a clear view of customers can be far more complex than asking representative groups of customers to use and provide feedback on a new website or mobile app. Many retailers, for example, create full beta concept stores where they try out new interactions and determine how these resonate with customers.

In taking a broad approach to the customer experience, the business may discover, for example, that there are disconnects between the in-store experience and the online experience, or that advertising and marketing campaigns aren't synchronized with web and mobile initiatives.

While an overarching strategy can help the business deliver a more consistent experience across all touchpoints, it can also help improve customer retention and brand loyalty, trigger favorable online reviews, increase the return on advertising and marketing campaigns, and drive sales.

At CapTech, we've helped businesses in diverse industries develop both digital strategies and broader customer experience strategies. We work carefully with clients to develop custom strategies based on journey maps and other in-depth research into their customers' needs, preferences, and behaviors. We focus on developing realistic strategies that deliver meaningful business results.