This post is based on insights from the Sailthru ebook “2015 Marketing Technology Predictions: The Future of Marketing” available for download now.

We know that the idea of so-called journey building is relatively new. That being said, we’re over it. In 2015, more and more savvy marketers are going to realize that journey building is just a gussied-up way to sell segmentation, all over again.

Segmentation is not the worst thing in the world. It’s been successfully used by marketers since the days of Mad Men. And if you’re treating your entire customer base as one undifferentiated herd, then you could argue that segmenting them would be a sign of progress.

If you work for Apple, congratulations. You market to a herd. When Apple launches a new phone, everyone lines up to buy it, and everyone pre-orders at the same time. At that moment, the customer information that is so important to almost all marketers is nowhere near as important to the folks at Apple. (Though we imagine they have a system in place for it anyway).

But for the rest of us, that approach is folly. Our customers are individuals, and crucially, they need to be treated as such. They are, as we’ve often said, segments of one. They cannot be plugged into ideal customer journeys, no matter how frequently that journey is “evolved” or how many journeys a brand tries to define.

Using the “journey” approach, if a customer is female and under 30, and comes to a brand via a social media site, then the ideal journey may require that she be nudged over to the brand’s website, encouraged to sign up for email promotions, prodded through several more engagements, and eventually, directed into a purchase.

The essential problem with this approach is that customers are not marbles; the path to purchase isn’t a Rube Goldberg machine. They cannot be made to roll through a system of chutes and spinners, their progress guided by levers and the inexorable force of gravity. It is not for us to come up with the ideal customer journey. That’s for the customer to decide.

As marketers, it should not be our goal to push a particular journey on a particular set of customers. This is a particularly disrespectful and manipulative form of segmentation, whitewashed for the digital age. Our goal, as marketers, should be to move alongside the customer, at every stage. So that when that 30-year-old woman chooses to engage with us, we are able to give her the best possible experience, so that she will choose to engage again. That is the path to increasing the long-term value of our customers, and of our brands.

Neil Capel, CEO & Founder of Sailthru


• Recommendations and Predictions Will Be Seen as Different Opportunities

• Mass Customization Will Come to Marketing Tech

• Consumers Will Expect a Better Experience the Longer They Interact With Your Brand

• The Promise Versus the Reality of Legacy Vendor Integrations Will Be Exposed

• Value to Marketers Will Come Via Consolidated Solutions