Journey mapping pitfalls can lead retailers astray

Discussion
Sep 09, 2015

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a series of recent articles from Lenati’s blog.

While journey maps provide a view of customer experience that may not come naturally from within the walls of a corporation, companies can be led astray if the mapping exercise is not conducted effectively. Three of the most common pitfalls of customer journey mapping include:

Selecting the wrong journey mapping framework

A foundational component of customer journey mapping is the map itself — the framework developed to capture the outputs of the mapping process. The framework defines the scope and orientation of the mapping exercise, and can encourage or limit certain types of insights from being explored. But not all frameworks are created equal.

Lenati customer journey diagram

Source: Lenati

For example, is it important to uncover and document competitor offerings and resulting influences on your own customers’ journey? How important is it to have deep channel experiences identified (online, in-store, etc.)? Is your customers’ lifecycle with your brand linear (subscription businesses) or is it more circular (retail)? These are key considerations when defining the boundaries of your journey mapping exercise and can either help you chart an effective course or lead you astray.

Applying an organizational view vs. a customer perspective

Companies often fall into the trap of approaching the customer journey from the perspective of institutional touch points (retail store experiences, websites, customer service calls, etc.) rather than looking at customers’ holistic experiences with the brand from the customer lens. This is a common and easy trap, as departmental teams are internally organized around corporate functions that own a piece (but not the whole) of the customer experience. This is a problem because people tend to orient toward what they know deeply, producing an "inside-out" bias that fails to achieve the goal of a customer-centric view of the journey.

A customer journey begins long before customers actually interact directly with a company, and their journey involves decisions and emotions that go beyond an experience or touch point with a company.

Assuming a common journey

Marketers tend to assume the customer journey is not diverse and that customers follow a common path. Often, this error follows from a marketing department’s assumption that they know their customers very well and that they have no "blind spots" regarding the customer journey. Other times, the error stems from a simple lack of appreciation for the nuances of the journey’s twists and turns.

Regardless of the root cause, assuming that there is a common journey can be the downfall of a journey mapping effort as it fails to generate an accurate depiction of the customer experience. Each customer moves through the journey in their own way and the challenge for marketers is to determine the minimum viable number of journeys that are required to sufficiently represent the varied journeys that take place.

What are some common faults made when mapping the decision-making and purchase journeys of consumers? Would you add any pitfalls or advice to that mentioned to the article?

Braintrust
"The law of averages can kill you. The average statistic is that 80 percent-plus of consumers begin their journey online. But where do they go first? How many websites? How important is social media? It depends."
"Picking up on Dr. Needel’s post, if shopping is often done habitually (and there is likely little controversy about that), how can manufacturers and retailers either interrupt those behaviors or keep them from being interrupted (as strategically determined to the best of their abilities)?"

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11 Comments on "Journey mapping pitfalls can lead retailers astray"

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Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

I agree with Clay’s analysis, especially “A customer journey begins long before customers actually interact directly with a company.” Unless it’s a repeat loyal customer, the journey begins at the first notion of a need or want, which may have nothing to do with a particular product or brand.

There may be other potential pitfalls, but it’s important to note that personas need to be developed first and then journey maps made to reflect those personas, to keep them as focused and accurate as possible.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust

The law of averages can kill you.

The average statistic is that 80 percent-plus of consumers begin their journey online. But where do they go first? How many websites? How important is social media? It depends.

The challenge is that even for individuals, the shopping journey is “situational.” If a customer is really pressed for time, their journey might be only online with preference for one-day delivery shipped to home.

Customer journeys also vary greatly by category. If customers are shopping for apparel, they might prefer the experience of seeing things first-hand in-store. A lot also depends upon the size and price point of the item.

The only safe bet regarding “customer journeys” is that shopping is now a process, not an event. Retailers need to be a part of the process and engage at as many of the consumer touch points as possible.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Assuming journeys actually exist is a major fault. For most products we buy, habit rather than journey describes our behavior. This is the topic of my upcoming speech at ESOMAR.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust
I have such mixed emotions in response to this piece. First, it’s a darn good article and, as far as I can recollect, the first to actually recognize a quantum component of the retail experience. “A customer journey begins long before customers actually interact directly with a company … ” That may have been a throwaway line but it’s the most important insight in the article. What the quantum folks tell us is that everything is energy and all energy is always connected. Before the customer even knows you exist the energy of the store, as manifested by the spirit of the people, the displays, the selection, the ease of parking, the price and so on, is connecting to the energy of that potential customer. Retail will transform when we stop trying to understand the process mechanistically and start seeing it as an energetic manifestation. We’re looking for consumer love in all the wrong places. So that simple line made my day. The other part of me wonders when all this desperate attempting to turn people into predictable robots will saturate and suffocate the human soul. We are on the edge of just too much and too much will kill… Read more »
Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

When we work with our clients on journey mapping, we look at a number of the less obvious “touch points” and “impact points.” By the way, we use “touch points” to describe the customer’s interaction with the company. “Impact points” happen behind the scenes and impact the “touch points.”

