Why Journey Mapping is Critical to Your Business

Oct 04, 2013

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

In a recent blog, Forrester senior analyst Jonathan Browne put out this not-so-gentle reminder to take a step back when it comes to journey mapping.

"Most of us would like to think that we’re more customer-centric than that individual," he wrote. "However, unless we check the self-centered tendencies of our organizations, we run the risk of being every bit as difficult to deal with — expecting customers to adapt to our language, practices, and policies. That won’t cut it anymore because customers have plenty of options. Companies that want to thrive today had better understand how to meet or exceed their customers’ expectations throughout their journeys."

Indeed, with the embracement of social media and mobile, new channels have become integrated into customer journeys, requiring their own journey maps. In cases where products have a customer following that offer peer-to-peer help, a new product purchase journey for the social customer may include "feedback from community," or elimination of "call hotline" replaced by "chat with helpdesk," and so on.

The social customer has also come to expect a higher level of speed, efficiency and accessibility to brands yet also wants the flexibility to interact across both the new and traditional channels.

With that in mind, here is a five-point refresher course to snap some life back into those journey maps:

Customer’s Perspective: The best journey maps are always created based on ethnographic research, contextual interviews and, increasingly, analysis of social data. With the advent of social media, a dataset now exists upon which to conduct virtual ethnography; a process is much more accessible and cost-effective than ever before.

Easy for Everyone:
We’ve all had the experience where we’ve been charged with "embedding" a process or measurement throughout the organization. Journey maps use the language of the customer mapped to interactions — a language that marketing, operations, senior management and the front line understand.

Blind to Politics: Properly executed and measured, your journey map and associated customer feedback will highlight the barriers and the enablers in the journey.

All Interactions: Journey maps are at their best when they are used to map all customer interactions across the journey. As such, they can help develop an understanding of common pain points and challenges across all the "moments of truth" in different experiences and across different customer personas.

No single customer journey: Nearly all explanations of the customer journey include stages described as variants of Awareness, Research, Evaluation, Decision and Purchase. Many add additional post-acquisition stages like Use, Support/Service and Long-term Commitment. If you are looking to drive long-term commitment to buy and advocate, you need to address the post-purchase experiences that heavily affect a customer’s willingness to repurchase and evangelize for your brand.

What are some common missteps when it comes to customer journey map approaches? How has social media altered the process of creating customer journey maps?

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11 Comments on "Why Journey Mapping is Critical to Your Business"

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Ken Lonyai

Anyone that is responsible for delivering effective UX (user experience) knows the importance of journey mapping – it’s a staple of the UX process along with creating personas to represent those on the “journey.” One difficulty in doing this effectively in a retail environment can be the number of personas to consider. There is no one size fits all, especially when it comes to personas, unless it’s a very targeted store like Lululemon. So for a retailer, say Macy’s, that can easily identify a dozen or more personas, that may mean just as many journey maps. Tailoring retail experiences and efficiencies can’t be done twelve different ways, so only the common elements get addressed, reducing effectiveness. For those boutique stores that can cull down to two or three personas that represent 80% of clientele, journey mapping can become more targeted and useful.

A common trap for retailers is not considering journeys that can envelope any combination of in-store, online, or mobile.

Brian Fletcher
Brian Fletcher
4 years 19 days ago

In our consumer research work we do see there are no two customers that move through an environment the same way. What we often find is that a retailer may love the flow or visual of a shopping experience but get ‘caught up’ in their own rationale and leave the customer to fend for themselves. This ends up frustrating the customer and results in lost sales and decreased loyalty. Associating customer feedback will highlight the barriers and areas to develop further in the journey to appeal to the vast majority. This step, often neglected due to time and budget constraints, can reap real rewards in the long term.

Brian Bolten
Brian Bolten
4 years 19 days ago

When we do this exercise for large commerce partners, the ask is always for several versions/personae. Be careful to first prioritize where the opportunity is, and where investments/activation efforts are available first, so that the exercise doesn’t end up on a shelf somewhere with no ability to bring to life.

