Consumers nowadays demand convenience and a more unified and personalized shopping experience. Customers’ expectations are changing rapidly as they wish for an omnichannel approach to sales, marketing, and customer service. According to a Harvard Business Review survey, the vast majority of shoppers these days are not using a single channel or touchpoint. On the contrary, 73% of them prefer to purchase products and services through multiple channels. This ever-increasing number of available touchpoints have resulted in a tremendously complicated customer journey that is far from linear.
Nevertheless, having a solid understanding of the customer journey is of paramount importance when trying to optimise the customer experience to boost sales and strengthen your brand’s loyalty. An excellent way to understand and eventually optimise your customers’ interactions with your brand across all touchpoints is to visualise the customer journey into a single diagram through a process called customer journey mapping.
Customer or user journey mapping is the process of creating a customer journey map which is a visual representation of every interaction different type of customers might have with your brand, and it is usually based on a timeline of events. A customer journey map allows brands to see their business from their customers’ perspective and that way, identify the different actions a customer needs to take across each touchpoint and how your company should respond to and facilitate them. Moreover, it helps you to benchmark the customer experience your brand assumes it provides against what your customers actually receive.
A customer journey map will create a logical order of the customer journey that will help you understand the characteristics of the different type of customers and how they move through your marketing and sales funnels. Additionally, a customer journey map helps your business to optimise the customer onboarding process by providing a highly-personalised experience and gain valuable insights into customers’ pain points across all your sales channels and touchpoints and the ways to improve them.
Your customer service team can use a customer journey map to better understand the customer experience across all sales channels available, identify potential pain points, and improve their ability to solve issues wherever and whenever they occur. A comprehensive customer journey map can be an excellent asset for your marketing team as well as it will help them to target a particular prospect across multiple touchpoints and also allow them to leverage data from your customers’ activity on one sales channel in order to transition them to another seamlessly.
In essence, mapping the customer journey for each buyer persona gives your brand an in-depth understanding of your customers. The more you understand their individual expectations, desires, consumer habits, and pain points across different touchpoints, the better you can tailor the customer experience to their needs and unique characteristics.
As a tool, a customer journey map, can be used to accumulate all the customer information and data available from across your sales channels, touchpoints, and your company’s departments into a single (yet sometimes complex) visual aid that will help your brand deliver a process and structure that will improve the customer experience. Below are the necessary steps to be taken to create a successful customer journey map.
To set reasonable, attainable, and measurable goals, cross-departmental teamwork is necessary. Bring members of your marketing, sales, support, etc. teams together that will be able to touch on different points of the customer experience and provide unique perspectives and insights. Try to identify the exact points where improvements are needed and how these improvements can be implemented and measured.
Collect as much qualitative and quantitative data as possible about the buyer persona your customer journey map is based on. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. Most companies are using multiple buyer personas that represent different types of customers based on demographics, geographic locations, behavioural patterns, consumer habits, goals, and more. Depending on how new your business is, you may not have enough data on your records about the buyer persona you are targeting. Nevertheless, your current and prospective customers can be a great source of insightful data that will help you build your buyer persona profiles.
Your customer support, marketing, and sales teams’ logs, combined with web analytics, can be a great source of information. Also, you can email a survey to existing customers or users and even conduct interviews with your most satisfied customers. Offering incentives like discounts or free upgrades can convince more people to partake. Even monitor discussions about your brand on social media can offer valuable insights. You can then use this buyer persona tool to fill in all the data you have gathered.
Customer touchpoints, i.e. how and where customers interact with your brand, are the main building blocks of your customer journey map and their number and type depends on your business nature and size. These touchpoints can be your physical store, your e-commerce shop, social channels, interactions with your marketing and sales teams, and more and they can occur before, during, or after a customer has purchased something from you. Try to avoid defying touchpoints from a company-centric point of view; many times, companies look at touchpoints based on their perception of where the customers should be instead of where they actually are.
For example, although you should strive to provide a unified customer experience across all channels, there is no point for your company to be everywhere. Instead, you need to be wherever your customers are. There is absolutely no reason to focus your efforts, time, and money on a specific sales channel if none of your customers is using it. Therefore, it is vital to have an in-depth knowledge of your audience and utilise data from existing customers’ profiles and online search activity to pinpoint the exact ways your customers interact with your brand.
After you have identified all the existing customer touchpoints, make sure you include information to each one of them that addresses what action the customer needs to take when they reach the respective touchpoint, their potential emotional response, and how your brand should respond to it. Google Analytics offers two very useful reports that will help you during the construction of your customer journey map; the behaviour flow and the goal flow reports. The behaviour flow report demonstrates how a customer navigates through your site, one interaction at the time and which sources, mediums, geographical locations are coming from. The goal flow report displays the path a visitor of your site follows to complete a specific conversion.
After you have clearly defined your touchpoints, you can start arranging them on your customer journey timeline. There is no right or wrong way to format your customer journey map; there is no universal template, for no customer journeys are the same. Nevertheless, make sure you break down the customer journey phase by phase for each buyer persona you have created and align each step with a goal. Include all the touchpoints on the timeline along with the corresponding channels, possible emotional responses, designated actions, as well as which team(s) or department(s) of your company are assigned to deal with each touchpoint and how.
Colour-coding, images, and other visual indicators can be included on your map to better and faster visualise the different actions, emotions, transitions, gaps on your customer experience, pain points, and more. Also, try to include key performance indicators (KPI) that will help to pinpoint opportunities for improvement and make your map actionable and most importantly, measurable.
Nevertheless, mapping out customer journeys across various buyer personas can be a very complicated and time-consuming task, especially if your brand implements an omnichannel sales and marketing strategy. Therefore, it is good practice to invest in software like Smaply or Touchpoint Dashboard that will streamline that process and save you time and money. Lucidchart offers a free template that can be modified online, and many marketing automation platforms also offer customer journey mapping tools that allow you to create personalised customer journey maps.
Every team and department in your company must has access to your customer journey map. That way, everyone will have a firm understanding of the current state of the customer journey, be up-to-speed with all the areas that need to be improved, and be aware of what their role in improving the customer journey is.
As demonstrated above, a customer journey map allows for a holistic view and understanding of your customers’ shopping journey. It will help your brand to understand your customers better and tailor the customer experience to their individual needs. No matter how your customers decide to interact with your brand, a comprehensive customer journey map will help your company to provide them with a customer experience that is unified, consistent, highly-personalised, and in-sync across all sales channels and touchpoints.
Last but not least, do not let your customer journey map collect dust after it is completed. Customers’ desires, needs, and habits are constantly changing and evolving; your map should be doing the same. Test, review, update, and improve your customer journey map regularly.
Author: Stathis Kampylis
Stathis is the marketing and communication coordinator at Shiptheory, a best-in-class shipping management platform that connects retailers with the world’s best carriers to automate shipping labels, manifests, and tracking. He is the main contributor to Shiptheory’s E-commerce and Shipping Blog. You can find Stathis Kampylis at LinkedIn.
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