The What, How and Why of Customer Journey Maps
In our consumer-centric world, providing a superior customer experience takes priority for those brands pursuing real success. It’s no great surprise that businesses today are going the extra mile to better understand their customers.
Whether your brand is B2B or B2C; a start-up or corporation; global or local, providing exceptional customer experience (CX) is no easy feat. So, what better way to get to know your elusive audience than by walking in their shoes and mapping each and every interaction that you share.
This is where Customer Journey mapping (CJM) comes in.
You may be wondering, can mapping the actions and experiences of my customers really have that much of a strong impact? Simply, yes. But sit tight, we’ll get to that part later on.
First, let’s get back to basics…
What is customer journey mapping?
A customer journey map is a visualization of an end-to-end customer experience. It’s essentially a visual narrative that allows you to comprehend each process that your customer encounters with your brand, spanning each step from the initial engagement to, hopefully, a long-term relationship.
Customers today are active participants in the market process. Gone are the days where brands and marketers would simply push products and messages in the hope of gaining any traction from, well, anyone at all. Now, personalization is rife; consumers know what they want and they staunchly assume that brands will know this too. Customers also have the ability and confidence to communicate with brands across multiple channels and let them know where their dissatisfaction lies.
The prevalence of personalization that we see in today’s marketplace can be attributed to brands’ use of clever market segmentation. Because of this, consumers now expect personalized experiences and meaningful messages. And they will not be satisfied unless they receive bespoke products and interactions.
In order to facilitate those great products, services and multi-channel communications that you’ve been striving for, you need to first figure out your user. And customer journey mapping is a surefire way of achieving this.
But before we delve into the benefits of CJM or the actions and research that brands must meet in order to create an effective customer journey map, let’s take a look at what a healthy journey map looks like:
You can see from the above graphic that a journey map generally spans 5 aspects:
Awareness → Consideration → Purchase → Retention → Advocacy
Your CJM details each experience that your customer has with you over time. So it’s important to ascertain each action or decision that’s made, as each occurrence has the potential to affect you or the customer. Additionally, journey maps differ depending on the overall goals of your brand and your target audience. This means that the best practices and variables for each CJM can vary. The range of possible forms that journey maps can take can be challenging for some, but it also offers you the opportunity to get creative.
Here’s a brief outline of each stage of a typical customer journey map:
Awareness is where consumers start to become familiar with your brand. They’re in the midst of researching you, and now know little about your brand and what you do. The awareness phase tends to be a result of exposure to online ads, such as LinkedIn sponsored content, radio promotion or Calls-To-Action (CTA) online or via traditional means i.e. billboards and magazines, etc.
Now that they’ve found out a little more about you, the prospective customers begin to consider you as a viable option. They are now intrigued by what you have to offer and want to learn more about the specific details and benefits you can provide. You can give them more information by delivering meaningful and valuable content such as blogs, webinars, demos, case studies, and videos. This content tells your audience that you’re worth investing in, and angles you to be seen as a legitimate thought leader.
You’re over half-way there! The customer has purchased your product. This means that they have read reviews, researched you and your offerings and have decided that you are the best fit for what they want. Well done! This is certainly something to celebrate. However, your hard work isn’t over just yet. You now need to deliver value, post-purchase, if you want your consumers to recommend you, make further purchases and snag that all-important ticket to free marketing and brand advocacy: positive word-of-mouth (WOM).
How do you do this? By offering something in return. What you offer completely depends on the field in which your brand resides. But it doesn’t hurt to present discounts, relevant content or follow-up communications.
You must be doing something right if your customers have reached this stage! It’s a known fact that loyal, returning customers can offer more value than a new user who has to go through the hassle of onboarding, and who may or may not stick with you.
To retain your customers, you have to provide them with great customer experiences. This means offering valuable customer support, rewards, discounts, follow-ups and gathering feedback in order to avoid those dreaded negative online reviews.
