According to PwC, 73% of customers consider customer experience (CX) to be a key driving factor in their decision to buy. Most marketing leaders know the value of making CX a priority, with 87% agreeing that exceptional customer experience is essential for increasing loyalty and trust.
But how can businesses manage the customer journey effectively, and how can marketing professionals ensure that customers not only convert, but turn into loyal brand advocates?
In this guide, we'll cover the follow chapters:
- Defining the customer journey
- The 5 key stages of the customer journey
- How marketers can analyze the customer journey
- The art of customer journey management
- 7 ways to improve your customer journey
- Final thoughts
Defining the customer journey
Before we dive deeper into how the customer journey works and how it can be improved, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what the customer journey is.
The customer journey can be summed up by the experiences that a customer goes through when interacting with your brand. The entire journey – which is more than just a transaction – tells the story about your users, their behaviors and what makes them come back time and time again.
Why the customer journey is so important
Not only are 86% of buyers willing to increase their spending when they receive great customer experience, according to PwC, but they’re also more likely to shop again, recommend your products/services and share more personal data with you. This starts with getting the customer journey right.
The customer journey is vital to improving CX because it looks at all the touchpoints with which your audience interacts with you. These customer touchpoints cover the different stages of the buying process – including before purchase, during purchase and after purchase – ultimately shaping their overall experience with your company.
By understanding the customer journey and adapting it to their needs and desires, you can prevent dissatisfied customers from slipping through the cracks. Whether customers interact with you through email, social media, live chat or any other channels, they expect a multichannel or omnichannel shopping experience where their preferences are saved and their offers are personalized.
However, CMOs have to bear in mind that the more touchpoints there are, the more complexity businesses face when it comes to facilitating satisfaction. This is why the customer journey has to be carefully mapped – and must be made a priority to ensure consistency of service.
The 5 key stages of the customer journey
When it comes to breaking down the customer touchpoints, there are five main stages to consider:
Your customer’s journey begins before they’re even ready to buy from you, so brand awareness matters. Before someone becomes a customer, they’re just a person on the internet with a problem to fix – this is your company’s chance to offer a solution.
Take a multi-channel approach, create persona-specific content, and adopt a range of digital marketing tools and techniques to get your brand seen.
During the consideration stage, your brand will be pitted against others on the market. To speed up the process for potential buyers and stay ahead of your competitors, providing information is the key.
Relevant and informative content, a helpful FAQs section, excellent customer reviews, free trials and samples and things such as demonstration videos can all help a customer weigh up multiple offerings from different brands.
As buyers get close to making a purchasing decision, they’ll likely compare your offering to something similar. While price and product are important, there’s even more value in delivering an outstanding customer experience – so think about how you can make your brand stand out in this way.
A shopping process that’s complicated, clunky or hard to navigate could put a customer off – even if you’re cheaper than your competitors. Customer service also plays an important role here, so it’s in every CMO’s interest to build good working relationships with the customer service team and to enable better collaboration between Marketing and Sales.
Just as your customer’s journey doesn’t simply start with a sale, it doesn’t end after they’ve purchased either. Their journey continues long after the transaction is complete, and marketers need to look beyond transactions and consider a customer’s lifetime value (CLV). Knowing the CLV of a retained customer vs. a new customer aids decision-making, helping you invest wisely in customer communications and personalization.
One of the main benefits of perfecting your customer journey is being able to turn customers into promoters. These are the customers that not only remain loyal to your brand, but talk about you on social channels or with their friends and family. You can encourage customer advocacy by incentivizing referrals, and also by reposting user generated content to engage with those advocates-in-the-making.
The process of onboarding
When it comes to onboarding customers onto this journey with you, a seamless process is required in order to build an end-to-end route for prospects to flow through.
Customer onboarding is important because it oversees the entire cycle, guiding customers through each stage and providing ongoing support as they shift from Awareness to Decision. Get this part right and you can boost loyalty, increase customer LTV, grow referral rates and enable margin building and upselling.
How marketers can analyze the customer journey
Data is key to a successful customer journey, and when used in the right way, it can explain the science behind customer behavior, helping brands enjoy greater affinity with their customers.
Customer journey analytics makes it possible to gather valuable insight, and some of the methods marketers can use to build an accurate picture include:
1. Checking exit rates
Knowing when and where customers are leaving your site is one of the most telling customer journey metrics. It can indicate where you’re going wrong with usability or content quality and relevancy.
2. Reviewing performance by device
Over 90% of global internet users now go online using a mobile device, so checking the data for different devices is key. If you see higher bounce rates on mobile vs. desktop, it’s time to optimize your mobile site.
3. Monitoring ranking URLs
Make sure you map all the touchpoints to enable customer journey tracking (the most important one being your website). Check sources of traffic and make sure the pages visitors are landing on are the most relevant.
