For many customers, the brand experience is just as important as the products or services they are buying. Research by Salesforce suggests that as many as 80% of customers believe this to be true. Here is the challenge for brands. How is it possible to put yourself in the mind of your customers when the number of touchpoints they have with a brand can reach into the hundreds? The answer is a customer journey map.
A customer journey map is a marketer’s method of putting themselves in the shoes of their current and potential customers. It is also referred to as customer lifecycle. It is a flow diagram that visualizes a customer’s journey through the discovery, research, purchase, and reflection phases. What customer’s may be seeking and their motivations are detailed at key touchpoints with the brand.
The customer journey is rarely linear. There are progressions, setbacks, and loopholes that need to be identified. A 2018 report suggested that companies utilize a customer journey mapping strategy had an 81% increase in customer satisfaction. This shows the power of a whole company approach to mapping an increasingly complex journey.
Journey maps also help brands think critically about different customers’ needs and motivations around their products or services. They challenge organizations to discover how prospects research and evaluate the company and discover what values and factors they consider at each stage. Recognizing customer motivations and needs can help identify warm leads and inform brand strategy to better the chance of a sale.
This strategy involves understanding how, where, and when customers want to be communicated with. How to design the user experience to provide a seamless journey across all possible platforms. At what point are the crucial purchasing decisions made and how do brands stand out from the competitors at that moment. And it doesn’t end at first purchase, this strategy should complete the cycle to ensure brand loyalty and lifetime value.
Customer journeys are not exact. Instead, they represent possibilities so that brands know how to react at any given point in a customer’s journey. Brands can put time and money into understanding the right message and channel for their target audience; but if they deliver that message at the wrong point in the journey, the work is largely in vain.
Customer journeys are fluid because decision-making processes, values, and impulsivity vary between individuals – even when they are within the same audience segment. Brands should provide feedback loops and adaptive choices to customers throughout their experience.
This allows brands to really know, not assume, where a customer or prospect is and meet them where they are. Customers feel listened to and have their specific needs met, leading to better outcomes for both parties.
Mapping the possible paths a customer can take helps brands be responsive to the customer, not to try and force them down a pre-conceived pathway. Not all content, tools, or messages work for all people; so don’t get caught inundating your prospects and customers with everything just because you have it. Use touchpoints to check in, verify, and listen to what’s important to your audience and respond to those specific needs at that moment.
As the map involves the whole customer journey, it makes sense for the whole company to be involved in creating it. Get all departments involved early, this means that everyone can contribute their perspectives and vocalize the constraints they work under. For example, if personas are developed, the paid marketing team should be confident that they can identify and target that group.
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”
As with Eisenhower’s quote on warfare, journey maps help with planning but rarely do customers actually follow your plans. And you shouldn’t really expect them to. The preparation is in having the channels, content, and knowledge to react on the fly. So, marketers should react to the customer, not just act on what your journey map says should be next.