Predicting a customer journey, also known as customer journey mapping is a fascinating process. If you are a business owner, you must have encountered surprise visitors (first-time website visitors for online businesses and new walk-ins for brick-and-mortar establishments). It’s a wonderful feeling if these visitors become your customers. Isn’t it? Can you visualize that process? Visitors, or people who have no idea who you are, become aware of you and your brand’s existence.
Customer journey mapping is visualizing or mapping your customers’ transformation from visitors to prospects, subscribers, initial purchasers, and hopefully raving fans. A wealth of information can be obtained about your customers when you map their journey correctly.
How does customer journey mapping benefit your business? You can use information from journey mapping to predict customer behavior and foresee friction causes. Accordingly, you can take preemptive steps to ensure your customer’s experience remains first class.
What is a Customer Journey Map?
A customer journey map is an important tool for customer experience (CX) professionals. With a customer journey map, you can visualize the experience of interacting with your brand from your customer’s point of view. A journey map is a comprehensive interaction roadmap for clients – from brand discovery to purchasing.
The purpose of a journey map isn’t limited to focusing only on customers’ transactions or serving until the initiation point of the customer’s journey with your brand. An ideal customer journey map helps you measure and evaluate how you are taking care of your customers while simultaneously helping you find ways to enhance their overall brand experience.
How Long Can a Customer Journey Last?
A customer journey can be impulsive and last for a few moments (like picking up your favorite bar of chocolate or adding your favorite tub of ice cream in the cart while shopping at a supermarket).
The journey could also be deliberately long-drawn and can take weeks or even months to begin and could span for months or even years (e.g., when someone decides to buy a house or car, or an enterprise decides upon and then subscribes to a helpdesk software provider).
Example: Aircraft Purchase Procedure
Another excellent example of a long-drawn customer journey is flight operators acquiring aircraft from aircraft manufacturers like Airbus or Boeing. From the time airline companies express interest in acquiring a specific aircraft type until the time when the manufacturer can complete all the orders in the book, the entire process can last decades.
Customer Journey Mapping Leads to Better Customer Experiences
Do you think that having a great product, a good brand reputation, and 24/7 prompt service alone can make a big difference to your customer’s experience? Although this may be enough to fulfill your customer’s needs, this will not be enough to ensure their experience with your brand is ‘wow.’
People Shop for Experiences, Not Products
When customers purchase something, it’s not your product or service that they are after. This might surprise you, and you may counter by saying ultimately, it is the product or service that gets sold. We hear you. We are not saying that products don’t get sold. Customers do purchase products, but it’s not what they’re buying. What customers actually buy is the experience of using your product.
You see, products are meant to be used, not placed on a shelf and forgotten. Customers purchase products for usage. It’s this usage that creates experiences for customers. When you sell something, remember that you’re selling the experience of using the product. Products may come and go, but experiences linger in your client’s mind for a long time. A good experience can make customer journeys pleasant and drive business growth.
On the other hand, even a single instance of an unpleasant experience can not only mar the customer’s journey but also drive them away from your brand resulting in churn.
It won’t be unwise to say experience is the be-all and end-all of customer journeys.
A customer-centric business tries to improve the customer’s experience across every touchpoint and places the customer’s interest at the heart of all business decisions.
What Are The Various Stages in a Customer Journey?
Customer journey is not modern tactic businesses employ to follow their customers' changing tastes and behavior. Before the advent of the digital age, journey mapping meant monitoring and assisting customers during the Awareness, Consideration, and Conversion stages. Even now, most offline businesses that depend on customer walk-ins or footfalls (e.g., brick-and-mortar establishments, shopping malls, etc.) focus chiefly on the awareness, consideration, and conversion stages of a customer’s journey.
Evolution of Customer Journey Mapping
Keeping abreast of technology and trends, the customer journey mapping process evolved greatly. A significant outcome of this evolution was the addition of two new stages — Retention and Advocacy to the journey mapping process. These new stages provide a substantial understanding of customer behavior when they shop online. The five-stage journey mapping process comprising offline and online customers gained acceptance and is widely used today. Modern customer journeys comprise five stages. These are Awareness, Consideration, Conversion, Retention, and Advocacy.
