Defining the modern customer journey

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Understanding online customer behaviour is becoming increasingly important for businesses as the internet becomes the dominant marketplace. The customer journey is how a user gets to the stage of purchasing on the internet. Some users go online with the intent of purchasing a specific product, whereas others browse, find an item they like, and may read reviews before making a purchase. 

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Visibility of your customers’ behaviour online can help you use the customer journey for marketing purposes, improving your customers experience online and, ultimately, increasing sales. Research from digital marketing experts Search Laboratory has outlined everything you need to know about the modern customer journey, including how you can define yours to help make your brand more successful online. 

Understanding technologies influence on the customer journey

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Before defining your customer journey, it’s important your online experience is optimised for the modern user. The following technologies have had a huge influence on the modern customer journey.

Smartphones

The introduction of smartphones means users now have 24-hour access to the internet via handheld devices. This quick access means that many users now use their mobiles for online shopping, making these devices an invaluable part of the customer journey. 

According to Google, 40% of consumers prefer to do all their online shopping through their smartphone. This means businesses must ensure their website is optimized for mobile, otherwise they risk losing a huge percentage of potential customers to competitors. 

Voice Search

By 2020, 50%of all searches could be done through voice command. This will make voice search a critical part of the customer journey, with users expecting the ability to make purchases without touching a button. 

Voice search is currently limited to simple queries, but businesses who are prepared to make changes to accommodate voice search will be a step ahead of their competitors. To do this, brands should make it possible for their users to make an online purchase just using voice commands. 

Online Reviews

The vastness of the internet now means users have thousands of options to choose from when looking for a specific product. This has led to a surge in popularity for online reviews. Customers are reliant on reviews to make sure they’re spending their money wisely, in fact, 91% of consumers said they read reviews before making a purchase.

Online reviews now play an important role in the modern customer journey. Adding these to your site will help build trust between consumers and your company. This trustworthiness adds authority to your brand, improving your SEO endeavours. 

Social media and online influencers

The exponential rise of social media has made it a critical part of the customer journey. Many users start their journey on social media, with platforms offering the perfect opportunity to get your brand in front of a huge audience. With social media comes the use of social media influencers. Accounts with a big following have the power to influence the customer journey.

Instagram recently introduced the option to directly buy products through posts on these influencer channels. Companies need to make sure they’re using social media to promote their brand and products, or risk missing out on a huge target market. 

Artificial Intelligence

The use of AI is becoming increasingly prominent in business. The first AI tech to emerge is in the form of chatbots on websites. These chatbots act as 24-hour customer service. Currently, they only answer simplistic queries, but they can be used by businesses to guide customers to the product they’re searching for. 

AI algorithms can also be used to monitor customer behaviour, to make sure the right message is sent to the right customer at an opportune moment. This can prove to be an extremely useful marketing tool. Businesses need to recognise the value AI will soon have on the customer journey and take a forward-thinking approach. Adopt these services and use them to your advantage. 27% of consumers said they would use a chatbot to make a basic purchase. 

How to define your customer journey

Understanding the modern customer journey allows businesses to begin defining their own strategy. Insight into your customers’ behaviour online will help you optimize your website for conversions, guiding your customers to what they’re looking for, and ultimately, making a purchase.

Customer Personas

The first step of defining your customer journey is understanding exactly who your customers are. Once you know more about them you can cater specific marketing efforts toward that demographic. How old are they? How long do they spend on-site? What are their interests?

Customer personas are fictional representations that describe the varied personality traits and situational circumstances of your customers. Using web analytics, you should look to find out the following about visitors to your site:

  • Family setup (married, children, etc)
  • Educational background
  • Hobbies and interests

Web analytics will also give you visibility on user behaviour on your site. Setting goals through Google Analytics allows you to monitor how long they stay on-site, how many pages they visit, and how many conversions are made.

Don’t rely on opinions or assumptions, use this quantitative and qualitative data to make educated decisions when optimising your website.

Touchpoints

Identifying who your customers are provides insight into certain touchpoints on their journey. A touchpoint is where your brand and a customer come into contact. 

You should assess where you might come into contact with your customers. The following examples apply to most businesses:

  • Social media
  • Review sites
  • Website
  • YouTube adverts
  • Email

Once you’ve built a list of possible touchpoints you can assign them to the different personas you’ve found in your customer personas and use them to define your customer journey.

Mapping

Mapping out your customer journey using the information you’ve gathered is the final step. Put yourself in the mindset and the position of the user and guide yourself through the funnel. These include:

  • What emotions the customer is feeling at each stage
  • Their goals at this phase of the customer journey
  • The questions they need answering
  • The touchpoints they’re likely to use.

The research included the following example of a customer journey map:

These maps are used to reduce the bounce rate of your customers. For example, if you find that a high number of users are leaving on a particular page, you should focus your efforts on improving this area of your site. Analyse your website and ask yourself if each page is achieving its intended goals and offering the right service to the right customer. If it isn’t, your marketing or UX teams need to make improvements were necessary. The map should be updated as you continue to define your customer journey.

Understanding and defining your customer journey is an important aspect of modern marketing. Without it, businesses run the risk of falling behind competitors as users look for a better experience elsewhere. Using your customer journey to optimize your website will build brand authority, and ultimately, increase sales. 

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