The consumer journey – an insight into purchasing behaviour
This will be the first in a series of blog posts dedicated to the customer journey. Throughout the five part series we will walk you through the stages of customer engagement with brands and how those various touchpoints can dictate the success or failure of a business. The blog series will then be converted into a white paper to be downloaded and shared – providing a guide to customer purchasing and insights to assist businesses with the necessary tools to maximise engagement.
Understanding the power of customer experience
In a competitive marketplace, customer experience has long been heralded as the key to ensuring a business can stand out from the crowd – but more than this, marketers and brands are now realising the power ‘experience’ can have in determining the success or failure of a company. Too many bad experiences between customer and brand will inhibit sales, creating a negative impact on the bottom line. Such is the importance; many of the largest firms in the world now have dedicated customer experience personnel – with some even taking a seat at board level, to ensure customer experience is not a siloed consideration but ingrained within the fabric and strategy of the company.
With much at stake, it’s important for businesses to understand how customers are experiencing their brand in order to close any gaps or make changes. This can be done in many ways, but the best way to create a real framework around charting these experiences and analysing them is in creating a customer journey map (CJM). Largely, customer journey mapping is about understanding the path to purchase and the stages at which consumers interact with the brand, and perhaps most importantly, how they feel about the brand as a result of those interactions.
Customer Journey Mapping
The idea of CJM is not anything new, in fact many commentators on this trend have noted its similarity to the stages mapped in the traditional purchase funnel conceived in the 19th Century, however it’s this idea of the emotive responses to brand interaction that is perhaps one area where theory has evolved over time, and is the key to delivering a great experience. With the increasingly indignant consumer keeping today’s marketers up at night, tracking emotional triggers in the customer journey is now crucial, as a bad experience will not only prevent purchases from a single consumer, but could have a ripple effect to others, damaging the brand’s reputation in a way not seen before the birth of the internet.
Theories relating to CJM characterise these interactions as ‘touchpoints’ or ‘moments of truth’ in explaining the importance they have in influencing the customer’s decision to purchase. These touch points expand way beyond a visit to store, to include every interaction the customer has whilst travelling through the customer journey stages, from visiting the website to social channels, reviews, newsletters, customer service calls and so on.
While there has been plenty of research, views and reporting on the value, uses and challenges of customer journey mapping, the relative stages of the customer journey are less in contention. In fact, the stages are fairly unanimously agreed as; awareness, preference, purchase, use and loyalty – though some theories may use slightly different expressions, the action in each case is more or less the same. With that said, research has indicated 47% of companies say that the digital part of the business is driving customer journey initiatives, with the additional touchpoints digital introduces creating greater exposure to the brand and therefore need for management.
Many commentators emphasise the importance of ensuring mapping is an ongoing process, and as a result some of the final steps are repeated to show a continuous loop. In some cases this loop is used deliberately to indicate where changes have been made, to ensure a better ongoing experience– for example, awareness, preference, purchase, use, complaint, preference, purchase, use, loyalty.
In the following posts we’ll go on to examine each of these stages in more detail, providing considerations for marketers in making sure they’re optimising the opportunities at each stage to provide the very best experience for customers, while driving company success.