The customer journey refers to the way businesses attract and retain customers. The term is most commonly used in the realm of online marketing, but it applies equally to retail and other brick-and-mortar businesses.
Mapping the customer journey can be a valuable exercise; it lets you identify the essential stages of finding customers and building relationships with them. Let's look at how mapping the customer journey can be beneficial to your business.
The Four Stages of the Customer Journey
There's no one right way to describe a customer journey. That's why you can find various definitions and descriptions of its stages. However, I find it useful to break it down into these four:
Before you can acquire a customer, he or she has to know about you.
There are many ways this can happen. Customers may see an advertisement. They may happen to pass by your business and stop in. They may find your website by doing a search, or a friend might recommend you.
2. Consideration and Decision
After a customer is aware of you, he or she then has to decide whether to give your product or service a try.
Like the awareness phase, this can come down to many factors, including impulse, trust, the attitude of your customer service team (whether in person or on the phone), the presentation of your products if you have a store, online reviews or comments made by people they know.
This is the moment when customers decide to buy from you, whether it's an in-store purchase or clicking on the "buy" button on your website.
4. Post-Purchase and Retention
To be successful, you want to attract repeat business. That's why the post-purchase phase is also important. This includes customer service, addressing questions and complaints and providing additional products or add-on services that customers might want.
That covers the main stages of the customer journey. The specific way that you map your own customers' journeys depends on your business model and goals. A restaurant, car dealership, medical practice and beauty salon may all have different ways of connecting with customers.
Identifying Customer Touchpoints
The four stages of the customer journey outlined above are fairly broad. You can break it down more precisely into various touchpoints. You can keep these tips in mind to help you identify and manage customer touchpoints. (A touchpoint is any meaningful interaction between a customer and a business and spans the entire customer journey.)
Remember that for many purchases, touchpoints and stages of the customer's journey tend to overlap. For example, suppose a person passes by a restaurant, looks at the menu briefly and decides to walk in and order a meal. In such a case, the awareness, consideration and purchase stages may have occurred within all of 30 seconds. On larger purchases, such as an automobile, home or set of furniture, the stages tend to be more discrete and drawn out.
In practice, it helps to pay attention to as many touchpoints as possible. You may want to pay special attention to touchpoints related to the awareness stage. Identifying this first phase is important as it tells you how people are finding you. It can help you identify what is and isn't working.
For example, if you're spending $500 per month on advertising but only 1 percent of your customers are finding you via ads, you may want to rethink your investment. This is a stage where it's worthwhile to invest in tracking resources. These include analytics on a website (for example, Google Analytics can tell you where your website visitors come from), customer surveys and simply asking people informally, "How did you hear about us?"
Customize the Customer Journey
As you pay more attention to the customer's journey, you may notice that customers interact with you at different touchpoints. Some people may find you on social media, others through advertising and others via word of mouth.
Try not to get so fixated on any single touchpoint of the buyer's journey that you ignore others. For example, if you're focused on local SEO, it's still important to have an attractive sign in front of your business. While you do want to notice which touchpoints are getting you the most business, try not to ignore customers who find you in less conventional ways.
Finally, remember that a single sale isn't your final goal. Your larger objective is to build relationships and acquire regular customers. That's why it's so important to be attentive to customers even after you've made the sale. Attentive servers in restaurants always ask how everything is. If you offer medical services, consider calling or emailing patients to check on their progress. (This is one reason why it's good to capture people's phone numbers and email addresses.) Think about sending regular customers special coupon codes. Reward and loyalty programs can also help keep customers coming back.
Identifying, understanding and fine-tuning touchpoints and stages of the customer journey can help you develop more effective marketing plans and form stronger relationships with customers. While the customer's journey is never a precise map, it can be a valuable tool for businesses to grow and constantly improve.
Read more articles on marketing & sales.