You Don’t Know Your Customers As Well As You Think You Do
Where are your customers when they make their purchases? What kinds of devices are they making their purchases from? How do they feel along the customer journey? Customer journey mapping can help uncover those answers.
Many B2B commerce companies are missing critical pieces of business intelligence that can cripple their efforts to create a great customer experience.
We’re not talking about purely demographic information. We’re talking about information that digs deep into the core of your customer. Who are your customer segments? What motivates them to research and/or make a decision? Who, if anyone, is telling them where and how to buy? Where are they when they make their purchases? What kinds of devices are they making their purchases from? How do they feel along the customer journey? The answers to these questions—and many more—are essential to a successful business strategy. Customer journey mapping can help uncover those answers.
Consider a company that was convinced the customers who came to their site were C-level decision-makers who held the purse strings. Through customer journey mapping, we discovered that high traffic volume was from vice presidents who had been tasked by C-level leaders to find products and services. The discovery was a game-changer and resulted in a complete shift in how the company structured its website and positioned content for its customers.
Many companies wrongly assume that they know their customers and their customers’ offline and online purchase paths. We have spoken with companies that have formulated unsubstantiated journeys based on personal opinions. Others develop an online strategy after speaking with the sales team about how they interact with offline clients. Offline and online customers are not the same. And who builds strategies based on opinion alone? Data is your friend, and without it, you have no chance to build and deliver the right kind of digital experience for your customers.
Journey Mapping Will Evolve Your Understanding Of Your Customer
Some companies think of journey mapping too tactically. They come up with a list of features they want on their websites, then use the journey mapping process to justify the site enhancements. Wrong! That is a backward way of building your site, and it shows a clear lack of understanding of the value of journey mapping.
Well-defined customer journeys will help you evolve your understanding of your digital and non-digital customers. This insight will provide the metrics needed to identify obstacles and solutions to make the customer experience pleasant, intuitive, and satisfying.
Tailor The Experience To Stakeholder Groups[
McKinsey research](http://www.mckinsey.com/Insights/Marketing_Sales/Do_you_really_understand_how_your_business_customers_buy) shows that, on average, a B2B customer will regularly use six different interaction channels throughout the decision journey, and almost 65% will come away from it frustrated by inconsistent experiences. Journey mapping helps companies develop personas for different groups of buyers so the experience is customized depending on customer needs.
B2B companies need to think about tailoring the experience for each stakeholder group. During one client project, we created journey maps for customer personas in several distinct market segments. The journey maps showed that the customer journeys varied greatly from segment to segment. This informed our recommendation that the client take a market-centric (rather than product-centric) approach to their digital marketing strategy.
If you consider individual groups of buyers, the distinctions you will need to make for the experience will become clearer. Purchasers, for example, typically buy the same items on a regular basis. Since speed and ease of use are essential to this stakeholder group, you might consider providing one-click ordering. This feature will allow purchasers to simply click on the product they want, and the order will be processed and charged to the stored payment method.
Technical users, on the other hand, typically look for robust product information. They need to understand what the product offers, how it’s used, and how it might be configured with other pieces of equipment. Making the right content available in the right medium—i.e. desktop, phone, or tablet—is key for this group.
Ask The Right Questions To Inform Your Strategy
Journeys are meant to weave in the emotional state of a user. You can’t just say you want to build a website or an e-commerce platform without digging deeper and asking the right questions.
When you ask these questions and formulate journeys, you will start to see patterns and uncover steps that are clogging the offline and online buying process, potentially costing your company millions. Key findings will break through internal assumptions and get you on the right track to developing the right customer experience from the very first interaction with your brand.
As you embark on the customer journey mapping process, here are six tips to consider:
1. Look beyond digital: Think of the customer experience holistically, and include offline and online information as part of the comprehensive journey mapping.
When a customer orders a part online, he or she might receive an email saying the part is on the way. The same customer might check a mobile app to see where it is in the delivery process or call the customer service representative to see if the part is compatible with something else that is on the customer’s buy list. All of those touch points need to be considered part of the journey so that they can be integrated for a seamless experience.
2. Don’t set it and forget it: One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is to invest in the journey mapping exercise, agree on the personas created, and let the insights collect dust. What good is the exercise if you don’t do anything with it? Dust it off and develop a plan that enhances the experience based on the mapping data. If you don’t know what to do with it, hire someone who can help turn insights into strategy, then into actions.
3. Share the journey: Everyone in the company—from the customer service representative and in-house development shop to marketing and IT—should be familiar with relevant customer segments. They should understand what it means to deliver the ideal customer experience and what their role is in creating that experience.
Journey mapping is personal. It’s intimate. It is a human connection. When buyers interact with a brand, they want to feel good about the interactions and purchases. They want to feel confident they made the right decision and that the product will get there on time. Your employees are a part of what makes your customers feel good. The more your colleagues understand who the customers are, the more they can deliver better service and a better experience.
4. Push into the nerve center: Journey mapping creates solutions that push into the nerve center of the customer and sometimes of the company. In some instances, mapping brings to bear issues and solutions that can be tough for some executives to rally behind.
During one exercise, journey mapping uncovered the need for a marketing automation platform that could not be supported by the company’s outdated legacy system. The marketing team, who happened to be on the young side, had a hard time convincing the older executives that the company needed to invest in an updated platform that would open doors to greater revenue. Having an outside agency helped the team have those tough conversations with leaders and bridge the divide so that the project could move forward.
5. Keep returning to the map: Persona journeys are constantly evolving. Shifting demographics and the influence of mobile alone mean companies have to stay in sync with the changing needs of their customers. Journey mapping is a simple cycle that can and should be followed every few months. Mapping starts with research to define the personas that create the journeys. After a few months, revisit patterns that uncover shifts in customer behavior and iterate to create the ideal journey. Use the map to get the right data that you need to impact your decisions.
6. Immerse yourself in the journey: Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Go deep into the journey by taking the journey yourself so that you understand your buyers’ perspective and the emotions that are experienced along the way. Evaluate digital and non-digital touch points and how they integrate to form an experience. By going through this exercise, you may start to see issues that are clogging the journey. Issues that might be considered minor can become bigger in one to two years, causing your business a major setback. By having a greater understanding of the journey, you will be able to develop the business case you need to make the necessary changes.
Develop A Course Of Action Based On Insights
Customer journey mapping helps companies identify operational inefficiencies, understand the roadblocks, and uncover new opportunities to create better customer experiences. Once you go through the process, develop a course of action based on the data and execute. Remember, the customer journey changes all the time. Be prepared to revisit your strategy and make necessary changes every few months so you can continue to satisfy your customers and meet your business objectives.