This is a guest post by Tom O’Brien, Director of Digital Marketing at TimeTrade.
Retail is changing in 2018. What’s key? Creating an amazing customer experience through omni-channel customer journeys that engage your prospects where they are and help shuttle them through your sales funnel. In this post, we’ll explain how to create an omni-channel customer journey map for your retail business—and how you can use it to improve your customer experience.
What is a customer journey map?
A customer journey map is a tool that tells the story of a customer’s experience of interacting with your brand. A typical customer journey map begins with the first exposure that the customer has with your brand or product and follows their engagement through to the point of sale and beyond. I like to think of a customer journey map as a visual representation of the detailed story of each step a customer took between first hearing of your brand to making a purchase.
The first mistake that retail professionals make when dealing with customer journey maps is the belief that a single customer journey map describes the experience of each customer. Most companies are good at collecting data about customer behavior, but it is frustrating to try to translate that data into a customer journey map that represents what your customers are really doing in relation to your brand.
In reality, a customer journey map represents an idealized user story that might apply to a single target demographic, a small group of customers, or even a single customer. Customer journey maps are as diverse as user stories—they won’t be the same for every customer, but they do help organizations understand the customer experience and gain insight into how customers interact with their brand before, during and after a purchase.
Why create a customer journey map?
In addition to using customer journey maps to gain insight into how customers interact with your brand, your organization can also use customer journey maps to better meet customer needs, deliver optimal omni-channel experiences and increase opportunities to interact with customers.
Meeting the needs of the customer
In simple terms, a customer journey map plots the steps that a customer goes through between identifying a need that they have and getting that need met in the marketplace. Organizations need to get inside the heads of their customers and see things from their perspective to understand how to best deliver products and services in the most customer-focused way. Customer journey mapping can help your organization better understand customer needs so that you can align processes and interactions to give your customers what they want.
Deliver an omni-channel experience
In 2018, retailers are moving toward an omni-channel model of customer engagement that caters to customers across multiple platforms. Smart retailers know that brand interactions have moved beyond the limits of brick-and-mortar stores—interactions happen on the company website, via e-commerce platforms, on social media, on review websites and platforms, through television and other advertisement media, and through new channels that seem to be constantly changing. Creating a customer journey map that plots out all of these touchpoints can help organizations offer a better-integrated buying process that spans multiple channels.
Identify optimization opportunities
Once you understand how customers interact with your brand across multiple channels, you can begin to optimize your processes to reduce customer frustration, bridge difficult gaps in the process, and continuously help nudge customers toward a sale. Here’s a simple example: part of the customer journey requires them to call in and make an appointment to speak with an associate, but the process of scheduling an appointment over the phone is inconvenient. Many companies are now using automated appointment booking tools to allow their customers to book appointments directly into an interactive service calendar, ensuring that fewer customers abandon the process.
Using Customer Journey Mapping to Create an Omni-Channel Experience
Now that you understand the benefits of customer journey maps, it’s time to start creating your own. Here’s our step-by-step guide, which you can implement right away to improve the customer experience at your organization:
Step 1: Define customer behavioral stages
Defining your customers’ behavior on their way to making purchases is highly brand-specific. That’s why it pays to collect customer feedback and learn directly what steps your customers are taking along their journey. You can also develop “customer personas” that describe how different customer segments are likely to engage with your brand. A customer might go through stages like Interest – Consideration – Evaluation/Comparison – Testing – Purchase – Use – Share. An even simpler description could be Research – Purchase – Receive – Post-Purchase.
Step 2: Understand customer goals
Customer goals might not make it onto your physical customer journey map, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Creating an effective customer journey means understanding the goal of the customer at each stage of the purchasing process and aligning your interactions to best help them realize those goals. For example, during the “testing” behavior stage, the customer’s goal is to make sure they will enjoy the product before they make a purchase. You’ll need to understand which touchpoints are involved in facilitating that process according to the customer’s expectations and how to funnel them through the process in a way that helps them love your product even more.
Step 3: Define your touchpoints
Once you understand the stages of consumer behavior, the next step is to list the touchpoints across which you can interact with your customer. Omni-channel experiences happen when organizations successfully integrate the customer experience across multiple touchpoints, so one of your goals with this exercise should be to find ways to seamlessly transition the customer through touchpoints or to connect data between touchpoints to offer a more streamlined experience. Touchpoints for customers at your organization can include your brick-and-mortar locations, website or e-commerce stores, mobile shopping, a customer service or sales call center, e-mail, and SMS messaging.
Step 4: Get ready to plot
A common way of setting up your first customer journey map is with a simple chart. Take each stage of customer behavior you have defined and write them across the top of the page. In the margins, list all of the various touchpoints that you identified at your organization. For each touchpoint you identified, list a few of the services that customers can access through that touchpoint. Services help customers transition through behavior stages, and they include things like:
- accessing product knowledge and information
- booking an appointment with an associate
- comparing similar products
- viewing pricing and availability
- offers and promotions
- customer service and support
- try out or test a product
- pick up an order
- request shipping for an order
Step 5: Use available data to plot your customer journey map
Now that you understand how your touchpoints work together, you can start plotting out the customer journey on your chart. Perhaps the customer discovers a product on your website, shows it to friends and family using their mobile phone, researches the product on social sharing websites, then visits your e-commerce store to learn about pricing, availability and product specifications. They may go on to contact your call center to learn more about the product before visiting a physical location to test and purchase the product. Finally, you may be able to keep them engaged and informed about future offerings through e-mail.
Designing a Customer Experience with Customer Journey Mapping
Now that you’ve created your first omni-channel customer journey map, you will have more insight into the behavior stages your customer goes through while engaging with your brand, what their goals are at each stage, and how your different touchpoints help them reach their goals. True omni-channel experiences happen when organizations do an amazing job of integrating various touchpoints across the customer journey, helping the customer advance through the stages while having their needs met.
For example, if you know that customers on your website will want to contact your call center for more product information, take advantage of integrated online appointment scheduling to help them connect easily with your associates. If the sales associate can access their virtual shopping cart, they’ll be that much more prepared with the correct information to help enable a sale, rather than having to ask the customer to re-explain what they’re looking for.
If done effectively, your customer journey map will prove an effective tool for understanding how prospective customers engage with your touchpoints, where they get stuck, and how you can improve your processes to deliver a smooth and highly integrated customer experience.
About the Author
Tom O’Brien has more than 15 years of digital marketing experience and is responsible for the company’s overall inbound marketing programs focused on online appointment scheduling software. Prior to joining TimeTrade, Tom held leadership marketing roles at a number of high-technology companies in support of software, solutions, and educational products.