Best Practices for Mapping the Customer Journey

The cold, hard truth of marketing today is that if you don’t take care of your customers and their increasing expectations, they’ll simply take their business elsewhere. 

Fortunately, with innovative technology and digital media access increasingly intersecting and interacting in more powerful ways, we now have more tools to interpret and leverage customer data. You can use this data to strategize customer-centric strategies that enhance customer loyalty on one level and build brand profitability on the other. One of the best ways to leverage data is by mapping the customer journey.  

What Is a Customer Journey Map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of every single interaction a customer has with your brand or business. As an overview, this can sound highly simplistic or reductive. But you’re not just looking in from the outside to “see” what’s going on.

You’re aiming to make sense of the rich data coming in through the various touchpoints by comparing and contrasting them against each other to gain valuable insights. There’s the data on customer expectations and sentiments (or customer feedback), and then there are your specific business goals at each stage of the journey. 

Take the example of an online retail business trying to understand why a customer enters a website through a Facebook ad, selects a product, clicks it, adds it to their cart, but then falls short of purchasing it. 

Learning the ins and outs of customer behavior at specific touchpoints and optimizing the experience constitutes the crux of customer journey mapping. In the above example, it’s about connecting the dots between failure to purchase and closing the sale. But that’s not all. 

How a Customer Journey Map Can Benefit Your Business

Mapping the customer journey helps businesses optimize the customer experience, boost customer loyalty, increase customer retention rates, reduce customer churn, and generate a long lifecycle of repeat sales value from customers as end goals.

According to research and statistics:

  • Depending on the specific industry, increasing customer retention rates by 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%. [Harvard Business School and Bain & Co.]
  • Also, depending on the industry, acquiring a new customer can cost 5 to 25 times more than retaining an existing one. [Harvard Business Review]
  • 83% of customers cited good customer service as their most important criterion for deciding to buy (outside of product and price). [Khoros]

Creating a customer journey map can help you get a deeper understanding of consumer behavior. This way, you can put into practice strategies, products, and services that meet, or even better, exceed, unmet expectations. 

So, with the example of a small ecommerce store struggling to get sales, following the journey map from the perspective of a customer can help you identify the stumbling blocks that prevent the sale. 

For example, is there a lack of clarity for the customer at the checkout page about how and where they should make the payment? Is there a glitch preventing the customer from making the purchase? Is the buy button not visible?

Mapping the customer journey can also help you with:

  • Aligning various departments, so they’re all on the same page. For example, while your sales department is exceeding targets, maybe your customer service is falling short. Reviewing customer feedback and sentiment at the service touchpoint can help you make sense of what needs to be fixed, changed, or improved.
  • Strengthening your product portfolio. Understanding the customer experience can also help you determine if your product isn’t meeting customer expectations. This can help put you on track to refining your products (or services), so they become the preferred choice for your customers.
  • Increasing brand value and ROI. The bottom line determines the competitiveness and longevity of your brand or business. Happy customers make for loyal customers and repeat purchases. A positive customer journey reflects in your ROI.
  • Creating personalized experiences. According to research by McKinsey, 76% of consumers said that receiving personalized communications was a key factor in prompting their consideration of a brand, and 78% said such content made them more likely to repurchase. Mapping the customer journey, when done right, can help with creating personalized experiences that can be a key differentiator for your brand. 

Customer Journey Mapping Best Practices

Before developing your customer journey map, it’s a good idea to put your game hat on to ensure you’re getting the best out of the exercise. Some key points to consider:

Look at the Journey from the Customer’s Perspective

Customer journey mapping is all about the customer. As a brand, you always want to be mindful of how the customer experiences and perceives your brand from the outside. The best way to do this is to place yourself in your customer’s shoes and literally experience the brand from the outside yourself. 

You have the advantage of insider knowledge in your business. That inside knowledge coupled with a personal experience of the customer journey can be beneficial to helping you create and brand experience that customers will truly enjoy and want to be with for the long term.

Conduct Thorough Research on Your Customers

Research can seem pretty basic, yet it’s fundamental to everything you do. From identifying common customer pain points, refining your product to meet and exceed expectations, and validating your product in the market to the final stage of continuous improvement, research is valuable at every step of the way.

Sometimes, it can mean that you have to do the legwork of connecting directly with your customers on the phone or in person. But you need to have an in-depth understanding of your customers before you can begin to think about creating that wow experience for them.

Map Out Every Single Phase

It’s critical to mark every single step or phase of the customer journey when you’re designing your map. Missed steps can cause ambiguity or, worse, create challenges further down the line. There are a lot of powerful marketing solutions available that can help you break down more complicated and complex journeys. 

Keep Record of the Outcome

Maintaining records of the outcomes of your customer maps can help you determine gaps in your planning or challenge redressal mechanisms. Return to your historical outcome records to understand where you went wrong, what you can do better, and how to get things right the next time around. 

Take Into Account the Customer’s Journey after the Purchase

Mapping the customer journey doesn’t stop at the purchase. The most optimal marketing strategies look at post-purchase engagement and repeat sales as well as turning your customers into brand advocates who will recommend your brand to others.

