Customer expectations have never been higher. In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, people made big changes towards buying online and direct from brands, and this shift will only accelerate further in 2021. Bearing this in mind, it’s essential that businesses understand clearly the nature of the customer journey and how best to plan and deliver it for their audience.
The first step in journey planning is to define what it is you want to achieve. This will help you identify what journeys, stages/touchpoints to focus on. Objectives set should be SMART and clearly articulated at the beginning of the planning process. Having clear objectives helps to define the right KPIs for the overarching journey and the journey stages within, ensuring the best metrics are measured to determine the success of the journey.
To ensure there is a holistic approach to journey mapping and that clear articulations of success are defined, objectives should be set across three different areas:
- Business objectives – What does success look like for the business?
- Customer objectives – What does success look like in the customer base or in the market?
- Journey objectives – What does success look like in changed customer behaviours?
Next, it’s useful to identify and define capability gaps within the business that are holding back the successful delivery of a joined-up customer journey, which can then be prioritised for resolution. These could include:
- Identifying any departmental silos that could impact working processes and lead to conflicting objectives
- Identifying any essential resource constraints and understanding if these requirements can be met from other areas of the business
- Identifying any potential constraints from technical and data capabilities and understanding if these can be fixed
- Identifying any other critical business projects that could impact the timelines for implementation
Once these gaps are identified, complete a risks and dependencies log and update the key stakeholders to make sure everyone is aligned ahead of the journey planning workshop and the commencement of the implementation phase.
To ensure successful planning you need to have the right stakeholders involved from all relevant areas of the business. This should consist of a mix of strategic/managerial level and executional staff to ensure the workstream stays on track. It should also include essential skills from across the business to enable the right journey and solution to be developed based on the business objectives, the desired customer experience, processes and timelines, and technical capability.
Don’t forget to ensure that you know your target audience ahead of any mapping sessions – who is the proposed journey going to be serving? Ideally this knowledge will be based in data already, rather than best-guess hypotheses. Can your analysts help you to obtain this knowledge in advance?
To help achieve the objectives set, you need to make sure the customer journeys you map out are going to be actionable and can be tracked so success can be measured. To do this, you need to select the data points that provide actionable insight into the customers; these can be translated into customer needs that the journey plan can address and activate against.
Once you know the data points available, define the target audience you want to reach. Through the segmentation, you will identify the most relevant audience segments based on their needs as well as providing the most opportunity for value creation. Understanding the audience and identifying the right data points to use will allow you to translate the data into a persona, bringing the audience to life to help develop the most relevant targeting strategy and customer journey.
Personas go beyond segmentation and help bring the customer to life. Derived from data of ‘real customers’, personas are fictional and help provide a deeper understanding of your customers' needs by considering their attitudes, concerns, pain points and behaviours and the emotive elements (i.e. personal motivations, values) that help drive their decisions.
The characteristics of the persona imply deliberate choices about what you will and will not plan for in the journey - so it’s important that the chosen persona reflects the specific business opportunities and the primary target audience that have been identified earlier in the preparation.
The journey should be mapped for each audience persona based on the data points identified. The baseline journey will become the "default" journey that all customers within the target audience will receive.
From this, there could also be opportunities to personalise the baseline journey to sub-segments of the target audience. To establish whether it is worthwhile to create extra journey streams, you need to evaluate:
- The value-add to the business.
- Customer value to the business.
- Effort required and longevity of outputs.
Your next step will be to identify and map channel capabilities - the options are limitless. Plan your strategy around your audience needs; you may end up with a diagram that resembles the figure below:
Naturally, in today's digital landscape, customers can take one of many journeys, covering a range of different channels. As well as identifying who your target audience are and understanding their needs, you need to understand which channels they are most likely to be active in, which channels align to the journey stage, and which channels you can activate campaigns against. This is important to
- Maximise reach
- Provide relevance and personalisation
- Feed content development
- Encourage and drive the desired CTA
- Provide an optimal customer experience
When creating a customer journey, you need to identify and map the current channels used and the overall current channel capability, against each step of the journey. You also need to identify and align future channel capabilities you would like to use to provide the most relevant and optimal customer journey. Identifying future channels will provide direction for journey improvements and could help influence and prioritise technology roadmap capabilities.
It’s vital to focus primarily on the value moving through your funnel, avoiding the tendency to concentrate on quantities instead. Note that this can often mean rejigging team objectives down to the individual level, to instil this mindset successfully. Ensure that reporting is shaped around the new value focus, and convey this both upwards and downwards to negate any prior emphases on simply number of journeys completed, for instance. An example of a ‘golden’ customer journey map is as follows:
By understanding your customer database, how people interact with your platform and what their needs are, you will be able to identify key customer behaviours to deliver the right mixture of communications for each stage of the journey.
Most importantly, the successful implementation of journey planning will fuel your brand’s ability to deliver both business objectives and a successful connected customer experience at a time when consumer behaviour change is accelerating at an unprecedented rate.
If you'd like to see how we might help you address your journey mapping needs, or look at examples of our work, do get in touch. Or, if you'd like to read more on this topic, you can download our latest paper: Customers expect orchestrated journeys: your strategy, planning and tech must blend to deliver