4. Checking conversion and abandonment
After a customer adds a product to basket, there’s no guarantee they’ll see the purchase through. Basket abandonment can be a common issue, and things like usability, shipping options/costs and website security or performance play a big part in this.
5. Analyzing internal search
Internal search data can deliver a wealth of insight into what people are searching for – and whether their searches are successful or not.
The art of customer journey management
Customer journey management is an approach that seeks out effective ways to interact with your target audience at every stage of the buying process. Effective management of the buyer’s journey helps them flow through the different stages, moving them down the sales funnel.
Designed to optimize customer experience, the practice of customer journey management involves three key areas:
- Journey mapping
- Journey analytics
- Journey orchestration
These three competencies of journey management work together to build an experience-driven, data-driven and engagement-driven strategy that delights customers and keeps them coming back.
How customer journey mapping can help
A visual representation of customer experience can aid brands in empathizing with their target audience, make it easy to identify gaps and problems, and help to predict customer behavior. This can be achieved through journey mapping, a process which allows brands to step into a customer’s shoes and experience their company from a buyer’s perspective.
The research surrounding this is promising too – as according to the Aberdeen Group, brands with a formal program to manage customer journeys have higher marketing ROI by almost 25%, and a shorter sales cycle by over 16%.
To create a customer journey map, speak to stakeholders from key departments and identify specific problems and bottlenecks that need to be addressed. This should be followed defining your personas and establishing all customer touchpoints, as well as mapping both the current and ideal customer journey.
Why you need customer journey orchestration
Customer journey orchestration is a competency, practice and technology that learns, understands and organizes conversations and journeys across all organizational silos.
In simple terms, this is the process of bringing all customer interactions together to build a complete story – coordinating experiences in real-time and encouraging maximum engagement from your audience.
By implementing this, you can boost collaboration between teams, create a holistic view of customer behaviors, improve end-to-end customer experiences, reduce ‘cost to serve’ and increase revenue.
To get the most out of your journey orchestration, start small and do ample testing to ensure your actions are having the desired effect before wider rollout.
7 ways to improve your customer journey
With customer experience, you really do get out what you put in. According to research, companies with a revenue of $1 billion a year can expect to add an additional $700 million within three years if they invest in CX.
Here are 7 ways to start investing now:
1. Make your website beautiful
The customer journey is a collection of experiences, and this includes emotional experiences with your brand. A beautifully designed, visually appealing website is enjoyable to use and can make your company memorable. Consider a website redesign or refresh once every few years.
2. Have strategy for UX
Beautiful websites also need to be functional and easy to navigate. Make sure you have a solid UX design strategy to keep your customer journey in line with your business goals. Conduct regular UX testing, or anytime there’s a reiteration of your website’s functionality (however small), and frequently check page speed, 404 errors and page consistency.
3. Automate customer contact
Not only does automating communications reduce manual labour, but it can increase speed of service and boost customer satisfaction. There are many ways you can automate to make the customer journey more convenient, including the use of chatbots, automated emails and appointment scheduling.
4. Personalize content
Use CRM data to find out more about your customers, and personalize offers and communications. This ensures a more individual experience, making each customer feel valued. Homepage personalization is another tool you can use to engage with people every time they return to your site.
5. Answer customer pain points
If you can answer customer concerns in advance, you’re one step ahead. Do this by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes, considering their challenges and providing relevant information. Start with a detailed FAQs section, followed by a content plan that solves pain points and helps buyers move through the funnel.
6. Get feedback
The best way to find out what’s missing in your customer experience is to ask! There are a number of feedback capture methods, including long-form surveys, short in-app surveys, customer satisfaction scoring, customer interviews and suggestion boards. A study by SurveyMonkey tells us that the majority (85%) of customers want to give feedback, so this is a great way to improve your services while making customers feel heard.
7. Appoint brand ambassadors
Show how customer-centric you are by collaborating with real people (not just influencers). Respond to and share posts that give you a mention on social media, feature customers on your blog and provide incentives for promotion. This is allows you to engage with individuals in your customer community, while creating buzz around your brand and products/services.
Ultimately, improving the customer journey is all about understanding your customers. It requires marketers to step into the shoes of buyers, finding out what makes them tick and what types of experiences make them feel connected to a company or brand.
With CX, the goal is not just to attract and retain, but to turn customers into advocates. If you provide a positive experience across your different touchpoints, people are more likely to share this experience – with at least 6 other people, according to research from SuperOffice.
It’s also important to remember that poor experiences are rarely reported, with only 1 in 26 unhappy customers logging complaints with companies. For today’s digital natives, there’s a world of choice. If a customer encounters an issue, they’ll exit the journey and visit your competitors instead.
This is why customer journey management is essential for CMOs looking to improve customer experience. Combining analytics with mapping, and analyzing the different stages of a buyer’s journey, is the only way to identify issues before they occur.
By diving deeper into touchpoints along the customer journey, brands can transform their customer experience and grow their audience, ultimately increasing sales and accelerating business growth in a sustainable way.