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August 16, 2018   |   9 min read

Customer Core® Series Pt. 2 | Fluidity in the Customer Journey

Customer journey maps help you understand how customers move through the buying process—uncovering ways to engage along the way. The problem with journey maps is that they don't consider the fluid way people prefer to shop these days. As discussed in the first part of this CX series, the world we live in is an omnichannel, always-on conglomeration of companies fighting for attention. The buying process is no longer linear. Most of the time, there’s more than just one way that people go through the journey.

Like personas, journey maps as a term have been used in marketing circles for 20+ years. Unlike personas, they not only vary immensely from firm to firm, but they've also completely transformed over the last two decades. Different variances yield different methodologies; every firm has their “secret sauce” recipe when it comes to research and composition of the artifact.

Buying has become easier, yet somehow so much harder.

While the methodologies and outputs vary, most customer journey maps are comprised of similar sets of information:

  • Touchpoints
  • Channels
  • Stages or Steps
  • Actions
  • Goals
  • Emotions

So, what's missing? Think about how you personally like to shop. Depending on the item, you will likely turn to an online retailer or favorite brick-and-mortar. Some people just need the sensory experience of touching and seeing the items firsthand; others are happy to buy with one-click on Amazon. Take me for example; I browse online for all of my options. Recently, I purchased a couch. These are just some of the considerations I had to account for:

  • Could I sit on it in person to test it out?
  • If I couldn’t see it in a store, was I OK with that?
  • Would it be durable enough for my dogs?
  • What fabric, color and style?
  • Could I trust this company?
  • What’s the return policy?
  • Were there reviews to reinforce my choice?
  • How long was I willing to wait?
  • Was this an investment or a “for now” piece?
  • How do I know which brands create the best couches?

The list goes on and on and on. I fretted over the decision for a full year. I also spent a lot of time faux-buying, almost getting to the checkout only to abandon my cart last minute. All of these considerations were made easier and harder (in true double-edged sword fashion) by the online experience. The infinite options available make for a convoluted mess of a customer journey map. I pity anyone tasked with making one based on my monstrous shopping habits…

If you think about it though, you’ve probably gone through a similar exercise. You’ve taken your time, done your research and backed out several times throughout the buying process. Individually, we all have our scattered ways of shopping—and that's precisely my point. If each customer embarks on the journey in their own way, why are customer journey maps seemingly so impersonal?

You can’t create a 1:1 journey map for everyone.

That would be maddening, though I'm sure one day the right set of algorithms will do it for us in a brilliant display of technological might and terror. Until our computer overlords reign, we at Mindstream Interactive work to fill in the gaps. How do we account for the differences in shopping habits without that 1:1 customization?

Internal & External Research:

When we create customer journey maps, we consider internal team opinions as well as those from actual customers. Work sessions with internal stakeholders help create the assumed customer journey. Sometimes stakeholders are relatively hands-off; the real customer journey might be foreign to them. Mapping the journey isn’t just incredibly insightful, but it helps increase buy-in on projects where select stakeholders might not see the value or have all the information.

Next, we talk to actual customers. We ask them to detail their journey, picking up on deficiencies in the organizational understanding. The juxtaposition of the two creates a runway for brand opportunities, as well as a newfound understanding of the real journey. This makes the journey actionable. It also creates space for touchpoints and other areas where the brand has permission to step in and help the consumer, or even sway their decision.

Decision-Based Mindsets:

We see many customer journey maps fail to capture the consumer mindset at given stages. While we do take into consideration stages of the journey—just like traditional journey maps—we also layer in decision-making rooted in psychology. We consider what they’re doing at specific markers, and if those actions splinter into several different decision-making mindsets. By accounting for mindsets, they help us get closer to the non-linear way people shop.

What do I mean by decision-based mindsets? Recall my couch fiasco. Throughout the process, I bounced in and out of the researching stage and a learning mindset. I wanted to know every option, price and review for brands in which I was interested. That happened on the same channels… every time. People are creatures of habit.

Most journey maps don't account for bouncing back and forth, nor analyze varying mindsets. We evolved our journey maps to include these to produce actionable pieces and parts for the organization. If a brand understands all of its customers’ mindsets, it can create variances on the journey internally. This becomes a flexible tool able to be used and reused within the organization.

Variances in Activities:

The way you shop changes depending on your mood, timeline or general impulsivity. Accordingly, we create variations in the journey map trajectory based on what caused the need for the item initially. My shopping activities would’ve been drastically different if I had to buy a couch because my existing one broke, or if I found my dream couch on sale.

Fluctuations in purchase motivation affect the length of the journey. They also affect the level of happiness the customer has when they do purchase. If I had to buy a couch because my dogs destroyed my current one, there wouldn’t be time to review my purchase decision, nor could I order a custom dream couch. Ultimately, I would be satisfied but not as much as if I’d gotten exactly what I wanted.

The shifts in journey length and stage go on to impact the touchpoints and opportunities brands have to engage their customers. This means they need to make every communication count more than before.

How did my couch shopping turnout? I bought online—sight unseen—from a company I hadn’t previously heard of. It took four months from purchase to delivery. Guess what: I couldn’t be happier with my decision. My experience throughout the journey with Interior Define helped me make up my mind.

Customer journey maps should be actionable.

Marketers usually move on to the next initiative once personas and customer journey maps are created. Despite their inherent value as marketing tools, they're often missing the piece that helps organizations understand where to go next. Impact charts are that missing piece. They compile the learnings from both artifacts into a roadmap of actionable items that brands can execute on in the short, medium and long-term.

Next time, we talk impact charts!

This article is a three-part series centered around our Customer Core® offering. Exclusive to Mindstream, this workshop creates actionable artifacts for your business to improve its customer experience. We will work with you to tailor Customer Core to your organization's needs. The exercise can be done in as little as 6-8 weeks depending on the research path we pursue.

Check back for more information on part three of our Customer Core article series: impact charts. If you’d rather learn more now, contact us for more information on how we can help your company decode its customers and the untapped opportunities with them.

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