In today’s post-COVID world, customer loyalty is more open than ever before. The pandemic caused consumers everywhere to try new brands, experiment with new modes and channels for shopping, and adopt new products and solutions that they might not have considered before. Both consumers and B2B buyers have been forced by circumstances to break out of their old shopping habits, and they haven’t yet fully settled into new ones.
This is both good news, because you have the opportunity to broaden your customer base, and bad news, because if you’re not careful you could watch your loyal customers march off elsewhere.
All of which means that customer experience (CX) is more important than ever before. Customers today place a huge weight on CX, with one-third of customers worldwide saying they’d walk out on a brand they love after just one negative experience, and 51% of Americans saying that one or two is all it would take for them to switch.
But the bar for “good” CX keeps on rising. For example, customers today assume they’ll receive personalized marketing messaging, with more than 90% saying they wouldn’t respond to messaging that isn’t personalized, and 80% say they prefer brands that deliver personalized experiences, not just personalized marketing.
They want a smooth, streamlined customer journey that slides naturally from one delightful interaction to another, to create a coherent customer experience, but that’s easier said than done. You can’t force a customer journey; it grows naturally. Brands need to make a journey map so they can understand each stage and remove the road bumps between them.
It’s challenging because in the past couple of years the customer journey has become even more complicated and intricate. Buyers cross channels, use multiple touchpoints, and even check out another brand’s online store while standing in a different physical store. Sites that used to be simply marketplaces, like Amazon and Walmart, have become search engines themselves, with 63% of consumers saying they use them for initial product research..
This is why companies are increasingly embracing advanced analytics that draw on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to visualize the customer journey, so they can quantify the impact of each touchpoint, message, and interaction, and enhance them to drive more conversions.
It’s no wonder that customer journey maps are becoming the touchstone for marketers.
1. Build multi-dimensional customer personas
It’s unlikely that your entire customer base follows the same path. You’ll need to segment your audience in customer personas, and then map the journey of each one separately. Begin with just one or two of your most common personas, so that you can narrow down your tasks and make them manageable.
You also need to list all the stages in your typical customer journey, such as Awareness, Consideration, Evaluation, Purchase, Retention. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, though; find a customer journey template that matches your vertical.
The journey stages don’t vary much from one persona to the next, but they do change according to your industry. For example, the stages in choosing to buy a SaaS license are different to those for buying in-office hardware, and choosing a coffee shop for lunch is different than selecting an outfit for your daughter’s wedding.
2. List all the touchpoints
Before you can map the customer journey, you need to list which channels they’re using to discover, research, and compare solutions, how they complete the purchase, and what platforms they use for post-purchase interactions. As you list touchpoints, consider the customer’s actions like reading a post, clicking on a link, or registering for a webinar, and try to guess how they are feeling at each point.
We’re talking not just about owned assets, like your online store, email newsletter, or gated content, but also external media like social media platforms and review sites. Depending on your vertical, it could extend to offline interactions like trying out a product in an offline store or borrowing one from a friend.
It’s not just a B2C thing, either; B2B buyers are increasingly treading a self-directed purchase journey using self-serve content.
3. Map their interactions
Now you know the touchpoints, channels, and actions that play a role in your customer journey, you need to learn how customers react to each one. For example, you know that your persona visits your website multiple times, but do you know how those visits fit into the rest of their journey?
Tools that help map these interactions include Google Analytics, to see where visitors originated and which content they visited so you can distinguish which stage of the journey they are on. Heat maps and event tracking reveal how each step led into the next, and which topics, post lengths, and content formats are the most effective.
Check abandonment rates to see when and why leads drop away from your content; use social listening to see who is saying what about your brand, your solutions, and the pain points you address; and carry out keyword research to see which keywords they search for and what path they take from the SERP page.
4. Analyze your data
Once you’ve gathered all this information about the touchpoints, channels, and interactions that each customer has at each state of their journey, it’s time to use advanced analytics tools like those that use AI to crunch it all. There are a number of platforms which help you produce beautiful visual customer journey maps.
The right analytics platforms can produce a useful visualization which you can use to zoom in to a granular level and take a high level overview. These allow you to derive meaningful insights into customer intent, friction within and between each stage, and ways to overcome it. For example, if you see that customers regularly go through 5 steps between seeing an ad and registering for an event, you’ll want to find ways to take some of them out.
Journey maps are your guide to improved CX
Most companies already have the data they need to create a customer journey map, it’s just a matter of using the right tools to gather and analyze it. By moving through the steps of building personas, listing touchpoints, collecting customer interactions, and applying advanced analytics to crunch the data, you can develop the journey maps you need that help you remove friction and deliver excellence in CX.