Over the past two years, the digital customer journey became the backbone of a successful business. Most companies quickly understood the need to embrace digital channels of communication with customers to stay relevant and competitive.
At CXM, we have unique access to hundreds of successful and less victorious stories. One thing became clear to us soon enough − organisations that want to keep pace with the current trends will have to understand the needs of digital natives, who have higher demands regarding design, speed, and overall quality of digital services.
To help brands start on the right foot with digitalization, our team prepared a comprehensive guide to the digital customer journey. We’ll first cover the term and then explore all the challenges, opportunities, and benefits of investing in digital spaces within the CX field.
What is a digital customer journey?
The digital customer journey stands for the path an internet user follows when interacting with a brand. It includes every single interaction that takes place online between the customer and a brand. However, the digital customer journey is not limited solely to the purchasing process but extends to every customer touchpoint.
Let’s take a digital customer journey example to walk you through the main touchpoints. For instance, it could seem that reserving the flight ticket online is what we call the digital path, but the journey goes well beyond the purchase itself.
Before you even get to the part of buying the ticket, you will interact with an airline company across several touchpoints such as flight research, date check, and so much more. Even after buying a ticket, you’ll be bond to interact with the brand through checking in online. Therefore, all these interactions are marked as a digital customer journey.
Now, when we say digital customer journeys, we have in mind the paths customers take when using phones, tablets, websites, and other devices to achieve their goals. Nevertheless, we don’t exclude companies that implemented digital enablers such as appropriate software, chatbots, and virtual stores to make these journeys meaningful. Both of these two parties participate and create the digital customer journey.
How has digital marketing changed customer journey?
With the quick switch to online purchasing in the last two years, digital marketing also has had a challenging time adapting to the new influx of customers online. The needs and demands were changing overnight, and marketers have had to adapt their strategies.
However, digital marketers have also influenced the entire customer journey online. Rapid digitalisation has given them a chance to explore all the benefits of social media channels, SEO, content, and paid search. These options allowed them to create more complex and meaningful points of engagement. Customers were not the only ones who were changing the game – marketers also affected the digital journey with an array of choices and strategies.
Instagram is a good example. This social media channel transformed into a potential marketplace early in the pandemic, significantly changing the way users browse through the content. With the new option to buy products and constantly overloaded with ads, Instagram users also became customers of many influencers and startups.
What are the benefits of journey mapping?
Digital customer journey mapping helps you identify the gaps in your current service delivery process. Mapping the digital journey from the moment users consider your brand, explore it, bring a decision to purchase, and finally get the product allows empathizing with the pain points along their path.
It is not rare for companies to realize they have misaligned internal processes and lack adequate digital tools or CRM systems only after running a customer journey mapping session.
Therefore, taking the time to empathize, collect data from different resources, evaluate your current digital tools, measure, and finally visualize results might bring you enormous financial benefits. Where do you start with mapping your digital customer journey?
Let’s break it down to the five essential steps:
- Understanding user persona
Knowing your customers is the first and essential step of designing any meaningful change. We suggest running a series of surveys and interviews to evaluate and validate your customers’ profiles. After an adequate segmentation, you’ll be able to map various digital journeys and provide personalized experiences to each user. Here are a few questions you can ask to identify your customer’s profiles:
- What are the motivations for this customer to visit our website or app?
- What life context triggered him or her to reach out to our service?
- Did we manage to meet his or her needs and expectations?
- What else should we know about this user to create a complete picture of his or her intentions?
An advanced way of understanding your users’ persona is AI. Powerful AI software can create predictive models and unveil customers’ preferences with high accuracy. Netflix is an example of a company that utilizes AI to integrate every touchpoint along the customer’s digital journey. According to the ultimate marketing automation statistics, 55% of marketing decision-makers plan to increase their spending on marketing technology such as AI and machine learning.
- Collecting relevant qualitative and quantitate data
Even though qualitative research might provide you with messy data, it will offer a unique glimpse into your users’ needs and wants. You might be surprised by the untapped potentials of your service that might result in innovation.
In the digital world, you have a sea of customer data available to you at any point. There’s web browsing, sales, and advertising data, to name just a few. Having a strong people analytics team may play a crucial role in the process of analysis. Consider hiring CX talents that can analyse hard data but translate them into meaningful stories.
- Making your service blueprint
People behind the digital services demand efficient, effective, and upgraded software to ease their work of offering the best experience possible. Running a service blueprint exercise will help you observe the digital customer journey from the employees’ point of view.
This process will help you identify gaps in internal communication and empower teams to work towards the common purpose. Here are a few questions that CX team leaders can ask themselves along with the journey mapping exercise:
- Does everyone on the team understand the end goal of our users?
- Does everyone on the team have effective digital tools to solve users’ issues?
- Do we have a clear digital business strategy and skills to execute it?
- How else can I support my talents to provide users with the best possible experience?
- Prioritizing and taking actions
Only after involving various voices (decision-makers, CX team, UX researchers, customer-facing employees, partners, etc.), you should take appropriate actions. Keep in mind that you will not be able to redesign all the pain points identified.
Here are a few questions that will help you prioritize:
- What solutions will bring the most impact to our users?
- How will our business benefit from the chosen initiatives?
- How fast can we measure the impacts?
- Which of the chosen options can we implement within the next three months?
- Which solutions require additional resources?
Understanding that digital journey mapping is an endless game will allow you to start with the most urgent problems. Solving one thing at a time and communicating it effectively with your users is an opportunity to build trust.
- Prototyping and measuring results
Before you decide what metrics to track, answer the two following questions:
- How will we know that our process has a positive impact on customers?
- How will we know that our team is aligned and skilled to deliver an impact to the customers?
Answering these questions will help you decide what metrics to track when measuring the impact of the new digital interaction. The answers might vary from the number of daily sales (or likelihood to return), ease of use, to advocacy and recommendation.
How to improve the digital customer journey?
Finally, we prepared some practical tips for all companies that want to optimize and improve the digital journey of their customers.
- Communicate the strategy internally
If you look to reshape and optimize the digital customer journey, you might want to start internally. Even slightly changing the online strategy can leave major impacts on your business and everyone should be ready for it. Involving all employees in the process and getting feedback from all departments within the organisation is the best way to start. This will allow you to quickly implement changes and maintain consistency at all times, feeding your customers and your business with invaluable insights.
- Take an omnichannel approach
The modern digital consumer is highly accustomed to online services and expects consistent and reliable output across all channels. Therefore, when improving the online journey for the users, it’s essential to keep in mind the omnichannel experience.
To build a seamless user experience across all channels, whether that’s the phone, social media, or website, an organisation has to provide integrated, unified support for all its customers, regardless of the time and location. Giving people an option to contact the customer support teams whenever possible builds trust and a long-lasting relationship with a brand.
- Personalize the experience
During the pandemic, there was a noticeable increase in the demand for highly personalized services (read more about personalisation here). This trend continues to rise even more so with global uncertainty and the change in consumer habits. Therefore, if you want to improve the digital customer journey, invest in understanding each user’s online path.
Not every individual takes the same way toward your services – understanding that will help you custom-tailor your offerings and meet the needs of every single customer. Moreover, failing to recognize the importance of a personalized approach to the digital customer journey means harming your conversion rate and brand image.
- Invest in data privacy and security
Last but not least, organisations should keep in mind the growing pool of sensitive data being recorded every day. Customers are getting more aware of the implications of data breaches every day. They place trust only in companies that are able to provide enough online protection. A clear sense of how information can be misused and protected can help you improve the entire digital customer journey. It can also earn a greater sense of loyalty from your users.