If You Want to Earn the Journey, Master the Moment
Effective customer journey mapping will help you deliver delightful experiences at every step.
Disrupted by the Digital Age, the traditionally accepted linear path of a customer journey is now a vast network of micro-moments that span across myriad devices, channels, networks, and platforms.
It’s a lot to keep up with, yet many marketers aren’t prioritizing these burgeoning touchpoints. Econsultancy reports that a whopping 71 percent of marketers listed their desktop sites as their first choice for providing a consistent customer experience, while only 11 percent strongly agreed that they understand how mobile fits into the customer journey. This illustrates a huge disconnect between the types of micro-moments customers demand, and what many marketers are failing to deliver. And when marketers don’t put the experience first, interactions become jarring and frustrating, both from a perspective of marketing efficiency and customer expectations.
Experience businesses don’t just know who their customers are — they understand what they want and are able to provide seamless experiences every step of the way. Such companies are learning how various micro-interactions paint a clear picture of evolving customer expectations, helping them create a strategic vision to meet those needs across a fast-paced digital landscape.
An ancient Chinese proverb states, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The same can be said for mapping the customer journey in the 21st century. If you want to earn the journey, you’ll have to master the moment. And that starts with taking the first step toward effective customer journey mapping.
Map the Journey
Loni Stark, senior director of strategy and product marketing at Adobe, defines the customer journey as “the path an individual takes from being aware of a brand to understanding the value of the company’s product or services to buying it and then finally, hopefully becoming a fan.” She says that a robust understanding of the customer journey helps businesses influence decisions made at each touchpoint, allowing marketers to provide the most compelling experiences that bring brands and customers closer together.
Knowing your customers is a concept that can’t be stressed enough because there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all campaign that delivers personalized experiences for every customer across every device and touchpoint. This makes it difficult for brands to reach audiences with the kind of relevant messages that keep them coming back for more. That’s why beginning with a thorough understanding of your unique customer journey is paramount.
It’s also just as important to avoid marketing burnout as you move through the funnel. While the awareness phase is a practical starting point, there are plenty of opportunities brands can take advantage of during other phases that oftentimes get missed — especially in regards to content marketing.
SAP is a brand that decided to focus on the exploratory stage of the customer journey. The software company wanted to dig deeper into customer search behavior, so they decided to run analysis on the search terms they were interested in ranking for. What they found shined a light on a particular crack in their marketing funnel: only one in four searches were SAP-branded searches relating to challenges their products would address. By contrast, three out of four searches revolved around real-world questions people had relating to an issue that the company could solve for.
This revelation showed the company they could reign in more visitors to their website by getting inside the minds of their customers to figure out what types of questions were being asked in the search bar, then working to rank for more customer-centric search terms. With a detailed map of the customer journey, SAP was able to zero in on the exploratory phase, identify where potential customers were falling through, and plug the leak.
That’s exactly why Loni says it’s important for companies to map all phases of the customer journey from start to finish while addressing potential roadblocks along the way. An actionable map of the customer journey looks less like a rigid, two-dimensional roadmap, and more like a dynamic mapping system capable of providing a detailed visual of every stage of the customer journey from awareness to brand advocacy.
Once the foundational steps in the marketing funnel are identified, marketers should embrace the freedom to branch out from each stage in search of ways potential customers can be re-engaged. By thinking outside the box — and using a little analytical elbow grease — innovative marketers may be surprised how easy it is to identify leaks, plug them, and improve ROI in the process.
Make the journey flexible.
While defining the customer journey leads to the development of a strategic (and necessary) roadmap, marketers should be cautious not to limit customer choices with unnecessary barricades along the way.
Loni explains: “We talk a lot about the empowered consumer, but I don’t think brands realize what that actually means. An empowered consumer means that brands have less control over what a person’s path is from one step to the next.” When marketers try to wield absolute control over each step of the customer journey, they mistakenly believe their customers will simply fall in line. And that’s not what the experience business is all about.
One effective example of a customer-driven experience is a news website. When you go to such a site, there’s not just one step you can take, but a multitude of buttons, links, videos, and other content you can engage with and explore. Social media sites are even more customer-centric, offering incredibly fluid experiences that put control of what customers want to see directly in their hands. It’s not uncommon for social media users to gravitate toward content they are interested in, jump off the site to explore said content, and then hop back on social media to share it with friends — far from a linear experience.
“I think the fallacy sometimes is that everything is done orderly,” cautions Loni. “If brands subscribe too heavily to the idea of one path through the customer journey, they run the risk of frustrating and possibly annoying customers.” Instead, brands should seek out the things customers are going to look for, and then make it easy for them to find content, engage, and move on to the next step.
Take one step at a time.
Creating actionable maps for a customer journey that meets customer expectations isn’t the only thing keeping marketers from creating customer delight at every micro-moment. One of the biggest problems facing marketers today stems from the different tools organizations use to manage each channel. With disparate systems used to manage email, mobile, and web personalization (to name but a few), getting a grip on the endless combinations of insourced and outsourced technology can seem pretty overwhelming.
But it doesn’t have to be. Bruce Swann, senior product marketing manager for Adobe Campaign, points out that “it’s often unrealistic to tear down silos. What is realistic is for marketers to start small. Identify the top three, four, maybe five channels that drive the most revenue or present the best opportunity for a customer experience and build around those.”
Bruce says that in a perfect world, consolidating channels under one system is best. But if silos can’t be torn down, then tearing down the problems the silos cause is a good start. This begins with forming teams that work cohesively together to share ideas, develop common KPIs, and manage objectives. It also means having a common and well-understood agreement about who the customer is in the first place.
One brand that understands who their customers are every step of the way is Marriott. The hospitality company has multiple teams such as the acquisition team, the loyalty program team, and a customer retention team, all with their own unique set of goals and priorities. But, should one team lapse along the way, Marriott can easily win customers back regardless of where they are in the customer lifecycle by maintaining an organization-wide agreement on who their customers are: guests.
Marriott also excels at mobile app journey mapping, a step that Econsultancy reports as one that a majority of marketers (57 percent) say they lack the analysis skills to effectively complete. Marriott succeeds by using mobile touchpoints to deliver truly multichannel experiences both online and off. For example, a hotel guest can book a room online, check into their room on a mobile app, and engage with someone at the front desk — all in a matter of minutes.
Marriott also uses its mobile app to integrate online and offline experiences, such as sending push notifications that are triggered the moment a guest walks into the lobby. By efficiently mapping the customer’s mobile journey at every turn, Marriott has showcased how other experience businesses can effectively meet customers across mobile, putting them at a competitive advantage.
Navigate with purpose.
In an experience-driven marketplace, customers can engage with your brand whenever and however they want. And for a marketer, you just have to be ready. Experience businesses recognize this, and understand that the customer journey is never linear. Instead, brands should be ready to provide the experiences customers want, meeting them at all the touchpoints at each step of the journey and on the channels of their choosing.
Whether a thousand miles or a thousand feet, every customer journey starts with taking the first step: define the problem, and then work to develop a strategic roadmap for cross-channel success. You don’t have to boil an ocean of disparate data silos and teams. Instead, focus on a handful of channels you can bring together to share information, ideas, and strategies moving forward. Take it one step at a time, and remember to work toward an organization-wide agreement on who your customers are.
Companies that are able to keep up with the complex and evolving expectations of their customers with consistent, personalized and up-to-date messages — whether they are online or off — are much more likely to keep the customer delighted and coming back for more over the long-term. And the better the experience, the smoother their journey will be.