by Saurajit Kanungo (courtesy of Cyber Group )

What Are Customer Journey Maps?

The customer journey is the process in which a consumer becomes a customer. It’s not nearly as direct as you might think, especially in a day and age where the majority of consumers will do extensive research online on a variety of different platforms to determine what their problem is, what the best solution to their problem is, and what brand to choose. Because of how complex and unique the customer journey can be, you will want to create a customer journey map, or visual representation of that process, to help guide your marketing efforts. This visual representation is typically a diagram that shows the steps your customers go through when engaging with your brand through various touch-points both online and offline.

Why Is Mapping It Important For Your Company?

You may have a pretty good idea of who your audience is and what the needs of your customers are. However, this will only get you so far. Customer journey mapping involves breaking down the customer journey by different stages and then aligning each stage with a goal. This, in turn, gives you a better understanding of how to address the needs of your customers at every stage of their journey, making it easier to guide them through to the end. Here are the three reasons why customer journey mapping is so important:

Allows Inbound Marketing Focus

Outbound marketing is a more traditional form of marketing that involves casting a wide net and hoping you catch qualified leads. Common outbound marketing strategies include TV commercials, radio ads, newspaper ads, billboards, and more. Inbound marketing differs in that it focuses more on putting yourself in a position to be found by your target audience. Basically, they come to you instead of you going to them. It’s more effective because you’re not interrupting consumers who have no interest in your brand. Inbound marketing is also more cost-efficient.

Customer journey mapping allows for much more effective inbound marketing. By identifying the different stages of the customer’s journey and what their needs are at each stage, you position your brand to meet those needs (such as by creating relevant content) no matter what stage they’re in.

Allows Creation of New Customer Base

The only way to get a more in-depth understanding of your audience (and their demographics and psychographics) is by understanding their customer journey. When mapping the customer journey, you’ll need to do research into the needs and pain points of your target audience. This helps prevent you from wasting resources targeting an audience that may not be interested in what you have to offer. By getting a clearer picture of who your audience is, you’ll be able to focus on reaching more consumers who are a part of that audience, giving you a better chance to increase your customer base.

Creates a Customer-Focused Philosophy

It’s important that your business retains a customer-focused philosophy as it grows. While certain departments, such as customer service and support, are likely to retain this philosophy, it’s not uncommon for sales and marketing departments to lose sight of what real customers want. Customer journey maps are a guide that can be used throughout your entire company to help ensure that every department understands who your customers are, what their pain points are, and what they want.

When Should You Create Customer Journey Maps?

While you could argue that a customer journey map may not be absolutely necessary for a business that sells simple low-cost products to consumers because you only require an advertisement that leads consumers to your sales page, a customer journey map will end up being helpful no matter how big your company is or how long your average buying cycle is. A customer journey map will give you very useful insight into the needs and desires of your customers, which can be used to create more effective marketing strategies (such as determining what social channels to target or what kind of content to create).

Generally speaking, you should create your customer journey maps as early on as possible and as soon as you’ve established your business goals. If you don’t have business goals, your customer journey maps will not be much help. But with business goals in place, if you don’t have customer journey maps, then now is the right time to create them.

Types Of Customer Journey Maps

When you think of a customer journey, you think of process that takes a consumer from the awareness stage all the way through the post sale service stage. However, there are actually four different types of customer journey maps that you can create, all of which serve a specific purpose. These include the following:

Current State

The most common type of customer journey map is the current state map. This type of map visualizes the customer’s actions, emotions, and thoughts that they are experiencing as they interact with your brand.

Future State

Future state maps visualize the actions, emotions, and thoughts that you predict your customers will have during future interactions with your brand. Essentially, using the current state map as your foundation, your future state maps should visualize what you want your customer’s interactions to be like. They will help you express your vision as well as help you set a clearer objective.

Day in the Life

A day in the life map visualizes a customer’s actions, emotions, and thoughts based on their interactions throughout the course of a typical day–whether or not that includes engaging with your brand. By widening the scope of their journey, you can visualize what their pain points are in real life and identify potential unmet needs that your customers have before they even realize what those needs are themselves.

Service Blueprint

A service blueprint is a map created from a simplified version one of the previous customer journey maps as the foundation. Using that, you will then add the factors that are responsible for delivering the customer’s overall experience, such as processes, policies, technologies, and people. A service blueprint can help you determine what is driving your current customer journeys and what steps you need to take to guide future customers through the desired customer journey.

Step 1: Define Your Customers’ Persona

The first task  in mapping your customer journeys is to get a grasp of who your customers are. This can be done by creating a buyer persona. A buyer persona is a fictional representation of a type of customer.

