It’s not news any more, but there’s a clear case to justify investment in customer experience. Aside from the ‘softer’ benefits of delivering better experiences which lead to delighted customers, Forrester Research now suggests that a better customer experience leads to greater loyalty and higher revenue growth across all industries.
For some other disciplines in marketing, thinking about the experience first has been the name of the game for some time now. brand marketing and product design are two great examples. However, for Performance Marketing, the quality of the experience has historically been secondary to campaign ROI or business performance. However, this way of working is simply not going to work any more.
In addition to the focus on experience quality, there are also threats facing performance marketing as an industry which require us to change. We’ve already seen from the proliferation of ad-blockers that customers are tired of the traditional advertising approach. The existential threat of machine learning also means that many tactical performance marketing jobs are likely to be automated in the near future. How many display planners do you need if you can use IBM Watson instead?
Given the scale of the opportunity in experience, and the threats that face us as in industry - it is clearly important that Performance Marketers find a way of reconciling quality of experience with quality of performance: matching up business objectives with customer objectives. How? With Customer Journey Mapping.
What is Customer Journey Mapping?
Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) is a process for mapping out and designing experiences in order to improve them. At its heart, CJM just requires you to research your customer and visualise their journey through all of your touchpoints. The process of collecting the research, visualising the journey, and getting stakeholders to collaborate on creating solutions is an incredibly powerful and cathartic process for a business, and enables some outputs which have an incredibly high likelihood of driving ROI.
How do I get started?
The CJM process can be divided up into 4 stages:
To begin, you need foundational research to understand your audience and their journey(s). At House of Kaizen we advocate for an integrative approach to research - blending behavioural data (such as web analytics) with attitudinal data (such as surveys and user testing). Typical insights which you’d want to uncover are:
Who your customers are
Who are your customers and how do they break down? Many performance marketing organisations still shy away from using personas and segmentation, however this is crucial for driving experience improvements.
Avoid demographic segmentation (which is at best limited and at worst reductive), and focus on behavioural traits. What behaviours do your audiences have in common? What are their wants and needs? What makes them different from other audiences? What problem are you solving for them? What are their needs and expectations of your brand?
Which touch points they interact with
There’s no single, linear journey any more. Once you’ve found out who your audiences are, pick one and observe how they behave. You need to understand which touchpoints different groups of customers prefer to interact with, and how they move between them. Very often, it’s at the intersection of two touch points where experiences can weaken (for instance, going from a paid search advert to a totally mismatched landing page). Some audiences may prefer social customer service. Others might still be writing letters to your head office. Only by studying this can you understand where opportunities might exist (relative to each audience), and how big those opportunities might be.
How those touchpoints perform
Once you’ve understood the audience and the journey, look at basic performance data to see how those touchpoints perform. It’s at this stage you’ll normally start to find exciting opportunities jumping out at you. To continue the analogy, a landing page with an 85% bounce rate from PPC might immediately demonstrate a problem area. But is it? To know for sure, you’d need to mix this performance data with:
What Customers Think
Use focus groups, user testing and surveying to find out what customers think of your touchpoints. Perhaps the 85% bounce rate means that your audience got everything they needed on that landing page and then left the site. Without asking them, you’ll never know.
One you have all of the information above, you have to begin visualising it. Whether you choose to do this in software, or on a big sheet of paper is up to you. Stick your timeline of channels across the top of your sheet. Against each touchpoint, include what performance information you have - whether that’s bounce rate, click through or even heatmaps.
For a basic CJM, along the left hand column, add some channels to demonstrate how a customer might be feeling at a given touchpoint, and any potential service solutions to those feelings - like this nice example from Virgin Airlines:
For a more complex map, you may choose to overlay more data. For example, the ‘desired state’ of each touchpoint (how would you like a customer to feel here?), the guiding principles which define your CX strategy, or even a graph of emotions over time.
Once you have all of your research, and the skeleton of a customer journey map - this is where the magic can begin. Your job now is to get a cross-functional team of people from around your business involved. Tech, product, finance, operations, marketing, sales - everyone has a role to play in creating excellent customer experiences.
Get everyone together in a room, and begin to work through the journey. Talk through your persona, and what you know about your audience. Talk through your audience’s journey through your touchpoints. What are they thinking, feeling, or doing at each given point? Do you think these points are performing well, or poorly?
Identify your key inflection points - where are the weakest parts of your journey that you need to improve? Where are the already good parts of your journey you want to emphasise and dial up?
Take these inflection points, and use them as a springboard to come up with ideas and hypotheses for how you could solve issues for customers while also driving business value.
By the end of the Workshop, you should have a clear idea of what the strong and weak parts of your journey are, and how you can begin to improve them. When you know the size of your audience and the performance of specific touch points too, you can quickly extrapolate out to create business cases for your improvements.
Then you can begin to prioritise these business cases for testing. Focus on the business cases which solve problems for your customers while also driving revenue for the business. In the event that there are a few of these, weight them by technical complexity. Easier to implement hypotheses should be tested first.
Then the last thing to do is to test and learn. Use lightweight methods of validation (wireframing, user testing, A/B testing) to determine if these solutions are likely to succeed, and then test them out. If they work, roll them out.
Once you’ve done all that - pat yourself on the back. Customer Journey Mapping isn’t an easy process, and can often require a lot of hard work, but it’s also a great way of really driving substantial change within an organisation. And once you’ve got your first set of results - your journey has changed - so it’s time to start all over again. Kaizen at its finest.