Today’s consumer makes hundreds, if not a thousand choices, every day on the internet. Where to look for information? Which products to buy? Where to buy from? Some businesses take an aggressive approach to champion their game among these seekers. They continue to offer more choices, more products, more features and more value for money.
While frequent interactions and a plethora of product or service choices lead to conversions in most cases, companies need a more simplified and strategic plan for the customer journey. An extensive survey was conducted by leading brand consultancy Siegel+Gale with over 15,000 consumers across nine countries. It turns out, businesses providing the most simple and straightforward experiences boasted the strongest stock performance and the most loyal customers.
In the words of late Steve Jobs, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Here are five interrelated strategies that may help a business to simplify the customer journey to deliver a smooth customer experience:
Aiding the navigation channels
Most businesses focus on flashy interactive experiences and creating multiple touchpoints across platforms when they think about consumer experiences. This approach is laden with confusion on the purchase path of a user. In reality, the right path involves touchpoints outside a company’s direct control. This means personalising the route and minimising the number of information sources the consumers may touch while moving confidently toward a purchase.
PayPal kick-started as an innovative marketplace solution, but it is the company's almost flawless customer journey that has kept it on top of other online payment gateways. Their simplistic website design has contributed to the trustworthiness and usability of their services. Paypal never tries to trick or confuse users with their easily navigable menu options - a factor essential for a finance/money app.
Paypal, however, was once far from being easy. Before its redesign in 2014, their web application looked overly cluttered, leading to frustration and disrupting engagement. Paypal recognised customer journey by reorganising website elements and reducing content.
Assisting in decision making
Information overload does more harm than good; it leads to decision fatigue. When a consumer is mentally exhausted from weighing the available options, he or she may impulsively choose a product or service to end the gruelling process or abandon the process altogether. This impairs both the sales volume and customer satisfaction.
In 2000, psychologists Sheena Iyengar from Columbia University and Mark Lepper from Stanford University published a remarkable study. At a local food market, buyers were given 24 varieties of gourmet jams. Those who sampled the spreads received a $1 discount coupon. The next day, shoppers got only six varieties of the jam. Even though the large display attracted more interest, ten times more people made a purchase on the next day with the smaller display. The study affirmed that a variety of offerings might seem appealing at first, but the choice overload paralyses the buyer.
A company should chart a consumer journey that makes its prospects feel confident about their decision. Their tools should allow customers to identify and weigh the most relevant features. One may offer to buy guides and product comparisons, set up a call, or follow up through emails regarding services.
Achieving impact from data
Two of the most practical challenges that marketers face while creating a customer journey are: identifying where a given consumer is on the purchase path and what information he or she needs the most. The solution to both the questions is using big data and sophisticated analytics to map the customer’s purchase paths.
A rudimentary approach is to segment customers into large groups based on their previous interactions and demographic data like age, address, gender, etc. An evolving system is to use advanced analytics that enables segmentation and real-time decision-making for an individual customer.
Spotify is much loved for their curated playlists and new music suggestions based on users’ listening behaviours. This data-driven company has revolutionised how we consume music. They use “intel” about factors like song play-time, countries they are streamed in, and the streaming device to map individual customer journeys. This data also benefits artists by providing fascinating insights into their audience and positioning themselves accordingly. Spotify is now using big data for its “fans-first” initiative, allowing artists to give their most dedicated fans access to special offers on concert tickets, gear, etc.
Customers are now well aware that the brands they purchase from have access to their interests and behaviours. As consumers willingly share their data for a better experience, they expect a high level of customer service.
Translating value from customer feedback
Customer feedback is the reality check for a business. Customers’ interaction with the business is based on the culmination of a series of experiences, the net result being good ones minus the bad ones. Identifying the gap between customer expectations and their subsequent experiences may be bridged by using their feedback to modify customer journeys.
SiteGround is one of the most reliable web hosting providers and the winner of several awards such as Best Hosting Support, Hosting Uptime Award and Best Shared Hosting. They prioritise the value of customer feedback, as is reflected on their website with over 1500 customer reviews. They have provided three different channels for customers to leave feedback - tickets, live chat and phone. On top of these feedback channels, the hosting service automatically redirects users to a new window to rate each customer service representative who attends them after a live chat or call. Upon submission, the users are redirected to Yelp, where their reviews are live for others to see.
SiteGround keeps customer feedback at the centre of the customer journey, always listening to the users and enhancing their experience.
Most companies invest in “hearing their customers”, but they don’t know how to implement what their customers say. The strongest feedback loops connect customers and management, deconstruct the feedback, and convert it into practical actions.
Shifting to an omnichannel approach
Making customers interact and communicate via a single channel is an insidious obstacle to improving the customer journey. An omnichannel experience is a multichannel approach that seamlessly integrates different communication channels a business uses to communicate with customers.
This requires internal preparation because passing the request from one department to another leads to delay, causing the prospect to leave before making any decision. Customers should be able to reach the business without struggling, and there should be a process to offer prompt information and solutions.
Disney knows how to get the omnichannel experience right, down to the most minor details. Their magical experience starts with customers' initial experience on their beautiful, mobile-responsive website and app. Customers may use these apps to explore parks or review all the attractions, restaurants and entertainment options. After booking, their “My Disney Experience” tool helps to plan the entire itinerary.
Also, Disney’s Magic Band programme takes user experience to another level. The band links to the app and acts as:
- a hotel room key
- a photo storage device for any pictures taken with Disney characters
- a food ordering tool, and
- the primary payment method at the theme parks.
If an entertainment giant such as Disney takes the customer journey so seriously, other businesses may do better by incorporating an omnichannel approach to marketing, selling and serving customers.
Content marketers have long been aware of the way consumers research and buy products. Yet, we hardly see examples of businesses shifting their focus - from selling products and services to the customers to leading them to a purchase decision by equipping them with information and support. This shift in perspective may look like a loss of power over consumers, but in reality, it is an opportunity to reach them at the right place and the right time to influence their purchases.
Though we emphasise creating a simple customer journey, the process itself is an incredibly complex endeavour. It requires agile capabilities with rapid iteration, testing and learning at its core. This requires embracing internal complexities, operational and cultural shifts from top to bottom and leaving room for exceptions. The reward is higher customer satisfaction for businesses that master it, an increase in revenue and enduring competitive advantage.