Get to know your customer! There are no two ways about it – this has become a bit of a mantra for modern-day companies. Customer-centricity has continued to grow in importance and has shifted from being useful to being a necessity. Although it’s heard loud and clear, it seems easier said than done: In practice, only 53% of Belgian marketers claim they are succeeding in putting the customer first (YMS). On the other hand, a lot of companies like to pretend that they know their customer. But really knowing your customer means you have to discover what they want, how they want it and when they want it. More than knowing your customer, you should be able to understand them.
A useful tool to put customer-centric thinking into practice is customer journey mapping. Mapping the customer journey is about visualizing the journey and feelings a customer has with regard to your brand, product or service throughout different touch points (on- and offline) in their lifetime. Through customer journey mapping, you can discover your customers' motivations, needs and pain points.
Using data for customer journey mapping
A data-driven approach to customer journey mapping is key for success. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of decision making based on gut-feeling, so it’s important to keep this in mind every step of the way. The process usually starts from qualitative research, such as focus groups, surveys and interviews that are assumption-based thanks to insights gathered from your website analytics, social media interactions or call center statistics. For example, you’ve noticed that your customers behave in a certain way on your website, and qualitative research is what tells you why.
Like all methods, quali research has some downsides. Firstly, you don’t have enough data points for your customers when conducting quali research. Secondly, the required information is often subjective. Where quali data falls short, quantitative data can help you to discover the actual behavior and confirm hypotheses. And it works the other way around. Relying solely on quantitative data can lead to guessing, as it does not always provide you with a reason for certain behavior. To increase the validity of customer journey research, we therefore always combine different types of research.
Another important aspect where data is of importance is iteration. By constantly and consistently gathering feedback and re-analyzing, you prevent your journey map from becoming a snapshot, a moment in time, which gives you the ability to validate and optimize further. Customer journey mapping is a dynamic concept that evolves with the pace of the constant changes in your customer’s habits.
How to take it to the next level
Creating customer personae is the cornerstone of effective customer journey mapping. Personae define pains and gains, behavior and user stories and represent your ideal customers. They will give you a lens through which you can view the different insights and data gathered along all touch points of the journey.
A downside of personae however is generalization. As they are based on a set of generalized similarities, it’s easy to forget the dissimilarities and assume your clustered customers will all follow the same journey. Digitialization has given customers an abundance of options and paths and, although there are still trends and recurrent moments in your maps, journeys are losing their linearity. Luckily, technology has given marketers the ability to analyze those journeys on an individual level, at scale.
This is where customer journey analytics comes into play. Customer journey analytics measures and tracks the breadcrumbs our customers leave behind in real-time. It connects the dots of both on- and offline behavior data points and allows you to summarize as precisely or high-level as you want. Therefore, you can analyze the way your individual customers interact with you in real-time and across all touch points.
If you then combine these real-time insights with marketing automation and other marketing technologies you can react instantly and hyper-personalize your messages whilst making your customer journey maps more comprehensive, actionable and scalable. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?
Getting started with customer journey analytics entirely depends on the data maturity level of your company. Do you have a view on all data available across departments? How is it captured and stored? Are you already extracting and using big data? One first step you can take is using real-time dashboarding tools like Google Data Studio that make it easier to analyze online data: for example, ‘which paths are my customers taking’ or ‘what channels work best at what time’.
More advanced BI tools like Tableau and Power BI make it possible to combine data from many different data sources across different departments (online data, contact data, sales data, aftersales data,..) and help you get a broader view. A next step can be the implementation of customer journey analytics software, which is usually equipped with AI that takes you even further by predicting customers’ next best actions and offers.
Is customer journey mapping as we know it dead?
We’ve talked about customer journey analytics and how it can help you to discover the real-time behavior of individual customers instead of personae. This is a step further than customer journey mapping as we know it. Does this mean your days of interviewing your customers are over? Definitely not. Customer journey mapping should be based on qualitative and quantitative research and contain a high-level summary as well in order to gain a complete understanding and help you define your strategy.
So, it’s important that you first get the basics right, be customer-centric and build customer journeys to understand how your different customer personae experience all your touch points. Only then is it relevant to further explore your journeys on an individual level. Whether you are working on the basics or you’re implementing customer journey analytics, a data-driven approach is key in all your steps.
Do you want to really know and understand your customer? Start with our customer journey mapping template.