What is customer journey mapping and how to start
It’s a visualization of the process each prospect takes before completing an action with your brand, encompassing everything from initial research to the eventual sale.
Mapping out this process allows you to better understand your customers and what leads them through your sales funnel, and is an essential component of your strategy.
What We’ll Cover:
- What customer journey mapping is
- Key trends
- The stages of the customer journey
- What goes into a customer journey map
- How to properly map yours
- Why is customer journey mapping important
- A customer journey map is a powerful storytelling tool that can identify pain points and align business priorities
- The customer journey involves five main stages—awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy
- Each phase of the customer experience must be accounted for
- Customer journey mapping can help companies connect the dots to create a memorable and exceptional customer experience
- In an ever-evolving cycle of innovation, you should consistently review and update your customer journey map to keep up with the pace of change
As a marketer, your central focus is to predict and shape customer behavior with uncanny precision.
From publishing landing pages and email campaigns to creating buyer personas and educational content, your primary goal is to convince customers to act while anticipating and preparing for their next move.
This means that you need to know what inspires your customers both now and in the future.
But how do you go about doing this? That’s where customer journey mapping comes in.
What is Customer Journey Mapping?
When looking to enhance the customer experience, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your customers.
Customer journey mapping essentially aggregates customer data to help companies see their business from the customer’s perspective, from the initial point of contact and into a long-term relationship.
It also helps businesses gain insight into the most common customer pain points, guide them through the sales funnel, and define what customers and prospects need to make a purchase.
Ultimately, since data alone fails to communicate the frustrations and experiences of your buyer, customer journey maps can visually help inform the most critical decisions across an organization—from product development to instituting customer loyalty programs.
Key Trends in Customer Journey Mapping
These days, customers want their experience with a brand to be smooth and seamless.
They expect businesses to know and remember who they are and what they want across multiple touchpoints so that all information is readily available without the need to repeat or clarify their demands.
And with the invention of customer journey mapping, the customer journey has been altered to address soaring expectations in speed, accuracy, and personalization.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the key trends we see in today’s brands’ use of technology at various points during the customer journey:
- Two in five organizations have created and use a customer journey map.
- The 42% of organizations that currently have a journey map developed it within the last two years.
- Businesses that create their map using both internal and external resources use it more frequently across initiatives.
What Are the Stages of a Customer Journey?
Customer journeys, particularly for larger purchases, may take years to result in a purchase decision.
The first three phases are known as passive or inactive phases—awareness, consideration, and purchase. The last two take place post-sale—retention and advocacy.
Awareness: During this stage, the customer is not yet officially a customer of your brand. They have just discovered your product and are seeking more information. While it’s not necessary to segment the type of user yet, it’s important to start using social networks and other online tools to help communicate your brand’s message.
Consideration: The ‘consideration’ stage is when the customer is looking to make a purchase and beginning to weigh different options. At this point, the user becomes aware of the brand and what it has to offer.
Decision: At this point, the user has finally made the decision and followed through with it. In this case, it is important to have a reliable online channel that speeds up the process, as well as a qualified team ensuring that the shopping experience is a positive one for your customer.
Retention: The first phase following the sale, the ‘retention’ stage involves keeping in touch with your customer, encouraging them to continue to make more purchases in the future, and ultimately, become loyal to the brand.
Advocacy: This is the final stage of the customer journey and the most challenging to achieve. This is where the customer becomes an active advocate for your brand by spreading the word to friends and family.
What Does a Customer Journey Map Consist Of?
The following elements are needed to create an effective, optimized customer journey map:
Create buyer personas: Encompassing demographics like age, gender, and occupation, a buyer persona is a representation of your target customer derived from extensive market research. Each buyer persona has its own unique buying behavior, which is why you need to dedicate a different customer journey map for each persona.
Determine customer stages: Before you map out the entire customer journey, you need to figure out the phases your customer goes through before they encounter your brand. Define when, where, and how they find your company, research your products or services, select you over competitors, buy from you, and sustain a relationship with you over time.
Understand customer goals: Each stage represents a major goal your customer is trying to reach in the journey. Learn to identify these goals, as this helps inform the structure of your customer journey map. Data can be collected via surveys, interviews, and customer service emails.
