Marketers — and especially martech vendors — talk a lot about customer journeys and experiences, but they usually mean just the purchase journey as opposed to the entire customer lifecycle. Customer journey orchestration (CJO) platforms enable a more holistic view, and marketers should pay more attention to these adjacent capabilities.

As my colleague Joana de Quintanilha writes in her blog, CJO vendors have become popular acquisition targets — but for firms just outside the mainstream martech arena. In mid-2021, CSG acquired Kitewheel. Qualtrics quickly followed with acquisitions of Usermind and Clarabridge. And then Genesys announced acquisitions of Pointillist and in October. Just last week, customer feedback management (CFM) vendor Medallia announced its intention to acquire Thunderhead. My colleague Colleen Fazio shares in her blog what these acquisitions mean to the CFM space.

So Why Should Marketers Care?

CJO platforms and marketing automation solutions provide overlapping capabilities aimed at different buyers. The most notable intersection is real-time interaction management (RTIM). Forrester defines RTIM as:

Enterprise marketing technology that delivers contextually relevant experiences, value, and utility at the appropriate moment in the customer lifecycle via preferred customer touchpoints.

That definition obviously extends well beyond marketing use cases. We’ve seen the RTIM space evolve to include marketing, sales, service, and operational functions across digital self-service and human-assisted channels. RTIM’s primary capability is a cross-functional decision engine. It uses a combination of advanced analytics and business rules to determine the appropriate next best experience (NBX). But it also relies on identity resolution, digital intelligence, contextual awareness, cross-channel orchestration, and continuous optimization tools.

Vendors from multiple categories address these various RTIM requirements. CJO players have recently joined established enterprise RTIM vendors (e.g., Pegasystems, SAS, Teradata) to contribute NBX capabilities. In addition, many martech vendors with cross-channel campaign management (CCCM), customer data platform (CDP), digital experience platform (DXP), and/or personalization engine offerings compete in the RTIM space. These vendors provide the requisite components to bring RTIM to life for marketing and e-commerce use cases. But — with a few exceptions — they are less integrated into other parts of the business, such as customer services.

Marketers and CX professionals alike need to consider the following questions:

  • How do we address more holistic customer journeys? Many CJO implementations are aligned with marketing requirements for acquisition, retention, upsell, cross-sell, loyalty, etc. But the companies that have acquired CJO players are more focused on customer experience (CX), feedback, care, or other services functions. Organizations must align across functions for a more holistic approach to journeys/experiences. There’s a risk of marketing and CX becoming disconnected as different vendors sell different tools to different parts of the organization. Both your business and technology reference models must encompass cross-functional customer needs to inform your investment strategy, regardless of the vendors involved.
  • What’s the difference between CJO and martech solutions? Many martech vendors go to market with journey/experience branding, but their solutions focus almost exclusively on marketing use cases rather than the entire customer lifecycle. This creates confusion as buyers try to figure out the differences between marketing workflows and CJO workflows. That confusion extends to the underlying customer data and analytics requirements. For example, CDPs and customer analytics tools in the martech space typically do not provide the same insights or metrics that CJO vendors address with journey analytics. That’s fine if your needs are aligned with marketing automation, but you’ll need to integrate CJO with your martech tools (and other customer-facing platforms) to address broader CX needs.
  • So do we need RTIM, CJO, CCCM, CDP, or personalization? The short answer is that most organizations will require functionality from all of these technology categories. See the How To Choose The Right Tech For Your CX Needs webinar for more details. Every organization’s ecosystem will vary based on its unique needs to serving its customers. At a high level, technology teams implement RTIM to address customer-facing business needs, and CX professionals invest in CJO to discover, optimize, and orchestrate journeys. But some RTIM solutions address CJO requirements, and vice versa. Your specific needs will dictate one or the other — or both. Regardless of which you choose, neither RTIM nor CJO will replace your martech ecosystem, so integration will be critical. You may find that your martech vendor can address many of your RTIM and/or CJO requirements, but be mindful of marketing and CX trade-offs.

What’s The Bottom Line?

A potential worst-case scenario would become reality if this spate of CJO acquisitions deepens the divide between marketers and CX professionals. In too many organizations, marketers focus on acquisition and conversion campaigns and CX teams manage post-sale operations. Without a customer-focused, cross-functional strategy and meaningful collaboration, organizations will struggle to bridge these two worlds. See the Five Ways To Ensure Deep Collaboration Between Marketing And CX blog for recommendations.

Don’t let competing vendor messages, overlapping tech functionality, and disparate purchasing silos undermine your alignment efforts. Push vendors on requisite integrations that will enable you to serve your customers across their complete journeys.

If you have any questions about these acquisitions or about what’s next in RTIM or martech in general, please feel free to reach out via Forrester’s inquiry process.

To read about the impact of these acquisitions on the CJO space, check out my colleague Joana de Quintanilha’s blog. For a perspective on the impact to CFM, read my colleague Colleen Fazio’s upcoming blog.