4 Steps to Understanding Customer Journeys
UX Corner

4 Steps to Understanding Customer Journeys

Kenneth Paetzold • September 14, 2017

No two people are the same. Why, then, do many companies believe their customers will follow the exact same buying journey?

The truth is, customers shop in an infinite number of ways. They find out about products in different ways. They research products in different ways. They compare products in different ways. And they purchase products in different ways. That’s why brands are turning to omnichannel strategies to address the needs of unique customer journeys.

Omnichannel is how consumers think, but brands (particularly retailers) fall into the trap of believing that omnichannel means simply connecting a single digital experience to a physical one. An example of this would be when buying a product online and picking it up in-store, or buying the product at a brick-and-mortar location and reviewing the product on an app.

What companies need to understand is channels don’t exist in the mind of consumers. They’re not thinking they are interacting with a brand’s website, or its mobile app, or its storefront – they’re just interacting with the brand itself. To promote a successful and positive customer experience, all these different touchpoints have to be consistent and integrated with one another.

Brands can build better customer journeys by asking four simple questions.

Who are the customers and what do they do?

Feedback is not one-size-fits-all. If a brand asks the same segment of customers from the same region that shop only via mobile website for feedback, that brand is likely to get the same (or similar) answers from all consumers. However, if the scope is broadened, the results will more than likely change. Opinions and use cases vary by culture, context and region … so feedback does too.

Companies need to better understand their customers, both prospective and current, before they can tailor customer journeys to them. Companies need to know what channels customers prefer, when they use them, and why they use these channels.

Are complete consumer paths being considered?

Consumers have options for how they want to shop. They can shop on a desktop website, a mobile website or app, a physical store, or even via an IoT-enabled or connected device. Brands have adapted to these new technologies and have built multiple touchpoints with which to interact with consumers. But what happens when a customer begins their digital experience on one channel and then moves to another?

According to a recent Deloitte study, two-thirds of consumers prefer a self-directed shopping journey. In other words, they want to pick how and when they engage companies. Only a third of consumers felt this way just two years ago. Now, consumers are not satisfied following a predetermined path that is defined by the brand.

The shift from brand-dictated shopping experiences to customer-centric ones means that companies need to understand all of the possible journeys consumers can take. Brands must assess the complete customer journey, from physical to digital and back again.

Are the impacts of all brand interactions understood?

There’s more to digital than just a website and a mobile app. Social media, banner ads, email campaigns – these are all channels that contribute to brand experience and perception. According to a UPS/comScore study, 77% of online shoppers use social media. Among that group, 39% follow retailers on social media, 34% state social media influences in their purchases and 23% have purchased a product on a social media network.

Brands must take into account all of the channels where they interact with consumers. It’s more than a matter of making an experience intuitive. Brands need to understand how it really feels to be a customer at each touchpoint. Usability is critical, but it is only a piece of curating customer loyalty.

Are you talking to customers before you build things or only reacting once you see a problem?

Waiting for customers to notice problems before fixing them is unacceptable. Consumers hate bugs. They also dislike experiences that don’t resonate with them. Brands need to talk to customers during the creation and testing processes. They need to put wireframes and prototypes in front of customers and have them provide feedback on feature changes or new features before they are released.

To do all this, brands have to rethink how they launch products or updates. Feedback must be built into the software development lifecycle (SDLC). Feedback should also be iterative to stay ahead of consumer wants and needs, before problems can fester and lead to churn.

Digital and physical are intertwined. Customers interact with many touchpoints along the path to purchase and customer loyalty. The new Applause Customer Journeys solution helps brands deliver an omnichannel experience to consumers. The solution consists of a web platform, a mobile app, guidance from Applause usability experts and project managers, and access to the participants of Applause’s global community. The new solution even allows clients to create custom communities with participants sourced from their own lists of friends and family, employees, or existing customers.

Interested in learning more? Request a demo of Customer Journeys today.

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