Customer journey mapping is the first in a series of activities brands undertake to achieve successful customer outcomes. Step into your customers’ shoes, and get a firsthand account of their experiences while interacting with your brand as against their expectations before the journey commenced.
The Customer Journey Map as a Tool
The journey map is a tool businesses utilize to understand customers and predict their behavior. It helps you understand customers’ intentions for choosing a particular brand. As a tool, journey maps help demystify your customers' wants.
The Customer Journey Map as an Activity
Interestingly enough, mapping the journey in itself is a critical process/activity that gives you a blueprint of the customer’s activities and behavior throughout their association with your brand. When you plot your customer’s journey, you use data and insights to create a tool to better understand your customers.
The Five Stages of a Customer Journey
The Five Stages of a Customer Journey are:
- Conversion or Purchase
Let’s understand each stage in the customer journey map in detail.
This is also the stage when consumers come across your brand, among others, when searching for products or solutions. Consumers are made aware of your brand through efforts like advertising and marketing. As a brand, this is your time to shine while consumers ( your potential customers) are conducting their research. How? By providing value at every stage of their discovery stage through educational content tools like blog posts, infographics, explainers, etc.
As the name suggests, this is the stage where consumers are likely to consider your brand alongside others. This is the stage where consumers directly interact with your brand, and you must make a positive impression on your clients. During the consideration stage, consumers research specific brands and products, compare competitors and evaluate the brand’s priorities.
As a brand, you can impress potential customers by highlighting your product's positive user experience (UX) when people look closely at your product and service specifications and features and go through your customer support policies and direct competition reviews.
The conversion stage or purchase stage is where your brand visitors are prompted to take action — usually by signing up or making a purchase. This is the moment sales reps live for. After a busy courtship, potential customers are satisfied with their research and eventually choose your brand over others.
Consumers compare various parameters like price, value, the responsiveness of brand and customer service reps, company values, and environmental policies. When clients purchase, they choose brands with whom they repose their trust.
Losing customers for whatever reason is a pressing problem most businesses face. Everything seems fine one day, and suddenly, the customer decides to leave one company for another — for reasons best known to them. Every client encounters impediments throughout their journey/association with a brand. But have you paused to think about what drives customers to cut the cord with your brand?
Customers do not mind paying extra if the experience is delightful. However, anytime a customer cannot resolve their issue quickly or get their questions answered upon first contact, you risk them becoming annoyed. Thus begins the downward spiral of negative brand perception, frustration, and churn. It does not matter how awesome your product is - if customers don’t achieve their goals, they will eventually churn.
Mapping gives you the foresight to intervene in the customer's ongoing journey and make improvements in real time. It helps you in identifying and solving customers’ pain points and improves the overall experience. The aim is to meet your customer's expectations and provide them with a superior buying and service experience so they can keep coming back for more.
Delightful experiences encourage customers to recommend your brand and products to friends and family. Good brand advocacy is more valuable than advertising and marketing. Happy customers are your biggest brand advocates! Investing time and effort to create journey maps for customers and going the extra mile to ensure their experiences are truly delightful reaps rich dividends for your brand.
When customers feel valued, they do more business with you. More business means a sustainable and profitable business. Advocacy helps brands acquire new customers without spending too much.
Your Organizational Objectives Must Align with Customer Objectives
Now that we are acquainted with the five stages of a customer journey, it’s time for a friendly reminder. While mapping customer journeys, don’t forget your company’s goals. The goals of your business divisions, teams, and even individual employees culminate in creating an organizational culture. Business owners must verify their overall objectives are aligned with customers’ objectives. Customers will create demand for upsells and expansions when they are successful and help your business grow.
Decoding the Buyer's Mindset
How customers actually make purchases is not what you think. Clients don’t say no to you because your price is too high. The truth is that clients judge the quality of your work by its price. The higher your price is, the more desirable your product becomes.
