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How Accurate Customer Journey Maps Help Boost Sales and Build Trust

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
How Accurate Customer Journey Maps Help Boost Sales and Build Trust

According to a Baymard Institute review of 49 different studies, just over seven of ten online shoppers abandon their carts before completing a purchase. The number has been consistent for almost a decade.

It made us ask: Why would consumers spend time navigating an online store, adding products to their carts, and abandoning it all before purchasing?

It’s hard to figure out. Understanding buying behavior is challenging because so many factors enter into it.

Even when you think you've considered every turn a customer can take on the way to a sale, new factors continue to be introduced, resulting in uncertainty.

It’s nearly impossible to map a customer journey 100 percent accurately. However, making an attempt allows you to understand your customers better, making it possible to gain control over how people move through the buying process.

This guide explains everything you need to know about customer journey mapping so you can better understand your buyer experience.

What to Know About the Customer Journey

What Is a Customer Journey?

A customer journey is the series of interactions a consumer has with a business from the very beginning (becoming aware of a pain point) to the end (buying something to resolve said problem).

What’s the Difference Between the Customer and Buyer Journey?

The buyer journey includes the entire buying experience from pre-purchase to post-purchase. It starts when someone uncovers a need or pain point and ends with buying a product or service to fulfill or resolve it. Buyers don't typically wake up and purchase something on a whim. They go through a process where they consider, evaluate, and finally decide to buy something.

The customer journey is limited to a business’s place within the broader buyers’ journey. It includes the touch points where customers interact with an organization as they go through the shopping process.

When you develop a customer journey map, you are better able to take control of your company’s touch points throughout the buying process, making it more likely buyers will follow the path you want them to take and make the choices you want them to make.

Stages of the Customer Journey

The stages of the customer journey vary by business type. Still, there are typically five phases consumers go through when interacting with a brand.

1. Awareness

In the awareness stage, people realize they have an issue they need to resolve. They may or may not know they need a product or service, but they start researching the issue either way.

During the awareness phase, brands offer educational content that includes an array of possible solutions to help people solve their issues. The goal at this point is to help a consumer better understand their problem, not necessarily promote a specific product or service. If something is promoted prematurely, it could cause prospective buyers to lose trust.

Awareness phase educational content can include:

  • How-to articles and guides

  • Educational papers

  • Design ideas

  • Ebooks

  • Learning experiences

Awareness material can be delivered through:

  • Blogs

  • Social media

  • YouTube

  • Publications (through partner content)

  • And more

2. Consideration

Before the consideration stage, people have done enough research to know they need a product or service to resolve their issue. Now, they compare companies and their offerings.

During the consideration stage of the customer journey, businesses offer product and service marketing content to help customers compare and contrast different offerings. It should empower them to purchase the product or service that’s right for them from the best provider.

Product or service marketing content can include:

  • Product and service comparison lists

  • Product and service guides

  • Images and videos

  • White papers explaining offerings

  • Customer success stories

  • Case studies

Consideration-aimed content is usually delivered through:

  • Blogs

  • Website or e-commerce sites

  • Landing pages

  • Webinars or other online experiences

3. Decision

In the decision phase, consumers select a solution and make a purchase.

During this stage, companies must deliver a seamless purchase process to make securing their offerings as simple and error-free as possible. Any mistakes or disconnects could send likely buyers to your competitors to complete the buying experience.

Content offered during this stage is all about getting consumers to make a purchase. That means you can be more direct about telling people you want them to buy from you.

Decision-stage content can include:

  • Demos

  • Consultations

  • Appointment widgets

  • Answers to frequently asked questions

  • Sign-up and appointment pages

  • Pricing pages

  • Discounts and other promotions

Decision-stage content may be delivered through:

  • Websites

  • E-commerce sites

  • Videos

  • Chat

  • Landing pages

4. Retention

In the retention phase, customers have bought a solution. The goal is to get them to stay with the company they purchased from and buy more rather than turning to another provider.

When it comes to retention, the most successful organizations offer superior delivery and onboarding experiences and excellent ongoing customer service.

Retention-stage tactics can include:

  • Providing a dedicated customer service contact

  • Ensuring the customer service team is available and accessible

  • Offering discounts on future purchases

  • Creating a customer knowledge base

Retention tactics may be delivered via:

  • Websites

  • E-commerce sites

  • Chat

  • In-person interactions

  • Email

  • Phone

5. Loyalty Stage

In the loyalty phase, customers move beyond just continuing to do business with a company and actively promote it to their family, friends, and coworkers. The loyalty stage is also referred to as the advocacy stage.

