This is the original non-edited version of the article I wrote for Admap January 2014 issue:
Best Practice in How to Map Customer Journey
Customer Purchase Journey by definition is the customer’s journey from existing life experiences to initiation, cross-channel consideration and purchase. Customer Journey then continues to using the product or experiencing the service, re-purchases and loyalty or attrition. This article concentrate on Customer decision-making journey to purchase.
Marketing research often looks into the future perspective and ask about awareness, top-of-mind, preference and shortlist of potential brands. The challenge about researching future is that people are quite bad at acting according to their own intentions. Habits, convenience and instincts drive behaviour to unexpected directions that are difficult to predict by research. These studies also often miss a major point. They ask customers which brand they prefer and make them choose one, and consequently fail to recognize the fact that people might have only brand options, not a specific preferred brand.
Example: In a Telco case we learned that 76% of the customers had a pool of options but they didn’t have a specific preferred brand. This result means that most of the market is floating. People only have options and consider brands as equally good. When the time comes the best/ first/nearest/most conveniently available deal will win regardless the brand as long as the brand is within the pool of options.
How to prepare for Customer Journey mapping:
Before you start designing the research or make any assumptions, establish the foundation. You can establish the foundation with two key factors:
a) Is the category or brand in high intensity position: high involvement, -investment or –interest product or service? Heinz ketchup would be in the low-end, buying a car would be in the high-end. The purchase intensity stands for the depth of consideration and willingness to make an effort to make a considered choice. If the product or service has low intensity, there will be no actual journey but rather spontaneous and habit driven behaviour. High intensity decision-making on the other hand could last a long time and have a lot of touch points in variety of surroundings.
b) What is the brand’s status in customer’s mind compared to competitors? In case the brand is well-known and preferred brand, the customer journey will have completely different dynamics compared to less known challenger. The key question is; “is the brand being sold or bought”? In case the brand is bought, you can approach the mapping in order to find ways of optimizing conversion rate. For such case tactical marketing will also generate much stronger impact than in case of a brand with less demand. In case the brand is sold, you should find ways how to break into customer’s consideration and prove your brand better than competitors. In case the brand is sold, the burden of proof is on the brand’s shoulders and you need to find ways how to guide customers away from the path leading to market leader purchase.
You can find data for creation of foundation from the company’s brand tracking research, market share report, online analytics and Google Adwords tool or Google Trends tool. When looking for foundation intelligence, consider how the category behaviour reflect the two foundation factors, how the brand in question and it’s competitors position against each others. Draw a map with all competing brands on it (X-axis: Activity share seller vs. buyer, Y-axis: Intensity level. Eg. Heinz = bottom right corner = no or very little advertising, strong sales & market share, low intensity) Do the preparation phase well and you will have a rather good idea about what is happening in the customer behaviour dynamics. Analytics can give very good answers to “what” –questions. However, you need to make in-depth-interviews in order to find answers to “why” –questions.
Once you have a high level view on the market place and a lot of “what” ideas to guide you, prepare to make in-depth-interviews with customers and get “why”-answers from them. Choose customers who have made their choice recently. In case of high intensity purchases, people can remember their experiences for a couple of months, in case of low intensity purchases – interview them instantly at the point of purchase or walk them thru the store with the customer again using the customer as a guid for a tour and let the customer tell you what he experienced, noticed or thought along the way (the same approach can be used in online buying by recording customer’s actual journey thru website). This is different from mystery shopping, because the emphasis is on the customer, not on the store personnel.
The point of in-depth-interview is to analyse the customer’s lived experiences with out others’ interference. This information is only available from customers, because you need the full view across all brands, information and shopping touch points in the category – not just the brand you are doing the mapping for. Ask your customer to tell the whole story from what ever got him interested in buying to purchase. Here’s the process:
- Who is the customer? Get to know his lifestyle and connection to category/brands
- What made the customer interested (initiation)?
- What and where did something happened that gave the impulse to initiate consideration: commercial act by the brand or it’s competitors or an event that made customer interest (eg. Moved to new apartment, new need etc.)?
- Did the customer have a preferred brand in the beginning or not? Were there other options the customer considered?
- How long was customer’s consideration and learning time before purchase?
- Go thru all phases: initiation, browsing, configuration, decision, purchase
- In which channels the customer interacted with your and competing brands in each phase?
- Did the customer do all phases and what was the main driver and meaning of each of them? Did the customer skip stages? (In case you want to quantify results later, always define stage and ask if the customer did it before asking about it’s content and channels. Skipping stages is quite common)
- What was the customer’s experience in each engagement like? Which brands performed well? Why?
- Something led to decision, what was it and in which touch point did it occur?
- What did the customer eventually buy?
- What was the reason for choosing the specific brand over others?
