Since digital media has become more popular and advanced, the complexity of approaching customers has increased. In the past, it was common to have a business meeting with a salesperson first to gather information, but now many companies are comparing and considering other products and services on the internet before making an inquiry.
The more diverse these customer touchpoints become, the more difficult it becomes to accurately understand customer behavior and sentiment. As a result, it is now difficult to deliver the right information to the right target at the right time.
Customer journey is an effective method to solve such problems.
In this article, we will provide a thorough explanation of the customer journey; the overview and its benefits, how to create it and what to keep in mind when doing so.
The customer journey is a method of “tracing the chronological story of a customer’s decision to purchase your service/product from the customer’s perspective by identifying changes in their behavior, thoughts, and emotions”.
Since the customer experience is viewed as a “line” rather than a “dot,” the series of processes is likened to as a “journey” thus we call it the “customer journey”.
By identifying the customer journey, you can understand the information below in chronological order.
Actions: Marketing channels, information sources and methods of searching, purchase channels
Thoughts and emotions: Problems customers are facing, the first impression of your product/service, why they are interested, information they have searched and their impressions on it, points of comparison with competing products, deciding factors for purchase
A “customer journey map” is a single picture that represents the customer journey. Since it is difficult to share the process only in text, it is commonly put into a drawing as a map.
The first benefit of understanding the customer journey is to understand your customer’s perspective.
Since customers are the ones who use your product/service and judge its value, it is only natural that you need to make actions from their point of view.
However, it is difficult to actually stand in the customer’s shoes and think simply like, “What kind of products/services do they want?” If you think from the provider’s perspective, you may often ask yourself, “How can we get people to buy our products?” or “How can we get people to prefer our product over the other ones?”
This is where the customer journey comes in handy. By utilizing the customer journey, you can understand how customers recognize our products, what kind of information they come into contact with in which channel, and what kind of thinking leads them to make a purchase. This enables you to take a bird’s-eye view of the entire process and implement the appropriate actions for each channel and touch point.
The “customer perspective” is not equal to “voice of the customer”.
A common way to understand customer perspective is conducting surveys, but you need to be careful not to confuse the “customer perspective” with “voice of the customer”.
The “customer perspective” refers to “a customer’s emotions and needs” while the “voice of the customer” is “a customer’s own verbalization of their emotions and needs”. The problem is that it is difficult for customers themselves to verbalize all of their emotions and needs.
However, something is “not verbalized” does not mean that it does not exist. Even if there is a latent need toward a certain feeling of discomfort or unhappiness, it is difficult to be aware of it. It is only when you are provided with something that fits such needs that you can recognize “this is the kind of product/service I wanted”.
I would like to introduce one example that illustrates such differences between “customer perspective” and “voice of the customer”.
A tableware manufacturer conducted a group interview with several housewives for their next product development.
The participants were asked to discuss the theme “what kind of plate would you like to buy next?”. Ultimately, they came to the conclusion that they want a stylish and cool black square plate that is different from traditional ones.
As a thank-you gift for the cooperation in the interview, the manufacturer prepared several plates and allowed the participants to take home their favorite one.
The participants all took home a “white round plate”.
When the manufacturer asked why, they gave practical reasons such as “we are a family of four, so there is no use having only one black plate”, and “most of the plates we have at home are round, so we would not be able to arrange a square plate in the cupboard even if we receive one”.
…Now, what do you think?
In this case, it would seem that the “black square plate” is the way to go if you take the “voice of the customer” into account, but what they needed was the “white round plate” that was actually taken home.
Thus, the “voice of the customer” and “customer perspective” are different.
The customer journey, which identifies customers’ touch points and analyzes the psychology of each situation, is the very essence of understanding the customer perspective. Drawing a customer journey map allows you to grasp the true needs of your customers, such as their dissatisfaction and points that can be improved.
By visualizing the customer’s inner life through the customer journey, each member that is in charge of customer touch points can share a common understanding.
Marketing is responsible for a wide range of tasks, including creating websites and its operations, social media and advertising operations, writing articles or making contents, estimating their impacts, improving their quality, and planning and conducting seminars and events. Since each task is often segmentalized and distributed, it is surprisingly difficult for each person in charge to share the common understanding and to implement marketing measures in line with each other.
It is even more difficult to ensure that the whole organization is on the same page in terms of customers when you communicate not only with the marketing department, but also with sales, customer success, development, and other departments with different backgrounds.
With a customer journey map, you can gain a bird’s-eye view of customers’ behaviors, thoughts, and emotions, which allows you to proceed with activities based on a shared understanding. It will also facilitate communication among members, making it easier to determine priorities for which measures to take.
The goal of the company as a whole may be to increase sales. However, by utilizing the customer journey map, the organization can collaborate toward overall optimization rooted in the customers’ benefits.
In order to implement highly accurate marketing initiatives, you need to acquire a deep understanding of customer behavior, thoughts, and emotions. Otherwise, it is impossible to send the right message at the right time. Its importance hasn’t changed from the past to now.
Until a few decades ago, when digitalization was not progressing, the only methods of communication between companies and their customers were one-way, mass-oriented ones, such as television, newspapers, and radio. As a result, the limited number of customer personas and touch points felt sufficient for companies. Customer behavior was not so diverse that it was conceivable for companies, and marketing measures based on a rough understanding of their customers were effective enough.
However, with the spread of smartphones and the emergence of various digital media, it has become extremely complex and diverse at which a company and their customers come into contact and make a purchase. Even for the same product/service, it is now different for each customer how they searched about it, how they gather information, and the deciding factors for their purchase. This makes it very difficult to collect customer insights and determine the actions that are based on them.
In this situation, the customer journey is very effective. It not only identifies personas and targets, but also provides a timeline of possible actions and identifies internal changes of customers. It subdivides the complex and diverse behaviors of your customers, which allows you to take appropriate actions at any given moment.
The development of ICT technology and advanced digitalization has dramatically increased the methods you can take in marketing. Today, the quantity and quality of information that you can collect and analyze has increased to an extent that is unmatched in the past decade or so.
Many companies may be taking advantage of the newest tools such as marketing automation and ad technology. These tools allow us to develop marketing initiatives personalized to each individual customer.
As the variety of marketing methods increases, so does the need for clearer understanding of your customers.
Even if those tools have evolved and become capable of sending any message at any time, it is difficult to make full use of their functions if you do not know “when” is the right time and “what” is the right message.
In modern marketing, you need to define in advance what kind of experience at what kind of touch points is desired by a customer before they make a purchase, and execute effective and efficient measures.
The customer journey is an essential method for implementing this kind of modern marketing.
First, you need to define the goal of the customer journey map you are creating.
As the goal can be set differently, such as “increased inquiry”, “first purchase”, “repeated purchase”, or “post-purchase satisfaction”, you need to consider the range of phases and the information to collect according to your goal.
Once your goal has been set, the next step is to determine specific targets to analyze.
A customer persona is “the most important and representative customer model for a company’s product/service”.
When you create customer personas, it is important to envision realistic human characteristics. A broad picture such as customer segments cannot describe the behavioral characteristics, expectations, dissatisfactions, and inconveniences of customers in detail.
Specifically, the following elements should be filled in.
What kind of personalities they have and how they feel about their daily life
What media they usually use to gather information and what topics have been on their mind recently
What their behavioral characteristics are and how computer literate they are
What is their job role, duties, and mission?