What is a Customer Journey?
The customer journey is the process the consumer goes through to buy from your brand, and the map is a data-driven visual that describes how consumers interact with your website and brand. The map covers everything from first impressions to final checkout, enabling you to identify weak points in your business’s customer journey.
Why is the Customer Journey Important?
Understanding how your customer feels might not be at the top of your priority list. It should be. Remember that the journey your customer takes while in your store or on your website determines whether the customer purchases your product or buys from another retailer. Knowing what your customer journey looks like and where you need to change can help improve sales and negate bad reviews.
Imagine that a new customer finds your website using a search engine. He navigates to your site where he can find navigation links and a search bar with ease. The customer finds the product category he’s looking for and spends several minutes browsing items on that page. He likes the clear graphics and product specs on your website, and he decides to order two items from you. Your shopping cart is easy to use, and the transaction is completed within moments. Happy with his experience on your website, the new customer leaves positive feedback on social media and tells his friends about your products.
Now, imagine that a customer who has bought from your brand in a storefront before heads to your website. It takes the home page a long time to load, and it’s hard for her to find the product navigation menu. The customer tries to scroll through your product selection, but the dropdown menu doesn’t work well. She sees a banner with the product category she wants scroll past on the homepage. She’s able to click on it, but the page takes so long to load that she decides to order the item from a third-party retailer instead. Frustrated with her experience, the customer tells her social media contacts that they shouldn’t waste time on your website.
Mapping out your customer journey may seem time-consuming or even mystifying. You might wonder how you can know what your customer is thinking while shopping or determine how users navigate your website. You can trace out the average customer journey using analytical and feedback data. If you consider the examples above, you know that a customer journey map could become an indispensable tool for business growth. You can use this map to improve website dynamics, create targeted content and more.
In the first scenario, mapping out the customer journey allows you to see where you’re succeeding on your site. It helps you set priorities for future growth and identify the customer experience standards that you want to uphold. In the scenario with the unhappy shopper, a customer journey map could help you identify problems and resolve them. A hard look at the customer journey would show that you need to improve load times on your website and make navigation easier too.
The ultimate value of this map is financial. It helps you improve the customer experience, which drives sales outcomes. Creating a customer journey map is a great way to revitalize business if it’s lagging and you’re not sure why. It’s also a great way to maintain business strength if you’re already hitting your sales goals. This map should be shared with your employees so that they understand your organization’s biggest challenges, successes and goals.
What Are the Stages of a Customer Journey?
Understanding the ecommerce customer journey is a process that happens in five stages. These stages are based on the AIDA approach, an advertising model developed in the late 1800s. The original acronym stands for attention, interest, desire and action. The model has been adapted with the addition of a fifth step for the digital marketplace.
The first step in the customer journey happens when the customer becomes aware of a problem or need. Once the problem is known, the customer starts looking for the solution. This is the stage in the journey where consumers are researching answers to their questions and looking at the different kinds of products that might meet their needs. During this phase in the process, it is crucial that you establish brand awareness with customers. If they don’t know about you, they can’t shop with you.
You can reach customers in the awareness stage in a variety of ways. An estimated 88% of customers do online research before they buy. The awareness stage is the time to provide
- how-to blog posts,
- topical white papers,
- quick tips via social media,
- checklists and
At this point, potential customers have done a bit of research. They know some of the product or service options available to address their problems, and they’re ready to learn more. This is the stage in the journey where customers have narrowed down their options and are ready to compare products to one another.
During this phase, it’s crucial that you can provide all of the information that customers are looking for. Some of the most important things your customer is evaluating right now include
- product specifications and descriptions,
- price points,
- product tutorials and
- your competitor’s products.
Customers who can’t find the information they want about your products aren’t likely to buy them. This is the phase of the journey where you might focus on improving product descriptions and getting customers to leave online reviews. Make sure that you respond to customer questions promptly whether they come via your phone, email, social media or web contact form.
This is the crucial stage in the buyer journey where the customer makes a final purchasing decision. About 95% of customers read at least one online review before buying a product. The reviews that your customers may have encountered during the consideration stage are now crucial. If your product doesn’t have any online reviews, email customers who’ve purchased in the recent past and ask them to leave a review. Ask followers on your social media accounts for testimonials. Customer testimonials show that your products do what you say and that your brand follows through on promises.
