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The flare-up around advertising blockers on mobile devices is just the latest salvo in the digital-technology “arms race” that has made today’s consumer a formidable force.

…In 2009, we declared that the traditional “funnel” model — in which consumers began with a set number of brands in mind and whittled them down until they decided what

…And it included a feedback loop, where customers kept evaluating products and services after purchase, pressuring products to perform and brands to deliver a superior experience on an ongoing basis.

…In the past few years, brands have been playing catch-up, investing in new technologies and capabilities in a bid to regain relevance with shoppers and exert greater influence over how they make purchasing decisions. Our experience advising more than 50 companies and researching more than 200 on best practices for building digital capabilities — coupled with detailed conversations with dozens of chief digital officers and more than 100 digital- business leaders worldwide — has convinced us that brands today can not only react to customers as they make purchasing decisions but also actively shape those decision journeys. … Companies that do this well can radically compress the consideration and evaluation phases — and in some cases even eliminate them — during the purchase process and catapult a consumer right to the loyalty phase of the relationship (exhibit).

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…In fact, a recent Association of National Advertisers survey2 found top performers understood the entire customer journey much better than their peers (20 percent versus 6 percent) and had much better processes for capturing insights about customers and feeding them back into their marketing programs to improve performance (30 percent versus 11 percent). They also valued automation as a critical capability to respond to disruption and deliver both consistent and personalized customer experiences (30 percent versus 11 percent).

…Companies that optimize the customer decision journey by compressing or, in some cases, eliminating the consideration and evaluation phases will assert competitive advantage.

…Remembering customer preferences is a basic example of this capability, but it extends to personalizing and optimizing the next steps in a customer’s journey, such as immediately putting a valued traveler on an upgrade list.

…Contextual interaction uses knowledge about where a customer is in a journey to deliver them to the next set of interactions, such as a retail site showing a customer the status of a recent order on the home page.

…This may include, for example, an airline’s app that has the ability to integrate with a taxi service so that travelers can book cars to pick them up when they arrive at their destination.

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