If you want to build a modern retail brand, you have to create great omnichannel—online and in-store—experiences for your customers. Omnichannel shoppers are more valuable than customers who only engage with your brand in one place. In fact, surveys show they spend an average of 4% more in physical stores and 10% more online compared to customers who only shop online or who only shop in-store. Plus, the more channels you engage your customers on, the better. It not only helps you reach and influence them, but customers who interact with retail brands on multiple channels visit physical stores 23% more often over six months.
To improve your customer experience for these shoppers, you need to understand how they interact with your brand. You need to know what path they take from awareness to purchase. To do this, you can create a customer journey map by identifying who shops your brand and why.
Elements of a Customer Journey Map
A customer journey map illustrates the actions your customers take while engaging with your brand and the various touchpoints where they interact. Mapping your customer journey will help you learn more about your customers. You will be able to identify where they come from, what their goals are, how many times they interact with your brand before making a purchase, and more.
A customer journey map isn’t necessarily a straight line. Each of your customers’ journeys is different and one map won’t describe the experience of every customer. However, you can map a typical journey that a particular kind of customer might take. According to Hubspot, this will help you “get a sense of your customers’ motivations—their needs and pain points.”
A customer or buyer persona is a generalized representation of your target customer. It usually includes information on your customers’ demographics, behaviors, motivations, and goals. You should have a specific persona in mind when building their journey, so that it can reflect their experience. You can create as many maps as you have personas for your target customers.
“In fact, customer journey maps are much like personas. The difference being is that they focus more on tasks and questions. They also express the customer’s experience over time, rather than as a snapshot. That means the two work well together. A persona focuses on the person, while a customer journey map focuses on their experience,” says Paul Boag, a user experience consultant, author, and speaker.
Basing your customer journey map on a persona will give you a better understanding of your actual customers. It should demonstrate their typical behavior, thoughts, and feelings as they interact with your brand.
Touchpoints are every place and every way that a customer can interact with your brand. Common retail touchpoints include social media marketing, brand websites and apps, digital and physical advertising, merchandising in-stores, digital and physical experiences in-stores, conversations with store employees, emails, product use, and events. And the more touchpoints you have, the more necessary it becomes to understand your customer’s journey.
Because there are so many different touchpoints, not every customer will start off at the same one. “Part of customer journey mapping is identifying the touchpoints in order to optimize them….The point here is to identify your channels and stages, and then define areas where you and the customer cross paths,” writes Sarah Frazier on CustomerGauge.
Customer Life Cycle
A customer life cycle is the different phases a customer goes through as they become aware of and interact with your brand. To map their journey, you will list your brand’s touchpoints along their purchase life cycle. This life cycle can be broken up into several phases:
- Awareness: when a prospective customer first interacts with your brand—either in-store or online. This a great point for you to introduce your brand story.
- Knowledge: the discovery point when a customer interacts with a product and starts to look for the price.
- Consideration: when a customer decides if your product(s) is at a price they are comfortable with and starts looking for a specific size or style.
- Selection: when a customer chooses the model, type, or style of the product they want to buy.
- Buying: a customer’s experience of purchasing your product, from the packaging to their interaction with employees.
- Satisfaction: a customer’s overall experience with your product after purchasing.
- Retention and loyalty: when your customer returns to make more purchases from your brand.
- Advocacy: when a customer refers your brand or products to another person. This is the pinnacle moment of the customer experience. Once a customer is an advocate for your business, they’re more likely to turn into a loyal long-term customer.
Why You Should Create a Customer Journey Map
Mapping your customer journey can show you how to make your customer experience more consistent and personalized. According to a study by Forrester Research, retailers leading in customer experience outperform their competitors by over 20% in annual revenue growth.
Knowing how, when, and why shoppers engage with your brand will help you convert them into customers. In his article, Paul Boag says that “when we understand the journey users are on, we can identify the best moment to ask them to complete different calls to action. For example, if a user is early in their journey, it may be more appropriate to ask them to sign up for a newsletter than place an order.”