Hooray — you’ve done it! Your customers love you, and they recommend you whenever they can. They now offer you positive WOM, which is one of the most powerful forms of marketing you can wish for. It can be tough for some brands to achieve this status. So if you manage to retain this god-like position, you must keep your lovely customers as brand advocates and then aim to increase your customer base by drawing new leads.
How do you do this? You nurture them, to the fullest extent, as their journeys progress; paying close attention to their needs and wants and offering them continued support and value.
Now that you know what a customer journey map is, let’s take a look at how you make one that’s effective and optimized for the benefit of both yourself and your audience.
How do you create an effective customer journey map?
Before we go any further, it should be noted that there are no official rules or solid templates for customer journey mapping. No one can really be sure of what’s going through the minds of their users 24/7. But CJM gives us the opportunity to accurately estimate and predict those crucial points of contact and their possible outcomes.
There are 3 key elements that will help you create an effective CJM:
Buyer personas → Touchpoints and pain points → Evolution and improvement
1. Define and create awesome buyer personas
In order to construct your map, it’s important to first understand your users to the fullest extent. This is achieved by creating awesome buyer personas.
Your persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal and typical customer. You reach this semi-fictional representation by collecting and analyzing real data from your current consumers; their behaviors, actions, needs, wants and issues, etc.
A key aspect of creating personas is defining their goals:
- What drives them?
- What challenges them?
- What do they want to achieve by communicating with your brand or purchasing your product?
Take the example of ‘Slack’. The goal of a business using Slack would be to streamline work-based communication with minimal distraction. Slack is a hub that’s made up of different channels of communication and instant messages. Therefore, the main reason why businesses would use this software is to simplify work-based communication, avoiding the need to use a more social platform, like WhatsApp, which could be super distracting… and quite unprofessional.
As well as outlining the goals of your current and prospective consumers, buyer personas will also address their potential problems and obstacles.
Consumer data is a key factor in creating accurate and valuable personas. By gathering and analyzing demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioral information, you can attain a deeper knowledge of your ideal customers; what drives them and how you can offer them what they really want.
The point of creating on-point personas is to accurately understand what to bring to market and to whom it would best suit. This way, you can target those consumers who are most likely to drive revenue and provide the most value in both the present and the future.
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2. Identify touchpoints and pain points
Touchpoints are points of contact between your brand and the customer — current or prospective. For example, when they connect with your ad, visit your website, contact customer support and so on. Essentially, touchpoints refer to any form of interaction between you and the customer in the stages before, during or after purchase.
Pain points are basically negative touchpoints or problems that customers experience with your brand. These pain points could range from issues with ordering a product, a lack of customer support for a problem they’ve been encountering, difficulty using your sign-up page or poor navigation of a user interface (UI), and so on.
A great way to examine your customers’ pain points is by analyzing your data. Look into surveys, social media or analytics software, like Google Analytics, which will detail behavioral aspects such as the points on your website where the user exited or abandoned their shopping cart.
It’s no secret that some people are willing to pay more for a better experience. In fact, research shows that a massive 86% of consumers will part with their hard-earned cash in order to receive great customer experience.
Once you get to know the intricacies of what motivates your audience, you can then easily catch each opportunity to optimize UX and keep them satisfied. P.s. not doing this may mean that they flee to a nearby competitor who can recognize and address their touchpoints and pain points.
3. Evolve and improve
Your customers are constantly changing. But we expect that, and you can easily identify these changes by consistently analyzing their demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioral data. Don’t hesitate to distribute surveys, install analytics software, or reach out directly and ask about their experiences.
If you’re being really truthful, chances are that you’re not the same type of person you were five years ago. Perhaps you’ve changed careers, music tastes or where you live.
Let’s put you in the shoes of a hypothetical customer:
You have recently moved house and your new place is 3 hours away from where you used to live. You keep receiving push notifications telling you that your old favourite taco take-away chain is offering a 10% discount each Thursday.
You love taco-take-away-Thursdays so this makes you reminiscent and sad. You get frustrated by these push notifications so you opt-out, eliminating the last form of personal contact that this brand has with you. Ouch.