First, we try and go back to the moment a customer even thinks that they might want to buy what we offer. What marketing or advertising messages are they receiving? What experiences do they have before they get in the car to drive over to our store or go online to browse on our website? Then, what happens after the sale? Beyond the obvious touch points, what is the total experience that our customers have with us?

Also, be sure to include different customer scenarios. It can be a first time shopper. It can be a customer making a return or exchange. There can me multiple journey maps for different customers’ interactions with the retailer.

Finally, take a look at the “impact points.” It should include all departments, which essentially means all employees. Many employees feel they never impact the customer, but they do. Everyone needs to know where they impact the customer’s journey.

David Zahn
Guest

Picking up on Dr. Needel’s post, if shopping is often done habitually (and there is likely little controversy about that), how can manufacturers and retailers either interrupt those behaviors or keep them from being interrupted (as strategically determined to the best of their abilities)? A “journey map” may not be THE answer, however, I suspect ALL of us on this site would want to be able to figure out “if not that, then what?”

I am in the camp that the shopper is NOT always fueled or motivated the same on each trip, so I worry that a journey map may fall short of intended insights. Yet, until something better is offered, it is at least something. Refine it, work with it, challenge it, but I am not ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Michael Twitty
Guest
Michael Twitty
2 years 1 month ago

Clay Walton-House is right, well-done research to develop customer journeys can be very valuable. Having said this, the potential pitfalls are numerous, going well beyond those mentioned in this brief piece. At the core of all of such pitfalls is the absence of a clear understanding of the practical uses for such research or an idea of which applications of such research will result in the greatest ROI. The journeys themselves are useful when they begin at the broadest understanding of the paths to satisfy a given consumer need, from first intent all the way through both category and brand purchase, including the triggers and barriers. For practical results in frequently purchased categories, it is also important to separate the journeys of first-time buyers from repeat purchasers.

In sum, yes, this kind of research can be misleading and there are many ways to do it poorly. As with most research, it pays to have a clear understanding of how to use the results to best advantage—and as you might expect, such knowledge comes from experience using the end results.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

One of the biggest pitfalls I see in journey mapping is limiting the journey to those touchpoints the brand is already offering. A good way to address this is to add the identification of “exit” points to the journey. At what points along the journey might the customer be prone to exit? What might they need to continue along their path to purchase?

The trick is knowing what questions to ask as you move along the journey. Is there an opportunity to share at this point, what interaction might they want, is there an experience that could benefit the shopper here? It boils down to what the customer needs at each point in order for them to continue their journey.

And that’s my 2 cents.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

The three issues listed are very true, in my experience. Also, you need to be clear and concise in your definition of the journey steps. You need to articulate the steps in how they are affected by the individual consumer journey and how different those steps can be, as the third point in the article mentions.

Vahe Katros
Guest
I read the article, recognized they are part of a series, so this feedback is probably covered in other pieces, but here are some thoughts sparked by the piece arrived at during my journey to work. (This is no disrespect towards Lenati, they’ve walked the walk. These are just water cooler remarks.) 1. This article implies several journeys: The customer’s journey The retailer’s journey into designing a specific journey The retailer’s journey into being able to teach how to lead a journey to others in their organization The journey of a guide trying to communicate how to lead a journey to retailers 2. Why are people leaving to go off on the journey? Dissatisfaction Opportunity Adventure Survival/Necessity A better future 3. And what of this journey? is it to a new land? across town? Do they speak my language there? are they going with a guide? Tell me about this guide. 4. And what about the traveler? Have they traveled before? Are they traveling alone? Who is going on the trip? What skills and emotional and intellectual skills do they have (critical thinking skills)? How is this trip financed? 5. The map is not the terrain, how does one convey… Read more »
Seeta Hariharan
Guest

Customer journey mapping is not a one-size-fits-all exercise. I agree with Clay Walton-House that a customer journey begins much earlier and extends beyond a singular experience or touch point.

In fact, the very decision to initially engage any vendor is based on an individual accruing emotions and preferences for improving, simplifying and enjoying life.

The digitally-connected customer journey is a continuum that crosses boundaries. To successfully map decision-making and the purchase journeys of consumers, retailers need to take a much broader view to develop the depth of intelligence that will enable them to deliver a seamless and rewarding customer experience. This includes an ability to collect and integrate data with new sources of information to get a more comprehensive view of the full customer experience ecosystem. Additionally, they may need to partner with other companies and share data for a deeper understanding of the customer and more accurate journey mapping. Ultimately, the result is an ability to deliver an exceptional customer experience that offers a combination of non-traditional goods that no one single business can provide alone.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The law of averages can kill you. The average statistic is that 80 percent-plus of consumers begin their journey online. But where do they go first? How many websites? How important is social media? It depends."
"Picking up on Dr. Needel’s post, if shopping is often done habitually (and there is likely little controversy about that), how can manufacturers and retailers either interrupt those behaviors or keep them from being interrupted (as strategically determined to the best of their abilities)?"

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