The Secret to Mapping the Customer Journey
Retailers must map the customer journey in order to offer better advertisements and services as well as richer and deeper customer relationships.
The customer journey map is one of the most beneficial tools that a retailer can use. The map is an informative diagram that traces the steps that customers go through as they engage with retailers throughout their shopping experience. Customer journey maps can help retailers gain a holistic understanding of their customers and their shopping experiences.
The customer journey map is integral because it provides retailers with this unified view of the customer. However, the map becomes increasingly more complex as the number of touchpoints increases. Over the years, technology has significantly disrupted the customer journey because it has increased the number of touchpoints involved in shopping experiences––from mobile applications and social media platforms to online retail websites.
As a result, today’s customers can interact with and learn about retailers through a variety of devices and purchasing channels, whether it is through a billboard advertisement, a mobile application, or even through word-of-mouth. The surge in touchpoints – especially those that are digital – has rendered it difficult for retailers to effectively track each point in the customer journey.
Therefore, mapping this journey is important because it not only provides retailers with a holistic understanding of their customer base, but also helps them better inform their sales and marketing strategies, the customer relationship approaches they should take, and the behavior of their customers as they go through each step of the shopping experience: the pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase stages.
The Stages of the Customer Journey
The first step of the customer journey is the pre-purchase stage in which the customer is exposed to the retailer and their products, whether it is for the first or nth time. A new customer’s exposure to a retailer can come in the form of a Google search, a product suggestion on Amazon, a Facebook post from a friend, or even a billboard advertisement on a highway. And a returning customer’s exposure can come in the form of an email coupon, a customized Facebook advertisement, or a mobile application.
The pre-purchase stage of the customer journey is complex because it involves a variety of interactions across individual or multiple devices and channels. For example, imagine a customer, Jessica, is scrolling through her Facebook feed on her laptop at home when she comes across a post from a friend who is raving about a rain jacket from a clothing retailer. The friend links the retailer’s Facebook page in the post. Jessica clicks on the link and ultimately visits the retailer’s website.
This is a common scenario in today’s multichannel world. And if retailers want to be successful in the digital era, they must start by analyzing the beginning of each shopping journey — no matter how complex — and use that as a starting point for the customer journey map. This will allow retailers to better understand their customers, their purchasing habits, and the right ways to find, communicate, and build loyalty with them. Most importantly, however, it helps retailers to examine how their product proposition is communicated to customers and which communication and marketing tactics are most effective––whether it is generic paid search, display advertisements, organic search, social media, or referrals.
The second step of the customer journey is the purchase stage. This stage is not guaranteed, as customers do not always choose to purchase a product or service after their pre-purchase experience. However, in the event that a customer clears the pre-purchase stage, once they begin the purchase stage they are more likely to start using more devices and channels in order to reach a purchasing decision.
Recall Jessica from the previous example. After visiting the retailer’s website, Jessica browses through several rain jackets before she leaves for a doctor’s appointment and interrupts her customer journey. Later, as she sits in the doctor’s waiting room, she downloads the clothing retailer’s mobile application and continues the customer journey through mobile shopping. She explores several styles, checks out some of the discounts available, and does a Google search on rain jackets available from other retailers.
Finally, Jessica reaches home. By now she has done her research and narrowed down her search to two rain jacket styles from the retailer her friend recommended. It is too late today, so Jessica decides to purchase it later. The next day, while she is at work, Jessica decides to pass time by revisiting the retailer’s website and finalizing her purchase on the website.
After purchasing the rain jacket, Jessica enters the post-purchase stage where, once again, she leverages various channels and devices to continue the customer journey. For example, she might make a call to customer service to ask if she can exchange the rain jacket for a different color or, similar to her friend, she might turn to social media to express her satisfaction with the purchase.
The post-purchase stage is an important point in the customer journey because it can open new opportunities to restart the shopping journey. During the post-purchase stage, companies can utilize personalized retail strategies to establish loyalties with customers and encourage them to engage with the retailer again. For example, based on Jessica’s rain jacket purchase, the retailer can send customized discounts for other jackets or market new rainboot styles to Jessica on social media platforms such as Facebook.
Ultimately, both the purchase and post-purchase stage of the customer journey represent a complex intertwined process and the example outlined above serves as a very simplified scenario. In fact, in other scenarios customers may use more devices and channels before completing their purchase, or they may spend a longer period in the purchase stage. But, more often than not, customers may begin their customer journey then leave before the purchase stage.
Irrespective of the details of each customer journey, one challenge to mapping the journey emerges: siloed data. In order to effectively map Jessica’s journey from the pre-purchase to the post-purchase stage retailers need to be able to integrate data from various devices and channels in order to create a better retail experience. In this context, mapping the journey means the clothing retailer must have an IT architecture that enables the seamless integration of Jessica’s data from Facebook, her search history on the online store, and her interactions on the mobile application. Integrating these disparate sources of data not only assists the retailer in mapping Jessica’s customer journey, but also helps them create a single view her customer identity.
There is a clear advantage to building and mapping the customer journey. However, as the above scenario reveals, customer data lives everywhere and changes frequently––whether it is in the pre-purchase stage, where retailers first create a customer identity; the purchase stage, where retailers attempt to keep customers engaged; or the post-purchase stage, where retailers offer personalized discounts and loyalty rewards to establish a long-term relationship with the customer.
Throughout these stages, retailers use multiple systems and applications, including on-premise and cloud-based systems. Retailers must then connect these systems to each other and to external platforms and applications, such as social media. Data lives everywhere. This makes it difficult to integrate different data sources, applications and systems in order to create a holistic view of the customer. How can retailers better connect their internal and external systems in order to build better retail experiences and journeys for their customers? Fortunately, there is a solution for retailers.
MuleSoft can enable retailers tools to better map the customer journey with Anypoint Platform™. The Anypoint Platform is composed of resourceful open source components, including Mule as an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) and CloudHub™ (iPaaS). Mule as an ESB and CloudHub facilitate the mapping of the customer journey by integrating information across a variety of systems, applications and services. And MuleSoft’s Anypoint Connectors provide instant API connectivity to legacy systems as well as billing, marketing, CRM and other retail applications. The Anypoint Platform also includes DataWeave, which is a data mapping tool that offers retailers a graphical interface where they can identify customers and eliminate duplicate customer profiles.
Want to learn more? Explore how retailers can better map the customer journey through data integration solutions and see how Anypoint Platform helped our customer, Janrain, build a customer identity architecture that provides a holistic view of the customer journey.