Friday, June 29, 2018

Customer Journey Mapping

I have witnessed dozens of approaches to customer journey mapping leading to dozens of different types of customer journey maps. They all have one thing in common - they attempt to map the customer journey. Many approaches overlay the purchase decision hierarchy: awareness -> consideration -> preference -> purchase -> repeat purchase -> loyalty -> advocacy. Each approach highlights individual customer touch points and the quality of the interaction at each of those touch points. The touch points could be through a mobile device, over the telephone, in a magazine, on a television, in a conversation with a friend, in a store, at the point of purchase, at a service location, at a technical support desk, at an ATM or somewhere else. 

Mapping this journey is only useful if it helps identify purchase influence or decision points and how to affect outcomes at those points.

Obviously, the journey is different for every customer and sometimes for the same customer at different times. So, there is no definitive map that outlines the journey for all customers from every segment for every need state. 

The journey will be different depending on the type of purchase. For instance, large, one-time purchases have a different journey than the purchase of everyday consumables. Consider the purchase of a new home or a yacht versus that of toilet paper or milk.

And impulse purchases are an entirely different category of purchases. 

Some purchases are habitual. The trick with those purchases is to interrupt the habitual behavior if you are interested in stimulating brand switching. It is important to identify the most promising points at which to interrupt that habitual behavior.

Sometimes a brand can insert itself in the process while a customer is looking for another brand. Again, identifying the best place to do this is critical to success.

A brand is particularly vulnerable to brand switching if it is less than totally accessible. For instance, another brand may be able to get the sale if the preferred brand is not available 24/7 or does not offer 24/7 support. It is also vulnerable if it is "out of stock" or otherwise unavailable. Greater responsiveness on the part of a substitute brand could get the sale if the preferred brand is not nearly as responsive.

Another thing to consider in the customer journey is at what points emotional connection can be made with the customer. I lead volunteer development (fundraising) efforts for a number of not-for-profit organizations. In that role, I have learned that an organization needs to raise friends before it can raise funds. Initial interactions with potential donors are focused on creating relationships and emotional connections, not asking for money. That comes later. The same is true for brands.

It is also important to determine how much of the purchase decision is based on price, convenience, brand loyalty, habit or category enthusiasm/exploration for a given customer in a specific category. This will impact how to alter interactions at specific touch points or whether to create additional touch points.

It is important to identify the customer's emotional state at each touch point. It is also important to discover what triggers the purchase. And finally, identifying the "moments of truth" can be very helpful.

Anthropological research and depth interviews will inform the mapping, as will other carefully constructed research methodologies. 

The key outcome of this process is to identify places in the shopping process at which brand choice can be influenced and a purchase can be stimulated. Further, customer journey mapping affords the opportunity to improve the customer experience at each touch point.

Finally, it is important to note that customer journey mapping is not "rocket science." It is a label applied to a more methodical and thorough process for understanding the customer's journey and how to best make it work to your brand's advantage. I wish you great success in mapping your customer's journey.

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