By mapping your customers’ journeys, you can get inside their heads and try to see things from their perspective. This will help you address your customers needs and pain points in a better way. When you know what the gaps are in your customer experience, you can actually take action to fill them.
How to Map a Customer Journey
The first step you have to take in this process is to gather information and research on your customers. This can be from surveys or questionnaires, data on your customer demographics and purchasing behavior, in-store observations, and even personal interviews with your customers.
Your customer journey map can follow each phase of the life cycle above. However, you may want to start with a simplified version that maps to the main stages: awareness, conversion, and loyalty. The more detailed your map, the more it will help you identify where to adjust your customer experience strategy.
For each phase, you should outline your customer’s actions, motivations, questions, and the barriers that prevent them from moving on. Here’s how you can do this step-by-step:
1. Write a customer persona for your map.
Ecommerce platform Shopify explains that “it is best to create customer personas to help you envision what your ideal customer might be going through when seeking your product.” Many brands have several target customers that they could create personas for and map to a customer journey. However, you may want to stick to one persona and one journey map until you’re comfortable with this exercise.
In the persona, you should outline your customer’s demographics, background, lifestyle, challenges, and goals or needs. If you’re not sure where to start, look at your customer data or ask your customers some of these questions after they’ve made a purchase:
- How did you first hear about our brand?
- Why were you looking for the product that brought you to our store or website?
- How did you research the product?
- What goals were you trying to achieve or what needs are you fulfilling with the product?
- How long did you spend in our store or on our website?
- Why did you choose our store or product over another brand?
- Did you need help from a store employee or customer support to find the product you wanted?
Once you’ve created a persona based on data and research on your current customers, you can start building your map.
2. Identify your customer goals.
Write down each phase of the customer life cycle that you want to map. Shopify has a free template with personas and a customer journey map that you can adapt for your own store, or you can copy our spreadsheet to create your own.
Under each of the life cycle phases, list your persona’s goals or wants, including their thoughts and feelings, at that point in their journey. For example, in the awareness phase, your customer may feel like they want to look nicer and decide to update their wardrobe. In the buying phase, their goal would be to purchase new clothing from your store.
3. List your customer actions.
Below your customer goals, list the actions your customer takes to reach them in each phase of the journey. With the example above, if their goal is to update their wardrobe, one of their first actions might be to read a blog post on today’s fashion trends.
Listing your customer’s actions can show you where your brand succeeds or fails. According to Hubspot, “it’s important to recognize when customers are being expected to take too many actions to achieve their goals. Reducing the number of steps a customer needs to take can feel risky, but pays off in higher conversion rates.” In your store, reducing the actions they need to take could mean making it easier to complete a purchase. For example, if your customers have to search for a store employee in order to check out, try removing this barrier. You could make your registers easier to find or hire more staff.
4. Define your customer touchpoints.
For each action your customer takes, define the touchpoints at which they can engage with your brand. In the awareness phase, they might see an Instagram video from your brand, or pass your store on the street. If they’re in the consideration phase, the touchpoints could include comparing styles on your website against other retailers, interacting with your products by trying on items in your store, or engaging with your employees to learn more about where your products are made.
5. Make a map and analyze your results.
Once you’ve charted your customer’s goals, actions, and touchpoints for each phase, you can actually design a map or timeline to help you and your team visualize the journey. Then you need to analyze your map and look at the points where your brand might need to improve. If some phases have many touchpoints, but customers aren’t converting, step back and think about how you’re communicating. If there are too few touchpoints in a phase, you might need to establish more ways to engage with your audience. By analyzing your map, you can see where your customer’s needs are not being met. Meeting those needs will provide a valuable customer experience and establish your brand as a company that helps people solve their problems.
Now that you have your customer journey map, discover more ways you can improve your brick and mortar store through our video lessons.