Customer loyalty is no longer just based on price or product quality, but on experience; hence, companies need to deliver seamless, secure, effortless, and personalized experiences anytime, across all channels.
Just take a look at a recent report from Salesforce, revealing that 84% of customers said the experience a company delivers is as important as its product or service. The creation of a convincing customer experience has therefore become a top priority for businesses in recent years and will most likely remain that way in 2022.
However, to offer an outstanding customer experience that creates a competitive advantage, it is crucial to fully understand each customer's individual journey with the company, including all relevant touchpoints and potential obstacles.
Customer journey mapping is a widely used method to understand these touchpoints, but it requires creating an analytical foundation for successfully optimizing the customer experience.
Customer journey mapping refers to the creation of a visualization that depicts every interaction that a customer has with a product, service, or brand. Companies use this common method to view their business from the customer's perspective.
All potential points of contact between a company and its customers and prospects are recorded to create a customer journey map. These can include online channels such as social media, the website or a display ad, as well as various offline channels such as shops, print mailings or recommendations from friends. User journeys are created that connect the various touchpoints in a specific order in which a customer will most likely experience them during their entire life cycle - from the first perception through the research activities to the purchase and subsequent customer loyalty activities. A common practice is to create different journey maps for different persona types.
Customer journey mapping is considered a standard practice and is a good starting point to better understand how customers interact with a company and how they move between touchpoints. It is particularly useful in internal communication to align employees with a more customer-oriented corporate culture.
Nevertheless, for various reasons, customer journey mapping fails to provide a complete picture of the actual customer journey, because:
- Even if the journeys of different persona types are depicted, these represent only a small, representative section of the journeys actually taking place. It is important to recognize that each customer's journey is unique. When you have thousands or even millions of customers, it means thousands and millions of different journeys. Since personalization is one of the most important drivers of the customer experience, a more detailed view of the individual journeys is required.
- Customer journey maps are usually created by a company's employees. It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that we know our customers better than we actually do. Therefore, “journey maps” often suffer from bias and represent an ideal or perceived journey rather than a realistic one. This makes it difficult to identify actual obstacles within a journey.
- Customer journey maps represent the customer journey at a specific point in time. With the rather static approach of customer journey mapping, however, it is very difficult to map the constantly changing market environment and customer needs. This becomes particularly clear when one considers the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on customer behavior. According to a recent study by Adobe, 56% of existing customers have changed the way they research and buy a product. In addition, over 50% have changed the average value of their shopping cart and are now interested in different products than before. While the pandemic is a special event that affected everyone, there are a number of other events that can, however, affect an individual's journey just as profoundly – pointing out the importance of personalization along the customer journey.
- Due to the generic nature of journey mapping, it is difficult to conduct specific actions while a single customer is already within the customer journey. This applies, for instance, to the detection and prevention of churn.
The significance of the limitations of customer journey mapping is confirmed by a Gartner study which revealed that 82% of companies use customer journey maps, but only 47% are able to use them effectively and achieve a return on investment (ROI) from the time invested in creating them. (Source: Apteco)