Customers find their way to brands in many ways. Some independently seek out information and make choices. Others are lured to brands through planned communications. Understanding the pathways, inflection points, moments of truth and timelines that bring prospects from awareness to ultimate brand choice is critical marketing intelligence.
Journeys are physical and metaphysical. In some cases, people can change their attitudes or beliefs stimulated by ideas, experiences, influencers or messages from trusted parties. In other cases, prospects act. They pick themselves up and move through time and space in new or different patterns to acquire or achieve something out of the ordinary. In each instance, there are common moves that can be tracked and idiosyncratic moves, some of which, can be guessed. Journey maps attempt to understand and plot these movements and the connections between them to signal where or when meaningful interactions should take place.
A cottage industry of consultants and software developers has emerged seeking to map the customer journey and document how prospects become customers or brand advocates. Many offer colorful maps and catchy charts. Others create templates to document data sets. There is no consensus on how or what needs to be tracked, weighted or displayed. There is no general feeling about the number or value of common pathways versus unique or idiosyncratic journeys.
To understand and credibly map customer journeys, four essential elements must be considered.
IDENTITY. Everything turns on knowing who the likely customer is. You can’t afford to get this wrong. This requires a deep understanding of psycho-demographics and a keen sense of nuances and segments within a potential buying population. In many cases, marketers create personas to synthesize what they know about key customer segments. Nailing your customers’ identity demands a tough, clear-eyed, realistic assessment of who genuinely needs, wants and appreciates your product or service and who is likely to pay attention and/or buy it.
ENVIRONMENT. Connections to brands take place in a dynamic environment of ideas, positionings, messaging and channels that must be understood and accounted for. There are prevailing ideas and attitudes in the culture at-large or in the category which shape or direct perceptions. People generally have already sorted known entities into discrete buckets in their minds. There are generic and competitive messages in-market which attract and repel. There are characteristics of markets and geographies which must be accounted for. Placing your target customer in his or her environment begins the process of understanding how, when or where interactions and persuasion can take place.
BEHAVIOR. Individuals have identifiable and often repeatable preferences and behavior patterns. Humans are, by and large, creatures of habit. We default to easy, nearby and convenient options. Generally, people who take an action are much more likely to do it again. Identifying behavior patterns is a crucial underlying step to mapping customer journeys.
We crave and create familiar routines and clutch onto fundamental beliefs. Understanding mindsets and movement patterns, standing preferences and regular routines for each prospective customer segment is imperative for determining how and when to interact. In some cases, you can position an offering to align with or capitalize on prevailing sentiment. In other cases, it’s an uphill struggle to cross-cut existing beliefs or purchase patterns or to introduce something entirely new or unexpected.
MOTIVATION. Needs, wants and purchases are reflected and triggered in many ways. Often the underlying motivation determines the speed or urgency of engagement and/or purchase. This is the world of must-haves versus nice-to-haves where emotion, ego, impulse control and content can stimulate or constrain interest and action. This is also the world of retail therapy where purchases correspond to physical and emotional needs triggered by offers, deals and discounts.
The desire to better understand customers and super-serve them by interacting at the right time or place with a personalized message or offer motivates most marketers. Mapping customer journeys is our attempt to get into the hearts and minds of customers and prospects in cost efficient ways that resonate and motivate. Look for this semi-scientific exploration to be continually refined with infusions of market research, ethnographic insights and aggregated data sets.
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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