Definition of the customer journey
Every purchase begins with an unfulfilled desire or unsolved problem: it could be a book that satisfies your crime novel craving. A new laptop that speeds up working from home. Or a bigger car to finally provide enough space for the whole family to sit comfortably. And your products, too, could be the solution when customers find out about them.
The customer journey, also known as the user journey or buyer’s journey, can help you, because all potential customers take a journey to a product. That journey may only take a few minutes, but it could also last weeks or even years. In that period, the users are looking for information to help them decide for or against a certain product.
The five phases of the customer journey
Customers go through certain phases in their customer journey where the awareness of the product is awakened and heightened. There are various models, describing three to seven phases. The most common model has five phases.
Direct and indirect touchpoints show the way along the customer journey. Customers find direct ones in magazines or on websites: this category includes price comparisons, test reports, recommendations and offers. Indirect touchpoints are advertisements placed by you, such as posters, TV advertising, advertising banners and social media ads.
- Awareness: A problem or requirement exists. A product could be the solution. Interest is awakened.
- Favourability: Initial information about the product and its alternatives increases interest. Those interested are aware of their favourites.
- Consideration: Customers consider purchasing a product. They compare prices and weigh up pros and cons.
- Purchase intent: The intention to purchase becomes more concrete. All that is missing is a little encouragement: an offer, a discount or fast delivery.
- Conversion: The decision is made and the purchase is completed.
What opportunities does the customer journey offer?
A study by McKinsey has shown that companies who understand the customer journey generate an average of 10 per cent more turnover, and their customer satisfaction is 20 per cent higher. The numbers are impressive. But what makes knowledge of the customer journey so valuable?
A few years ago, companies would spread their advertising materials as widely as possible. The scatter loss was correspondingly high. With knowledge of the customer journey, you can make your advertising far more targeted – exactly where your customers most often stop.
These places are called touchpoints. If you only advertise your product there, you will reach potential customers much more often. That increases customer awareness of the product and increases the chances that the purchase decision will go your way. In other words, you inevitably increase the conversion rate and reduce advertising costs.
Analysis of the customer journey also captures previously unknown sales channels, such as hitherto unused online channels or product placement opportunities. At the same time, you make new discoveries: about customer desires, customer aims and possibly even weaknesses of your own products. Online tools can help you filter these findings. Read more about that at the end of this article.
Touchpoints: there is not just one customer journey
The greatest challenge in the analysis of the user journey is in comprehending the inconsistent user behaviour, because everyone starts at a different point with different destinations.
Some already know the product they want. Some have even used it already. If you find the touchpoints such as websites, influencers or discussion platforms, you can influence the customer journey and purchase decision.
However, there are more and more routes to the product these days: some users are initially just looking for inspiration. They have a desire or something in mind, but no solution yet. Their entry point to the user journey begins with a Google search or social media channels like Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram. Other customers look for specific information and opinions in tests and articles on blogs and specialist sites.
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No two touchpoints are the same
Every touchpoint works differently and requires different measures. However, those that are highly frequented and particularly valuable are the ones that are most lucrative. While some touchpoints guarantee reach, others are qualitative lead generators. Depending on what your aims are, the focus of your advertising strategy might be on other touchpoints. Placement of banner advertising or individualised content such as sponsored posts and testimonials are measures that would reach customers but could fulfil other aims.
In addition, the journey is not linear and has shifted ever further into the digital world. Users continue their journey at different points and visit websites several times, often changing back and forth between their computer, tablet and smartphone. This behaviour makes it more difficult to seamlessly follow the customer journey.
An additional difficulty is that people also gather information offline: friends, family and work colleagues can influence the purchase, just as advertising posters, brochures, adverts and magazines can. All these entry points, routes and destinations are what make the customer journey so exciting – and hard to grasp.
How do you identify the customer journey?
The internet has fundamentally changed the customer journey. It has become more complex, but it is also easier to measure than ever. Modern tracking makes that possible: every website click, every dwell time and even users’ devices and their current locations can be tracked using cookies.
Online users interact with companies via various channels, such as social media ads, newsletters or banner clicks. Each interaction leads to valuable information about the target group and its interests. For example, the journey analysis reveals important indications about product desires or expected prices to you. The information and indications gathered can be summarised in a digital customer journey map.
Important factors when mapping:
- Customer types: which target groups are interested in the product?
- Touchpoints: what destinations does the journey go through?
- Funnel: what direction do the target groups go in which phase?
- Conversion: which measures can encourage the customer to complete the purchase?
Customer journey mapping: the analysis of the customer journey
Web-based tools help collate and evaluate the gathered data: they identify potential customers on their complex journey and analyse the advertising potential of touchpoints. Digital maps make the results visible and the customer journey thus becomes comprehensible at a glance.
- Canvanizer is a clear mapping tool that can put together information quickly and vividly in prepared templates. The team function also makes it possible to create tasks and exchange ideas.
- Smaply has three main elements: mapping, persona and stakeholder maps. Personas simulate customer types – users verify the results of their mapping and optimise the identified customer journey with these stored target groups. The stakeholder maps analyse the product placement environment in the touchpoints.
- The aim of Touchpoints Dashboard is to improve all user touchpoints. To do so, it includes a comprehensive area for teams to define tasks or create informative reports.
Your journey is just beginning …
New sales channels, specific touchpoints for customer interaction and an ensured increase in conversion rate: the customer journey has great potential for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Even a Google Analytics evaluation alone can provide initial information about touchpoints that are already highly frequented. Taking a look at the statistics of your Facebook ads makes the target group that has already been reached clearer. Digital monitoring tools like these are numerous and in some cases free to use. That makes getting into your customers’ journey possible for anyone – but the results can be extremely lucrative.