“My sense is customer journey mapping will become a mandatory tool for digital transformation. Enterprises will begin to do customer journey mapping as the first part of their planning activities.” –Raman Sapra
Whether in Computers in Management or a Marketing Course here at Boston College, many of us have learned about the “Customer Journey Map.” A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customers go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination (HBS). In the past, customer journeys are rendered as linear, static maps that follow the traditional sales funnel of awareness, consideration, research, purchase, and repeat.
In an article from Wharton, professor, Patti Williams, explains that journey maps help companies understand consumer decision-making. Across industries, the value of a customer journey map cannot be disputed. It helps you to identify so much about your brand or company, including possible gaps or weakness. But with our “digital world” today (see my last blog here) this simple, straight forward customer journey ceases to exist!
The problem in today’s society, is that the “touchpoints” a business has with is customers are no longer simple nor easily identifiable. With all of the social media and opportunities for digital or social commerce, the touchpoints with the consumer are endless. The more touchpoints you have the more complicated identifying each consumers journey gets. Discovering where the customer first engages with the brand whether it be through targeted marketing, organic search, social media, online engagement, or ratings and reviews, it becomes hard to control your brand in the eyes of the consumer and even harder to detect when those eyes saw it and what inspired them to engage or not engage. This creates the problem of companies being unable to identify the journey of their consumers.
In our digital world, those overly simple customer journey maps, will likely fall short. In the same article, Jerry Wind, a Wharton professor of marketing, explains just how crucial it is that today’s journey maps must be dynamic. This is achieved through digital. The organization can use the rapidly evolving elements of digital, such as analytics, mobile, social, the cloud and IoT— to enhance the customer experience. These digital tools continue to grow in sophistication and usefulness, enhancing the value of discovered insights into the illusive customer journey of a 2016 consumer.
By transforming consumer journey maps using digital techniques, businesses can now explain is the customer’s expectations, experiences and reflections as it unfolds over the innumerable possible touchpoints with the product or service. Wind points out, “What better time than this digital age to mine that context — it’s available on the cloud, in the devices and all over social media.” Rather that conducting focus groups and surveys to collect insights into the consumer journey, companies have a way to mine those journeys themselves when they exist on digital. It doesn’t end there, when the journey is then taken offline, analytics are used to track consumers’ and trace the physical journey as well. Companies can gather massive amounts of analytics, discover patterns and try to predict the next steps for majority of consumers.
The article goes on to conclude a statement by Raman Sapra, global head of Dell’s digital business services. He states that, in terms of the consumer journey, “The best way to leverage digital is to take a comprehensive rather than a piecemeal approach.” But this is where I disagree…
“Consumers” as a comprehensive, whole group are going to be increasingly harder and harder to predict, as data grows and variations of shopping journeys are recorded, I sense that the patterns among customers will be increasingly difficult to find. “Mapping is very difficult given the heterogeneity of all markets and [also because] the same consumer may have a totally different journey at different times because of different contexts” (Wind). The understanding of consumers and how they make choices is contextual.
With social media, the funnel is not controlled, anyone can enter their journey anywhere, at any time, and conversion does not follow a path, rather occurs at any moments of inspiration or pulse in the journey. Consumers can no longer be divided along demographics, age, and gender, while digital patterns may be similar, many of our virtual behaviors vary drastically. Therefore, as we think towards the future of Customer Journey maps, I think the answers will lie in the small data, and not the collated data of “consumers.” But how you… as an individual… as an independent unit of consumptions for a business… what calls your attention, leads you to research, and then calls you to decide and purchase. If we can pinpoint the Customer Journey Maps down to the level of an individual customers… now that holds a lot of potential.
Think about it : your very own “Customized Customer Journey.”