Customer Journey

What is the Customer Journey?

In the context of marketing, the customer journey is used to describe the way a person’s relationship to a company changes over time from when they first encounter a brand, to how they describe their experience to others. Commonly recognized phases of the customer journey include Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Retention, and Advocacy. Though the individual steps taken through these phases may differ, for example, some customers may first become aware of a brand through seeing an ad on social media and others may find the brand through a friend’s referral code, each individual customer journey will still go through these five phases if successful. 

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a tool used by marketers to visualize and standardize the ways in which their potential audience would encounter their brand, become customers, and help to spread good word about them. Think of a customer journey map as a compliment to a marketing strategy. The marketing strategy details how a brand will acquire and retain customers, while the customer journey map tells the same story from the point of view of the customer. 

What is customer journey mapping?

Customer journey mapping is the practice of imagining and visualizing the ways in which a customer will encounter and relate to your marketing strategies. While mapping a customer journey, a marketing team would try to picture their work from the point of view of a potential customer, and then write out the steps that person would take as they learn more about the brand, make their first purchase, etc. 

The Importance of the Customer Journey

Imagining the customer journey is important for marketing teams because it allows them to check their strategies for gaps or inconsistencies. A company may employ many tactics for each phase of the journey, but without taking the time to see how those efforts interact, or how they are experienced by their intended audience, points of confusion and missed opportunities can arise and cause those marketing strategies to be unsuccessful. 

How to Map Out a Customer Journey Step-by-Step   

Before making your customer journey map, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a strong understanding of your customer base. The needs, pain points, and priorities of your customers are key to how they interact with your brand’s touchpoints, so you’ll want to start with a few key personas as described in the audience segmentation process. Mapping customer journey’s can be done alone, but it’s often best to approach the task as a team, so you may want to set aside some time for several people to participate. 

  1. First, start with one of your customer personas and imagine yourself into their circumstances. What problems are they trying to solve and how are they trying to solve them? What are their needs, limitations, and priorities?
  2. Imagine first contact for your customer persona. How will they first discover your brand or product? Will they start with a search engine or ask for a recommendation from colleagues, friends, or family? Will they see an ad? Which one? You may not need to answer all of these questions, but these are the types of questions and considerations that will add depth and value to your customer journey map, so try to be as detailed as possible. 
  3. List all of the touchpoints with your brand they will encounter as they look for a solution to their problem. If they start with a search engine and see an ad, where does a click through take them? Does the destination meet their expectations? Does it address their problem? Are they prompted to pursue more information by signing up for an email list or booking a consultation? Do they have the information they need to do so?
  4. List all of the actions your customer could take to find out more information or aid their decision making process. Will they request a demo? Visit a brick-and-mortar to try something out? Look up reviews? Compare pricing or features against competitors? 
  5. Repeat this process for each of your customer personas mapping out the journey they will take through the touchpoints of your marketing strategy. 
  6. Once you can create a flow chart or their visualization of the possible customer journey paths that different segments of your audience can take through the touchpoints of your strategy, it’s time to apply data and analyze the results. For example, you might add the conversion rates of each touchpoint, or the average time between them to help your map tell a better story. 
  7. Optimise the customer journey by addressing the pain points identified by the map. This may look like adding, changing, or removing certain touchpoints, streamlining the conversion process, or eliminating obstacles. 
  8. Reevaluate as needed. Your customer journey map should not be written in stone. Especially in the field of digital marketing where customer expectations are high, and agility is essential, it makes sense to redraw the map on a quarterly basis, or more often as needed to support changes such as new partnerships or products. 

Benefits of understanding the Customer Journey

A strong understanding of the customer journey can benefit companies by helping them create a customer-centric marketing strategy. Some key benefits include:

  • Increased understanding of customer needs and painpoints
  • Troubleshooting areas where the journey becomes difficult
  • Humanizing a brand’s customer base
  • Identify strategies that are worthy of deeper investment
  • Eliminate touchpoints that are ineffective

How to optimize a customer journey map?

Once you’ve created a customer journey map, it’s important to evaluate how effective it is or isn’t and make any changes necessary to optimize the customer journey. 

Since emotions play a huge role in shopping decisions, try to imagine the emotions of your customer persona as they go through the touch points. Are there places where they might become frustrated or confused? Will they encounter messaging that speaks directly to their needs? Where do they slow down in the process or even abandon it altogether? 

The next step is to find ways to fix the problems you’ve identified. Ensuring proper segmentation of audience messaging, reducing decision fatigue by highlighting bestsellers, offering conversion incentives like discount codes or free shipping, providing social proof, and streamlining the checkout process, are all effective strategies for optimizing the customer journey. 

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