Jeanine K
Jeanine K 15 March 2017

How to Optimize Your Customer Journeys in 2017

Many marketers are hopping on board with marketing automation in 2017 because, well, it works. From taking the repetitive tasks out of what used to be time-consuming, tedious processes to creating opportunities for more personalized, relevant messaging, automation is no passing trend.

Because it can be time or behavior triggered, email marketing has been transformed from one-size-fits-all into tailored messages suited to the individual recipient. Data shows that automated emails can produce 86% higher open rates, 196% click-through rates, and 320% more revenue.

This goes much deeper than the one-off email, too. By collecting the right data and leveraging customer feedback, you can create detailed customer journeys seen through your customer's eyes.

So how can you build optimized customer journeys that boost the ROI of your email efforts? In this post, we’ll dive into the core components of an optimized journey and look at examples from companies who have built their own effective automated email sequences.

Understanding the Customer Journey

First things first: Let’s get on the same page about what customer journeys are and how they’re being leveraged.

Unlike newsletters and one-off campaigns that you create and send to a whole list of people, customer journeys are set up once, and then sent out each time a subscriber meets your pre-defined trigger.

For example: Say you’re a subscription service that bills its customers on an annual basis. It would be extremely difficult (and time-consuming) to manually send out a reminder to each individual customer when it’s time for him or her to renew for the next year. But with marketing automation, you can create an email that’s automatically triggered to send to anyone who’s at the 12-month mark and hasn’t yet renewed their subscription. This email would be part of a larger customer journey aimed at customer retention, which works to reduce churn and boost engagement.

Beauty retailer Sephora uses customer journeys for their VIP program, leveraging spending thresholds to determine which subscribers get which content for future campaigns (as seen in the example below.) VIPs get discounts and early access to sales, while non-VIPs get more generalized promotional content.


Image source

Core Components of Optimized Customer Journeys

We know what customer journeys are and how they work, but maybe at this point you’re wondering: What goes into creating an effective, optimized customer journey?

When it comes to constructing highly effective customer journeys, there are three essential building blocks that help create successful campaigns:

1. Data: This is the information that informs the journey. Aside from your opt-in forms, you can also integrate data from your CRM, eCommerce platform, and other extensions to build out more robust subscriber profiles.

2. Rules: These are the parameters or “triggers” that define your customer journey. They can be time or behavior-based (think ‘date of last purchase’ or ‘customer birthday’) and allow you to boost the relevancy of your messages.

3. Content: This is the actual email content that you send during the journey. Based on the goal of your journey, this might be a discount based on a spending threshold that’s been cleared or an annual subscription reminder.

Using these three elements, you can begin to build out your series of emails that make up the customer journey. For example, if you had a running shoe company and wanted to send subscribers a series of emails with the end goal of getting them to make a purchase, the journey might look like this:

  • Email 1: Welcome to ShoeCompany
  • Email 2: How to Find the Right Shoe for You
  • Email 3: Benefits of Shoes that Fit Well
  • Email 4: Runners Share Their Favorite Shoes of 2016

The final email would then encourage shoppers to make a purchase from the store, maybe with a discount or special offer for that final extra nudge.


The other aspect of an optimized customer journey is personalization, as data shows that even a personalized subject line can boost open rates by as much as 26%.

When building your customer journeys, remember to also personalize the content by segmenting your lists based on things like gender, age, interests, transactional or behavioral data, and geographic location.

If you have detailed customer data from your opt-in form or from a CRM integration, you can even capitalize on things like a birthday or customer anniversary in a highly personalized message.

With the right customer data you can make each customer journey feel tailor-made and optimize your campaigns for higher open rates, click-through rates, and overall ROI.

Example: Capitalizing on Momentum with a Welcome Series

Let’s look at an example of a real-life optimized customer journey. In this example, we’ll explore’s welcome series.

Journeys that welcome new subscribers with a series of compelling offers, educational resources, or even walk-throughs help organizations capitalize on the forward momentum that’s happening when a new subscriber signs up.

Not only does this boost engagement and  help keep the brand top-of-mind with new subscribers, but with discounts, offers, or educational content on the value you provide, you can incentivize the conversion process and turn subscribers into customers., a retailer of Broadway theater tickets, has optimized their welcome customer journey to present subscribers with discounts for upcoming shows while they’re still fresh in the subscriber’s mind.


Image source

As time passes, this customer journey is set up to continue to drip discounts for upcoming shows, with an end goal of driving ticket sales.

Wrap up

By optimizing your customer journeys with the right data, rules, and personalized content, you can build automated email sequences that send your ROI for email marketing on an upward trajectory.

Rather than only sending one-off campaigns, think about how this aspect of marketing automation can help you keep your audience engaged, informed, and ready to buy. Once these journeys are established, the automation does the work--it’s just up to you to discover what works best for driving open rates and click-throughs within your individual emails.

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