According to research done by IBM, a new gap has emerged between a company’s perception of their customer’s interaction with their business and the actual customer experience. This disconnect can lead to a decrease in sales, customer dissatisfaction, and damage to your brand’s image.
So what are some of the changes contributing to this shift in the customer’s journey? And what can you do to bridge the gap? We will explore the factors leading to this gap and the best practices for understanding your buyer’s journey below.
How did we get here?
This disconnect between company perceptions and customer experiences goes back to the birth of the internet and ultimately ends up in today’s tech-driven economy, where customers have thousands of purchasing options available at the click of a mouse or tap of a touch-screen device.
These technological advances have led to major changes in the way that customers find businesses, as well as the way that they choose to purchase goods or services.
In addition to the obvious shift of being able to make purchases anywhere at any time, this process has also changed the entirety of the shopping process by giving customers the power to research products independently.
When a company cares more about its product than its customers do, there will always be a disconnect.
Regardless of if the final purchase is in a retail store, on a computer or from a smartphone, the customer has had access to limitless information via the internet to help them research and make an informed decision.
In this newly emerging economy that mixes the best of traditional brick-and-mortar business with convenient online options, it is important to understand the customer’s experience, so that you, as a business, can figure out how to reach them amidst a sea of competition.
So, what can my business do about it?
Knowledge is power, and as customers have increased access to product and service research with the internet, their journey is going to look different than it has in previous years. This means companies must adapt to the customer’s ever-evolving journeys by looking to new, innovative marketing methods.
“Unlike the coercive strategies companies used a decade ago to lock in customers (think cellular service contracts), cutting-edge journeys succeed because they create new value for customers: Customers stay because they benefit from the journey itself,” says the Harvard Business Journal.
You are probably now wondering the best way to figure out your customer’s journey and how your company can fit into it and add value to the process. This is where customer journey mapping comes into play! Read on to learn more about this process.
What is a customer journey map, and how do I make one?
The goal of a customer journey map is to teach your business more about your customer. Creating a customer journey map charts the experience of the customer from their initial research process through the completion of purchase and beginning of what is, hopefully, an ongoing relationship with your business.
A well-researched customer journey map can assist your business in identifying many important factors that affect your relationships with your customers, including:
- Your customer’s expectations
- The phases taking a customer from initial contact to repeat customer
- Elements of the customer experience that may be a turn-off for potential buyers
- Changes you can implement to add value to your customer’s journey
Collecting the right data
When building a customer journey map, it is important to look at both quantitative (analytical data and statistics) as well as qualitative data (personal stories and experiences). Combining these two forms or research will result in a clearer picture of your customer.
For many of us, the data collection process is easy to understand. You probably have some sort of website analytics already in place, like Hubspot, Google Analytics, Moz or Raven. You can also utilize tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to further examine your customer’s experiences through social media channels.
But to really delve into your customer’s experiences, qualitative research is essential. Methods including customer interviews, social media communication and creating buyer surveys can help you gather the information you need for this portion of your research.
Once you have your data, you will want to compile it into an easy-to-understand chart or infographic for you and your staff, so that you clearly understand the process that your customers go through when deciding to purchase goods or services. We love this step-by-step guide from Smashing Magazine.
As you can see, customer journeys have drastically evolved since the advent of the internet and smartphones. Customers are savvy and can research and make purchasing decisions through a variety of channels.
Understanding what they experience every step of the way and figuring out how you can add value to that process will set you apart from your competitors and let you better serve your customer base.