The Customer Journey is the journey that a customer takes online before making any purchase decision. Therefore, knowing the Customer Journey made by your customers and implementing all the strategies aimed at maximizing your company’s sales thanks to a guided process, are indispensable tools for maximizing the results of your company.
In this article, I will show you how to build the Customer Journey Map and which technologies to use to track users, study them and follow their behavior. Specifically, I will analyze the many benefits you can bring to your business with good analysis and:
- understand more deeply who your customer is and how they behave;
- build buyer personas;
- improve your sales funnel;
- analyze and improve the customer experience of your customers;
- find advantages and opportunities compared to your competitors.
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What is the Customer Journey
Customer Journey means “consumer journey”. In marketing, this term indicates the path that each person, driven by a need, undertakes while making a purchase decision.
The customer-consumer journey includes both online and offline stages, it begins when the customer looks for a good or service to satisfy a need and ends with the purchase. Before the advent of digital, the Customer Journey that led a person to buy what he was looking for was much simpler and more direct than today.
Selling was easy: it was enough to open a nice shop in a busy street, and the person went in, tried on, and bought the goods. Or, a few years ago, it was enough for large companies to make a good advertisement on television, people saw it and, consciously or unconsciously, recorded in their minds what appeared on the TV screen. Then, when she was at the supermarket, she somehow remembered the product, recognized it among those on the shelf, and probably chose it.
But now this discipline has become much more complex, why? Because gaming actions have become fragmented and parceled out in many places online:
- search engines;
- social networks;
Different places, called touchpoints, where people spend a lot of their time. This is where companies need to be able to positively influence the opinions of possible customers and the idea they have about their products.
The digital Customer Journey is divided into different virtual places or phases. It aims to guarantee the best possible path to reach a single goal: the purchase.
For example, the unique customer experience is used a lot in E-commerce and occurs through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). It is possible to customize the home page of each user, based on the preferences expressed, the products viewed, and the abandoned carts.
This customization of the consumer journey thanks to Artificial Intelligence allows to increase the sales of online retailers by up to 35%. From this ramification of the user’s journey, it is clear how much more complex the Customer Journey map has become than it used to be and we must keep in mind that the game to win a sale is played not only online, but also offline.
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The 5 phases of the customer journey
What are the phases of the Customer Journey? To bring an individual to purchase consideration, the Web 3.0 era focuses the customer journey on 5 specific stages.
Awareness or perception of need begins when your potential customers seek a solution to a problem or an answer to a question, and this motivates them to find out more about your product/service and those of your competitors. In this stage of perception, the customer is aware that your product could satisfy a need or be the solution to his problem. The consumer has become aware of your product through different channels and methods: it can be a Google search, paid advertising on social networks through an NFT Marketing activity, or a simple post, a press release, an article in a newspaper, a banner, etc.
This first phase relates to the discovery of the product by the consumer: a phase in which the customer is looking for information, and companies have the great opportunity to inform him that they have exactly the product he is looking for. At this time it is not necessary to segment the type of user; social networks and online channels are tools that can help to communicate.
In the second phase of the Customer Journey, your product becomes familiar and therefore recognizable in the wide range of products offered. The customer narrows down the number of brands they initially discover and evaluates a small circle of brands to decide which is the best. During this step, the process doesn’t have to be overly complicated; it is important to inform the consumer about the advantages he can obtain by choosing your product/service. The customer, for his part, informs himself by looking for opinions and reviews that help him in choosing him.
The average customer’s goal at this stage of the customer journey is, therefore, to make a preliminary assessment, to determine whether what your company has to offer is a viable solution. Will it solve the problem? Is the product or service really useful? The considerations, in this case, are closely linked to the primary need to be satisfied.
This is the phase dedicated to comparison, where the mind of the average consumer sifts through all the best alternatives and concludes with the choice of product and brand.
Here the presentation of the product characteristics and the price play an important role. The consumer begins to develop the intention to purchase one product over another and the brand. The desire to interact with the company was born. It is therefore very important to inform him about the characteristics of your product and its strengths compared to those of the competition. It can be very useful to promote with direct messages on the benefits of your product to encourage him to buy.
The customer has decided to make the purchase and has made his choice of product/service. He just needs to take the necessary actions to complete the purchase.
In this phase, your task is to remove all possible obstacles that can slow down or prevent the action. It’s important to have an online channel that doesn’t slow down this process.
During the purchase, the first impressions of the product/service provided are formed. And it is precisely by taking care of this aspect that you can prepare well for the next phase of customer Loyalty.
The goal after the sale is to make the consumer loyal to your brand.
This is where people use what they have bought, so we are at the heart of the customer experience. Depending on the product or service your company offers, this phase can be very short, or it could last decades. Here you risk a good part of your credibility, because you will have to meet the expectations of your customers.