Find touchpoints: Customer experience requires that every touchpoint is taken into account. Be it a customer service representative, a printed brochure, or a mobile app, touchpoints are defined as the interactions your customer has with your brand at each stage. For instance, ‘awareness’ stage touchpoints are likely to include short-form post-click landing pages, case studies, webinars, and blog posts.
Maintain a realistic time frame: With the data collected through customer analytics, surveys, and interviews, you can follow a schedule that determines when each customer stage should end. You should be aware of how long your touchpoints take to persuade customers to advance to the next stage.
Take customer emotion into consideration: The customer journey is told from the customer’s point of view. So, being aware of which emotion (whether joy or dissatisfaction) your customer is likely to feel helps you find out if they will move from one stage to the other.
How Do You Properly Map Your Customer Journey?
Navigating your customer’s journey is complex. The key is to lay out the customer journey mapping process step-by-step and make it as focused and as simple as possible.
Step 1: Use your sales funnel to identify the purchasing process
Ideally, your brand will already have an online sales funnel in place that demonstrates how leads move through your marketing tactics to eventually complete a purchase.
This data will provide you the information needed to track all the potential touchpoints a customer has with your brand and how each interaction leads to the next.
Step 2: Think like your customer
Although it’s impossible to predict a prospect’s next steps with spot-on accuracy, you can align their goals with varying stages of your sales funnel, all while going through the process yourself.
As you progress through different touchpoints along the buying journey, make a note of the steps that don’t feel natural or organic. You can even review transcripts of support calls and emails to track where the process went wrong.
From there, you can more easily spot those make-or-break moments and optimize accordingly to make the journey more sensible and straightforward for your customer.
Step 3: Segment the touchpoints of customer interaction
This step marks the point where you should start grouping your touchpoints into various categories.
For example, a customer ‘liking’ a social media post is a touchpoint while clicking through to a link to a blog post on your site from that social media post is another. You can separate these touchpoints into areas called ‘social media touchpoints.’
Step 4: Launch your customer journey map and perform research
Compile your findings and touchpoints in the form of a customer journey map that is visually appealing and easy-to-understand.
Platforms like Google Analytics are advantageous in this area if you’re looking to see where buyers are abandoning the journey on a regular basis. Whether you’re noticing a lack of click-through from emails or abandonment just before the customer completes their purchase, review these touchpoints, and make necessary changes.
And, while reviewing your customer journey map, make sure that the journey is simple enough to keep them moving through the steps, but still includes plenty of personalized and educational content needed to stay engaged through the end.
Step 5: Treat your customer journey map as a living document
Like several other aspects of your digital marketing strategy, your online customer journey will often change as new digital platforms emerge and are integrated into the buying cycle.
Taking the time to regularly examine how your customers are navigating your buying cycle will help you identify gaps and develop new processes to streamline the overall customer experience.
Why is customer journey mapping important?
Understanding your customers and their experiences lay the groundwork for meaningful interactions and successful business results.
The benefits of a customer journey map span far and wide and include:
- Pinpoint where and when customers come in contact with your business.
- Learn which customer touchpoints genuinely satisfy your customers and, in turn, devote more attention to further optimizing effective practices.
- Customers themselves recount their journeys, instead of marketers having to guess what works.
- Identify gaps between customer service and communications.
- Concentrate efforts and expenses on what matters most to maximize value.
- Increase sales and encourage greater customer and employee satisfaction.
Customer journey mapping has become a proven framework for helping drive customer insights and giving businesses across industries a competitive advantage.
Gone are the days where your products can do all the talking. That’s not enough to guarantee a sale anymore. Customers can no longer distinguish businesses from the products they sell.
They’re looking for a brand that can provide them with a positive experience, and they’re perfectly willing to spend more for it. That’s why mapping the customer journey and learning how your customers interact with your business is key to having a winning marketing strategy.
This guide should help point your business in the right direction. While there are a few essentials needed to give your business the best shot at success, it all boils down to one thing: the customer experience needs to be personalized and prioritized.
In the long run, taking the time to understand your customers and their connection with your brand will help to earn and keep their trust—which means a growing customer base that is loyal to you and keeps coming back for more.
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