Customer Journey Mapping Process

So, how do you actually go about creating a customer journey map? The process starts with goal-setting.

Decide What You Want To Achieve With the Map

The first and most critical step of your customer journey mapping process is defining your goals. You’re identifying what you want to achieve through the process of creating a customer map. Start with small and simple goals before graduating to greater and more complex goals.

To provide a simple example, let’s say you’re setting up a multi-page funnel to sell your software. You’ve identified that customers aren’t moving beyond the consideration stage where they’re evaluating your product to the conversion stage where they should be purchasing it. So your goal is to identify the challenge to take corrective steps.   

Create Buyer Personas

Next, you’re going to look at creating buyer personas. A buyer persona is a representation of your target buyer in terms of who they are, their background, interests, preferred social media platforms, and pain points (which your product should ideally address). 

You can develop a buyer persona by sourcing the required information through a few different channels, all close to home:

  • Your sales team — Your sales team works on the ground and deals directly with your customers. They can be an exceptionally rich source of information on the common questions that customers have about the product and their expectations.
  • Customer analytics — With marketing software, you can analyze historical trends to identify how your customers land on your sales pages. Retrace the steps and work backward, as this can tell you a lot about what motivated your customer to find your product or service in the first place.
  • Direct customer research — Speaking directly to customers is a great way to get information directly from the source. Interview your existing customers and survey potential customers to identify how they heard about your business, what prompted them to buy (or decide not to buy your product), what they liked, and what they didn’t like about the customer experience.
  • Innovative tech solutions — With a partner like AUDIENCEX, you can access integrated solutions that can help you gain more insight into your consumers. Our partnership with Dstillery, for instance, gives our clients complimentary access to Audience Insights, providing a deep, data-based understanding of your audience that can be directly leveraged across our holistic tech stack.

Sometimes the term “buyer persona” is used interchangeably with the word “customer persona.” But for marketing purposes, they’re treated as two different customer segments. Your customer persona is a “successfully converted” buyer persona and will therefore need to be nurtured differently with your content.

Note the Customer Touchpoints

Customer touchpoints are all the times and places of the customer journey where your customers are interacting with your brand. These can be both offline as well as online. Circling back to the ecommerce brand example, your touchpoints could be:

  • Pages on your website
  • Your social media channels
  • Third-party sites that mention your brand
  • Your digital advertising

Break these down even further into smaller steps, such as identifying the specific pages on your website and the specific steps the customers take on your social media channels. You can compare this data against a tool like Google Analytics (or other similar applications) for a more concrete idea of trends and numbers. 

Design the Layout of the Customer Journey

At this stage, you’re going to physically start plotting your customer journey map. You don’t need a lot of complicated or complex tools for this exercise. A whiteboard, some markers, and a few sticky notes are more than adequate. 

Mark out your touch points and draw dotted lines (or use stickies) to the customer’s current experience or feedback at the touch points. If your customer is going back and forth to a single page (like the payment page we talked about earlier for the ecommerce website), that needs to be highlighted on the journey map. 

Address Customer Pain Points

Next, look at the pain points. What’s going wrong on the page based on the feedback you’ve received from your client and your own experience as you go through the same journey? Identify the areas of friction or specific stumbling blocks. Decide how you will fix these pain points. 

What can you do to solve the problem? Which teams will you need to cross-align to make this work? Customer journey mapping is usually a holistic exercise involving many different teams in your business. So for your payment page issue, you may need to involve your tech team and customer support.

Make Adjustments As You See Fit

When you map the customer journey visually, you get to “see” the customer experience up close and personal. Often just seeing the diagram is enough to give you an ‘AHA’ or several ‘AHA’ moments. Sometimes you may need to remove a step or two here and there. Or you may need to add an extra step. This stage is about concrete improvements.

Create a Personalized Customer Experience with Strategic Marketing Solutions

Customers want more, demand more, and are willing to pay more for personalized experiences that are tailored to their needs and aspirations. Personalization is increasingly becoming a necessity, and if you’re not incorporating it into your marketing strategies, you could lose out on relevance in the market.

Better yet, let the field experts manage your personalized customer experience at every single touchpoint. Delegating to specialists can be a smart and highly effective way to manage your business. They’re in the know about the latest trends and have access to innovative tools, so you can save a lot on the learning curve and on expensive software you don’t necessarily need to manage on your own. Our expert teams and innovative tech solutions can also help you gain unprecedented insight into your audience, letting you map a more accurate and detailed customer journey with futureproof solutions that address changing privacy regulations and bridge the fragmented digital landscape. Plus, you’ll get laser-targeted results in the form of concrete ROI. Partnering with AUDIENCEX could be the ideal solution for you.

AUDIENCEX simplifies, leverages, and streamlines the complex world of digital advertising for brands and agencies regardless of size or scope. We take a holistic approach to full-funnel performance marketing by optimizing strategy, data, and analytics powered by our fully integrated omnichannel media platform. We are committed to ensuring success for all our partners. For more information on how AUDIENCEX can benefit your business, drop us a message or connect with a member of our team here.