What is a customer journey?
A customer journey refers to the steps an individual takes in their process of becoming a customer—from first becoming aware of a product or service, to making a purchase, providing feedback and evolving into a loyal customer. If you’re thinking of starting an eCommerce business or creating an eCommerce website, it’s a term and concept you should become familiar with.
Understanding what a customer journey looks like when starting a business is crucial because it allows you to understand their purchase decision-making process. By identifying customer pain points and preferences, businesses gain a competitive edge. These details can be used to facilitate a more personalized customer experience, a better user experience, and will also help your brand create a more effective marketing strategy.
Key components of a customer journey
The concept of a customer journey has evolved over time. Initially, it was simple and linear, with customers following a step-by-step process before making a purchase.
However, with the rise of digital marketing and mobile technology, the customer journey has become more complex—with multiple touch points across multiple channels and customers preferences being more fluid than ever before.
This just means that today, customer journeys are more dynamic and personalized in order to meet their needs. A typical customer journey comprises several stages that customers go through before making a purchase.
At each stage of the customer journey, businesses need to create unique experiences and interactions that align with the customer's needs and preferences:
Stage 1: Awareness
This is a customer’s first touchpoint with your brand. Whether they see an ad on social media or find you using Google search, it’s a chance to make a good impression as your brand imprints itself in their memory.
Stage 2: Consideration
At this stage, the customer sees that your brand might provide a solution to their needs. They'll consider whether or not they should continue to purchase your product, services or other.
Stage 3: Conversion
This is the moment the customer decides to make a purchase, turning them from potential to actual customer.
Stage 4: Retention
The customer journey isn’t over once they make a purchase. In order to build a lasting relationship with a brand, loyal consumers will need to interact with your brand, receive support and stay up-to-date.
Stage 5: Advocacy
The ultimate goal with every customer is that they ultimately become advocates of your brand. After you’ve proven your value, loyal customers can spread the word and share their opinions with new audiences on your behalf.
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Benefits of building an effective customer journey mapping
There are many benefits to fully understanding the journey potential customers will take before buying from you. Some of these include:
Better customer experience: By paying attention to customer needs at each stage, you can better cater their experience with your brand’s services and products.
Improved customer engagement and loyalty: Investing in your customer journey strategically will help ensure consumers have positive interactions with your brand. Ultimately, this is what increases engagement and builds loyalty.
More effective marketing campaigns: The more you know, the more you can improve. By shedding light on the customer needs at each stage of the marketing funnel, you can better identify how to cater campaigns for conversion. You can also plan a better go-to-market strategy as a result.
Increased conversion rates and revenue: Many times, mapping out the customer journey will lead you to cut out redundancies in your marketing efforts and improve the frequency of purchases.
Better allocation of marketing resources: Over time, your customer journey will shed light on the best strategies, tools, budgets and schedules to help fine-tune the allocation of resources.
Challenges of implementing a customer journey strategy
One of the biggest challenges when implementing a customer journey strategy is the sheer complexity of the modern customer journey. Today, there are so many touch points and channels for interacting with customers—brands of all sizes need to invest in sophisticated technology to create a seamless personalized experience for each customer, and data analysis to be able to understand the results. Businesses should also pay special attention to consistency, ensuring and maintaining customer engagement at each stage and place where they interact with your brand.
Examples of successful customer journey mapping
Many businesses have successfully used customer journey mapping to improve the customer experience, increase engagement and grow revenue. A few examples include:
Disney World is known for providing a seamless and magical customer experience. They use technology such as MyMagic+ wristbands, mobile apps and digital signage to map their customer journey and provide personalized experiences at every touchpoint.
Amazon uses data and analytics to customize the user’s experience at every stage of their journey. Some examples of their efforts to keep customers engaged include recommending products in their dashboard, sending personalized emails, and providing reminders to reorder products.
Nike created a mobile app called "Nike Train Club," which provides personalized training plans, workout routines and nutrition advice tailored to the customer's fitness level and goals. This ensures loyal audiences look to Nike for athletic guidance even after they’ve purchased the perfect pair of sneakers.
Best practices for creating a customer journey
Some of the best practices for creating a successful and effective customer journey include:
Understand your target audience: Having a grasp of your customers’ needs and pain points will be more effective if its based on data, rather than assumptions.
Create a map of your customer journey: This can help identify areas where you can improve the customer experience, for example paying attention to where you see customers churning, or leaving the journey.
Use data and analytics: These tools are a great way to personalize the experience for each customer, where possible.
Make sure your branding is consistent: Provide consistent branding across all touch points and channels will build brand identity and trust.
Ensure a seamless transition between channels: From discovery to purchase, from purchase to loyalty—make sure customers can transition between each channel, touchpoint and stage of their journey to avoid frustration or confusion.