Growing a successful business requires a strong understanding of your target audience. Beyond knowing the basic demographic information of the ideal customer, marketers also need to be familiar with their needs, interests, and decision-making process.
After all, earning loyal customers doesn’t just mean getting your brand in front of a specific group of people.
It requires showing that group how your product can help them and what makes it different from other available options. Once they’re convinced and on board, you need to illustrate the ongoing value of having a relationship with your brand.
And that’s not exactly easy. But the good news is that customer journey maps can help.
If you’re not yet using maps as part of your marketing strategy, keep reading to learn why they’re so important and how you can start using them to improve the overall customer experience.
What is a Customer Journey Map?
A customer journey map is a visualization of all of the stages a customer goes through during their experience with your company.
It includes every touchpoint in the process. It begins when they initially become aware of your brand, then it runs all the way through their decision-making process, and goes into their eventual purchase. Then, it continues with repeat purchases and brand advocacy.
For example, a typical customer journey through an ecommerce store might look like this:
This map includes every encounter a customer might have with your brand. Of course, that’s not to say that every customer will navigate through each of these touchpoints.
The customer journey is slightly different for each person, and the pieces that fit into each of these stages vary according to industry and business model.
Beyond these action-oriented maps, some customer-focused businesses also use a slightly different approach called “empathy mapping.” These maps characterize their target audiences in a way that enables them to create an even better user experience.
Empathy maps typically begin with a specific persona within a company’s target audience and then continues to include the customer’s needs, goals, expectations, behaviors, and pain points.
Once you’ve created an empathy map, you can use it to not only better understand the user experience from your customer’s perspective, but also to make more empathetic decisions.
Combining a customer journey map with an empathy map is an excellent way to build the kind of buying process that your customers will genuinely enjoy.
4 Ways Customer Journey Maps can Improve Customer Experience
Customer journey maps and empathy maps can both be extremely helpful in any company’s efforts towards improving the buying experience.
If you’re not yet using them, here are four ways you can give your customers a better experience with your brand.
1. Identify Gaps and Drop-off Points
Mapping the customer journey requires you to study the ways in which your target audience moves through your sales funnel. This analysis helps you uncover areas where your customers leave that funnel.
Of course, a certain percentage of drop-offs is inevitable, since some of the people your campaigns reach will be outside your target audience. And even of those who do fall into your target audience, not all of them will ultimately convert.
But if you notice significant drop-off at a particular point, this indicates that something is preventing prospective customers from moving forward from that point.
For example, let’s say that your customers tend to spend a significant amount of time reading your blog but leave without making it to pages about your brand or product. This could signify that your content doesn’t show how your product relates to their needs.
Now, let’s say that visitors tend to make it to content that’s lower in the funnel, like pricing pages and testimonials, but they leave without converting. This indicates a very different problem. In this case, the gap lies between consideration and purchase.
Depending on your drop-off point and the problem it indicates, you’ll adjust your focus accordingly.
Ultimately, no sales funnel is perfect. But the clearer understanding you have of where your customers are leaving, the better you can become at preventing unnecessary drop-offs.
2. Figure Out What’s Working (and What isn’t)
Once you’ve located the gaps in your customer journey, you can take a more granular look at the strategies and tactics within each stage. This way, you can determine which are most effective at moving customers through the sales funnel and which have room for improvement.
If, for example, users who visit your company’s testimonial page tend to convert at a higher rate than those who don’t, this is a good sign that the page is a compelling resource for prospective buyers.
With this insight, you may choose to link to this page more prominently from other pages that visitors access early on in the customer journey.
But if you notice that readership of your company newsletter has little correlation with repeat purchases, this signifies that your email content isn’t effective at driving additional action.
As you gain a clearer idea of which strategies work best for moving customers through the process from awareness to advocacy, you have a few different options.
Of course, it goes without saying that you’ll want to keep using tactics that work, and possibly even increase your budget for those initiatives.
But for those that don’t, you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth your time to improve them or if you should eliminate them from your strategy altogether.
Either way, this process will help you invest your time and budget more appropriately — and to reduce the amount you spend on tactics that don’t drive results.
3. Eliminate Disconnects Between Teams
Although creating customer journey maps is typically the responsibility of the marketing team, every team within a company ultimately plays a role in that journey.
When it comes down to it, every employee has some level of impact on the customer. As a result, optimizing and improving the customer journey requires multiple departments.
For example, imagine that your company is a software provider. While a customer might find your company because of the content and campaigns that your marketing team created, it might be a conversation with a sales representative that convinces them that your product is the right choice for their needs.
From there, their experience depends entirely on the product and how well it functions for their need. And if they run into any issues or questions, it’s your support team that’s responsible for resolving them.
In order for this journey to be a positive one, you need to make sure it’s as seamless as possible from start to finish.
Although all of the teams in your company are working towards the same goal of creating happy customers, there are often disconnects between these teams.
Mapping the customer journey can help you identify where those disconnects lie, so you can resolve them accordingly and provide an even better experience moving forward.
4. Find Ways to Incorporate Personalization
Today, an increasing number of companies are looking for ways to tailor the user experience to each of their customers. Creating customer journey maps and empathy maps is an excellent approach for determining the best ways to incorporate personalization.
First, a customer journey map can provide a big-picture overview of the various touch points within a customer’s experience of your brand. This alone can be helpful in illuminating opportunities.
But beyond that, empathy mapping can help determine how needs and interests vary between the different segments of your audience.
For example, let’s say that your product has uses for both B2C and B2B audiences. While B2C users might be most concerned with price, B2B buyers might be more interested in integrations and scalability.
With this insight, you could tailor the content you provide at each stage in the process accordingly. You might also adjust your ad placement, content formats, loyalty programs, and virtually everything else used to boost sales and retention.
When it comes down to it, the goal of both of these maps is to establish a stronger understanding of how and why your audience makes decisions.
The better this understanding becomes, the more effective you’ll be at making sure those decisions benefit your business.
Today’s consumers expect a great user experience from the companies they purchase from. Thankfully, mapping their decision-making process can help you meet that expectation.
First, you can use your maps to identify and address any gaps in your sales process. Then, you can get a clearer grasp on which strategies are moving you closer to your goals and which are not.
From there, you can look for ways to eliminate the disconnects between teams, in order to provide a seamless experience for each of your customers.
Finally, your map can provide insight into how you can best incorporate personalization.
The better you understand your customers’ journeys toward (and beyond) conversion, the better you’ll become at providing an excellent experience the entire way through. Mapping that journey is the first step.