- What was the second best option or was there one? Why did it lose?
- In case the customer chose competing brand, why did he not buy the one in focus?
- Would customers buy again if they had a choice? What is different brands’ Net Promoter Score Index? What were they satisfied for? Was there dissatisfaction?
I would recommend making at least ten in-depth-interviews/category in order to learn about customers’ behaviour and motives. You should interview both won and lost customers and totally concentrate on their experience and point of view. In case you can study customers who left the brand you are making the customer journey mapping for, you will also find out where the brand failed and how the competitors caught the brand’s customers’ attention. In some markets for example outbound sales is an important influencer which has major impact on behavioral dynamics. While interviewing, keep your mind open. Don’t narrow your consideration, but consider all experiences and thoughts the customers have had. From customer’s point of view marketing, pricing, product design, convenience etc. are all relevant issues. As an outcome you will come across things you can influence and those you can’t. However, you need to understand customer’s behaviour and consideration holistically.
This approach to interviews, discovery and analysis goes by the name “interpretative phenomenological analysis” (IPA) in psychology. Once you have the interviews, you can create an analysis about their journey and visualize it. The best way to do this is by visualizing each journey separately. Concentrate especially on chain of events, customer’s journey from one touch point to next, motives and contents steering the customer. Conscious cross-channel purchase journey is most likely in case of high intensity purchase. The behaviour dynamics differ between products, service ranges and between same brands in same category. In your analysis you can divide customer behavior in three major types:
Journey Driven people: These people take pleasure in getting to know their options, their qualities and comparing. They are also more likely to share their experiences in social media as they consider themselves as experts. People who are prepared to make detours and a longer journey require a different approach than destination driven ones and they don’t react on offers as easily, unless they have already got to know their options well in advance.
Journey Driven People are often early adopters. They are especially important in case you are launching new product. They are interested in the products and their qualities. You need to support their needs and change or influence their attitude in order to break in to their awareness. As they search and compare, you need to be able to justify to them why your solution would suit them and guide them to decide and purchase your product/service. These people really consider their user experience and share recommendations in case your performance is beyond expectations. Supporting their needs helps you perform better with other people representing different behaviour type.
Destination driven people: These people don’t really care to learn about products by themselves. They make rapid decisions based on their priorities (e.g. always the best, always the cheapest) or rely on 3rd party recommendations such as test results. An offer for test winner product is an effective proposition for them and generate rapid sales.
Destination driven people also need to be influenced at “need and attitude” -level in order to create better awareness of your offering and it’s qualities. However, this is more about leveraging past reviews and feedback from journey driven people. Destination driven people are more likely to be influenced by e.g. Magazine or social media reviews on your product or other independent sources of information. With such support you can just concentrate on tactical advertising in order to encourage decision and purchase making. Destination driven people are interested in the user experience and reviewing their own experience to others.
Slow movers, public opinion driven people: (also habitual or insignificant purchases). These people don’t take risks. Only after most of the others have already accepted and favoured a certain product or service will they follow. Same behaviour also describes the purchase process of less significant products, like toilet paper or other habitually purchased products. People don’t really pay attention to what they buy; they just buy it like they’ve done before.
Public opinion driven people accept your offering when it’s widely used and they are completely certain that choosing your offering has no risk what so ever. It’s all about tactical advertising, retail promotions and encouraging purchase. They are not likely to share their opinion to others or recommend your products or services actively.
In different product and service categories differences are dramatic. It’s easy to think in terms of travelling. A motorcyclist takes longer and slower routes because the journey is the major part of the travelling experience in itself. On a family holiday the same person takes a direct flight to an all-inclusive hotel. Although this is the same person, different context and different motives lead into completely different behaviour. The point of this analysis is to really understand how people behave in your category towards different brands and find out what is required from you in order to perform better.
Along with behaviour type, analyse:
- What kind of commonalities and shared phenomena, motives, contexts, choice criteria and channels can be found from customer’s behaviour and what was there that you need to quantify or find more information about. Pay attention to the chain of events.
- Which of the touch points the brand can control, which you just need to influence
- What was the customer experience like in competitors different touch points along own ones. Can you learn something from them?
- Pull all your findings together and have a workshop to discuss about these findings and find out how the internal organization experience these findings and what knowledge do they have about them. Get people who work in direct customer interfaces involved.
