Engaged customers are at the heart of every successful business, but oftentimes, brands overestimate their customers’ engagement.
According to a 2015 eConsultancy survey, 81% of consumer brands say they have a holistic view of their customers, BUT only 37% of consumers believe their favorite retailer understands them. This disconnect wastes time, money, and opportunity, as brands try and fail to engage and convert customers.
What is a customer journey?
Brands must understand their customers to excite and retain them. Sounds easy, but no two customers are alike or respond to outreach the same way. Smart brands create a customer journey map, a visual representation of the many steps customers take when engaging with your brand.
Developing a customer journey map helps brands understand how customers consider and then decide to use their products or services by following them through the buying process. The journey map also identifies areas to improve their conversion path.
There is no customer journey map standard (that would be too easy). Instead, we’ve outlined six steps to map out your customer journey. They include:
1. Developing user personas
2. Identifying your goal
3. Talking to your customers
4. Creating and engaging cross-functional teams
5. Designing the journey
6. Measure and adjusting
Today, we’ll cover the legwork (steps 1-4) you’ll complete before designing your customer journey.
Step 1: Developing user personas
To map out a customer journey, you’ll first develop user personas, fictional representations of large or important segments of your customers. This step helps brands put their “customer hat” on to map the journey as customers experience it and then identify opportunities to engage, influence, comfort, and motivate them at each step. (If this sounds overwhelming, tools can help you visualize the process and make it more manageable. IBM’s Journey Designer, for example, is a customer journey storyboard tool for mapping out customer segments, executing and measuring engagements, setting goals and objectives, and analyzing results in real-time.)
Most businesses benefit from having three to five personas, representing 80% of their customer base. Developing user personas involves four steps: using qualitative data, quantitative data, building out the persona, and finding ways to identify those personas (read developing actionable user personas and get our persona worksheet to streamline the whole process).By deep-diving into the needs, interests, values, motivations, fears, and roadblocks your customers face each day, you get a holistic view of how different customers interact with your brand and the emotions/actions that drive their positive or negative brand experience.
For example, let’s say I create two personas for my Great Granola business. “Health Nut” is super into healthy living, whereas, “Natural Nancy” only purchases products that are environmentally friendly.
To lead Health Nut down the path of purchase, I’ll create nutritional studies and highlight industry-backed research about my granola containing no preservatives, GMOs, or harmful dyes. Natural Nancy is better suited for information about the natural and wholesome grain and fruits used in my granola and the local farm where I source ingredients.
Step 2: Identifying your goal
The point of customer journey mapping is to gain insights about your customers’ typical experience to then guide them to an ultimate end goal. If you haven’t identified a goal, your customers are wandering alongside your brand. Placing the end goal front and center as you’re customer journey mapping will keep you focused, help you eliminate fruitless steps, and avoid going off on tangents.
Step 3: Talk to your customers
Who understands the highlights and lackluster moments along the current buying journey better than your customers? Ask specific questions about the kinds of communications, channels, and promotions that appeal to them and approaches that turn them off. Ask them to walk you through their previous buying experience with your brand and describe the aspects that excited them and any moments of discomfort. Ask them to identify any conflicts they felt along the way and for specifics on how you could improve their shopping experience. These conversations drive the opportunities and engagements you build into the customer journey.
Step 4: Creating and engaging a cross-functional team
Aligning your company around a shared vision impacts success at every level. Work on the customer journey map together to encompass a company-wide perspective versus the opinions of just one department. The collaboration unearths overlooked gaps and opportunities that are difficult to pinpoint in a silo.
For example, consider the Great Granola example. After developing the customer journey map, you may discover a big gap post-purchase. You decide a granola club, where the customer is sent a different granola each month, will fill this gap and encourage repeat purchases. By pulling in the distribution and financial team from the beginning, you get an inside look at the logistics of a monthly distribution club, identifying any obstacles up-front.
You’re ready to map it out
At this point, you understand how a customer journey improves your marketing strategy. You’ve completed our persona worksheet and completed detailed customer segments. You’re ready to take those personas to the next level and map out a path to guide them to a conversion (stay tuned for part two).