You can use a variety of content to influence buyers during this stage. Some of the best options include
- case studies,
- demo videos,
- coupons and
- customer testimonials.
If your customer has reached stage four in the journey, you’ve made a sale. Now is the time to focus on retention. Building trust and rapport with your consumers after they’ve bought your products is what ensures repeat sales. Don’t make the mistake of landing the sale and then ignoring your customer. Instead, reach out to customers and make sure that your products meet their needs. This allows you to identify problems with this stage in the customer journey.
During the retention stage, consider sending out
- emails with detailed instructions for product use,
- a survey invitation,
- requests for product reviews and
- a personalized follow-up that suggests complementary products, resources or services.
This final stage isn’t described by the AIDA approach because brand advocacy is a unique aspect of the digital customer journey. While you might have fought to win a handful of word-of-mouth referrals from customers in the past, you’re now hoping to gain thousands of referrals and reviews from satisfied customers. That’s what the advocacy stage is all about.
This is the phase in the customer journey where your customers become your best advertising force. They post about your brand on social media and leave reviews on consumer sites. They tell their friends and family to buy from you. It’s arguably the most important point on your whole map. While turning customers into advocates can be hard, remember that attention to the customer journey at every phase is what nurtures long-term relationships with your brand.
Customer Journey Touchpoints
Customer touchpoints are an essential component of the overall customer journey and of your journey map too. Think of touchpoints as any time a consumer comes into contact with your brand.
Reaching customers with the right content at the right time is crucial. Targeting content to the needs of the consumer at each phase of the journey matters. The wrong content won’t attract anyone in the best case and will actually turn off potential customers in the worst case. You can use your customer journey map to create targeted content that reaches consumers at each touchpoint. Keep it specific, clear and compelling.
How to Analyze the Customer Journey Map
You understand the five stages, but you still need to know how to analyze the customer journey. You’ll need to conduct two types of research to do this. To start, simply gather any existing data that you have on customers. This will come primarily from your website. You’ll need any current data you have about how consumers behave on your website as well as data about the site’s technical performance.
From there, you’ll conduct additional analytical and anecdotal research. Keep this research focused on customer journey touchpoints and consumer behavior.
The primary source of analytical data for your journey map will come from your website and social media sites. You can use Mention and similar sites to see exactly how often people mention your brand online and whether those mentions are positive. You can conduct a quantitative survey that asks customers to rank your brand in different areas. It’s also a good idea to look up your brand and associated keywords on a search engine to determine if you’re hitting the mark in terms of SEO-driven content.
Remember that data can be misleading. Make sure that you’re looking at the full picture. For example, long dwell times on one page could indicate that customers are happily browsing, but it could also mean that they can’t find what they’re looking for. Be realistic about how data lines up with sales figures.
Anecdotal research comes directly from your customers. It can be hard to gather, but you can use social media and online reviews as a starting point. Look at what people are saying about you online. Note whether the feedback tends to be positive, negative or neutral. You should ask customers for feedback after they’ve placed an order.
Another great way to map the customer journey is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Navigate your website and social media accounts through every phase of the customer journey to see where you’re at. You can also poll employees about what they’re hearing about your brand online and from their real-world contacts.
Once you’ve gathered your research, start mapping out your customer journey touchpoints. You can do this using a grid, graph or other visual format that makes sense to you. You can also use a list of scenarios that describe a problem and potential customer interactions with touchpoints. Many examples of journey maps are available online. Focus on connecting the customer’s experience to each of your touchpoints.
This customer journey map from Lancome shows how the typical consumer goes from recognizing a need to buying a product. Its grid layout is easy to read and identifies potential pain points that need to be corrected. This map highlights what media is most helpful at each phase in the customer journey. It also identifies what both satisfied and dissatisfied customers need at different points during their journey to become brand ambassadors.
Here is another grid-based map from a wealth services company. This customer journey map lists each stage in the journey and the corresponding touchpoints. Each touchpoint is color coded red, green or yellow to reflect whether existing customer feedback shows negative, positive or neutral brand interactions. Current opportunities at each touchpoint are also outlined.
A customer journey map can be used to guide every facet of your business strategy. Once you’ve established it, use it. Once you’ve put it in use, revisit your data again to see where your map-based tweaks are working and where they’re not.
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