These days, customers have multiple entry points to begin interacting with a business and its brand. Customers’ buying habits have changed with time and new technology, making it increasingly important for businesses to know how customers will experience their brand from start to finish.
It’s not just the product or service itself that customers care about anymore. According to a 2020 global survey conducted by Salesforce, 80% of customers now consider the experience they have with a brand as important as the product itself. Nine out of 10 customers said a positive customer experience often leads them to interact with and/or purchase from that brand again.
Businesses of all sizes must be acutely aware of the customer journey to understand what channels, messaging, and support customers expect as they convert from a lead to a loyal customer.
Let’s take a closer look at what the customer journey is and how it can help your business grow.
Defining the Customer Journey
On the surface, the customer journey may seem simple — your business offers a product to consumers, and they purchase the product. To create a great customer journey that will leave customers satisfied and coming back for more isn’t that simple.
Looking at the customer journey with more complexity, the customer’s journey starts with your communication channels. This is where a customer may interact and engage with your brand. This could include websites, through email or phone calls, social media, mobile applications, in-store visits, live chats and customer support, and more.
Where a customer interacts with your brand, like social media or your website, is considered a touchpoint. A customer will go through multiple touchpoints during their journey.
According to Think With Google, 55% of customers said they visit a brand’s website during their journey. It’s important to know where customers are beginning and ending their journey. Mapping out these touchpoints allows businesses to see where, when, and how a customer may interact with their brand to ensure there aren’t any important touchpoints left out.
The customer journey map doesn’t need to be creatively crafted either. Even a simple visual flowchart of where a customer will start their journey, and where they’ll go from there, can highlight many insights for businesses to consider.
One insight is where the pain points of a customer’s journey lay. A pain point is a place along the customer journey where a customer leaves the sales funnel and doesn’t complete the journey. Knowing what and where those pain points are in the journey allows businesses to improve individual components of the customer’s journey for an overall more satisfying experience. Identifying possible pain points can help a business determine why customers stop interacting with your brand and what you can do to fix it.
The Basic Steps of a Customer Journey
While no customer is exactly the same, and customer journeys will have to be amended to meet the specific needs of each customer, there is a shortlist of basic steps the customer journey should follow.
- Awareness: When a customer is initially introduced to and learns about your business, they’ve become aware of it.
- Evaluation: Customers research products and services to better understand them and how they could use them.
- Purchase: When a customer decides to purchase a product or service from your business.
- Usage: After a customer purchases your product or service, they’ll experience using it for the first time.
- Repurchase: Once a customer has purchased from you initially, this step determines if they’re likely to purchase from your business again.
- Advocacy: After a customer becomes a repeat buyer, they’re more loyal and will promote your business for you.
Why is Knowing the Customer Journey Important?
Customers now interact with brands through a blend of online and offline behavior, and that line continues to get murkier. According to Think With Google, roughly three-quarters of consumers would consider themselves “channel-agnostic,” meaning they’re not tied to one channel for making purchases.
Businesses must understand where customers are naturally interacting with their brand and how they can best meet their needs in those spaces. Today’s customers expect a personalized experience.
Over half of the Salesforce survey respondents said they expect the content and sales offerings they receive to be personalized, and Think With Google data shows 60% of customers want to be able to visualize where and/or how a product could fit into their lives before buying it.
Fear not though, customers’ demand for personalization doesn’t mean a business has to create a unique customer journey for each customer. Along the customer journey, businesses can solicit feedback from customers to gain insights on what touchpoints and strategies are working for them and what can be improved for them specifically.
Just as the weakest player of a sports team can diminish the efforts of the rest of the team, understanding the pain points in your customers’ journey allows you to make improvements to one area so the whole process is streamlined for a positive customer experience.
Businesses that spend time and resources investing in perfecting the customer’s experience with their brand will see a good return on their investment. Customers who feel supported through their purchasing journey are more likely to make a purchase.
Customers will exit the customer journey more satisfied if they feel they received the type of messaging they wanted through the channel they want. This will improve customer satisfaction and help retain customers to create better brand awareness. Those now loyal customers will begin to share their positive experiences with family and friends.
The customer journey can also highlight where it may be appropriate to upsell or promote related products based on customers’ purchasing habits after they’ve bought the first product.
The Customer Journey is Evolving. Will You Evolve With It?
Customers expect more than just product and service offerings from businesses today. Knowing the customer journey is becoming more complex with new marketing channels coming online. Businesses have to intentionally invest in understanding a customer’s journey to help them reach the end of the sales funnel.
Businesses aren’t expected to tackle this work alone. New marketing solutions and automation technologies can help businesses practice omnichannel marketing to reach customers across the multiple channels where they spend their time.
By making sure businesses are reaching prospective customers across multiple channels, at the right time, with the right messaging, businesses are investing in staying relevant.