Understanding the basics of a customer journey
As mentioned above, a customer journey traces every communication or engagement that occurs between a business and its prospective or current customers – whether that’s opening an email, signing up for a newsletter, or visiting a brick-and-mortar location.
And how people feel about these interactions will ultimately define their customer experience (i.e. the perception they have of your brand).
Businesses will often create customer journey maps to visually depict the evolution of these interactions: laying out the actions a person has taken at each touchpoint. These customer journey maps help businesses understand the stronger and weaker parts of their customer lifecycle, and provide insight into the intent and preferences of their different buyer personas. Generating this single view of the customer, however, can be a challenge for companies, especially as consumers exhibit more omnichannel behavior.
Stages in the customer journey
While each customer journey is unique, there is a pattern in how they progress. It’s widely agreed upon that the different stages of the customer journey include:
Awareness: a person has discovered your brand and is starting to familiarize themselves with what you offer, your content, etc.
Consideration: now, the potential customer is starting to compare you to competitors, evaluate your pricing, and so on.
Decision: the customer has completed a purchase or has conversion.
Retention: now a current customer, this is the phase when the business needs to continue to stoke engagement and maintain customer satisfaction to avoid churn.
Advocacy: if the retention phase is successful, the customer will now become an advocate for your brand – offering word-of-mouth recommendations, referrals, etc.
Customer journey touchpoints
Touchpoints refer to the individual interactions a person has with your business (which collectively form their customer journey). Any contact a person has had with your business, online or offline, is a touchpoint. While it’s certainly not a definitive list, examples of customer journey touchpoints include:
Visiting a website
Clicking on an ad
Opening an email
Tapping an SMS or push notification
Purchasing an item online or in-stores
Filling out a customer satisfaction survey
Interacting with customer support (via phone, chatbot, etc.)
Tracking customer journeys
Now that we’ve covered what a customer journey is, it’s time to understand how to actually track one. One of the most difficult roadblocks businesses face when trying to track each customer interaction is fragmentation. Often, customer data is siloed between separate teams within an organization, requiring engineers to manually build data pipelines to consolidate all this information into that aforementioned single view of the customer.
This is why customer data platforms have risen in popularity in the past few years (especially in light of the digital shift that happened during the Covid-19 pandemic). CDPs allow teams to set up data integrations in minutes, without engineering support, and automatically process, clean, and consolidate a business’s first-party data in real-time. With a CDP, businesses can stitch together a customer’s complete journey, even as they switch between devices and channels.
Why it’s important to understand your customer journey
Understanding your customers’ journeys means understanding the way people interact with your business. This insight shows how effective your company is at engaging with people across channels – insight that can be leveraged to improve weaker points in the customer lifecycle, and promote loyalty and retention.