Written by: Maggie Robinson, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Your customer journey is the route your customers take from thinking about purchasing to the moment they receive your product or service. With Christmas around the corner and more people looking to avoid shopping in person, getting your online customer journey sorted now could make it a merry Christmas all around.
It seems obvious that you want to make the customer journey as simple as possible for your customers. But in reality, it’s often overlooked as business owners concentrate on their own processes and experiences. For example, your website might have a great system for letting you know about orders and stock levels, but for your customer, it may be clumsy and time-consuming.
Putting obstacles in the way of the purchase makes it more likely your customer will give up and go elsewhere, but understanding your customer journey means you can spot potential problems and make the process quicker and easier for your customer.
Understanding your customer journey
To get a true understanding of your customer journey, you need to put yourself in their place. Hopefully, you already have a good idea of who your ideal customer is, so you should know or be able to find out how they’re likely to buy. Think about whether it’s likely to be a planned purchase or an impulse buy. Do they use a computer, or a phone or tablet? What time are they likely to be browsing? All this and more will inform your customer journey.
But the customer journey starts even earlier than this. What is it that makes your ideal customer think about making a purchase? Is it something they buy regularly, do they need to solve a problem, is it a luxury product? Whatever the reason, you need to make sure you’re at the right place at the right time to catch them when they move to make that purchase.
Taking actions such as working on your website SEO, for example, can help to put your name in front of your customer when they’re looking to solve that problem, so you’re the one they go to for their solution.
Getting to your website isn’t the end of it.
You may think that once your customer has reached your website, the deal is almost done, but that’s not the case. The internet has made it easier to compare products and services than ever before – people even price check on their phone while standing in front of a product in a shop.
Once your customer has found you, you need to make the process of buying as quick and easy as you can. As well as making it a more enjoyable experience for your customer, it also means there’s less chance of them abandoning their purchase and looking elsewhere – something that happens between 60% and 80% of purchases for most online retailers.
This is particularly relevant now, as coronavirus procedures have forced many businesses to change how they do things. Those businesses that have made things clear and simple for their customers seem to be the ones faring better. Businesses that have made it difficult for customers have suffered – life is complicated enough right now. People don’t want more problems to overcome and will simply go elsewhere.
Common hurdles in the customer journey
While it’s impossible to know exactly what is going on in your customer's mind, you can get a good idea of possible problems by examining how your customers behave. For example, if you have lots of customers adding items to their basket, but abandoning at checkout, maybe your shipping costs are off-putting? If people browse your site but don’t buy, perhaps you’re not competitive enough or aren’t providing enough information about your products.
How to identify and solve these problems
As mentioned above, you need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Let’s take the example of a business selling baby clothes online. A primary customer persona would be new parents – they need to buy new clothes for their baby, but have lots of choice. Their motivation is necessary, but many other factors come into it – price, quality, look, and sizing. This business needs to make it easy to see what the clothes look like, which price bracket they’re in, what the clothes are made of and how they fit.
For example, children’s clothes can be sold by age or by size in cm. Depending on where your customer is based, they may not have the time or inclination to make the conversion themselves. If someone is looking for clothes for a newborn and the website is full of pictures of toddlers and young children, the parents may assume that the site has nothing for them and leave before they even get to the clothes.
On the other hand, another customer persona could be grandparents looking to buy gifts. This group has a different motivation. They want to provide a ‘treat,’ so they may be willing to take more time sifting through options and making their choices.
The best way to find out what is happening is by going through each customer journey, step-by-step. Traditionally, this was a nice, simple process, also referred to as the marketing funnel: Awareness > Interest > Desire > Action
There have been lots of iterations of this over time, but it works on the assumption that customers follow a set process.
However, the increase in online shops has changed our shopping habits, and that simple process can now look like a spider’s web, including things like website visits, social media recommendations, influencer suggestions, wish lists, in-person visits with various paths and repetitions in a single customer’s journey.
Making sense of the spider’s web
It can feel like tracking your customer journey is an impossible task, but there are many ways to tackle noting all the interactions and decision-making points a particular customer encounters. Once you’ve done this, you should be able to see the steps in your particular journey, which could be putting people off buying from you.
If you struggle to see things from another perspective or need help in identifying those customers and the potential sticking points in their journey, a marketing expert will be able to help. Contact Smart Thinking Consultancy or email Maggie.
Maggie Robinson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Maggie Robinson is the founder of Smart Thinking Consultancy and works with businesses across the UK, supporting their digital and traditional marketing needs.
Maggie’s all-around approach allows businesses to benefit from her knowledge and experience of all aspects of marketing, rather than being tied to just one activity.
From website health checks to Google ads, brand awareness to marketing campaigns, Smart Thinking Consultancy can help your business achieve its goals. Whether you need one-off assistance with a single aspect of your marketing or a full, cohesive strategy, Maggie has the knowledge and experience you need.
Maggie is a former South West board member and current Fellow at the Chartered Institute of Marketing. She has worked with well-known household brands as well as many small to medium-sized companies.