From persona to personalization: how brands develop the customer experience.

The customer journey has become very trendy and for good reason. It defines who the customer is within the marketplace and creates engagement between the customer and the brand. So how do brands present the customer journey and embrace it, so that it enhances every encounter?

It’s imperative that the brand first illustrates a variety of personas, the characteristics of the individuals – whether farmer, veterinarian, dealer or distributor – who will purchase the product or service of the brand. By developing these personas, the brand acknowledges and identifies the customer, determines their pain points and recognizes how to best meet their needs throughout each part of the journey. The customer journey is then a more developed transition from initial purchase to human connection with a brand. The Harvard Business Review looked at the four key capabilities necessary to make this transition.

In ag, we think of who and what is shaping the purchases and how to marry those two. Customers make buying decisions with a variety of factors in mind, from seasonality and disease resistance in chemical products to digital receivers and mapping technology. Without taking away the participation of influencers, automation is the first step in creating a customer journey. Automation is the app or enhanced digital space of the brand, which invites the farmer into the world of the brand and begins the engagement online. Where customers might have manually navigated purchases or other customer services manually in the past, automation manages them in a streamlined and digitized fashion.

Ag machinery companies are good examples of this, offering a digital environment to meet the mowing, planting, harvesting and precision ag needs of their customers. Once they match the app to the product, the customer downloads and the experience begins. Customers without mobile devices can find similar experiences online.

Through this automation, the customer is now proactively personalized. As with the previous example of ag machinery, entrance to the app or online portal requires registration of the product number. This ensures that the customer is a user and advertising is directly targeted to their purchases on their devices, optimized to their needs, and the experience is unique to them. All customer interaction and engagement at this point is individualized and encouraged to extend the purchasing behavior. This happens across all channels, at the dealership, online, digitally and on social media.

Using contextual interaction, the experience is further enhanced as GPS interacts with technology to match their digital and social environment and provides updates and alerts in real time. A phone might turn itself into a virtual combine or realign its metrics to determine field mapping. It also has the potential to alert farmers to purchasing, educational and event opportunities that might be of interest to them because of their location. Be it to locate a brand ambassador or ask an agronomist questions, they will have a customized brand experience with tools that make the most of their surroundings.

Through each point of the journey, the customer is provided with options. These are options to experiment, determine their own needs, and recognize the value that the brand maintains. It’s called journey innovation, the re-evaluation of the relationship between the customer and the brand. This is evident in surveys and assessments of customer experience at all points along the way, to determine if the experience lives up to the farmer’s expectation and how to continually make it better.

From tractor purchases to hybrid selection, the heightened interpersonal connection is what maintains the relationship throughout the customer journey. As it manifests itself through engagement, the customer journey develops a positive link that acknowledges and understands the identity and needs of the customer and invites the customer to continually return to the brand.