Customer Journey Mapping: Why Businesses Need Them

Most successful businesses know that the customer journey doesn’t start and end when someone makes a purchase. It begins long before then and will hopefully continue after that first purchase.

The customer experience has always played an important role in buying decisions. However, technology has created more touch points than ever before. Consumer attitudes have evolved. People demand a seamless and positive experience overall and are unlikely to buy from a business again if their experience didn’t meet expectations the first time.

In a Salesforce survey of senior-level marketers, 86% believe that it is absolutely critical or very important to create a consistent and seamless customer journey. In order for your company to survive, you need to be cohesive, especially when developing marketing strategy.

To ensure that your experiences meet and exceed expectations, start with a customer journey map. Here’s everything you need to know:

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map (CJM), also known as a buyer journey map, is a visual outline of every step that a person goes through when they interact with your company. Usually, they take the form of an infographic or a diagram and serve as a timeline of events leading up to and after a purchase.

The purpose of a CJM is to better understand your constituents and what motivates them to take action. According to Nielsen Norman Group, “Journey maps combine two powerful instruments—storytelling and visualization—in order to help teams understand and address customer needs.”

It goes deeper than simply the steps a person takes before a transaction. It studies behaviors, motivations, emotions, and any questions or issues that arise during the whole consumer life cycle. It helps identify pain points and missed opportunities. This can help you make more strategic marketing and business decisions that resonate with your audiences and motivate action.

Customer journey maps are commonly used in marketing, but they are also useful in many other aspects of a business─from web design to user experience.

Why should businesses map the customer journey?

Do you know how customers found your business? Was it through a Facebook ad? A Yelp review? Word-of-mouth? An ad in the local newspaper? A Google search?

It is critical to know where your customers are coming from. For one, it tells you which marketing efforts are paying off and which ones are not worth the investment. By identifying which channels and messages work best with your target audiences, you can more easily replicate successful campaigns. Otherwise, it’s a guessing game.

CJMs lay out all the touchpoints─the moments in which customers and businesses have contact. Mapping them out is essential, because technology is quickly increasing the number of touchpoints possible. According to McKinsey & Company, the number increases by around 20% each year.

People can interact with your company from many different channels and starting points. Without a map, it will be hard to keep track and create consistent experiences, which is what consumers today expect. Research by Accenture shows businesses that create seamless experiences─online and in-store─have a competitive edge. They are more likely to see an increase in sales and loyalty as a result.

A customer journey map is unique to each business, so how do you create your own?

How to Create Your Own Customer Journey Map

Keep in mind the 5 W’s─Who, What, Why, When, and Where─when developing customer journey maps. At the end, you should end up with a visual representation of the buyer journey, but first, collect and organize the information you need in a written document or spreadsheet.

Before you can map out the process your typical customers go through, you need to know more about them.

The Who: Create buyer personas.

Buyer personas are profiles that describe your ideal customers. How old are they? What do they care about? Where are they located? Why is your product or service relevant to them? What challenges do they face? All these questions and more should be answered with thorough buyer personas.

How do you get this information? For one, you can look at your current customer base for patterns. You can also conduct user research, send out surveys, organize focus groups and ask for feedback. Analytics from your website and social media will also give you insight into the types of people that commonly interact with your business.

As you collect information, it is important to continuously monitor and update it to make sure that it is accurate. Many business miss opportunities or lose touch with past patrons because their current data is incorrect. Harvard Business Review estimates that bad data costs U.S. firms as much as $3 trillion a year. Establish methods to gather data and analytics about the customer journey.

The What and Why: Identify business and customer goals.

People interact with your business because there is some goal that they want to meet. What does he or she want to do? They may want to grab a healthy lunch or a quick cup of coffee. They want to buy a new pair of shoes or a dress for a wedding. A goal could be that they hope to increase their productivity, automate part of their sales process, or create a marketing campaign that increases brand awareness.

Think like your customer. What goals do they hope to achieve and how do your business goals align with them? Your customer journey map should address those goals and needs by identifying how your product or service can help fulfill them.

The When and Where: Plot out touchpoints.

Note all of the ways that you and your customers connect. One CJM could include dozens to hundreds of different touchpoints. Each interaction shapes your brand’s perception to customers and influences their buying decisions. Touchpoints happen before, during and after a purchase, and they may include:

●      Social media ads

●      Social media profiles

●      Email newsletters

●      Website

●      Mobile ads

●      App store

●      Retail store

●      Thank you cards

●      Direct mail

●      Online reviews

The touchpoints that you use depend on your company. At each one, think about buyer behaviors and emotions. Were they satisfied? Did they give feedback for how that connection could be improved? Did they suddenly discontinue contact at a certain point?

For example, your website is a huge touchpoint. If it is slow or not functioning properly, people are likely to leave fast and not come back.

Consumer perceptions are not solely based on one touchpoint, but how all of them connect as a whole. Visualizing it in a CJM helps businesses find the most effective way to tie all the points together and develop more holistic strategies.

There are several different formats that you can use. You can organize it by three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision. Another option is to use five stages: awareness/research, evaluation, experimentation, purchase, and retention. The experimentation stage is particularly useful if you offer a trial or lite version of an app or software.

No matter which format you decide to use, it should address the 5 W’s. These will help you understand the needs and desires of your target audiences. By knowing more about your customers and their experiences, you can improve business processes, craft more effective strategies and connect with customers at every stage of their journey. A first contact can become a long-lasting customer relationship. Want to know more? Learn more ways that you can connect with customers and build your business with 10twelve.