Every customer takes a journey when a problem or need arises they have to address. Sometimes that trip is awfully quick, a little more than an impulse, a snap decision, and a one time purchase. That journey might make sense for a pack of gum at the supermarket checkout aisle, but for most everything else the path is more involved.

There are a number of ways marketers map out the typical customer journey, but it’s helpful to divide the process into discrete stages:

  1. Awareness: This is the very first touchpoint a potential customer has with your brand, such as when they see an ad, notice your social media pages, or learn about you via word of mouth from an existing customer.
  2. Acquisition: At this stage, a potential customer evolves into a qualified lead by taking a first step towards developing a relationship with you, such as by creating an account on your website, installing your app, or subscribing to your email updates.
  3. Purchase: If your marketing outreach successfully convinces a qualified lead to make a purchase, the next step is to reinforce and protect your new relationship with them by providing information that will help them get the most out of their investment. This is also a smart time to ask for personal details that will enable better customized future communications.
  4. Engagement: In today’s metric-obsessed, social media-mediated marketplace, the engagement phase is among the most critical. This is where you consistently, but unobtrusively, stay connected and top of your customers’ minds. Let them know about upcoming product launches, testimonials from other users, internal company news, and fun and interesting content that is geared towards their interests.
  5. Retention: The internet has made comparison shopping and product research tools widely available, and consequently brand loyalty is becoming an increasingly rare commodity. That’s why focusing on your customers’ pain points, conducting exit surveys when they defect, and making it as simple as possible for them to return are vital.
  6. Advocacy: With social media, all your customers have a megaphone, making brand loyalists that much more valuable. Court brand ambassadors and superfans, and then create opportunities for them to share the good news about your brand.

Building the Right Map for Your Brand

Every business is distinct in its own way. People don’t shop for cars the same way they do for clothes. Understanding the pain points, objectives, and inclinations of the customer base of each business is crucial to building a journey map that is accurate and helpful. Here’s what you need to master to customize your map:

AUDIENCE ANALYSIS

To build the right map you need both a granular and a high-level understanding of your audience, including their basic demographic data (age, income, education, gender, geographic location, etc.) as well as their psychographic markers (interests, influences, and behavioral traits).

Additionally, market research can help you recognize their needs (and the obstacles to achieving them), knowledge levels, and the channels they consume information on.

BUYING PROCESSES

Because goods and services aren’t bought the same way in every industry (B2B buying processes, for example, are typically much more involved than B2C sales), each map should take major differences into account.

However, the process generally starts when a potential customer identifies a need, searches for a solution to their problem (typically online), visits a number of websites to examine competing options, compares their features and prices, and then makes a purchase.

TOUCHPOINTS

Throughout their journey your potential customer will be interacting with your brand at various touchpoints. Tracking and augmenting those points of interaction is a necessary part of customer journey mapping.

Typical touchpoints include:

  • Websites
  • Emails
  • Mobile Apps
  • Search Results
  • Advertising
  • Social Media
  • Sales Staff
  • Pop-up Events
  • Call Centers
  • Third Party Reviews

DATA SOURCES

Data is everywhere today, but too many brands are simply collecting it without taking the next steps of analyzing it to produce actionable insights—and then implementing them. Data on existing customers can include prior purchases, past interactions at your touchpoints, feedback and reviews, and preferred channels of communication.

Prospective customers will leave informational breadcrumbs in online behavioral targeting data such as browsing history, click-through rates, time on site, pay-per-click ad rates, and social media posts.

CONTENT CREATION

Collecting all that data not only helps you better understand your customer and their intentions, it enables the creation of content that is not only personalized to their particular wants and needs, but also optimized to the current location on their journey.

We are all flooded with content today and have developed an innate ability to determine what is worth our time and what can be safely ignored. The goal of all brands should never be to spam their audience with useless and wholly self-serving media, but rather to offer genuinely useful, interesting, and relevant content. Popular content types include:

  • Blogs
  • Explainer Videos
  • Newsletters
  • Social Media Posts
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Whitepapers
  • Live Streams

Summing Up

The brand experience has become central to commerce. The options are plentiful, switching costs are incredibly low (often just a click away), and customers have come to expect seamless and personalized interactions with the brands in which they develop relationships.

Not only does a customer journey map help you better cultivate relationships with potential and existing customers, it also creates a framework for a more smooth running operation internally. When divisions aren’t working in sync and data is being siloed, work gets unnecessarily duplicated, customers receive inconsistent and unpleasant treatment, and opportunities get missed.