By John Burns, Ph.D.
Many customer journey maps ultimately fail to improve the customer experience. Why do they fail? Often, journey maps never establish the detailed steps consumers go through at each stage of the journey.
In addition, they frequently fail to identify consumer expectations and preferences throughout the journey. In the end, they lack the level of detail necessary to guide customer experience professionals in improving the customer journey.
Let’s consider a consumer seeking to purchase a kitchen appliance as a gift for someone else. In our example, the consumer doesn’t know much about the category, but they know it’s the right gift. We’ll cover a few of the possible steps consumers go through at each stage to highlight some of the areas a useful journey map must address.
- In the awareness stage, consumers must learn about and find your brand. They might do this online, in the store, through word of mouth, or through advertising (video, audio, or print). In our example, the consumer is less knowledgeable about the category, but another consumer might know more about your product category. The purchase occasion is different for each of them, and they may approach the situation differently because of it. You must deliver your brand message using the right medium for each type of consumer. In addition, your message has to say the right things to capture their attention.
- In the investigation stage, consumers must believe your product is the right one for them. In our example, the consumer doesn’t know much about kitchen products. Does your website educate them and make them feel confident in purchasing your brand? If it doesn’t, you may lose this potential customer right here. If the initial contact with the consumer happens in the store, can they find your product in the aisles? Does the sales associate in the store educate and make the consumer feel comfortable buying the product? The details about these steps – finding the product and learning about its benefits – can make or break the sale.
- During the decision-making stage, you must motivate consumers to purchase your product. On a functional level, for example, does the product do what consumers want it to? Is it the right size or color? On an emotional level, does the design of the product match the tastes of the target consumer (e.g., contemporary look, classic look)? Is it obvious whether consumers can get product options not shown on the screen or shelf (e.g., different sizes or colors)? The price must also meet consumer expectations. If the product doesn’t meet consumer needs and expectations, they might move on to a competitor or decide to purchase another type of product.
- What happens after the consumer has made the purchase? Some consumers may want to learn about additional ways to use the product. Is it easy and obvious where they can sign up to get more information, or even find communities of users of the product? Do you engage with customers digitally, for example, through content related to the product? This type of engagement can mean the difference between a consumer who makes a one-time purchase, and one who becomes a repeat buyer and loyal brand advocate.
A successful customer journey map requires you to establish the steps consumers go through in each stage of the journey. It also discusses consumer preferences and expectations throughout the journey. It’s this level of detail that will enable you to provide specific guidance to customer experience professionals. It will help them understand and meet consumer expectations at each step of the journey, improving the customer experience, and strengthening customer loyalty to your brand.
For more on using journey mapping to improve the customer experience, view our comprehensive journey mapping guide.