Customer journey map: Understand customers, acquire new customers

What does it feel like to buy things from you? A customer journey map reveals what it is like for customers to shop with you and what affects them.

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How do prospective customers become real customers? What channels make all the difference? Customer journey mapping helps you make your communication with potential customers more effective and use your marketing budget more efficiently.

Something is not right with your online shop or your ordering hotline. Enough people are interested in the products, but then they abandon the purchase just before check-out and don’t come back. The key question for you is: why does that happen?

Customer journey mapping helps you find the answer. The idea of this approach is to visualise the journey a customer takes on the way to purchasing, which delivers valuable insights. Who does what, where and why? Only if you understand the behaviour of your target groups you can improve the customer experience.

How is a customer journey map structured?

A customer journey map is set out chronologically and begins with the customer’s desire to solve a problem with a product.

Because it is impossible to create a map for every single potential buyer, customer journey maps use what we call ‘buyer personas’. Each one of these represents a particular type of customer with all their characteristics.

Steps: All the things your customers do on their customer journey to purchasing

The map’s uppermost line depicts all of the persona’s actions in succession, from left to right, from the first information they receive all the way to the purchase. Generally speaking, journey mapping calls these actions ‘steps’. Each step is given its own column. Dividing things up like this allows us to analyse the various steps at different levels.

Steps are as varied as they are numerous: some personas talk to friends, use comparison websites to inform themselves, then buy on the Internet. Another persona might visit a shop first, then research on the Internet and finally return to the shop to buy the thing there.

Keep in mind that you can never capture every single step. Limit yourself to selecting the key ones instead. This means, primarily, any customer activities that you can substantiate with statistics.

You probably have the relevant information already. Use an analytics tool to evaluate your website and online store; customer satisfaction surveys can provide more information. Don’t forget to ask the people who work for you in sales and customer services. They are in direct contact with your customers.

How does customer journey mapping work?

The first level helps you to organise and categorise the steps you have identified. To do this you use typical phases of the customer journey:

  • Awareness: a problem arises and the persona begins to want a product.
  • Favourability: shoppers begin to gather information and favour particular products.
  • Consideration: The persona weighs up the pros and cons. Is this the right product for them?
  • Purchase intent/decision: An offer or a discount signals to them that this is the opportunity.
  • Conversion: The product is bought.

This is a rough set of categories, but one which can respond flexibly to different journeys and help you organise and understand different steps.

Illustration of an example of the customer journey mapping

The customer journey mapping infographic

Touchpoints: Where the persona comes into contact with your business

After that, you name every single touchpoint on the map. These are the steps at which a potential customer comes into direct contact with your business. One of the many touchpoints in our example is the purchase in an online store. This is the only opportunity you have to directly influence the customer experience.

Storyboard: What do people see when they shop with you?

Draw up a storyboard to clarify how each person experiences each step. What is it actually like looking for a product in your online store? Can a persona find all the important information? What did they see when they looked? You don’t need any artistic talent. Stick figures are adequate. What is important is to take the point of view of a prospective customer.

Swimlane: This is about feelings

The next step is to create a row called the Swimlane. Categorise your steps according to where they happen. Talking to friends is an offline experience, whereas comparing things on an Internet platform, and buying, are done online.

This is when you need to see whether the transitions between different channels work well. Are products in your shop called the same thing in your online store? Do your analogue and your digital shops have similar structures? To consumers, the transitions between their digital and analogue experiences are fluid. But in companies, these areas are usually separated from one another.

Emotional Lane: What does the target group feel?

Shoppers’ satisfaction is revealed mainly in the Emotional Lane. To create this you have to evaluate every step. How was the experience? Is there helpful content on my website? Was the checkout easy? What aspects frustrated people? Evaluate the experience using ratings between one and five. One represents a negative experience, five means a great experience. What is important is that you rate things with as much empathy as possible. That’s the only way to make customer journey mapping a starting point for change.

Dramatic Arc: What is important to customers?

Now you know what prospective customers do and feel. But what does that mean to them? How stimulating were the various experiences? Talking to friends was interesting. When you buy something big, the buying itself can be exciting. Researching things on the Internet, however, is less thrilling.

Again, you can use a rating from one to five. One means the experience was not very important, and five means it was very important. Very exciting steps should always be evaluated first. If these receive a positive rating in the Emotional Lane then this is a sign of a positive customer journey. But if not – because potential shoppers experienced the exciting steps negatively – this needs to be improved quickly and as a priority.

How do you work with a customer journey map?

Once the map is finished, you have to be ready to fill all of the steps und lanes with data. If you do not have that data, you can perform extra customer surveys and use data from existing customers. Compare the current version of your customer journey map with the version you want to achieve, so that you can see where improvements can be made.

The various lanes should be able to be read together if possible: from above to below, from below to above. That is the only way you will find out how customers really experience things. Never lose sight of the fact that this is a process, even though the map focuses on steps. Optimise your customer journey so that the customer experience is coherent and harmonious from start to finish.

How do businesses benefit from customer journey mapping?

An improved customer experience means management is satisfying customers more. Fewer pain points on the customer journey mean more completed purchases. Furthermore, satisfied customers need less service. This means less burden on your staff.

Mapping puts you in a position to speak more clearly to your customers. You will use your marketing budget more efficiently. Chances are, your customers will remain loyal as well.

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