In the Loyalty phase, the key role belongs to after-sales services, as in the case of customer assistance, but the company’s ability to arouse interest in related products should not be underestimated.
After-sales plays a key role: you have to convince the customer to continue buying from you in the future because there is no one else who can satisfy them more. The customer must feel so satisfied with your product that they want to repeat the purchase.
Satisfying the customer’s expectations will make him “loyal” to your brand, prolonging the customer-company relationship and return to use your services in the future.
Right now you have the great opportunity to build customer loyalty and make him a valuable ally who helps you achieve your goals at the market level. For example, you can get product or customer experience feedback and test aspects in development, while your customer can benefit from special treatment, loyalty programs, and much more.
With Loyalty, you can start another virtuous cycle, which would bring another potential customer to the initial phase of Awareness and start a new journey from there.
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How do you make a Customer Journey?
Customer Journey Mapping is the operation that allows the consumer’s journey to be transposed into a visual form. Know that this concept is fundamental because Customer Journeys are what you need to be able to design, define and plan the so-called sales funnels, i.e. strategies aimed at maximizing your company’s sales thanks to a guided process. To this end, specific tools can be used that allows you to create high-conversion sales funnels simply and effectively, such as Clickfunnels.
But what is the Customer Journey Map? It is the mapping of the customer’s journey from the moment he first interfaces with the company up to the purchase and retention. This path mapping allows you to reduce friction, streamline the path and improve the relationship itself with your customers.
It was born with the precise intention of fulfilling the prospect’s expectations during the steps taken towards a product or service so that those chosen products or services will be yours.
To outline an effective Customer Journey, it is advisable to constantly consult analytics, in an equation for which data-driven equals customer driven. This is possible thanks to tools and methodologies such as:
- Google Analytics;
- Facebook Insights;
- A/B testing;
- Hotjar (visual analytics tool).
Once you have obtained a faithful list of Customer Journey touchpoints, it is good to understand how the user feels, what needs and fears he has, and what his preferences and desires are, to develop a coherent forecast of his possible future moves, like in a game of chess.
To create a route map you need to define goals, especially on which products you want to divert your customers. With a well-built Customer Journey Map you can perfect your marketing strategies, creating a path aimed at customer loyalty and as least “tiring” as possible, both for the customer and for your company. A precise mapping will allow you to understand what obstacles the user encounters on his way to the purchase. With the map, you have the story of the users, their needs, questions, and emotional reactions along the way.
Identify Buyer Personas
To correctly build your Customer Journey Map you need to understand who you are addressing. Who is your typical consumer? Who is your Buyer persona? Whatever your company’s core business is, you will understand who your ideal customer is only when you place his interests at the center of your strategy, only when you build a solution to his problem.
Building buyer personas or user personas gives you the chance to understand in detail who the reference target is for the products/services you want to offer to the market. You need to know how to be found by the user at the right time, in the right place, and possibly among the first search results.
The Buyer Persona is the typical customer, the archetype, the one who will be satisfied with the shopping experience that you offer him and who, hopefully, will be your loyal buyer, as well as a potential active member of your Community. It is extremely profitable, as well as necessary, to have a thorough knowledge of the audience you are referring to articulate an effective Customer Journey.
The macroscopic error that penalizes the results of most Digital Marketing campaigns is precisely that of addressing an unidentified target, providing superfluous information for the people to whom it will be shown, and therefore ineffective for increasing the company’s turnover.
Inbound Marketing, i.e. the foundation of Strategic Marketing amid the digital age, focuses instead on an accurate targeting of prospects as if they were the center of the target. The correct identification of the Buyer persona, as can be imagined, will drastically reduce the waste of the allocated budget and will allow the implementation of an integrated marketing strategy that makes use of all the most suitable tools and channels to achieve the company objectives.
The first step in finding buyer personas for your products is to start with the problem you would like to solve. From the problem, you can imagine what people suffer from it.
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Identify the different types of touchpoints
Customer touchpoints are critical to understanding how consumers interact with your business, from the beginning to the end of their journey. Identifying all the touchpoints in this step is vital: For example, customers can find your business online, read ratings and reviews, visit your website, shop at your retail store, or contact your customer service.
These are just some of the touchpoints to consider, but there are many others, depending on the channel and the type of behavior adopted by the buyer persona. You need to know them all to be sure that a consumer is satisfied with every step of the Customer Journey Map. And deciding to eliminate some of them if they are not profitable or effective for purchase.
After establishing the various touchpoints, you need to analyze them and identify any critical points of the Customer Experience, it is a useful operation if done by several people since each one with his own eyes will be able to notice something different from the other. In particular, you must pay attention to where people leave the Customer Journey more easily, what are the critical issues specific to each touchpoint, and whether customers in that given touchpoint are aware of certain information, otherwise provide it to them.
