Strategy Session: The Customer Journey

Strategy Session: The Customer Journey


I recently taught a seminar on customer insights for the Data & Marketing Association (DMA). Along the way, as I usually do, I tried to find relevance to the imaging industry. There is one section of the seminar that I find particularly relevant—the “Customer Journey.”

The concept behind the Customer Journey is realizing that as consumers enter the market to buy a product—any product—they go through a series of actions and interactions that all ultimately can affect the decision to purchase, as well as the decision of where to buy. And, importantly, whether these persons become advocates for the retailer or detractors.

The challenge for the retailer is to manage the process at every interaction, so that a consumer becomes not only a customer but also a satisfied, long-term customer who will recommend you to others.

The steps along the way include Awareness, Interest, Engagement, Commitment, Commerce, Retention and Advocacy. By controlling each step as best you can, you have a better chance of turning the consumer into a customer and an advocate.

So, what journey does the camera purchaser go through, and how can we manage the process? Let’s use a person called Alex as an example.

1. Awareness. Alex becomes interested in purchasing a camera. Being a retailer, you may already be in his sights. But at this point he is just making the decision of how he is going on his journey. Your presentation to him, both online and in-store, will put you into the consideration set as he begins his journey.

2. Interest. This might be the first step where you start to control the process. As he begins his research, is your website inviting and well organized? Are you high up on Google search in your area? Is your presentation to Alex complete, and are you available for questions—either online or in person? Do you have an active Facebook page where you’re offering advice on a daily or weekly basis? Every interaction is important.

3. Engagement. If you are lucky enough to have him walk into your store or click onto your website, this is where you have total control. Are your salespeople inviting? Are they knowledgeable about the products in which he is interested? Does your store have the right selections, and is it a place he would want to hang out? (In other words, is it neat, clean, organized and creative?) Can you offer him advice and a price that will keep him from going to the Internet? What are all the touch points in your store, from his initial questions to his final checkout? How easy do you make it? All of these points are relevant to your website as well.

4. Commitment. Alex has chosen his product. Now, how easy is it to turn this into a sale. Remember, he can easily go home and order online. But is your commitment to making the process easy enough to keep him there? (I’m on record recommending that retailers should have a computer in their store where customers can look up competitive pricing on the Internet. If he’s going to leave your store and do it at home, why not give him the opportunity to do it before he leaves your store, so you can negotiate with him?)

5. Commerce. Alex decides to buy, but his interaction and store experience is not over. How easy is it to buy? If he’s buying on your website, how easy is that experience? Do you offer free shipping? Moreover, do you have a generous and simple return policy? Can Alex call and speak with someone easily? If he’s in your store, is the transaction simple? Is there an offer you can make to bring him back into your store again?

6. Retention. This is where the effort has to come in. Are you calling Alex to see if he’s happy with the product? Have you offered him free classes or advice on how to become a better photographer? These are things Amazon just can’t do! Most important, have you established a relationship with him built on trust? This will lead to the final and, probably, most important step.

7. Advocacy. You want Alex to talk about his positive experience to as many of his peers as possible. His comments, both negative and positive, could affect many people around him: his family, friends, fellow photographers and his social media network. His comments can be either positive (which can lead to increased business for you) or negative (which will snowball in the wrong direction). Your efforts to manage this advocacy are critical.

I always recommend literally drawing a map to understand all of the points where you literally, or figuratively, touch your customer. Your salespeople, your website, your call center and also your mailings. Let us not forget your social media networks, like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Then analyze whether you can be better at any of those points. Just one bad interaction (perhaps someone rude on the phone) can turn a potential customer into a social detractor.

Summing Up: The Customer Journey

In summary, the three critical questions are:
1. What do customers want as well as need from each interaction as they move through the journey?
2. How do customers transition from one stage (such as awareness) to another (such as learning)?
3. What are their touch points?

Think about your own customer journeys when you’ve made purchases. How did the many interactions you have had affect your overall decision to make a purchase at a particular location? People are thinking the same thing about you.