What Is Customer Journey Mapping?

Every customer in your store is on a quest to fulfill a need.

Along the way, they’ve encountered a series of touchpoints. Somehow, they interacted with your brand. And someone or something influenced their decision to continue.

Do you understand the customer journey, step by step? How it affects your customers? And why it’s so important?

Many retailers don’t. They make assumptions that don’t align with the buyer’s reality. This leads to costly missteps, friction, and poor performance. And a lot of disappointed customers.

A smooth and satisfying customer journey is no accident. It requires insight and empathy in equal measure. You must walk the path, in your customers’ shoes, and map their journey in detail.

Below, we’ll explore customer journey mapping and what it can do for you.

It’s Every Interaction With Your Brand

Customers encounter a variety of touchpoints before, during, and after the sale. The first two categories tend to be of most concern to retailers. But post-purchase touchpoints are no less important.

Consider these examples:

Before Purchase—Interactions involving social media, word of mouth, community involvement, and advertising/marketing

During Purchase—Interactions with in-store layout and signage, website, promotions, and sales personnel

After Purchase—Interactions related to billing, service and support teams, online help center, follow-up communications, etc.

The most effective customer journey maps break these categories down further (specific social media channels, for example). The more detailed the map, the more easily you can identify gaps, glitches, or opportunities in the system.

It’s an Empathetic View of the Customer Experience

Customer journey maps don’t just connect the dots. They illuminate the journey from the customer’s point of view and the emotional impact of every interaction.

Consider your target customer segments, or personas—the living/breathing people making the journey. What are these customers looking to get out of their retail experience?

And, at each step of the journey:

  • What are customers doing and feeling?
  • What are the barriers, or “pain points” (e.g., uncertainty, confusion, cost) that stand in their way?
  • What elements of the experience are currently viewed as easy or informative?

What service improvements would make these customers happier?
A customer journey map can help answer these questions, and often in surprising ways. The smallest details—which might otherwise escape retailers’ notice—can greatly affect the entire shopping experience.

It’s an Absolute Necessity for Retailers (7 Reasons)

The importance and value of customer journey mapping is hard to overstate. Here are seven reasons you can’t afford to do without it.

  1. Customer journey mapping can help determine how well you’re living up to your brand promise.
  2. It uncovers “moments of truth”—interactions that impact customer loyalty the most.
  3. It helps improve employee training.
  4. It assists in making marketing programs more relevant to customers’ motivations and behaviors.
  5. It improves operational efficiency by highlighting what works best and which improvements are most needed.
  6. It reveals opportunities for innovative product and service offerings.
  7. It breaks down internal silos and rallies the entire organization around a common, customer-centric purpose.

A final word about customer journey mapping: It isn’t a “one and done” process. Maps must be continually updated and refined as the business evolves or marketing strategies change. This ensures customers won’t get lost in the shuffle.