Thinking like a customer: the value of customer journey mapping

Simon van Wyk

Simon van Wyk
Founder, HotHouse Interactive. Tweet him @Hot_House

Customer journey mapping and experience design are among the most powerful tools marketers can use for innovating and meeting customer expectations – allowing diagnosis of customer experience issues and formulation of innovative and differentiated brand experiences – but retailers are failing to come to grips with the modern shopper’s path to purchase.

As smartphone and tablet ownership becomes commonplace, mobile shopping is becoming mainstream. The latest ecommerce data out of the US from web measurement firm ComScore shows that shoppers spent $54.54 billion via PCs and mobile devices in Q2 this year – $4.7 billion of it via mobile devices, which represents a 24% increase compared to the same period last year.

Interestingly, in ‘Key Digital Trends for Midyear 2013: The Fragmentation of Mobile’, eMarketer reports that the diverging uses of smartphones and tablets means that marketers need to stop thinking about mobile as a singular category. Tablets, with their larger screens, offer a better experience for activities such as entertainment and shopping. On the other hand, the pocket-sized smartphone is more of a shopping companion en route to and in store.

Mobile devices used on the couch

According to Nielsen, more than two-thirds of US smartphone shoppers and four out of five tablet shoppers use their devices most frequently in the home, often with one eye on the TV. So even though smartphones and tablets offer the convenience of shopping on the go, it seems like the vast majority of tablet and smartphone shoppers who make a purchase with their device prefer the comfort of their couch while they shop.

Indeed, when it comes to actual purchasing, eMarketer says there’s a stark contrast between the behaviour of smartphone owners and their tablet owning counterparts. Nearly 71 million tablet owners will make purchases via their device this year, compared with 53 million buyers using smartphones. This distinction is critically important and highlights why marketers need to think like a customer.

Over here, according to data published in May this year from research firm Frost & Sullivan, three out of 10 internet users in Australia made a retail purchase within the previous 12 months via their smartphone. Another 19% made a purchase on their tablet.

Failing to meet customer expectations

Despite Australians embracing everything mobile, too many Australian retailers fail to meet customer expectations. For example, a poor experience on a smartphone or failing to accommodate individuals who prefer to shop via their tablets means that retailers will miss out on a growing proportion of couch commerce which spikes after 8pm at night.

Customers expect a seamless view of the retailer, whether on the retailer’s website, its social media pages, its mobile shopping applications or in store. Customers expect to find consistent prices, availability, payment methods and promotions across all channels. Of course you need to take advantage of the different screens in the way you present the information, but the inherent information should be the same.

Thinking like a customer will help you meet these increasingly complex demands. It’s all about taking a holistic approach to marketing and facilitating an end-to-end customer experience across websites, mobile sites and apps, tablet sites and apps, social media, email and more.

After all, every transaction is an opportunity to strengthen a relationship – or to lose it. So businesses can use everything they know about a customer to personalise and maximise the transaction at every touchpoint and across every business channel.

Looking at the entire customer journey, not just specific channels, customer journey mapping and experience design are among the most powerful tools marketers can use for innovating and meeting customer expectations. This process of discovery will allow you to diagnose customer experience issues and formulate innovative and differentiated brand experiences that meet your customer expectations and deliver on brand promises.

The more you understand the journey, the better you can align the vast array of engagement tactics and digital tools available to you and show the value proposition between marketing activities and financial outcomes.