Creating a customer journey map is a way of truly getting into the mindset of your customer and how they will interact with your business. Without customers, your business simply won’t exist and it certainly won’t be profitable. Taking the opportunity to understand the journey that a customer goes on is an important step for all departments. Understanding your customers at each stage, from when they first become aware of their problem or need, right through to their continued use of a product or service, will help you to best meet their requirements.
The customer journey map follows the customer through the 4 main stages of interacting with a business. Starting from before they have even heard of the company in question, through to continued loyalty. Some businesses may choose to break down the 4 main stages into smaller sections and give them their own names, but the big 4 are known as Awareness, Consideration, Decision, and Loyalty.
A customer journey map aims to plot the steps the customer goes through during each stage, understand/predict how they might act, what problems they might face and how they might interact with the business.
The maps might become an actual document that can be accessed by all different departments but should never be seen as a fixed item. It should be seen as an adaptable, changeable map that can evolve depending on the current marketing styles and position the business is in. Becoming too hung up on the perceived customer journey can become an easy way to miss opportunities. The best use of a customer map will see businesses constantly looking to see new customer interaction points, new ways to engage, and new methods to employ.
Awareness can be defined in two different ways here. First of all, the potential customer becomes aware that they have a need or problem that they have to deal with. It might be as simple as coming to the realization that their phone is too slow nowadays, especially when compared to their friends. Or that there are hot, sunny days approaching and they have no shelter for the garden. They have become aware of their needs.
That, however, is very difficult to map, but we can hypothesize the reasons why a customer might become aware of a particular brand or company.
What is easy to map is how businesses can help customers become aware of their existence. When a customer discovers their need or problem, there’s a chance that they have no idea who can provide a solution at this stage. It is at this point that brand awareness marketing is at its most important. People cannot buy from you if they don’t know you exist. Education is paramount at this stage, especially if a customer doesn’t know what the solution is to their issue. It could start with a simple Google search, the key is being present as they assimilate information.
This is usually achieved through content marketing, social media campaigns, building a profile on Google (SEO), and paid advertising (both physical and digital).
At this point in the customer journey, the customer understands their problem and has found that a solution exists. They are now considering their options. They are exploring websites or stores, interacting with the company, and gaining a deeper understanding of how the product or service in question is going to help them.
Delivering quality, no-obligation information, and value is a way to portray your products and services in the right light during the consideration stage. Customers should be able to find out information on your products and services with ease, be able to compare them with other options, and be able to look at social proof for the business.
Social media is a major factor within the consideration stage, especially as people consider reviews and comments from others. Product pages on websites are an excellent place to share information, but being able to have conversations with customers will always win the most business.
Stage 3 is the decision stage. The customer is going to choose which product or service (and ultimately which company) to go with. The aim here is to make life as simple. Allow the checkout or purchase process to be straightforward with multiple options available, and remove any frustrations. The last thing that one wants is for a customer to choose them only to be put off purchasing at the last moment.
Beyond the initial purchase, this stage is relatively open-ended. It is where a customer has found, purchased, and enjoyed your product or service to such an extent that they now feel loyalty to your brand and look to build a relationship.
Reaching the loyalty stage is something to be celebrated, but shouldn’t be seen as the end of the journey. Rather this is the start of an opportunity of extending a customer’s interaction with the business for years to come. Marketing teams look to accomplish this through customer service, providing ongoing value and product/service improvements.
It’s easy to confuse the customer lifecycle with a customer journey. After all, they have relatively similar stages and could be seen as the same thing. The core difference is that a lifecycle is far more black and white. The marketing or sales department will have very clear touchpoints and campaigns that are run during a customer lifecycle. These can clearly be tracked, measured, and developed.
A customer journey, however, is a far more holistic approach to understanding customers. It considers why a customer might interact with your business (not just how), it considers the way that your products or services affect the customers’ lives and considers how their world is different thanks to their interaction with your business. It is altogether more difficult to put into one document, that is for sure.
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Dr. Philip Kotler created the 5As as a way of mapping the customer journey from the initial stages right through to loyalty. These are, essentially, another way of breaking down the 4 stages mentioned above. The 5As are Awareness, Appeal, Ask, Act and Advocacy. A core difference between these and the 4 mentioned above is that customers may completely skip some of the stages or simply consider them not worth their time. It completely depends on the product or service in question, as well as how considered the purchase is.
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The customer becomes aware of the problem and aware of companies that can offer a solution.
The customer begins to see the appeal that companies have with regard to their problem. It might not even be a company at this stage, rather they see the appeal of the solution available.
The customer is beginning to select a company and is now feeling comfortable enough with them that they can ask questions to find out more. This could be through forums, through social media, or directly to the company through sales teams or customer support. They’ll ask questions about the products, services and also company reputation.
The act of making a purchase is completed.
The customer has had such a pleasant interaction with the company that they now tell their friends, family, and network about it. They have become an advocate of the brand. This could be as simple as sharing a post on social media or leaving a review, or if the company uses affiliate marketing software they might take part in a partnership/referral program.
Creating a customer journey map in an appealing visual way can be a tricky task. Try to avoid a huge sheet covered in endless text. The best option is to keep the words brief and the message clear. Thankfully, there are a number of software options out there that focus exclusively on creating customer journey maps in an appealing way.
Options include Salesforce, Smaply, and Canvanizer or you could use graphic design software such as Canva.
Within the customer journey itself, there are hundreds of tools that you could use. Marketing tools and CRMs such as Zoko can be used to increase sales through more direct interactions and will drastically help you understand where customers are within their journey, as well as how you have interacted with them during their journey.
The key benefit of creating a customer journey map is that you’ll be able to see how a customer interacts with your business through their eyes, understanding their pain points from their perspective and tailoring your solution accordingly. This, however, is just the start of the benefits that can be reaped:
Sometimes, when wrapped up in product creation or solution offering, it’s easy to lose track of why the business is offering it in the first place. By understanding a customer’s journey, the staff is far more likely to be empathetic to their situation, rather than seeing the person as just another sales figure.
By actually mapping out how, where and with whom a customer interacts with your business, you’re able to instantly see where customers might face frustration or are potentially faced with confusing options. Alongside communication gaps, you might even find product or solution opportunities that can be developed as additional revenue streams in the future.
This should come as no surprise, but by mapping out the customer journey and going through it as if you are the customer, you’ll quickly find areas where you might look to improve current offerings. It might be that customers are approached too many times by a sales team, or there is too long a gap between initial contact and a follow-up. Whatever it might be, mapping makes it clearer where improvements can be made.
Many of the initial touch points within a customer journey rely on a robust content marketing strategy. Chances are your business already has a content strategy in place. Still, when this is mapped onto the customer journey (e.g. during the awareness stage a customer will likely read blog x and y), you can see where there might be opportunity for new content or to improve old content.
The same goes for social media, email, or communication strategies.
When you’re ready to dive into a customer journey map, it’s important to remember that ongoing analysis is key to a reliable and functioning map. The key to analysis is self-reflection and that can be completed by simply asking yourself some questions related to each stage.
Customer journeys allow you to get into the heads of customers throughout their entire purchasing journey. They’re not only useful from a business point of view but also force you to empathize with the customer, understand their pain points and issues, and genuinely consider the service that you’re offering across your business. Done faithfully and regularly, customer journey maps can lead to huge improvements in every department.