Additionally, while this is obviously important for UX as folks have mentioned, the ability to look on a holistic (omni-channel if you are so inclined to use buzzwords) perspective is even more important. The site experience is important, but is only one element of a consumer’s relationship with the brand.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

The social media impact has made the conversation with consumers truly interactive in real time. That is extremely difficult for companies to incorporate because it includes a heavy investment in listening and integration activities. To make the process even more difficult, this can not be accomplished by shifting employees over from other activities, because all the other channels and forms of communication are still active. Making this transition is critical for any company that truly claims to be consumer-centric.

Ryan Mathews

You can map movement but not necessarily motivation. Knowing what someone did isn’t the same thing as knowing why they did it or – even worse – imposing meaning where none, or an alternate, may exist.

To the degree that you buy in to journey mapping, social media just makes it more complex.

Martin Mehalchin

Common mistakes include focusing too narrowly on one customer type’s path to purchase or generalizing common behaviors at the expense of missing “outliers” (more unusual paths, detours, and stops) that could yield rich opportunities for product or service differentiation. One example is the exclusion of one-time or former customers. Most maps focus either on existing customers or on potential customers who have never experienced the brand. Diving deeply into the experience of one-time and other former customers presents a rich opportunity for identifying what drew them to the product or service in the first place, what pulled them away, and opportunities for product or organizational improvements.

Ralph Jacobson

In the years that we have worked with retailers AND CPG brands on customer journey maps, one of the first steps that is often either ignored or glossed over too quickly is the defining of the shopper personas. The persona definition needs to encompass all potential types of shoppers defined by lifestyle, age, shopping channel, etc. The advent of social channels only adds another criteria to the list.

Jason Goldberg
While I still think CJM is a useful tool, I do think that modern complexity has diminished its value. We used to talk about doing CJM’s for each “Persona” but that’s no longer good enough. Today we need to think about a number of independent variables that dramatically change the shoppers journey: Persona (attributes of a shopper that tend to be static such as demographics and psychographics) Cognitive Style (Hard-wired temperaments that are independent of persona such as Myers-Briggs, DISC, etc…) Shopping Role/Mode (Browsing, Bargin-Activated, etc…) Context (everything that shopper has implicitly and explicitly shared with us) Then consider that the journey is no longer linear. Consumers are routinely exposed to a bunch of social reviews of products on by their peers on a social network, i.e. “consideration data” which they file away in their subconscious (such as great destinations for a trip), only to be accessed later, when their “interest” is triggered (realize they have some vacation time coming up). So each shopper’s journey is so unique that they can’t be disaggregated into a manageable set of ‘customer journey happy paths any longer (or you would need an awful lot of post-it notes to do it). These days, I… Read more »
Vahe Katros

Design thinking is fascinating, but failure to think about design doing is the misstep. Design doing cares about how to convert ideas into actions. Maps are fun, changing culture, not so much.

How we map the journey is higher up on Maslow’s hierarchy – at this point, we have some serious cultural limitations that need to be addressed relating to how we innovate as an industry. But perhaps it is articles and discussions like this that will be the spark for improving the methods and mindsets related to figuring out what’s next.

Peter Charness

How can there be any debate as to the value of understanding the customer(s), their motivations and the manner in which they evaluate and purchase product? Traditional segmentation alone is part of the story, but doesn’t capture the fact that within a single focused segment could be multiple purchase paths, for example, the impulse buyer vs. the careful and researching buyer. The methods that a retailer would use to communicate with the different types in this same segment need to vary.

Jennifer Kramp
Jennifer Kramp
4 years 5 days ago

Thanks for the 5-point refresher — very useful info! In response to your question about mapping missteps, one that I’ve seen pertains to mapping methods. I’ve seen problems arise when mappers try to represent all of the necessary details of a customer journey in a linear fashion on a single map canvas (think PowerPoint or Visio, etc.) Maps like these can be hard to understand, update and share with others.

When I map a customer journey, I want to be able to attach qualitative and quantitative customer and business data to all of the touchpoints and actions represented on the map so I can grade their performance and analyze their effectiveness from both a business and customer perspective. It’s hard to represent all of this data on a linear map.

There are a variety of ways to create maps, but using a purpose-built mapping tool (rather than a diagramming tool) that allows for the creation of a “3-D,” ultra-detailed map of the customer journey is essential in order to fully visualize and understand the complete customer experience across all channels and lines of business.



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