Customer journeys are – fundamentally – our experience with brands. They are functional, physical, and emotional. They reveal how we engage with and live through our interactions with vendors (dare I say partners or co-collaborators) to accomplish our goals.

This makes journeys THE central scope of activities and sensitivities that brands need to understand and influence to grow their business. Commerce, after all, is no longer as much about selling stuff, and more about building enduring relationships with current and would-be buyers. As such, the journey transcends the actual purchasing cycle to incorporate, at the extreme, our lifetime.

So how do we analyze journeys? And what’s most important?

To start, there are three critical perspectives to keep in mind.

  1. The entire experience must be analyzed as a whole – after all, it is the overall experience that matters…over the LONG TERM.
  2. Each part needs to be understood for its role in, and impact on, the whole. Don’t be one of those companies that creates a five-star call center experience, when the underlying problem prompting the calls shouldn’t exist! This touchpoint fix approach risks wasting money and sub-optimizing the whole – a common pitfall.
  3. Get to the depth that matters: Why they are doing each activity, and what they’re trying to accomplish. This goes outside the typical functional “research job opportunities, send in resumes, attend interviews” type of journey. It is the key to creating a differentiated experience.

Supporting point #1 is the superior growth achieved by companies that optimize the journey as a cohesive experience, instead of atomizing it into pieces managed by disparate parts of the company. Shoppers do not care about Target’s org chart. They just want to inform themselves, evaluate options, transact, and enjoy the purchase. They also may return, exchange, or engage with the brand in an ongoing way through social sharing or contributing content. Does it really make sense to manage this natural and ever-evolving flow in pieces, without regard for the impact on the whole? No.

In fact, as David Edelman and Marc Singer at McKinsey tell us, top-performing companies “are increasingly managing journeys as they would any product. Journeys are thus becoming …as important as the products themselves in providing competitive advantage.”1

Just like with a therapist – the relationship IS the therapy. So it is with journeys. For many products and services, the journey IS the offering. It subsumes the product or service itself that the company was originally selling.  This means the journey must be the source of value for the consumer. It cannot be a series of necessary evils – euphemistically named sales process, transaction process, and support process, all of which are neutral to negative experience – to be justified in the end by the value and enjoyment of the product or service. Those days are long gone.

Today the brand with the easiest, most enjoyable, and valuable journey for each individual wins. So, with all the conflicting material out there about how to actually map out journeys, where should you start?

We’ve found a simple survey approach focused on eight Core Journey Elements provides a solid foundation. Once these Core Journey Elements are documented, and the basics are understood, companies can dive deeper into any aspect needed, be it device-specific behavior, segment specific behavior, regional differences, etc.

Here’s the approach clients tell us they’ve benefited from.

Notice a few things:

  • The analysis tree provides stage-level detail, while maintaining focus on the experience as a whole (Boxes A and B).
  • It looks at what actions individuals take, quickly nets out which matter, what makes things easier, and which would cause journey defections (leaving) (Boxes C, D, E, F).
  • It then quickly anchors our understanding in what the individual is trying to accomplish (See “Outcomes” in right top box). This is the job-to-be-done, the crucial foundation for meeting customer needs (Box G).
  • The survey then captures the rest of the eight Core Journey Elements. The full list is:
  1. Motivations
  2. Actions
  3. Outcomes
  4. Decisions
  5. Questions
  6. Barriers
  7. Constraints
  8. Importance & Satisfaction

Definitions are below.

Importance and Satisfaction, Element #8, are essential to get at the select few “moments of truth” (MoT) within each journey. These are the impact points that truly matter in each stage, and across the whole experience. Our efforts are designed to ferret out these points, and to explore them in sufficient detail to direct overall marketing strategy as well as required changes in areas such as website content, messaging, creative, and user experience.

Given the common need for speed and precision, a three-phased, iterative approach of surveys, analysis, and testing is recommended. This process homes in on what moves the needle for the business, be it in measured in revenue, cycle time, net new customers, conversions, or other metrics. It avoids obtaining depth and detail where it won’t yield results by testing in the form of changing primary digital marketing performance levers such as targeting, messaging, creative, key words, content and site flow. Our team typically accomplishes this in six to eight weeks.

If you’ve read this far, chances are you’re curious to see what this looks like in action; keep an eye out for next week’s post.

1 Competing on Customer Journeys, Harvard Business Review, November 2015

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Marcy Strauss Axelrod
Marcy Strauss Axelrod is a Strategy Management Consultant focused on helping companies grow. She is Vice President of Strategy at 3Q Digital; you can reach her at marcy.axelrod@3QDigital.com.