An Introduction to Customer Journey Mapping

Customer journey mapping can seem simple, but once you delve deeper into the process, you begin to realize how complex it is and how beneficial it is for your company.

 

According to Salesforce, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been the fusing of the digital and physical world due to a multitude of technological advancements. This has changed the way customers find products and services for good. Because of this, customer journey mapping has become crucial to companies as consumers are now averaging 10 different channels of communication with brands.

 

Therefore, in order to succeed in this new world, businesses must learn to understand customers’ journey each step of the way in order to enhance the overall customer experience.

What is the customer journey and why is mapping it out essential?

In the words of My-Take co-founder, Todd Hoskins, “The customer journey is the path that customers take when trying to accomplish a goal, whether it be buying a product, picking a healthcare provider, or deciding what show to watch.”

 

The goal of mapping out customers’ journeys is to understand how customers evaluate products and research potential purchases. Since the customer journey is getting more and more complex with more touch points being added to the process, a visual map of their experience can help insights teams and other departments understand the different ways a customer uses to evaluate and eventually come to a purchasing decision, and the pain points that come at each channel, allowing for various teams to find ways to solve them.

 

John Mitchell, a certified CXPA Certified Customer Experience Professional, explains that “a good customer journey map can be a powerful tool for spotting and fixing problems and improving the customer experience,” meaning that when done correctly, these maps can help you create a better experience for customers and solve problems that you didn’t even know existed.

 

Stages of the customer purchase journey

1.   Awareness

            In order for any customer to start their journey, they must first be aware of the product. Stirista writes that customers tend to find your brand through search engines, from friends, a website, testimonial, a marketing email or an influencer.

2.   Research

             These days customers go through and find multiple companies, or brands, that sell solutions to their problem, in order to compare before making a final purchase. Most of this is done through online channels such as websites, online reviews or social media.

3.   Evaluation

            From research, the customer begins the evaluation phase. Cayley Hunt, a quality and process consultant, explains that in this stage customers are comparing you with a few other companies to see who offers what they are looking for in order to decide who they will choose. Your company can stand out by positioning yourself in a way that makes you unique to your competitors.

4.   Decision

Once customers are done evaluating, they move onto the final purchase decisions. Hunt warns here that there is still time for a customer to change their decision if they find the purchase of your product to be extremely difficult.  

5.   Usage

            Sometimes called the retention or experience stage, this is the time where customers use or experience your product. Hunt writes that a lot of customer retention and loyalty comes down to their experience in the usage stage and how helpful the company is if they have any issues after purchase.

6.   Loyalty

            This stage can also be called the advocacy stage as it is all about making sure customers love your product to the point that they recommend it to others. Either through online reviews or word-of-mouth. According to Stirista, 71% of customers were more likely to choose a company after they read a positive review of the brand, so this stage is extremely important in not only keeping an existing customer, but helping new ones find you as well in the awareness, important referrals or research stages. 

 

Types of customer journey maps

Current State:

Rena Gadimova of Marketo defines this style of map as one that illustrates customers’ actions, thoughts, behaviors and emotions they have when currently interacting with your brand. 

Day-in-the-life State:

Gadimova writes that this map shows customers’ habits and activities throughout a whole day regardless of whether or not they are interacting with your brand.

Future State:

According to Gadimova, this map is used to predict the actions, thoughts, behaviors and emotions that customers will now have when interacting with your brand in the future, after the current pain points have been removed.

Service Blueprint:

Aaron Agius explains that a service blueprint is not so much its own map, but a more complex version of any of the maps from above. According to him, a service blueprint involves an added layer of all the factors, people, policies, technology and processes responsible for the customer’s experience at that time, whether it be a proposed policy in the future state or the customer service rep in the current state.

 

The steps of customer journey mapping

1.   Making buyer personas

In order to be successful with any customer journey map you must first create buyer personas for each demographic that your company plans to or already appeals to. This is crucial since different demographics, especially for different generations, evaluate, review and shop through different channels and have different pain points at each one. Therefore, your team must understand how to fix all demographics needs since there is no one solution for this.

2.   Outline

In order to create the most effective and complete customer journey map, you must understand your consumers’ lives around your product and the current user experience. Aaron Agius from Hubspot suggests that a spreadsheet is made that “outlines key events, customer motivations and areas of friction within the user experience” in addition to each channel a customer uses in order to help you create the best map possible.

3.   Brainstorm

Next, you and your team should get together and brainstorm why each customer would be at that specific channel at that time. Mackenzie Corp explains that this is a useful step as it allows you to get into the mindset of your customers and better strategize how your customer approaches purchasing and what potential problems could get in the way at each step. This should also be when you and your team decide on which type of map you are going to create.

4.   Map it out

After brainstorming, you can now make the actual map. Here, it is key to remember that now the customer journey is cyclical in nature and not linear, so you might be going back to channels that you already used with a new customer objective in mind; for example a millennial customer might be going to your social media to see the product then going back to the social media for reviews in the comments. The only other important aspect of the map is to make sure that it is a visual that everyone on your team and anyone else that would need it, sales, IT, etc, can understand. 

5.   Evaluate & revisit when needed

Once mapping is complete, you and your team can now make decisions based on possible pain points to help improve your customer experience. A service blueprint style map can work here as members can bring solutions to the table and possibly simulate how this would work before implementing it. Once it is implemented it could be best to switch over to an insight community or another online market research community to see how your plan has actually worked out.  

 

The benefits of customer journey mapping

There are many benefits that come from completing customer journey maps. A study by the Aberdeen Group found that companies that were able to create effective maps and implement their findings saw more than 10 times an improvement in the cost of their customer service. The same study found that these companies also saw a 21% year over year growth compared to -2.2% for companies that did not implement customer journey maps.

 

Customer journey mapping coupled with online insight communities can help businesses understand consumers changing shopping habits such as with COVID and deliver the insights needed to quickly adapt. For nearly a decade My-Take has provided companies with secure online insight communities to help them make better decisions for their customers. Click the link below to schedule a consultation.



Posted by Liza Armstrong

Liza is an associate member of our Marketing team. She is skilled in content creation, data analysis, and research.