- Also discuss, which ERP, CRM, online analytics or other systems are currently capturing data about the customers? This information can help you further and let you make a decision whether you continue by doing data analysis and workshop or do you need to quantify the results with larger research. I would recommend research every one or every two years in order to map out how the market place works from customer’s point of view and what you can learn from competitors’ practices or whether you can find opportunities for growing market share
Why this approach to mapping and analysing customer journey is imperative
In many cases your own campaign could actually sell competitors’ products. Also, in many cases the customer journey is full of conflicting interests. In case you only analyse the one brand’s journey you will completely lose sight on category dynamics. Here’s an example about my Garmin buying:
There was a home electronics store advertisement promoting TomTom navigator for 75€ with European maps. I went to buy it, but the store salesman told me there was an error in the ad and that price only included Western European maps. He showed me the product with Full European maps with 105€ price. Next to it was Garmin Nüvi, which had exactly same price. I asked if there was any differences between the two and the salesman told Garmin had better battery life. I bought Garmin. Let’s look at the interests of different players:
Me, the customer:
I was very happy, although I paid 40% more than intended but 105€ wasn’t a problem eventually. I was highly price-oriented customer who was looking for ”good enough” solution and was not interested in more advanced solution or bigger screen. Because of the basic functionality needs I had I was also not interested enough to look in to product specifications online, product reviews or discussion forums. This product will get the job done anyway. I was a perfect example of destination driven buyer. At home, the product exceeded expectations. It had much more functionalities than I was expecting. They had minor meaning compared to the basic functionality, none of them was more important than the battery life, but it was a positive surprise.
Closed 40% more sales than I had intended to spend. The experience about the store was positive and the sales person’s advice was good, which means that the store will get more money from me later on. Was their error in the ad intentional? Probably not but they should still analyse how the error influenced their GPS navigator sales in general. What did customers come to buy and what did they actually walk out with?
Complete failure. The brand might have made a special deal for the campaign resulting change in price image. After reading that leaflet customers think, that you can get TomTom with European maps at the price of 75€. It easily becomes the market standard because of nationwide advertising campaign. You are making a bad deal if you pay more for it. Price/value ratio sounds perfect but actually it wasn’t real because of the error in the ad. That’s ok if you go to Gigantti and they tell you about the error. If you don’t you just expect that TomTom’s are now cheap. It’s most likely that TomTom does some kind of post campaign analysis and comes to completely wrong conclusions unless they understand how the purchase dynamics in the low price category GPS really works and how their campaign influenced customer behaviour in general.
Great success. Garmin did nothing but made a deal anyway. Well, I had positive image about Garmin in advance and the sales person just gave me the last defining fact that led to decision to buy Garmin. Now that Garmin closed a deal with me and got me registered, I am quite likely to buy other stuff on top later on. Was Garmin’s success intentional? In reality the sales person’s advice could have been founded on her own perception or Garmin had analysed the differences between brands and intentionally launched training for retail sellers which states that their battery life is better than TomTom’s. How much longer? No idea. It never came up.
Conflicting interests are very important to understand. In another case a laptop brand sold 50% more than their preference rate would suggest. That also was because the sales people preferred that specific brand.
Here’s how Audi did in case of B2B car leasing deals:
- Preference 14%
- Alternative to 26 %. Altogether Audi was considered by 40% of all buyers
- Audi sold 11,2% that is 2,8% below preference which means 80% conversion
Audi was the most sold brand but was also most often the 2nd best and had lowest conversion rate in the market. Wolkswagen sold 119%, Volvo 117% and Ford 196% compared to preference. Even if you would be number one in sales, you could still be the one losing most.
There is one more thing to consider: Specialist & aggregator influence. In B2B especially customers are using professional consults and agents to compare and make recommendations. The customer journey behaviour and needs of an agent are very different from individual buyer’s needs. In B2C businesses comparison services and aggregators like Hotels.com and eBookers have similar significant influence. In case there are such actors in your category, analyse their journey separately.
Business Dynamics Score (BDS)
In case you quantify your results with larger sample you can calculate Business Dynamics Score.
Those who preferred you originally > How many did you keep?
Those who preferred your competitor > How many did you win?
Those who had no preference > How many did you win?
When you compare won-kept-lost results between brands you can really see how different brands are performing. I would recommend calculating BDS from all market players in order to learn about differences in channel efficiency. This figure will give you very good understanding on how behaviour from one brand to another differs and what you need to do in order to perform better. Such insight has great impact on media- and communications strategy.
Constructing Market Flow
In case you have the larger sample, you can construct entire market flow across stages, channels, motives and behaviour types from spontaneous purchases to considered ones on one page view. This single page view will help tremendously in understanding what kind of factors influence market success most and how for example strong retail strategy performs against strong online emphasis. In one case we found that spontaneous buying was quite strong and outbound calls represented 15% of total market sales. However, we were surprised to learn that more than half of customers buying in the category initiated because of outbound call, didn’t do one stop shopping, but instead started cross-channel consideration journey ending up in a purchase from some other channel.
Toni Keskinen ,Chief Editor for Future CMO Movement (http://futurecmo.org)