The Role of JOE in your Marketing Stack with Apoorv Durga, PhD

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Customer journeys are becoming more and more complex and they’re no longer linear.

Through the various touch points in a customer’s journey with your company, they should always feel like they’re talking to and dealing with the same brand.

This doesn't always happen though - various branches of the same business can have entirely different tones and approaches to their CX, which can be absolutely detrimental to closing a buyer’s loop.

On the off chance that your firm suffers from the fragmentation of silos and generally disjointed customer journey, Apoorv Durga, PhD, Vice President Research and Advisory at The Real Story Group, spoke at our wonderful Mini #MarTechFest Dial Up about how you can amend this and how something called JOE can fit into your marketing stack.

First of all, what is JOE?

JOE stands for Journey Orchestration Engine, and is another martech solution to add to your stack. JOE allows users to set specific goals that automation wouldn't be able to achieve by using machine learning.

The solution looks at certain processes and actions that worked on other prospects - and ultimately turned them into customers - and then suggests them to similar-minded prospects who have not yet been swayed.

Having a personal customer journey is all well and good, but having an adaptable journey, using machine learning and intelligence is far more effective and generally more manageable once you get the hang of it.

A campaign and journey should be able to change according to all steps a customer takes; whether they're a prospect, a first-time customer, a returning customer, or have fallen out of the loop altogether.

With all of this in mind, it's no surprise that traditional automation solutions have started turning their attention toward JOE-like thinking. But JOE in its own right is a separate category, a standalone solution type for enterprise companies who look to raise their marketing to a whole other level.

After that rather long-winded explanation, let’s get back to Apoorv Durga, who explains the firstly, to achieve your ideal customer engagement, you need to follow five relatively broad steps.

They are as follows:

  1. Uniquely identify your customers: Across channels, over time, multiple transactions.
  2. Decide when/what to do with them: Context, time, preferences…
  3. Give them what is most relevant: Offers, discounts, news…
  4. Do everything efficiently: Planned…
  5. Analyse the effectiveness: Increase relevance…


To avoid disjointed customer experiences, we need to avoid any personalisation rules that are specific to certain platforms or channels.

Basically, to have a consistent and generally smooth-running CX, we need to only apply any personalisation rules that work on all of our channels. We want to break down the silos and foster a connected, easy-to-understand and efficient journey across all customer touch points.


JOE in action follows four main steps (not necessarily in any order) after events have taken place and/or data has been collected during previous customer journeys:

  1. Listen and learn: JOE will help you understand how customers are moving across their respective journeys; what customers do when they move from one touchpoint with your firm to another.
  2. Plan and model: Based on what you’ve learned from the last step, you can now plan and model your journeys for specific use cases. You visualise how the customer journey will look across different channels and touchpoints.
  3. Activation and orchestration: You are now orchestrating your journeys across all touchpoints and then activating all of those journeys by exporting what you learned from the previous steps; giving customers certain content or perks depending on what you found out they want if and when they’re at certain touchpoints.
  4. Analyse and optimise: You can now see what worked and subsequently optimise what was the most effective and desired from your customers during their journeys.

After that, events take place and/or data is collected, and then it all happens again!

There are a number of JOE solutions across various different subsets and genres or your typical martech landscape.

There are some relatively common queries about JOE…

Is Campaign Management the same as JOE?

No, basically. There is some overlap in what they do. They both provide a sort-of visual guide on how to create journeys, but that’s where their similarities end.

For a start, most campaign management tools will go ahead and assume that your customer journeys are entirely linear - with very little room for movement - and usually culminate in sending some sort of message to a customer or prospect, whether that’s an email or text or anything else.

The issue with this is that journeys aren’t linear and they really aren’t predictable. Modern customer journeys, for better or worse, are a mess. They’re not connected by sequential steps, there’s no discernible order, there are several channels, and your customer can connect via literally any of them.

With that, you need more than a simple interface; you need something that allows more than a standard drag-and-drop approach to your customer journey - something more omnichannel and can predict the next action. That’s what JOE does that Campaign Management can’t.

Should I use a CDP, a JOE, or both?

To work at all well, a JOE needs access to all of the customer data before it even starts to orchestrate future journeys. Since it requires that data, it either needs to build all of the data from journeys, or get the data from somewhere else.

Now, there are a number of CDP platforms that have built and included some sort of JOE system, and vice-versa; there are some JOE platforms that have a CDP functionality within.

You can use either of those, or you can use them both separately and integrate the data from the CDP into the JOE. Each of those three options has its pros and cons and there’s really no right answer. Whichever you choose, really depends on your current architecture.

Should I do my personalisation with JOE?

Personalisation also has several approaches. Using your JOE to implement and design your personalisation is one of them. You can also use a dedicated personalisation engine based on the information you got from your JOE, or you can use personalisation as part of your channel with other specific tools.

Again, there is no right or wrong answer. While using a specific engine is the easiest to implement, it usually results in the lowest quality of omnichannel experience.

Meanwhile, using your JOE to implement personalisation is a healthy medium between that and the much harder third option, and only results in a slightly worse omnichannel experience than the latter - generally speaking, of course.

Once your needs become more sophisticated, then it’s time for you to consider making personalisation its own separate channel in your stack. That’s the tricky one, but the ends definitely justify the means.

And that’s more or less it...

To round things up, stay away from silos, avoid platform-specific rules that don’t apply to your whole stack, get yourself a JOE and once you do, evaluate which kind you need, and how it will incorporate your current CDP, or if you should get a new one altogether.

Happy hunting!