As the ‘customer-centric approach’ gains more and more traction, many businesses are directing increasing resources into creating valuable customer experiences. For many, this means ensuring that customers have what they need, when they need it.
To do this, it’s important to better understand the route that customers take from the moment they realise they have a problem that needs fixing, to the moment they purchase a relevant solution. This can be done by mapping the customer journey.
Gartner Director Cassandra Nordlund believes that ‘customer journey mapping is critical to being successful as an organisation and understanding your customers better’. However, Nordlund also reports that while 82% of businesses have built a customer journey map, only 47% are actually effective. The question is… why?
The Evolution of the Customer Journey
Mapping the customer journey was once a relatively simple process. It involved following the customer down the traditional sales funnel, from awareness through to interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and finally purchase. However, while those individual stages are still present and highly prominent in the modern day customer journey, buyers don’t always flow seamlessly from one stage to the next. Today’s customer journey isn’t linear, which can make mapping the journey that much more complicated.
The Impact of the Omnichannel Buyer
The process that customers use today is different. While they still seek to consider, evaluate, and so on, they view the process less as a journey from A to B, and more as a checklist of individual tasks that must be completed to identify a solution. The order that they complete the tasks in doesn’t particularly matter, and with various channels all being utilised in a bid to tick off the to-do’s, it’s becoming more and more challenging to see where the customer is, and how they transition from awareness to purchase.
“Ten years ago there weren’t as many engagement channels, whereas now we have so many channels we’ve basically lost the customer. We don’t know where they are, or how they work with us,” says Brian Manusama, Global Research Director at Gartner.
As an example, it’s not unusual to see this sort of process today:
- Begin with a Google search
- Use a third party retailer site like Amazon to gain a broad overview of products
- Choose a selection of top products and conduct deeper research on brand sites
- Two thirds of shoppers head to YouTube to watch videos, according to Google
- Back to the brand website of the preferred product
- Check out a review website for the business
- Use a price comparison site to find the best deal
- Finally back to brand website or third party retailer to make a purchase
There is a great deal of back-and-forth here, with customers flitting between channels as necessary. It’s easy to see how attempting to map this journey could be tricky.
How to Map the Non-Linear Journey
The secret to mapping the new customer journey is to remember that one channel or one attribution alone won’t tell the whole story. The first step to customer journey mapping today is to identify the most common touchpoints along the route, and assess each touchpoint individually in the context of the bigger picture. For example, while it’s important to analyse customer needs specifically at the review stage, meeting these needs must be approached in terms of driving the customer to the final end result.
By taking this approach, it becomes easier to see why customers make the channel switches in the way that they do, and it also enables us to identify any sticking points that are preventing customers from making it all the way through to purchase.
Worth the Effort
Customer journey mapping isn’t a onetime thing. It’s clear to see that customer behaviours aren’t static; that they’re constantly changing. And that means it’s essential for businesses to be continually and consistently adapting to meet evolving needs, and redeveloping the customer journey map to ensure a great experience, every time.