Creating an effective customer journey map for small business owners

Every business has multiple moments at which it can delight or disappoint its customers, thus losing or making a sale. By understanding each of those critical moments, businesses can improve them to yield better results.

Customer journey mapping provides insight into how to improve a business from the client’s perspective. It is an opportunity to learn about the elements that led to a purchase, detailing the steps the customer took to arrive at checkout. It then documents them in a visual form that outlines a typical experience for a customer.

The map notes every interaction a customer has with a business. This usually involves a customer researching a product or service that fills a need or desire, discovering the business and its offerings, purchasing goods or services, and finally even becoming an advocate for the brand.

Ideally, a customer journey map should be carried out whenever a new product or service is launched, when they enter a new market or when processes or touchpoints change. Equally it can be done if a business recognizes it is losing customers or failing to convert interest in to sales.

The mapping process can enhance existing processes and improve the customer experience, leading to a boost in sales and marketing outcomes. For businesses interested in understanding how to create a customer journey map, the step-by-step guide below details everything needed to do it successfully.

Understanding the customer

The first step to creating a customer journey map is to identify the types of customers – or personas – purchasing goods and services from the business. These buyer personas are representations of ideal clients and are essential for understanding customers. Personas can be given names to help distinguish them, with further details noted about their demographic, occupations, hobbies, and specific needs. These personas can help businesses understand customer journey expectations and can be developed using data and feedback from previous transactions, as well as other data collection methods.

Define customer journey touchpoints

Once customer personas are developed and in place, it is necessary to think about how they will first come into contact with the business. These customer journey touchpoints may be different for each persona. Some examples include social media advertising and web searches. For each persona, create a list of potential and likely touchpoints through which they may engage. Then consider how it may be possible to develop these touchpoints to increase or enhance the interaction. This might be done, for example, through adding a “Call to Action” (CTA) or thinking about the most suitable landing page. Defining customer journey touchpoints and utilizing their potential can be key to driving traffic through the sales funnel.

Map the customer journey

Mapping the customer journey is mostly about using and representing the data in the right way. For example, the click-through rate from a social media link might be high, but the bounce rate from the landing page – when the customer leaves without going beyond the first page – might be equally elevated. In this instance, it would be wise to change the landing page to reduce the bounce rate. It is important to understand and interpret the data relating to the customer journey for each persona.

There are several different map formats for the customer journey. Four of the main variants include:

  • Current state: This focuses on how the business is working today, visualizing the experience a customer would have when attempting to accomplish their goal with the business.
  • Future state: This map outlines how the business wants to perform in the future, outlining the best-case customer journey scenario.
  • Day-in-the-life: This maps out a customer’s entire day or daily routine outside of how they interact with the business.
  • Empathy maps: These track how people think and feel when interacting with the business and its products or services.

There are various customer journey map templates available for use. Alternatively, it may be preferable for a business to create a bespoke map format that includes relevant data or information.

Collect and analyze data

As mentioned above, customer journey mapping relies almost entirely on effective data collection and analysis of the customer journey. There are various ways to collect customer data, including:

  • Surveys
  • Email newsletters
  • Blog subscriptions
  • Chatbots
  • Customer purchase history
  • Social media
  • Website tracking tools
  • Customer relationship management software

Each of the above may be of varying relevance to the specific customer personas developed earlier in the process. They might also be more effective at gathering certain types of data over others. For example, surveys are an opportunity to gather information about future state mapping, while purchase history is more applicable to current state maps.

Data from these various sources also represents a good opportunity to identify pain points, or the stops on the customer journey that cause obstacles or difficulties for the customer. These can then be addressed and incorporated into mapping in future.

Identify pain points

It is worth taking a closer look at the pain points element of data collection, as this can be an easy and obvious way of removing obstacles to purchase and boosting sales. Pain points are the issues and problems faced by customers when dealing with a business and can arise at any point of the customer journey. For a business, it is vital to identify customer journey pain points and then try to eliminate them, as they can reduce customer loyalty, increase overall business costs, and contribute to poorer outcomes.

Examples of customer pain points include financial issues, such as costs exceeding customer expectations. There are also process pain points. These occur when customers attempt to use products or services offered but encounter a problem. Other pain points can include support and productivity matters. Practical examples of pain points might include customers being kept on hold for too long or there not being enough staff to deal with chat requests.

Identifying customer challenges through mapping the customer journey can help businesses prioritize and address pain points. This can be achieved through the use of transactional customer feedback, reviewing complaints, or following the customer sales journey.

Measure and track success

For customer journey mapping to be successful and have a great impact, it needs to be qualified through data. Measuring and tracking success on the customer journey will help small businesses understand if the measures they are taking to enhance the customer experience are working. However, it can sometimes be a challenge to understand the best ways to track success.

An effective way to map and analyze customer touchpoints is to use key performance indicators (KPIs). These are metrics that aim to qualify and quantify specific aspects of the customer journey. To understand which KPIs are suitable for use, it is necessary to define the different stages of the journey. A common framework is the ‘AIDA’ model: awareness, interest, desire, and action. Each of these stages represents a different level of engagement. It is then possible to set goals for each stage: for example, a reduction in the cart abandonment rate. With specific goals in place, it is easier to create metrics to measure and track the success of any initiative.

Common KPIs for customer journey mapping include:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Visits
  • Bounce rate
  • Time on site
  • Social media followers

Improve customer interactions

Once a business has been able to identify touchpoints and pain points, it is then able to start prioritizing and addressing these issues to improve and increase customer interaction. First, it is necessary to identify what goal the customer is trying to achieve and to empathize with their experience at each touch and pain point. Then there can be discussion around what measures to put in place to improve the process at these points.

Imagine that a business is trying to reduce abandoned customer carts. First, they need to identify why customers are abandoning at this point in the sales process. Is it a lack of payment options or an overly complicated payment process? If so, there are easy payment options available from PayPal. Similarly, are abandoned carts being followed up with reminders? These measures can now be easily automated to limit impact on staff but still reduce abandoned carts. Similar analysis should be carried out at each touch- and pain point across the whole customer journey.

Real-world examples

There are numerous examples of small businesses using customer success journey map strategies to improve the customer experience and ultimately boost sales. Turbo Tax is an online software package for preparing taxes. When launching a new product called PersonalPro, they utilized a customer journey map to gain a clearer understanding of the overall customer experience, employing a wide variety of data points, customer surveys, and key conversations to develop a product that was a better fit in the lives of their clients.

The analytics and data were collected from the moment a customer entered the website and continued until the completion of tax filing, and the map extensively detailed customer pain points. This allowed the company to develop a smoother and more satisfactory customer experience.

Feedback and adaptation

Customer journey mapping is not a ‘once and done’ process. It is ongoing and its success relies on creating a positive feedback loop, with a business being agile and flexible enough to respond to issues and make changes as the customer experience evolves. The positive feedback and adaptation customer journey map requires accurate measuring and tracking across its different stages and processes over an ongoing period. The journey map should be built into business practice, with continual evaluation of customer journey feedback from both clients and stakeholders.

Charting a path to exceptional customer experiences

A positive customer journey is an integral part of the success of any business and as with any journey it is best navigated using a map. Creating a customer journey map allows businesses to gain a clearer definition of the touchpoints where customers engage and of the issues or pain points they experience. Using accurate data, gathered using KPIs, it is possible to create a smoother and more pleasing customer journey, which can quickly translate into growth and increased sales. Once a customer map is created, look to PayPal's range of payment services and resources that can help convert your shoppers to buyers along the customer journey.

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