Solving problems and fulfilling needs isn’t enough to satisfy today’s customers. You must ensure that you meet their expectations and provide additional value through your offer. Customers evaluate your brand and your offer to other brands (competitors) in the market.
Such behavior may be frustrating for you (as well as other businesses facing a similar situation), and that is understandable because the evaluation process presents itself as an additional hurdle for sales teams. Nevertheless, if your brand emerges as the least risky option, customers proceed with
We now know that before making a purchase, customers evaluate brands and what they have to offer. Do you know the reason for such behavior? Is it because customers love bargains and are hardwired to scout for deals? Yes, but there is another reason clients always evaluate their purchase journey.
You see, customers are scared that the product/service will not give the desired result. Or they might think that there isn’t anybody to reach out to for help, should anything happen. When customers purchase something, they do so emotionally. Afterward, they justify their decisions intellectually.
The customer’s emotional decision has to have merit, or else there can be no justification for the purchase. When you help customers envision what their future would look like and guide them during their journey, you give them reasons to choose you.
How to Map Customer Journeys?
Follow these steps to create the most accurate representation of your customer journey.
Step 1: Create Buyer Persona
Step 2: Select Your Target Customer
Step 3: List Customer Touchpoints
Step 4: Identify Customer Actions
Step 5: Understand Your Available Resources
Step 6: Analyzing The Customer Journey
Step 7: Take Business Action
Let’s look at each stage of the journey mapping procedure in detail.
Create Buyer Persona
Customer journey mapping begins with visualizing your customer’s persona. You try to make a research-based guess of understanding your customers’ perspectives — their needs, expectations, values, etc. It will be an exercise in futility If you don’t know who your buyer is and map the journey for an imaginary or wishful customer.
Select Your Target Customer
To build deep connections with your customers and run laser-targeted campaigns, knowing
the three Ws - WHO, WHAT, and WHEN is indispensable. Who the target audience is, what products/solutions they need, and when are the right time to connect with them in their customer journey are all crucial considerations.
Customer segmentation helps segregate customers into different segments and hyper-target them with tailored offerings. This helps brands focus their marketing efforts on somebody rather than just anybody, ultimately revving up their competitive positioning.
List Customer Touchpoints
In the next step, prepare a list of all of your customer touchpoints. Touchpoints are all points of contact between a customer and a business from start to finish. Touchpoints have the power to influence consumers and affect their journey into your sales funnel. There are a number of ways that customers can reach you, and selecting the channels you’ll use for communication should be an important part of your business strategy.
Identify Customer Actions
As customers hop touchpoints and jump from channel to channel, especially during the course of a single service or inquiry, brands must be empowered to transform that collection of unique customer interactions into a single engagement experience. This will help to avoid frustration and confusion and set the right context the next time the customer engages with your brand.
For example, a person may start a conversation on social and then be routed to an email or phone system to resolve it. Typically these systems are not connected, so integration is necessary to close the case upon resolution in each channel that it was opened.
Understand Your Available Resources
Getting your customers to adore your brand requires continuous monitoring of touchpoints and resolving an issue across channels. How you engage your customers determines what they say about you. Considering how many channels your team can manage - both financially and with human resources - is a long-term sustainability question.
Analyze The Customer Journey
Anticipate customers’ problems proactively and answer questions before they are asked.
Understanding your customer’s journey can be an eye-opening experience for you. On the one hand, you might uncover some scary truths. But on the other hand, it could assure you that things are headed in the right direction. Examine each stage your customer is in at the moment, and look for potential roadblocks. Ask yourself and your business teams where they see potential challenges and make corrections to improve your customer's experience.
Take Business Action
Merely creating a journey map for your customers will not help. Instead of focusing on a large group of users, it’s usually more effective to target a specific persona and help them achieve their goals. Your progress should be from Insight To Action (in this case, Journey Mapping).
Follow these steps to create the most accurate representation of your customer's journey with your brand. This is the first blog in a two-part series that explains to you all the nitty-gritties that go into creating perfect experiences for your customers even before they become your customers.
In the next blog, we will discuss mistakes to avoid during mapping customer journeys and how mapping can drive product adoption. Click here to read it.