Why Customer Journey Mapping is So Important in 2019 and Beyond

January 9, 2019 Adam Dore

I recently wrote about laying the foundations of a successful marketing automation implementation, achieving that requires understanding your customers, which is why I decided to expand on the importance of getting customer experience right. 

Don’t take my word for it, when Econsultancy conducted their survey for Digital Marketing Trends1, they asked companies to state the single most exciting opportunity for 2019, a staggering 22% prioritised customer experience more than any other opportunity

While customer experience is essential to business success in 2019, poor customer journey planning has mushroomed from a small problem to a real epidemic. I see it every day and would like to share a scenario inspired by spending time with my family during the holidays. 

But before we begin, what is customer journey mapping and why is customer journey mapping important?

Man sitting in a yellow map looking at the u-shaped road in front of him like a customer journey

Customer journey mapping is the exercise where you create best-fit or representative paths and stages that a person belonging to a persona is likely to go through. To elaborate, it’s a schematic of every permutation and touchpoint a customer can take, nor is it one size fits all. Customer journey mapping is an accurate representation based on knowledge and research which allows you to create specific campaigns, automated journeys, and content aligned with your customers' requirements. 

Why it is important? Without it, you’re not providing a good customer experience because you haven't understood where someone is in their relationship with you, what their pain points are, what information they need from you, and how they want that information served up. As a result, you will not be targeting people at the right time, on the right channel, or with the right content.


This scenario actually presented itself over my Christmas dinner with the in-laws, where a very popular retailer was not able to create a positive customer experience in-store for a family member who was purchasing desserts for the festive period. 

This scenario led me to three important realizations about the retailer: 

  • They missed opportunities to use available data
  • They didn’t consider channels across the entire customer journey
  • They didn’t shift to meet increasing expectations (especially around the holidays)

Everything had been ordered online with a click of a few buttons. The retailer actually managed a well-considered journey throughout the ecommerce site and by measuring movement across the site was also able to personalise offerings based on user behaviour, 

Not just the standard ‘people like you also bought’ X products, but also considered the multitude of ways customers interact with brands and served up the right content at the right point in time. 

But the positive experience did not stop there - after the ‘click and collect’  my family member received notifications via both SMS and in-app channels that were relevant to the purchase made (and on time). Another win. 

Unfortunately, this is where the great experience stopped. The in-store experience did not match the retailer’s digital experience. There was a long queue in-store - fair enough around the festive period you might think - however, it turned out the queue was for Christmas meat orders, not the deserts that had been ordered by my family member. Clearly, this was known by the retailer because the digital communications had reflected knowledge of this order, but this data was not available on the in-store systems, which is an issue for those requiring pickup rather than delivery. 

Again, it’s not just the experience of my family member, research by the Aberdeen Group shows that companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel strategies.2

Furthermore, expectations, as we all know, are increasing. When the subject was discussed over Christmas between us all, the positive digital journey wasn’t the focal point - the whole conversation circled around the issues in-store. Due to shifting expectations, the digital journey my family member experienced was simply expected, and all of the digital effort (quite expensive might I add) work was pretty much overlooked. 

Man and woman sitting in front of a map, computer and camera planning their customer journey

Frankly, there is no point in spending customer experience budget on making one channel whether it be social, in-app, or non-digital (like in-store), great. To put it simply, customer experience is the overall experience. To counter that, however, I’m also acutely aware that budgets have to be spread out, so it’s not possible - in most cases at least - to throw millions to totally revolutionize your customer experience for every country, every business unit, and every persona. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again -  this needs to be iterative - so start by narrowing down your scope and learn and build from there. 

I’m not so naive as to blame this scenario solely to poor customer journey planning, 
there could have been a multitude of reasons for this underwhelming experience. For instance, there may be complexities in the integration of their marketing tool and CRM to their in-store systems; they may not have been able to staff multiple product queues (and had they done so, maybe it would have been those in the fresh meat queue complaining). 

Ultimately, regardless of the reasoning, the lack of focus on the customer journey is the cause of many a disgruntled customer. However, focusing on the customer journey can lead to an uplift in revenue. This is supported by an Oracle study that found 86% of buyers will pay more for a better brand experience, but only 1% feel that vendors consistently meet expectations.3

So, what can you do to combat these issues? Well, as I often like to point out, there is no cookie cutter solution here. There are some key things you should consider though:

Map the entire journey

A winding paved road surrounded by trees and greenery symbolic of a customer journey

More detail on what you should be looking to map out includes:

  • Creating personas. What is a persona? It’s a representation of MULTIPLE types of customers using real data and research to understand buying patterns. 
  • Per persona - think about what phases they go through in their lifecycle with your brand.  
  • Per phase - understand what they are thinking, doing, what channels they are engaging with and are active on. What are they doing? What information do they need? What are their pain points? What are they expecting you as a brand?

Also. I’m sure most of you are aware, customer journey mapping is not an exercise to be done on a marketing island. Customer experience requires input from all customer-facing teams, most notably customer service and sales, but also product experts and wider key stakeholders. Spend some time and effort on getting this step right, it’ll pay off in the long-run. 


A yellow light bulb against a yellow background symbolic of data insights in customer journey mapping

Understand where your data lives and how you can use it. Once you’ve mapped your customer journey, you need to understand how to achieve the requirements at each stage of the journey. More often than not, that means you’ll need to turn to a more technical conversation as your data is unlikely to be in one nice, neat location. 

Start off by asking what systems you have, what specific data is required, what format data the data is in, and if there are any complications in accessing that data. This will almost certainly require the creation of an architecture map (if one is not already available). Make sure it’s the tech experts who create your architecture map because it will need to include the methods and timings of data transfers, which are key when considering future mapping.  Lastly, don’t overload the system with real-time syncs where they aren’t required - but also don’t wait a day for order numbers to be sent out. 

To quickly wrap up, customer journey planning isn’t something that can be ignored due to the negative impact it has when done poorly or not at all. That said, I don’t want to only focus on the negative. To be a brand that everyone talks about is always something to aspire to and being the team that made that happen is even more aspirational. But it’s not only about you as a marketer or the impact of your department - but it’s also about cold, hard cash. Luckily it looks good there too - because according to Dimension Data, 84 percent of organisations working towards improving (CX) Customer Experience reports an increase in revenue.4 

Why do you think customer journey mapping is important? 
Message us on social media and let us know.  



1 https://econsultancy.com/three-insights-into-b2b-marketing-from-our-trends-report/
2 https://www.internetretailer.com/2013/12/31/why-omnichannel-strategy-matters
3 https://dimensiondatacx.com/?utm_source=Referral&utm_medium=PR-Regional&utm_campaign=GCXBR2017
4 http://www.oracle.com/us/products/applications/cust-exp-impact-report-epss-1560493.pdf

About the Author

Adam Dore

Adam runs the European Marketing Automation practice for Appirio. He has a wealth of experience running programs for small start ups to multi-national corporates.

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