As customers are now less loyal towards brands they would once have purchased week in, week out without question and can substitute those brands with more and more choice from around the world, companies are unsurprisingly focusing on ways to keep their customers coming back for more.
Over two thirds of respondents to a CEB survey (71%) say that such a “customer focus” is critical to their company’s success. Another survey shows that customer-focused companies perform 36% better in terms of their 10-year returns. And this kind of result may certainly be compelling to those producing consumer packaged goods; apparently, among the top 100 CPG brands in the US, 90 have experienced share declines recently, according to a 2015 study.
But despite all this, the majority of companies focus more on their brand and product offerings than on their customers’ experiences (i.e., thoughts, feelings, and actions) before, during, and after the purchase. Even if marketing teams build a “journey map” to understand customers’ experiences, it often ends up being too process-focused (rather than focusing on customers’ perspective) and generic (not grounded on customer segments or specific traits relating to customer personas), making it hard for companies to make business decisions using the map.
Three Challenges and Three Solutions
From speaking with many market insights (MI) professionals, there are three main challenges to creating a useful customer journey map.
Some companies don‘t fully appreciate the importance of customer emotions during the journey when in fact brand identity value is the biggest driver of “willingness to purchase” and “willingness to pay a premium,” according to CEB data.
MI teams may find it hard to access customer information as it is scattered across both customer-facing and non customer-facing functions. And when they do get the information together, it often conveys a divergent understanding of customers.
A diverse customer base and a large number of ways in which customers can interact with brands and a company may leave MI confused about the exact start and end point of the customer journey.
The good news is that MI teams have come up with ways to address each of these challenges. MI teams should follow make sure they take three steps in particular.
Lay the groundwork for customer journey mapping: Instead of mapping the customer journey in a silo, include cross-functional stakeholders who have the required customer insights as well as who are most likely to benefit from the map.
A generic customer journey map won’t help decision-making much since different customer personas will shape the way decision-makers should think about customers’ expectations, behaviors, and thoughts, and will differ greatly from persona to persona. MI teams should first prioritize which customer segments they want to focus on and create journey maps for those.
Create and refine the customer journey map: MI teams should interview customers and tap into organizational knowledge to gather information on customer personas and experiences. And, while building the customer persona, don’t confine your source material to the easily observable traits (such as customer demography, lifestyle, buying and spending patterns, etc), instead delve into customers’ emotional values and functional needs.
Map customers’ thoughts, feelings, and actions at touchpoints (any method by which a customer can interact with the company) both inside and outside the company in a cross-functional workshop, and ensure you focus on the high involvement touchpoints first.
Identify ways to improve the customer journey: Identify where the customer experience is harming customer loyalty, and diagnose the causes. Focus on those problems that are due to customers’ implicit needs or due to the brand promise being unrealistic.
Prioritize those initiatives to improve the customer experience based on how easy they are to do, and the effect they will have.