Previously, we’ve discussed the importance of understanding the customer journey. Simply put, the customer journey is the set of experiences a potential customer has as he builds a relationship with your brand. The journey spans the following stages:
- Awareness: Encountering your brand’s products, services and values
- Engagement: Interacting more deliberately with your company
- Transaction: Becoming a paying customer
- Retention: Developing brand loyalty for your business
Brand interactions that could move customers through these stages are called touchpoints. Businesses need to understand how their customers move through this process (or why and where they stop) to develop an actionable marketing strategy. A 2014 Retail Systems Research report found that more than half of retailers said understanding consumers’ paths to purchase was a top business challenge. In other words, you need a customer journey map.
What Is a Customer Journey Map?
A customer journey map is a visual representation of the customer’s experience. It connects your customer’s motivations, goals and feelings with key interactions the customer experiences with your business. A successful map helps you get in your customers’ heads and understand what makes them keep choosing your business every step of the way. In an Autopilot report, 88 percent of marketing decision makers said their customer journey initiative generated positive results.
A map can be an elegant infographic, a simple spreadsheet or drawing. You can grab a pen and paper, open a computer spreadsheet or even grab a pad of sticky notes to start a map right now.
Picture Your Target Customer
You may have a target customer persona in mind when creating a map, or you might map common elements of the customer experience without concentrating on a specific persona. In either case, it’s essential to identify the customer’s goal.
This first step is critical because otherwise, you’re using the map exercise to project the business’s goals onto the customer, instead of learning more about what the customer needs. Your aim is to build a framework that identifies ways to meet your customer’s goals, without sacrificing business goals along the way.
Connect Customer Goals With Business Interactions
Let’s say you own a toy shop. You might want to map the customer journey for two types of customers: a mother shopping for her toddler’s birthday, and a young teen out with friends. The steps in the mother’s journey may look like this:
- Research presents for three-year-olds online
- Read reviews from parents
- Find a nearby store
- Go to the store
- Inspect the quality of the toy
- Purchase the toy
A 2016 Forbes Insights and Synchrony Financial survey reported that nearly half of consumers preferred a multichannel approach to shopping: researching options online but buying at a brick-and-mortar store. This customer’s informational needs may include product descriptions, online reviews and FAQs along with a knowledgeable in-store employee who can direct her to the product and answer questions. Offering coupons or gift-wrap services may encourage her to come back again.
The teen’s journey might look like this:
- Go to nearby shopping center
- Identify stores of interest on directory
- Go to store
- Play with toys or games in store
- Purchase game to play later with friends
An inviting store layout and welcoming employees who demonstrate how to play games and encourage exploration may be important touchpoints to guide this teen toward a purchase.
In both cases, mapping involves breaking the customer experience into concrete steps and connecting those steps to an action the business can take to help the customer achieve the goal.
Look at the Big Picture With Multiple Channels
One potential pitfall to avoid is narrowing your focus too much. Mapping your customer journey might be a strategy to learn how a marketing channel like social media (or even a specific social media platform) fits into your overall approach. But customers don’t see each channel as distinct subsections of your brand. To them, all of their experiences with your brand are connected.
The 2015 E-Consultancy Cross-Channel Marketing Report found that only 39 percent of businesses “understand customer journeys and adapt the channel mix accordingly.” Your map will be a stronger customer experience tool if you’re able to identify areas to improve across multiple touchpoints and channels.
Start by listing the channels customers use to interact with your company. Sorting channels into a hierarchy based on customer preference can guide where you invest marketing time and resources. Making sure that there is an active, easy-to-find channel for each phase minimizes informational gaps and improves the overall experience.
Use Key Performance Indicators to Measure Customer Experience
A well-constructed map gives you the insight you need to take action with your marketing approach. The qualitative insights into the customer experience provide a framework to structure key performance indicator (KPI) standards. Connecting quantitative metrics to a subjective experience helps you effectively track improvements to the customer journey. Some quantifiable KPI measures you may find helpful may include:
- Customer satisfaction measures
- Customer loyalty metrics
- Quantitative measures of a specific touchpoint or channel (such as e-newsletter click-through rate)
- Employee training measures
- In-store or online traffic, including time spent per visit
Adding these or other metrics to your map adds another, visual dimension to your marketing strategy. A tool that connects KPIs with business and customer goals can present a more comprehensive, integrated view of your strategy to cultivate loyal customers.
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Have you used a customer journey map before? What results do you hope your customer journey map can help your business achieve? Share your story in the comments!