Touchpoints between potential customers and your brand can be:
- primary: physical or digital places where your product or information about your products is located and are managed directly by the company: shops, brochures, call centers, blogs, websites, social media, and both traditional and digital marketing campaigns.
- secondary or indirect, also physical or digital, are not managed by the company but still contribute to influencing the customer’s intentions along the way: they are, for example, reviews, comments in online communities, reviews that prospects can consult on the internet, or the word of mouth that can occur in real life.
These touchpoints can be managed internally or outsourced, depending on the corporate strategy adopted. The Marketer will study the most appropriate tactic to achieve his goal, combining the two modes of action or choosing only one.
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Consumer journey between online and offline
Have you ever analyzed an example of a Customer Journey in detail? What does each of us do on the internet, when we find ourselves in the position of having to satisfy our own needs? Have you looked analytically at all those actions we perform online when we get information, choose a product or buy it?
The journeys on the web leave traces in the browser used (cookies), following our fingerprints, offering us ads, banners, and videos on goods or services that we have already seen to induce us to buy them. This operation, through which you follow and try to influence the customer’s online journey, is called remarketing and is vital for company sales, as it is very difficult for a user to turn into a customer right away, i.e. on first contact.
When a person is in the process of choosing, he can have three different types of experiences:
- ROPO Research Online Purchase Offline: online product research and analysis, offline purchase in the dedicated store.
- Click & Collect: observation, analysis, and purchase of the item online, with a collection of the same in-store.
- Try & Buy: test the item in the shop, with subsequent online purchases.
The aforementioned model is far more complex than the 5-step model I told you about earlier; with this, we aim to successfully outline the Customer Journey map.
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Technologies to Support the Customer Journey
Who is the main actor in the Customer Journey? The user, the buyer persona. It’s not a single person, but it’s the set of characteristics of a specific customer segment that interests your company.
To manage and implement the most precise and effective segmentation of your buyer personas, a systematic integration between CRM software and marketing automation is required, to detect all the preliminary and targeting information. This integration of technologies will be crucial for verifying which touchpoints are, where the positive experience occurs, for monitoring negative touchpoints, and for understanding where to remedy or enhance. And then still follow the feedback monitoring and the opinion of the sales staff, and the management of the end of third-party cookies.
The technologies that support the Customer Journey are above all those with which you can manage and analyze the amount of data relating to users who enter the interaction path with your company. At the base of everything you have to create a CRM that integrates all personal data, even relating to multiple products and channels.
The goal is the creation of a single view of the customer and the possibility of segmenting users on which to activate differentiated and personalized communications that are more effective.
It is also very important to monitor the feedback found on the web such as reviews, site comments, mentions on external sites and/or blogs as well as an opinion survey from sales staff or the commercial department. The aim is to understand what works best in your business model compared to that of your direct competitors and to understand how they make the customer experience profitable in the long run.
The tools that can be used in monitoring are AnswerThePublic and SEMrush, these reveal information on Google’s suggestions thanks to indicative graphs of the user’s implementation spectrum. They are the litmus test of the needs of the buyer personas concerning the company’s market.
The most relevant marketing technologies are over 8,000 and among these, we find the Customer Data Platforms (CDP), which allow you to integrate data from a variety of sources while also offering the ability to take immediate action. Customer Data Platforms and their evolutions, such as Customer Intelligent Platforms, are the most suitable technologies for collecting and managing data from different sources in a unified manner and transforming them into knowledge useful for redesigning the user experience at the various touchpoints and in all phases of the Customer Journey.
Continuous improvement and strategic advice
The usability of a product is closely linked to the experience (journey) that you will be able to offer the user online or in real life, to that empathetic bond that you will be able to create with him.
A good website is mobile friendly, and its positioning in the first results of the SERPs (according to SEO criteria ), can concretely make anyone traveling in a small car travel in a Ferrari. That’s why not giving the right weight to all the players who took the field could result in bankruptcy for the objectives of a company.
Speaking of the online user experience, the Customer or User Experience is closely linked to the User Interface, or UI (objective usability of the user interface, i.e. the usability of the site/page on the device used), which in turn will constitute the Customer Journey field. Giving a linearity to the user’s behavior, and wisely guiding him in the choice of his products/services, must also take into account the best devices available to him during the journey.
Creating a good Customer Journey for your customers, testing it with your marketing initiatives and measuring the results, and then optimizing it, will be a fundamental strategy for bringing concrete results to your company in terms of lead generation and increased turnover. For this reason, the figure of the Journey Manager is becoming increasingly important for companies.
These are specialists who make use of Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, interviews aimed at building a usable and well-populated Database (Relational DB Design), Display and DEM Campaigns, and Landing Pages. Their work within the team is essential because the objective is to give indications on the sales path to those who then have to devise the digital and/or traditional sales strategy.
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