During this phase, brands focus on delivering a superior end-to-end customer experience. The entire experience includes things like:

  • Website content and navigation

  • Sales and customer service rep interactions

  • Social media presence

  • Product functionality and service delivery

  • And anything else buyers interact with

Most importantly, customers become loyal when they've achieved success with your product or service. If it resolves their issue and makes life better, they will likely recommend your brand to others.

Beyond the customer experience, loyalty can be increased by providing perks to buyers, such as discounts and referral program benefits.

Loyalty-stage strategies are often delivered through:

  • Email

  • Websites

  • Social media

  • Products and services when they’re delivered

To determine whether customers have reached the loyalty stage, implement a post-purchase survey. It should include the question: On a scale of zero to ten, how likely are you to recommend us to others? Anyone who gives you a nine or ten should be considered loyal and receive special attention.

What Is a Customer Journey Map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of a customer's experience with a business. It provides insights into what buyers need at every stage of the journey and the factors that directly or indirectly motivate or limit their progress.

An organization can use this information to improve the buyer experience, increase conversions, and improve customer retention.

Why Is Creating a Customer Journey Map Important?

A customer journey might seem straightforward: a company offers products or services, and people buy them.

In reality, it is typically a complex journey that begins when a person becomes problem-aware, which might be long before they become aware of the products or services that can help them. It proceeds through a complex process of increasing awareness, consideration, and decision-making.

Within this experience, consumers encounter countless external factors out of the organization’s control, including competitor content, ratings and reviews, opinions from others, distractions, and more. There could also be numerous unpredictable touchpoints with the company, including conversations with sales and customer service reps, chats, and website glitches.

The Customer Journey Mapping Process

Customer journey mapping is the process of developing a customer journey map, which is a visual depiction of a company's buyer experience. It pulls together a customer's experience as they interact with a business and presents the information as a visual map.

The goal of data gathering and mapping is not simply for the sake of the data and the development of the map — it’s to come up with insights that help you understand how your customers experience your business and identify potential bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement.

Be aware: Customer journeys aren’t always linear. Instead, buyers often take a back-and-forth, cyclical, multi-directional journey.

What to Include in a Customer Journey Map

Here are the elements that make up a journey map.

The Buying Process

To understand your customers' buying journey, pull data from sources like prospecting tools, customer management systems, behavior analytics tools, website data, and point of sale systems to accurately chart your customer's path from initial contact to ultimate purchase.

This may seem complex to capture. However, you can simplify the process by creating broad categories for your data using the typical buying journey process stages — awareness, consideration, decision, retention, loyalty — and mapping them horizontally.

Purchaser Emotions

When people typically buy goods or services, it’s to solve a problem or resolve an issue. That means they’re likely feeling things throughout the experience, whether fear, happiness, relief, worry, or joy.

Including these emotions in a journey map can help you identify and mitigate or address negative emotions and help resolve the pain points that cause them. You can also spark delight which could transform buyers into advocates.

Buyer Actions

Capture the actions you want buyers to take through every step of the journey, including downloading an ebook, reading content, or clicking to purchase. This will allow you to clearly understand how customers move through and behave at each step of their journey.

User Education

In each stage of the buyer journey, especially the awareness and consideration phases, consumers need to learn or find out things to feel confident about moving ahead in the buying process. Having a clear picture of this will ensure you deliver the right messages to people when they need them.

Improvement and Optimization

As the final step in mapping your customer journey, work with your team to brainstorm ways to improve and optimize your buying process now that you can see it more clearly. Identify ways for customers to encounter fewer pain points through the journey and speed through sections when they want to.

Customer Journeys: The Final Word

A customer journey map is based on data and research, and it takes the form of a diagram. In the end, what’s critical is that you transition the flat diagram into a multi-dimensional narrative that tells a story of how buyers experience your brand. It’s the only way you’ll be able to optimize your customer experience.

Creating customer journeys isn’t a once-and-done process. As you improve the buying experience, add new products or services, or enhance technology, your journey will need to evolve. Never make the mistake of getting too attached to any single journey map. It could force your organization to fall behind the competition and make your brand seem stuck in time and stodgy to consumers.

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