Having detailed buyer personas will be helpful not just for mapping customer journeys, but also for tailoring content that is relevant to your target audience. A buyer persona can include a lot of different information (the more detailed the persona is, the better), such as age, gender, industry they work in, position at their company, online behavior patterns, buying patterns, pain points, interests, motivations, goals, and more.

A buyer persona represents not just a single customer, but a type of customer. This means that you’ll likely need to create several buyer personas to represent the various segments of your target audience.

Data Sources Of Buyer Personas

To create your buyer personas, you’ll need to gather a significant amount of information from your customers. There are several ways that you can go about this. The following are a few effective methods for collecting the data you need to create accurate and detailed buyer personas:

  • Google Analytics – Your website can provide you with a lot of immensely valuable data about your customers. Using Google Analytics, you can identify the location of your visitors, the devices your visitors are using to explore your website, the online behavior of your visitors, and the purchasing behavior of your customers. You can even identify some of the general interests of your customers based on the cookie data from other websites your visitors have been to.
  • Social media analytics – The major social media platforms all have their own analytics tools that allow you to obtain valuable demographic information about your followers. For example, there are several Twitter tools that you can use to identify your followers’ engagement rates, what they’re talking about, locations, interests, and more. Facebook Audience Insights is an even more comprehensive analytics tool that provides information about your followers that include their age, gender, relationship status, lifestyle, household size, education, location, languages, purchase behavior, purchase methods, and more.
  • Customer questionnaires – You can use automation software to automatically send a questionnaire to customers who have just made a purchase. You can ask a list of questions to help give you a better idea about who your customers are, like how did they find your website, why did they purchase your product/service, how easy was it to navigate your website, how happy are they with their purchase, and more.
  • Social media surveys – Just like customer questionnaires, social media surveys are a great way to collect detailed information from your followers. In addition to asking followers to complete a survey, you can simply post questions to your social media page and use the responses to help guide the creation of your personas.
  • Email opt-in forms – One of the easiest ways to get basic information on the demographics of your potential customers is to require leads to fill out demographic information on your opt-in forms, such as age, gender, and location, along with whatever other questions you want answered (just don’t require too much information on your opt-in forms or you might intimidate your leads).

Step 2: Identify Their Goals

The goals of your customers are also sometimes referred to as their needs, wants, or expectations. A customer’s goal is ultimately what will drive them through the beginning of their journey to the end, which is why it’s important that you align the goals of your customers with your buyer personas.

You will need to ask your customers about their goals directly since this is not information that you can extract from website data or behavioral patterns.

You can identify customer goals by conducting surveys, using tools such as Hotjar to ask visitors what they are expecting on certain pages of your site (such as, what’s missing on this page?), and even requesting one-on-one interviews with customers. Another way to pinpoint customer goals is by looking at transcripts of phone calls or emails between customers and your customer support team.

Step 3: Plot Out The Touchpoints

A touchpoint is a point of contact that a customer has with your brand. This can occur before, during, or after they make a purchase, both online and offline. Plot out the touchpoints of your customers so that you don’t miss out on the opportunity to engage with them and improve their experience throughout their customer journey.

Touchpoints also provide you with valuable insight into what actions your customers are taking.

Touchpoints can include visiting your store in person, calling your phone number, responding to an email, downloading something from your website, or commenting on a blog post, just to name a few points of interaction.

Finding Touchpoints

Your website isn’t the only touchpoint that a customer can hit. The following are a few other potential touchpoints to keep in mind:

  • Social Channels – Social channels encourage social engagement, which means that there are a lot of potential touchpoints on your social pages, whether it’s content shared by friends and family members, links that you’ve posted, reviews posted by other users, or questions you post.
  • Paid Ads – Running paid ads, whether it’s on a search engine like Bing or Google, or a social media site like Facebook, they are often a touchpoint for potential customers who may not have known about your brand otherwise.
  • Email Marketing – Customers who have signed up to your email list are presented numerous touchpoints whenever you email them. They could email you back, click on a link in your email, or download an attachment.
  • Review Sites – Customers often look up businesses on review sites to see whether they have a good reputation or not. In many cases, they will use review sites, such as Yelp or Angie’s List, to identify the highest rated businesses in their area. If your business is listed on such sites, it’s yet another touchpoint.
  • Behavior Flow Report – Google Analytics’ Behavior Flow Report will show you how customers move from one touchpoint to another. This shows you how your touchpoints are linked and can help you pinpoint how some customers may be struggling to get to where they’re trying to go.
  • Goal Flow Report – Goal Flow Report is another Google Analytics tool that lets you identify if potential customers are leaving in the middle of their journey, if there are touchpoints where traffic is looping back to your site, and whether or not potential customers are achieving goals of your choosing.

