CX Industry Report Finds That Brands Are Becoming More Customer-Centric, Leading to Adjustments to Business Processes

Kitewheel’s 2021 State of the Customer Journey report demonstrates that customer journey orchestration continues to thrive, as brands pivot to reach a transformed consumer market

Kitewheel, the leading solution provider for customer journey orchestration and analytics, today announced the release of its 2021 State of the Customer Journey report. Drawing from almost 10 billion customer journey interactions from 2020, the report revealed that engagement and retention journeys were by far the largest and fastest growing customer journey use case, demonstrating a renewed focus on customer experience (CX). This has led brands to adapt their business operations overall as they consider the full customer journey rather than individual touchpoints and sales.

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“This is perhaps our most important report yet as brands consider how to change and optimize their strategy for this new world we’ve living in”

Kitewheel’s research uncovered an increase in both channel count and channel mix, indicating that demand for customer journey technologies is increasing and brands are diversifying the ways in which they reach their customer base. This is largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic changing individual habits and customer loyalty. Of all the journey types that Kitewheel tracked, journeys aimed at customer engagement and retention represented 97% of total growth in the customer journey space, in terms of interaction count. This trend indicates that brands are embracing CX as a key source of value rather than focusing solely on marketing and sales to drive business outcomes.

“This is perhaps our most important report yet as brands consider how to change and optimize their strategy for this new world we’ve living in,” said Mark Smith, president of Kitewheel. “I was most impressed with the swift advances in the healthcare sector to embrace customer journey orchestration and digital channels. It’s clear that patient experience and engagement has become a major priority for the industry during the pandemic, and we’re likely to see continued transformation in the way healthcare payers and providers approach the patient journey.”

Digital channels still dominate the customer journey, with the web being the most frequently used channel for reaching consumers. Surprisingly, in-person journey management experiences grew 408% year-over-year across all journey types, despite social distancing recommendations and the mass closing of brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, new forms of in-store interactions have represented a valuable opportunity for the retail industry in particular. This is largely thanks to newly popularized shopping methods such as “buy online, pickup in store” (BOPIS) and curbside pickup, physical interactions that are triggered by a digital engagement and therefore part of the tracked journey. A decreased time in-store leads to a greater need for personalization before, after, and during the visit.

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Additional findings from Kitewheel’s State of the Customer Journey report include:

  • Customer journeys thrived in the most complex industries: For healthcare and finance customer journeys, decisioning complexity rose alongside customer journey interaction counts, indicating a growing appreciation and understanding of CX needs for these uniquely complex markets.
  • The healthcare industry arrived on the customer journey scene: Though healthcare had historically lagged in digital channels, the pandemic accelerated patient engagement journeys via digital channels, such as patient portals and telehealth visits. This explosive rise of healthcare journeys demonstrates the pandemic’s impact on the importance of the provider-patient relationship and a seamless patient experience.
  • Demand is growing for simple, smaller-scale CX journeys: Though large enterprises and marketing teams have historically dominated the space, mid-market brands are beginning to enter the world of customer journeys, starting on a smaller scale. New projects were near evenly split between expansive, enterprise-tier projects and smaller, single-journey initiatives.
  • CX journeys use more sophisticated, complex decisioning than marketing-led journeys: As a result of differing goals and CX requiring organization-wide connectivity and more channels, this trend indicates the growing role and purchasing power of CX departments.
  • Phone calls stagnated, while digital channels thrived: Kitewheel identified slowed growth for phone-based channels, while email, in-person, and web saw serious growth. In short, the pandemic accelerated a broader move away from phone-based customer service and engagement in favor of digital efforts.


For this report, Kitewheel tracked three customer journey use cases in the anonymized and aggregated data from its clients – providing perhaps the largest dataset of orchestrated customer journeys available. Kitewheel also tracked the prevalence of several channels, including social, website, email, in-person, and mobile, and measured complexity and duration of journeys across all industries.

Kitewheel has worked with hundreds of direct-to-consumer clients globally, including major players in the automotive, consumer packaged goods, financial, retail, healthcare, and insurance industries. In helping these companies perfect their customer experiences, Kitewheel has tracked tens of billions of interactions since 2014. In 2020, Kitewheel tracked 9.8 billion customer journey interactions. Of those, 9 billion interactions were within engagement and retention journeys.

Careful analysis of this data has allowed Kitewheel to track and analyze the changing state of customer journey management over the last eight years and create data-informed recommendations for businesses the world over.

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