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The Role of Market Research in Mapping Customer Journeys

By Charlotte Pearson

Concept of Customer Journey Mapping

Understanding the journey that a customer or, sometimes more importantly, a customer prospect goes through when interacting with your brand is key to ensuring you are delivering the ultimate experience.

As Audra Sorman points out, the customer journey isn’t just about one, or part of one transaction/communication with your brand, it needs to take into account the full experience of being a customer including every single touchpoint.

It’s important to remember this when thinking about mapping your customer journey. Whilst it is beneficial to evaluate each specific journey stage (e.g. on-boarding, purchase, retention) it’s also essential to understand how the different parts interact with one another to form the full journey.

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The customer journey needs to account for every single customer touchpoint - and the interaction between touchpoints - the customer experience in it's entirety

Where To Start When Mapping Customer Journeys?

1. Strategic Research
Talk to your colleagues. The customer journey spans every department in a business and so, every department should have input into its mapping. This will give you a broad overview of your main customer touchpoints as well as what should happen during each stage and the process by which they move from one stage to the next from a brand perspective.

2. Behavioural Research
Use the behavioural data held by your organisation to hollow out the customer journey map or maps you now have drafted.

Retailer Example: If a retailer sends an email to their CRM, they collect data including ‘opens’ and ‘clicks’, i.e. who goes on to visit their website/app. Website/app usage data provides an understanding of the pages viewed by email visitors, time spent, etc. and transactional data, gives the detail as to what these customers are buying, when and how.

= The Customer Journey ‘What’
The combination of both strategic and behavioural data allows you to build a detailed, sense-checked customer journey map/s as far as ‘what’ your customer and prospects do, but neither of these provide any insight into the ‘why’. Referring to the example above; why did certain customers open that particular retailer email, and others not, why did they click, why didn’t they, why did Product A make more of an impact than Product B, what exactly made them buy it, with that retailer over someone else, and perhaps most importantly, how did they feel throughout the whole journey. Would they repeat it? You might have some theories about all of this, but they are just that, theories.

So, Where Does Market Research Come In?

Only by talking to real life customers, will you be able to answer the questions above and prove/disprove your theories – that’s where market research comes in. It is an integral part of the true understanding of both customer journey stages and the experience as a whole depending on your focus.

Do your internal research (strategic and behavioural), map your customer journeys, identify high points, low points, gaps; develop your hypothesis and then do your market research to test, explore, ideate. Use the outcomes to identify and drive the changes needed.

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Customer journey mapping - Outline journeys via internal research (strategic and behavioural); identify high points. low points. gaps; develop hypothesis; use market research to test. explore. ideate

How To Approach Your Customer Journey Mapping Market Research

You can incorporate market research into every element of customer journey mapping from brand awareness, to purchase experience to loyalty and retention. Just be mindful that each journey stage and its relationship to the next will have an impact on the methodology you choose. To give you a couple of examples:

Brand Impact and The Customer Journey
Ethnographic diaries including text, image and video feedback, are great for examining the place of your brand in the daily life of your customer. For existing customers its best used during retention and advocacy stages, for target market consumers, you may like to look at it for the awareness and consideration stages. Either way, diaries of this nature provide rich, expansive insight for interdepartmental journey mapping development.

Digital Behaviour / Purchasing and The Customer Journey
Whether it’s regarding website navigation in general or the e-commerce/m-commerce purchasing experience, UX feedback is primarily collected via user journey testing in feedback card style format. Vox pops, photos and in-image bulletin boards add further insight dimensions. There are a number of different approaches to this.

1. Allow users to navigate naturally, i.e. to take the journeys that they would without instruction, and ask them to feedback on their experience, or,
2. Specify the journey, i.e. find Product A or buy Product B, and ask users to feedback. Be mindful that if you take this approach however, intuitive user insights missed. You might like to consider a combined methodology to compensate.

In Conclusion

Understanding the customer journey goes way beyond just knowing ‘what’ it is, though having a confirmed visual is important of course. Market research supports both accurate mapping, i.e. filling in any internal gaps as well as customer centric development. Use it to tap into the perceptions, motivations and emotions of your customers and enhance both individual journey stages, their connections and the overall experience.

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Charlotte Pearson

Charlotte Pearson- Head of Client Services

Personal Bio: Working across media, fashion, FMCG and retail accounts, Charlotte provides crucial support to our part service and DIY clients. She works directly with brand & insight managers to ensure research success.
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