When a customer makes a purchase, they do so as a result of a multi-stage journey that can start months—or even years—earlier. The customer journey can be complicated, but it’s important for a business to understand this journey, because it means they can then explore ways in which it can be improved and refined to increase sales. Mapping the journey a customer takes to the point of purchase is therefore a hugely useful exercise for any business.
The Customer Journey
The customer journey is a process that can look simple, but is more complex than it appears. It’s a time-line that includes all of the interactions a customer can have when they engage with a brand or company when they make a purchase. The more potential interactions there are, the more complicated the journey can be. For instance, a customer journey might include:
- Viewing advertising.
- Signing up for a mailing list.
- Researching products or services.
- Reading customer reviews and testimonials.
- Visiting a store or store website.
The journey is more than the sum of the actions a customer takes. It’s also a way of mapping all of the different ways a customer can take these actions. For instance, a customer might view advertising on a billboard or in a flyer, online, or on TV. They can use a search engine to research products or a company, or talk to people they know to find out more about a product.
Even more than this, the journey is about how all of these actions, and ways of taking actions, interact and intersect with one another. The most important thing about the journey isn’t one single part of it, it’s the customer experience as a whole. And this is why building a customer journey map is so important—it’s the best way to understand what the journey looks like.
How to Map the Customer Journey
Know Your Customer Persona
In marketing, creating customer personas is an important way of figuring out who your advertising efforts should be aimed at. Depending on the size and nature of your business you may have one customer persona, or several different ones.
These personas are important in mapping customer journeys, too, so the first step in mapping the customer journey is choosing a persona to base the map around.
Next, you need to think about what your persona’s goals are in relation to you and your organisation. What do they want, and how do you provide it?
Mapping Customer Touchpoints
A touchpoint is any instance in which a consumer interacts with your business before, during, or after they make a purchase. When creating a customer map, it’s important to pull all of these touchpoints together to make sure you’re getting a complete picture of the journey.
The trouble is, there’s such a potentially huge number of touchpoints, especially for large brands and businesses. This is where it’s helpful to start thinking like your customers—specifically, like the customer persona you’re focusing on. This allows you to determine what the most likely touchpoints are for that persona, and helps you build up an accurate customer journey map.
Create a Visual Expression of the Journey
Once you know where all the touchpoints are, you can start to build a visual representation of the customer’s journey. Depending on the nature and size of your business, this might be a simple map, or a very complex one.
When creating this map, try to avoid thinking about touchpoints in isolation. Instead, consider where in their journey your customer persona is likely to encounter each touchpoint. For instance, how do they first discover your website—via social media, a search engine, or something else?
The next step is to evaluate each of the touchpoints in the journey, and examine all the various ways in which those touchpoints might influence the customer’s journey. At each touchpoint, think about what your customer’s needs and goals are at this specific point. What do they expect from your business? How do their needs and goals change as they move through each stage of the journey?
For instance, if you’re thinking about how a customer persona in terms of how they interact with your business’s website, consider these questions:
- How do they find your site? If they’re using a search engine, what search terms are they using and what questions are they asking? If they’re viewing advertising, where is this happening—on social media, on a website, on a page of search results? Did they visit a review site and read some good customer reviews?
- What are they doing on your website? Are they reading content, looking at product pages, learning about your business, or something else? In what order do they look at various pages, and what pages are they looking at before they start the purchase process?
- What is the purchase experience like for them? Is it easy and convenient to make a purchase on your site? Does this persona have enough internet know-how to comfortably navigate the purchase process? Is there a point at which they’re at risk of abandoning their purchase?
Take a Step Back and Look at the Big Picture
Once you understand what your customer persona’s journey looks like, and what they’re doing at the various touchpoints in that journey, the next step is to look at how all of these touchpoints contribute to the overall customer experience.
- Is this customer able to complete their journey—that is, are they able to make a purchase?
- If not, why not? At what point do they abandon the purchase process? In terms of a website, for instance, what pages are they looking at before they exit the website?
- Are they trying to make purchases but getting frustrated or losing interest at a certain point?
Mapping is an Ongoing Process
Developing customer journey maps for each of your customer personas is just the first step in an ongoing process of refining and improving the customer experience. Consider these maps as a starting point, rather than as an end in themselves. Customers are people, and people are always changing—so the journeys they take when they make purchases will change over time too.