It starts before they arrive and doesn’t end when they leave.
You may never know where the journey of discovery, engagement and conversion begins for your customer in relationship to your business and/or its products. It may start in a conversation overheard in an elevator, or with the glimpse of a package, or in some other unknowable way.
And while the starting point may be difficult to pinpoint, you should do everything you can to make sure the end point never arrives. It’s less expensive to re-engage repeat customers and they generate five times more revenue per visit than first timers.
Customer Journey Maps
Regardless of when it starts and finishes, the more of that journey you predict, measure and analyze, the more you will be able to improve your customer experience.
Customer journey maps focus on one or any combination of the overall journey, the path through your website, the process the customer follows on a landing page or any other single or series of interactions you have with your customers; online or off.
The milestones on the map are the touchpoints of customer interaction. A good journey map will include the following sorts of information at each point
- The Stage of the Buying Cycle – Is the customer just becoming aware of your offer or is she about to buy?
- The Activity at the Point of Interaction – Is she on an online forum or in the store?
- Triggers & Drivers – Depending on the stage she is at, what are her motivations for being there? What needs or wants must she to fulfill at that particular point of the journey?
- FUDs – Each touch point is like a crossroad. When the customer reaches it, she faces fears, uncertainties, doubts and questions about what is the next step and whether or not she should take it.
Below is a good example of a customer journey map, in this case for a home theater, from the Harvard Business Review.
Notice that it maps the journey past the point of purchase to include the ‘out-of-box-experience’ (OOBE), which increasingly gains acceptance as an important part of the overall customer experience.
Some of the factors that go into your journey map making, like the customer’s activity at the point of interaction, are relatively easy to track. Perhaps they clicked on a PPC ad or responded to a Facebook promotion.
But it’s not nearly as easy to determine some of the other factors, especially the FUDs.
Unfortunately, those difficult to determine factors are at least as important to converting and keeping an online lead or customer, if not more so. The nature of the web, both in the virtually infinite options it offers to divert your customers’ attention and in the element of uncertainty that surrounds the exchange of information and the successful completion of a purchase, makes your web customers notoriously skittish. And it’s very difficult for you to know exactly what causes the skittishness at each point on your map.
One way to do so is with AB testing, which helps you find the option customers prefer. While AB tests are necessary for improving conversion rates, in terms of a journey map, you would need a fairly extensive testing program to cover all the points along the way. And, while that program might show you what works better to keep the customer on the path to conversion, it doesn’t tell you exactly why it works, or what FUD you solved.
Listening to Your Customers
The best way to know what issues and questions your customers face is to go straight to the source – the customers themselves. But, the traditional means of getting customer feedback, like questionnaires, don’t get their input at the moment that the issues arise, which means that input is tempered.
Fortunately or not, customers are online right now talking about their experiences with purchases and businesses. And many of them are doing so as they go through the same touch points you need to track on your journey map.
- Customer Reviews – Not only does the customer journey continue past the purchase, they also continue past the OOBE. Check out the review below from Amazon.com. The customer actually likes the product, but gives it only three stars ‘because Amazon has a habit of dropping the price on things after you buy them’. Hey, Amazon, can you think of something to improve this customers experience?
- Unboxing Videos – Chronicling the aforementioned OOBE has fostered the popular Youtube meme of ‘unboxing’. How popular is it? Just enter ‘unboxing’ into your YouTube search window to find out. One recent video on the unboxing of an Apple iPhone 6 clone got almost 6 million views in a month.As ‘unboxing’ videographers try to outdo each other for more viewership, the usefulness of some videos is questionable. But once you learn to avoid the view-bait, the remaining videos offer some real nuggets of customer feedback, delivered unfiltered at the moment that issues arise.Check out this video from the popular eleventhgorgeous YouTube channel. There’s tons of the obvious feedback you’d expect in a comparison of packages from cosmetic subscription services Birchbox and Ipsy. But it’s the feedback you get from unexpected places that can be most valuable. At 1:36 of the video, one of the on-camera personalities talks about a shopper reward points system and, almost under her breath, mentions that she always forgets to use her points. A reminder to take advantage rewards points would probably improve that person’s customer experience.
- Social Media – Customer experience is affected by every element of your site and your customers perception of it. Check out this tweet about an image the customer saw on an Amazon product page. Can’t say I blame him.
Like every other aspect of your digital marketing, from persona development to conversion optimization, the more effort you put into your journey maps, the better they will be at guiding you to offering a better customer experience.