Customer journey mapping, or user journey mapping, is increasingly becoming an important tool for manufacturers, marketers, and sellers to understand how a customer is engaging with the brand at different touchpoints in the overall sales cycle. The interaction between a brand and a customer is not limited to the mere act of the purchase. It is preceded by a long chain of interactions where the customer develops an awareness about the product or service, gets to know it, and then researches that product or the brand.
The act of purchase, according to a customer journey map, is not the endpoint of the process. Purchase is followed by customers sharing their experience interacting with the product and/or company for the very first time. Businesses are taking this step with the utmost sincerity, as well. They are trying to create out of the box experiences or OOBEs for clients in every way possible. This may include promoting “unboxing” experiences and sharing it online by customers, guiding them through the process of knowing the product from the very beginning, etc.
A customer journey map has four essential stages. The first stage is where prospective customers gain awareness of the product. Once the customers become aware of the product, they move on to the next stage of research. Here, the customer gathers some more specific facts about the brand such as its price, how long it will last, what the after-sales protocols may be, etc. The third stage is the actual purchase, where the customer buys the into the brand. Then comes the final step where the customer will get introduced to the product and experience its features and benefits first hand.
Four drivers shape each of these stages. Factors that, on one hand, determine how the stage will appear to the client and simultaneously help the seller to prepare a framework of correctly addressing the pain points of the customer. These four factors are actions, motivations, questions, and barriers.
Understanding “actions” means understanding what the customer is doing at that stage. “Motivations” help to understand why the customer is doing what he is doing, and what encourages him/her to move on to the next stage. It underscores the emotional areas that drive a customer to associate with a brand.
Understanding “questions” is to understand the uncertainties, jargon, or other issues that stop the customer from moving to the next stage. “Barriers” are all about the structural issues stopping the customer from moving on to the following stage. And these may include cost, implementation, etc.
A customer journey map takes into consideration all these stages and aspects of how a customer interacts with a brand. It examines the challenges that the customer faces during their interactions. It also finds out the inspirations that work in favor of the product. Understandably, it is an intricate network of causes, actions, and reactions. It is important that this mapping is done efficiently to deliver optimal results. An efficient customer journey map can be created by following the best practices. Here, we will discuss what these best practices are.
Businesses often set up a customer journey map just to follow the norm. A customer journey with unclear objectives becomes counterproductive and ends up confusing follow up actions. The best practice is, therefore, to look at the objectives of the maps in terms of specific questions. Let us look at some examples of what these questions could be. Developers of the map should ask themselves whether it can identify the weak points of the sales funnel. One should ask whether this map can provide insights on why the customer is taking, or not taking, a particular action. The map should be able to answer what challenges customers face most while moving from one stage to another.
If the map can answer these questions for all the stages involved, only then can it be called an efficient customer journey map.
A customer may make different decisions under different scenarios. Since the final objective of creating a consumer journey map is to understand why customers behave the way they do, it’s an efficient course of action to test their decisions under different scenarios. The customer journey map often tries to analyze the intentions and motivations of the consumer under the most plausible scenario. But, the factors that constitute these scenarios may change from time to time. What if the price of the product increases or falls? Would that affect the customer’s decision in the same way? If so, how much of a change in price would trigger a change in decision. It’s important to analyze these maps under various scenarios. A scenario can be drawn from an existing customer journey or by exploring a new journey.
Analyzing the actions of the customer and the effort to determine his/her motivations and barriers are mostly dependent on how the businesses perceive them. Businesses draw inferences that action A is a result of motivation B and faces challenge C. Such internal assumptions often stem from conventional wisdom and years of experience in dealing with clients and customers.
However, these inferences don’t always end up correct. Consumers may take decisions coming under a wide range of different unpredictable conditions. Therefore, the best way to make a fool-proof customer journey route map is to gather primary information from the customers. This information can be collected through contextual inquiry, customer feedback surveys, etc.
The customers interact with the business at different touchpoints of the customer journey. The businesses should remember that these touchpoints are not standalone entities. Each of the stages and the associated touchpoints are represented by the company’s marketing and sales channels. These marketing and sales channels could include the company’s website, their social media profiles, their customer care numbers, etc.
To ensure that the customer journey map is utilized in the most efficient way possible, developers of the map should always see it in conjunction with the appropriate sales and marketing channels active at that stage.
The most effective customer journey map is the one that is the most dynamic. The map should continue to evolve with proactive decisions from the businesses. Businesses should try to improve the experience of the customers by continuously improving the efficiency of those channels. Improvements can be achieved by removing unnecessary nodes from the map that complicates the process, removing unnecessary obstacles and challenges, and reinforcing the areas of success with greater engagement potential.
As a continuously evolving entity, customer journey maps should always be seen in their immediate context and in association with the channels through which they manifest.