A customer journey map – why and how?

Customer journey map

Think back to times when you’ve been a customer yourself. Isn’t it true that how you felt after your interaction with the company was equally as important as the goods you bought from them? A customer journey map helps us to define the experiences our customers have with every touchpoint in our business. This post is for you if you want to understand more about and learn how to create customer journey maps.

This is one of a series of blogs intended to assist you in growing your online business. To prepare to create a winning e-commerce website, you need to address 4 key elements.

4 elements to create a website for growth

4 elements to consider

In related posts, we discuss the other elements:

  • How do you establish and align business, digital marketing and website goals?
  • Creating customer personas is vital to targeting your customers accurately.
  • Creating a brand style guide ensures that every message you put out there about your company is consistent

What is a customer journey map?

Is interacting with your business a pleasant experience? Can your customers easily find you, and once they have, can they easily find what they need on your site, from products to information and prices? Does your customer service team understand who they’re dealing with and how to do that?

You’ll only know these things if you’ve taken the time to imagine the buying journey from your customers’ perspective, including all the places they engage with your company, both online and off. These touchpoints range from when they first see your ad through to when they become loyal repeat customers.

Let’s look at an example of one customer persona – Eric the Empty Nester, who loves to travel:

  • Eric is about to travel to Cambodia. He’s done a little research online but he really likes hard copy books, and particularly wants to get his hands on one recommended by a friend who has been there.
  • He tries to get the book online in South Africa, but with no luck. In the process of searching on his mobile, he sees your bookshop ad, which says you can source hard-to-find books.
  • He goes to your website and searches for the book he wants there.
  • The search result tells him the book is not in stock, but you can try to find it for him. He fills in a form with his contact details.
  • 3 hours later you contact him to say you have sourced the book and can deliver it to him in 3 weeks, which he is happy with.
  • In 2,5 weeks you email him to say his book has arrived. The email includes an instant EFT button that allows him to pay and choose where he would like it delivered.
  • His book is delivered within the next 2 days, as promised.
  • A day later, you email him to request feedback on your service and also ask if he would like to be added to your newsletter database.
  • Every month thereafter you send him an interesting newsletter, targeted to his interests (i.e. travel) if possible.

Eric's highlevel journey

Why do I need to create a customer journey map?

The above example describes the ideal path that Eric, a representative of one of your customer segments, takes through your business. As you can see, Eric goes through several stages in this journey. Along the way, there are multiple opportunities to either disappoint or impress him. By documenting his ideal path (when you are starting out) or his actual path (when you already have him as a customer), you can begin to understand his needs and behaviours, and identify:

  • What he really wants and how your products or services can solve his problems.
  • Points in the journey where things might go wrong – adjusting your process to solve problems before they happen will make life easier both for Eric and for your customer service team
  • Ways to add more value to Eric’s experience, for example, providing book reviews, suggesting related products, offering the option for him to collect the book if he lives nearby, making it easy for him to recommend you to others with a customised link, etc
  • How to personalise and automate your buying and communication process to specifically address Eric’s needs

A journey map helps you to meet customers’ expectations and as you refine it, it helps you to ‘wow’ a customer. When Eric’s whole experience is easy, efficient and seamless, why wouldn’t he come back? And since we all know it’s easier (and cheaper) to sell more to current customers than attract new ones, that’s another win for you.

6 Steps to creating your customer journey map

Step 1: Prepare

Do your homework and gather as much information as you can beforehand. You need to know:

  1. Exactly who your customers are. What do they want? How do they use your products? What is their buying behaviour? How do they like you to communicate with them? For more on this, see this blog.
  2. Your customer journey stages. These stages may differ depending on your business and sometimes even on your various customer personas. The important thing is that you know exactly how it works for your business, and what a customer’s goal is at each stage.Customer journey stages
  3. Your touchpoints. This is a list of every single interaction your customer has with your company across the various stages (these may even happen across several different departments). See below for some examples.
    Business touch points
  4. Where things are going right and where they’re going wrong.Google Analytics is a mine of information about the behavior of your customers. You can also ask your customer service team what feedback they’re getting, and even talk to customers directly to find out what needs improvement.

Step 2: Brainstorm the current journey

Brainstorm the journey your customers take and document your ideas on a whiteboard, flipchart or with sticky notes. Be sure to list every touchpoint along the way, including what happens after the sale. To make sure you’ve covered all your bases (and to create buy-in), you might like to involve your whole team in this process.

Step 3: Look for current or potential problems

Now that you know what the journey looks like, document any potential problems either your customer or your service team might encounter along the way.Think about what the customer is doing, thinking and feeling at each point, and use the data you’ve gathered, as well as your intuition, to identify pain points.

For example:

  • Are customers abandoning the purchase or download process?
  • Are they clicking through pages too fast or too slowly?
  • Are they clicking around randomly, rather than following the purchase path you’d like them to?
  • Are they leaving your site to go elsewhere for reviews or price comparisons?

Consider why they might be behaving like that, for example:

  • Is your navigation menu unclear?
  • Are you not providing them with enough product, price or process information?
  • Is your customer service team taking too long to respond to queries?
  • Does the payment process take too long or not offer enough payment options?

Step 4: Look for solutions

When you know exactly what the problem is, you can start looking for a solution at each point. Some of these will be simple, quick fixes and others may need more work or even require you to rethink your process. Either way, the moment you start solving the problem, your conversion rate will increase.

Talk to us to find solutions with you, using our e-commerce software.

Step 5: Add value

Now that the problems are being ironed out, think about how you could make the experience even better and easier for your customer. What will make them think “Wow!” every time they interact with your business (potentially increasing your conversion rate even more)?

Step 6: Revise

Update your customer journey map each time you uncover a new part of the journey or a new touchpoint, or test a solution and fine-tune the process. To make this easier, especially if you are working on it as a team, you may like to put the information into a spreadsheet or flow diagram, showing the various stages, customer goals, touchpoints, problems and potential solutions. Then store it as a shared document somewhere like Google docs.

The result for Eric may look something like this:

xtensio customer journey map

Tool used: xtensio.com

The bottom line

It’s unlikely that your customer journey map will ever be perfectly complete, especially as your business should be evolving over time. Simply getting started on it though will already get you thinking in the right direction, and make it easy for you to fine-tune both the map and your real-life processes as you go.

Remember that the better the experience your customer has, the happier they’ll be and the more they will trust you. That makes them far more likely to complete their buying journey every time and to come back to you again and again. And let’s face it, customer loyalty is worth its weight in gold.

Can you share your customer journey mapping best practices with us?

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