“The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” (Chinese Proverb)
With the rise of a new generation of digital customers, you can no longer rely on the traditional customer journey map. And with the word ‘traditional’ we mean every single map that you have used in the last ten years.
In the digital ecosystem everything changes at such an impressive pace that you need a new perspective to engage and monetize customers. Purchasing and consumption behaviors evolve, and so does the digital customer experience.
First, we need to clarify the difference between traditional customer journeys and the digital customer journey. We can streamline the two processes:
Traditional Customer Journey
A (mostly) linear sequence from awareness to consideration to purchase, across few touch points, well-known and presided by marketers. The customer has a limited set of alternatives; there is often a one-way communication, lead by the brand; my choice is influenced by the 4 Ps of marketing, by routine and the trusted opinions of my closed circle of friends and relatives.
Digital Customer Journey
A circular path that does not necessarily starts from attention/awareness or ends with loyalty. The customer goes through an increasing number of touch points with your brand, both in physical and digital worlds. The customer has tons of alternatives, and the final choice is rarely influenced by advertising, price or routine. The circle of trust includes the online communities: social networks, e-commerce reviews, forums and blogs.
Technology defines the journey, and the journey defines your marketing strategy. You should never underestimate these elements:
- The arise of young customers - the picky millennials, empowered and willing to spend.
- The spread of mobile devices - smartphone, tablet, smartwatch.
- The growth of connected technologies - trackers, wearables, beacons, the Internet of Things.
- The emergence of Micro Moments - real-time interactions, driven by specific intents.
The digital customers, born and grown in a digital ecosystem, are accustomed to living surrounded by connected devices, that melt the physical and virtual world. They build their identity by interacting with their offline and online communities, and do not recognize other ways of experiencing (the world and the brands).
In our markets, made flat by the globalization, your customers refuse to be considered as part of an indistinct mass. This behavior is even more critical when they connect with your brand and product. The rejection of massification forces you to invest your efforts on personalization and relevance, focusing on the experience rather the product.
The question is simple: Why should customers buy from you when they can choose from a huge set of alternatives? Take a minute to think about it: you are not simply battling against your neighbors, you are fighting against thousands of suppliers from all over the world. Even a great, unique product might be not enough to win.
What then? The customer experience becomes the real key to differentiate your brand, and the creation of a new customer journey map the ground to deliver personalized experiences. You need an innovative approach to the mapping of an unstructured journey, or your clients will still be strangers.
Luckily, you can still rely on few certainties, the basic requirements that have not changed ever since the idea of ‘customer journey map’ has been considered for the first time. While the framework evolves with technology, you will always have to start your planning from these foundational elements:Buyer Personas + Customers + Research + Touch Points + Emotions + Objectives + Tracking
The are two opposite forces at work. On the one hand, marketers need to reach the customers when they stand in the early stages of the journey; unfortunately, that is the moment when they know less about their habits and behaviors. Using the traditional methodology, you have little data that show what clients were doing and thinking before - let's say - they entered your website or store.
That is exactly the reason why you need a revamped version of the journey mapping. How can you build it? Start with the following prerequisites.
REINVENT THE JOURNEY
Of course, behind a new mapping there is a new journey. Every single trend that we have traced in this article leads to the inevitable reinvention of the customer journey. Today, there is no value in a map that still ignores the different sources of interaction brought out by technological disruption.
The innovation extends the relationship to embrace the added value for both companies and customers. The best brands always stay eyes wide open, willing to test and learn new means of engagement and monetization, to earn customer's loyalty and trust.
DON’T FORGET THE CUSTOMER
What is the foundational element of the journey? The traveller, of course. And yet, you might be surprised to know how many marketers design their journey map starting from the company instead of the customers.
Since the whole point is to improve the interactions between clients and your business, the only way to build a map that actually works is to bring the customer's perspective into the process. You must describe not the experience that you want to provide but primarily the experience that people expect.
STUDY BEHAVIOR AND EMOTIONS
The key if you aim at improving your strategy is to understand how the digital customers take decisions and choose what to buy and how to buy. In a world where the smartphone has become the first screen, not all customers are alike, and not all journeys should be considered equal.
People embark on very different journeys, driven by peculiar micro moments, with different touch points that can be influenced by unexpected causes and intents. Individual needs, emotions and expectations lead to very personal behaviors. If you do not study these patterns, you won't be able to tailor-cut your contents and actions.
EMBRACE LOCAL AND MOBILE
Mobile technology reshapes the journey, influencing both the space and time of the interaction. The smartphone reboots the entire experience of communicating, searching for information, and connecting with a brand.
According to Nielsen, half of customers already believe that mobile is the most important resource in the purchase decision-making. Mobile platforms already account for more than 60% of total time spent on digital media. Your strategy should think mobile and act local, combining location and behavior to deliver meaningful contents, wherever your customers are.
UNLOCK THE POWER OF DATA
While it is still hard to understand what customers think and do in the early stages of their journey, companies can now take advantage of something they didn't have before, to shuffle the cards on the table: data.
Connected technologies create a large quantity of information about the customer's path; you only have to find the way to unlock the power hidden into this information. The key is to connect the dots and matche the different sources to provide a complete overview of the behavior. But always remember that the real value is not in the information but in what you do with it.
"Activating customer journeys to capture value requires journeys to be treated like products that need to be actively managed, measured, and nurtured. How well companies are able to do that will dictate how successful they are in making customer journeys a competitive advantage." (McKinsey)
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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy with the latest trends and advancements of digital customer experience.