The customer journey – sometimes called the buyer or user journey – tells the customer experience with a business, brand, product, or service. A customer journey is an alternative approach to other linear models like the sales funnel which hypothesize that most customers follow the same path.
Understanding the customer journey
Describing a customer journey may seem simple if we only consider the transaction between the buyer and the seller.
In truth, the customer journey is much more complex and multifaceted. It begins when a consumer first becomes aware of a brand and extends well beyond the final purchase into loyalty programs and brand advocacy. Whatever the industry, customer journeys must reflect a deep understanding of the end-user. How does the user behave and feel as they travel through the sales process? Are there impediments to user or business success?
The customer journey is measured by touch-points, or consumer interactions with a brand. How a business manages marketing, point-of-sale, and customer support touch-points will dictate whether it can attract and then retain buyers.
It’s important to note that touchpoints should be tailored to a specific buyer persona. They must also be treated as single, independent entities while still making logical sense as part of a journey from start to finish.
Mapping a customer journey
Creating a compelling customer journey means adopting the perspective of the customer.
How is this accomplished?
- Conduct analytical research – use website and other analytics data to identify where the ideal customer hangs out and how much time they spend interacting with a brand.
- Conduct anecdotal research – it is not possible to get inside someone else’s head, but social media can yield vital clues regarding how an individual feels or thinks when interacting with a brand. Pay particular attention to reviews, as many only feel compelled to leave feedback when they have strong negative or positive feelings. If this information is unavailable, consider asking the target audience directly by conducting surveys.
- Identify customer touch-points – how does the customer interact with the brand via newsletters, advertising, websites, or after-sales support? Identify the obstacles and then associate each touch-point with a goal that overcomes them to facilitate a seamless customer experience.
- Create a graphic – include both analytical and anecdotal research data to display the customer journey in a spreadsheet or similar. Highlight areas where customer frustration or dissatisfaction causes them to end their journey and purchase elsewhere, but also make a note of areas where the customer is happy. To help visualize the customer’s state of mind, some find it helpful to use emojis.
Benefits of customer journey mapping
Some businesses may have a superficial understanding of the obstacles their customers face and how to overcome them.
However, the biggest rewards are had by going deeper to break down the customer journey into smaller parts and then restructure each touch-point.
Here are some of the benefits of doing so:
- Refocus the company with an inbound perspective – instead of the business trying to attract buyers through outbound channels, it attracts customers by creating valuable and tailored content and experiences. Inbound marketing is more efficient and cost-effective than the alternative which is more of a scattergun approach.
- Proactive customer service – knowing where the customer is both delighted and frustrated allows a customer service strategy to be planned in advance. As a result, the business becomes more nimble and can selectively market to maximize brand value and equity.
- Improved customer retention – it stands to reason that a satisfied buyer with fewer pain points is more likely to become a loyal and devoted fan. Customer satisfaction is crucial, as a single bad experience from customers might lead them to switch. Customer journey mapping also allows the business to identify the common behavioral patterns associated with customer churn, and plan accordingly.
Customer journey as an alternative to sales funnels
A customer journey is a great addition to other more linear tools like the sales funnel, as it enables you to have a deeper understanding of how customers get to know your brand. Therefore, removing assumptions about how customers interact with your brand. This is critical as it helps to act with fewer assumptions and drive more effective branding campaigns.
- The customer journey tells the story of a consumer’s experience from the first interaction with a brand to a point well beyond their last purchase.
- For the business, crafting a compelling customer journey means taking the perspective of the customer. It must conduct analytical and anecdotal research to identify pain points, thoughts, and feelings that influence behavior. Then, it must visually represent the journey to identify obstacles and areas for improvement.
- The customer journey helps an organization adopt an inbound marketing strategy with a focus on proactive customer service. This mindset creates satisfied customers who are more likely to be retained.
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