Bearing in mind that your taco take-away shop is a chain… If you had realized the real benefits of journey mapping earlier on, you could have analyzed your customer’s data and altered their push notifications to direct them towards promos that are active in your other taco chains. But, alas.
By frequently analyzing your data and evaluating the changes in your consumers’ lifestyles or behaviors, you will avoid the potential loss of these customers and your brand reputation.
Essentially, you should view your customer journey map as a living entity that changes along with its audience.
Why create customer journey maps?
Customer relationships can be complicated. But customer journey mapping provides you with the foundations on which to build a deeper understanding of your users.
Whilst there are a huge number of positives when it comes to CJM, there are 3 key benefits that any brand will undoubtedly get to experience when delving into journey mapping.
1. Optimized user experience (UX)
Research shows that companies using customer journey maps experience 3.5 times greater revenue from customer referrals and 24% more positive mentions on social media. Essentially, customer journey mapping lets you see things from the customer’s point of view, which then allows you to empathize and draw deeper, more accurate insights.
Empathizing with your customer means that you can precisely understand and identify satisfaction levels and pain points, therefore enabling you to efficiently solve problems and innovate. For example, if your customer has difficulty navigating your app or purchasing a product, they will likely become frustrated. By analyzing your data, you can identify where, when and why your customer had trouble, and react accordingly.
The great thing is, that once you have identified and amended these pain points, you can immediately make improvements and optimize your customer journey, making their experience as seamless as possible. The result? Your brand can enjoy strengthened and prolonged brand loyalty and proliferation of positive WOM marketing.
2. Return on Investment (ROI)
It’s no secret that brands who better understand their customers receive higher levels of brand loyalty, a competitive advantage, and positive word-of-mouth marketing. But that’s just the beginning. Including customer journey mapping in your marketing strategy can bring you that sweet cash-return, i.e. a return on your marketing investment by a massive 54%! It also returns an average sales cycle that is 18x quicker than those of brands that don’t use CJM. And last but certainly not least, businesses managing customer journeys experience a 21% year over year growth.
You can’t ignore those statistics.
Yes, it’s true. Brands that invest time in really getting to know their users can enjoy a greater return on investment. By ‘returns’, we don’t just mean in terms of money. Journey mapping also reduces churn, which reduces the costs of acquiring and onboarding new customers.
3. Bridging the gap between sales, marketing & more
No matter what your business, cross-departmental consistency is key.
So you’ve got your advertising and promotional tactics down to a tee and the product that you’re offering is on-point… brilliant! There’s just one issue; your customer service is weak and your sales team are disengaged with your audience. Why? Because neither of these departments have been given up-to-date information on their customers. Journey mapping alleviates these stresses by facilitating cross-departmental integrations.
We all know that things go a lot smoother when everyone’s on the same page. And journey-led transformations have been proven to increase employee engagement by up to 30%!
Without a streamlined journey map, you will surely struggle to retain valuable customers. However, by integrating the touchpoints and pain points in your journey map and sharing them across departments, the experiences of both the company and the consumers will be unparalleled.
Consistency across your departments means consistency in your brand personality, your offerings, and your communications. And without a strong personality and product, your brand will lose power and retention.
The rise and expectation of personalized experiences means that customer journey mapping is essential to the success of businesses today. CJM provides the magnifying glass that allows you to take a deeper look into the intricacies of each consumer-brand interaction. Done successfully, journey mapping has the power to provide insights into your customers' emotions, requirements and their potential decisions, which then streamline your marketing strategy.
Ultimately, a meticulously crafted customer journey map creates a narrative that establishes a functional visualization of the customer experience, offering your brand direction and priceless actionable insights.
If you want to build longer lasting relationships with your customers, download your free guide here: The Naked Truth to Personalization. If you’re keen to learn more about optimizing your marketing strategy, don’t hesitate to get in touch with my directly via stevie-rose@hurree, i’d love to hear from you!