List Their Interactions

Knowing what actions your customers are taking throughout their journey will give you a good idea of what’s working and what isn’t. You can use Google Analytics and other analytics tools to analyze the data you’ve collected to pinpoint customer interactions. This can be helpful for a number of reasons. For example, you might find that a high percentage of people coming to your site as a result of content posted on a specific social media page are making purchases on your e-commerce page. This lets you know that a successful touchpoint exists on that social media page. Track the paths that customers take to achieve their goals so you can make those paths more effective and improve their experience.

Monitor Their Behavior

You can determine whether the needs of your customers are being met at certain touchpoints by the actions that they are taking. For example, if they make it all the way to your e-commerce page and have even added a product to your shopping cart but then left your website without finalizing the purchase, it means that there’s likely an issue with your checkout process or page. If a customer followed a link to your blog from Facebook, read through the blog, clicked on the CTA encouraging them to sign up to your newsletter, but then abandoned the opt-in form, then you know there’s an issue with the form or the landing page it’s on.

Step 4: Identify Pain Points

Using all the information you’ve gathered about your customers, including their goals, touchpoints, and behavior, determine what their pain points (or roadblocks) are throughout their customer journey. This will give you the opportunity to smooth out potential hiccups in their journey so that they can successfully reach their customer goals.

Look at the touchpoints that customers reach before abandoning your website to figure out where the problem areas are and what the issue might be. Keep in mind that the point of doing this isn’t necessarily to optimize each touchpoint–it’s to make sure you help guide your customers down the funnel more effectively and efficiently. Sometimes, correcting a touchpoint isn’t the best course of action–instead, it might be breaking it down and creating new touchpoints.

One thing that will be helpful is to look at some of the more successful touchpoints to see what’s working. Knowing what’s working can often make it easier to see what’s not working and to identify what it is you need to change or do.

Step 5: Experience The Journey Yourself

The customer journeys that you’ve mapped out for your buyer personas are just hypothetical until you go through them yourself. Follow the journey you’ve mapped out for each buyer persona that you’ve created, going from touchpoint to touchpoint to determine how effectively you’re meeting their needs and how obstructive their pain points might be to achieving their goals.

Step 6: Make The Needed Changes

After you’ve pinpointed all of the customer pain points and have taken the journeys yourself, you’ll be able to prioritize what changes need to be made. Fixing roadblocks can be both easy or difficult, depending on what they are.

For example, if you’re getting a lot of emails about the checkout process, the solution might be to set up a FAQ that answers all basic purchase-related questions that addresses things like shipping options, shipping costs, and return policies. Make sure that the changes you make will be effective. Simply making a change might be  a mistake if the change you make doesn’t actually clear the roadblock.

Then prioritize the fixing of your pain points. You may want to fix all the issues that can be easily fixed with just a few minutes worth of work first. The more challenging roadblocks you may want to prioritize in terms of importance (as in, in order of how detrimental they are to the journey of your customers).

Step 7: Analyze the Results And Improve

Just because you think you’ve figured out a solution to a pain point and made the necessary changes doesn’t mean that it will automatically clear that roadblock. Analyze the results to make sure the roadblock has been cleared. If not, you may need to come up with a new solution to address that particular pain point.

Review your customer journey maps on a monthly or quarterly basis to track the changes you’ve made. Regularly monitoring your customer journey maps will also help you identify new opportunities for streamlining your customer journeys even more and to determine if any new roadblocks have appeared that you may have missed.

Evaluating Your Customer Journey Map

There are a few different ways that you can evaluate your customer journey maps. KPIs (key performance indicators) will help to make your maps actionable. For example, you can use KPIs such as “meets expectations”, “does not meet expectations”, and “exceeds expectations” to visualize opportunities for improvement. NPS (net promoter score) surveys are also an easy way to get feedback from your customers as to the function of your site, thereby allowing you to identify potential roadblocks. Other metrics that you should consider tracking to evaluate your customer journey maps and to improve them include customer satisfaction measures and quantitative assessments of customer emotions.

Use the Insights In Making Better Business Decisions

The insights you gain from creating customer journey maps can be used to make better decisions throughout your business. Customer journey maps give you valuable insight into who your customers are and what their goals are, and offer a good idea of how you can help them achieve these goals. This can help improve decision making throughout your company, including in sales, marketing, and customer service departments.

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