The Importance of the Customer Journey

Relax. This isn't an in-depth look at how to create a digital strategy for your business. Great Guns, no. We both don't have the time.

Instead, we're going to look at two key areas that we feel are hugely important in making sure that the digital strategy works and more importantly, adds value.

Expect to learn nothing new here. You're welcome. However, the number of businesses that we talk to about this and come up short on the detail would surprise you. We may not be original here, but we're going to bang on the drum as loud as we can to make sure we're doing our best to raise standards.

When starting on the digital strategy journey, I can guarantee that uttering one sentence will doom the whole process. If anyone in a kick-off meeting states, "Do you know what I think we should have on the site?" then buckle up buttercup, you're in for a long painful and, ultimately, worthless ride.

First things first, who is a digital strategy for? Internal teams? Agency partners? C-Suite comfort blanket? We'd argue that it's for your customers. A digital strategy is a document that understands how you can solve your customer's problems with your product or service.

If that's the basis of the document, it then stands to reason that you understand your customers. What could be simpler? You know their motivations, their emotions, their places to go to get advice, who they talk to, and why they talk to them. 

You'd think that. But you probably don't.

Here's the thing. 74% of sales go to the first company that is useful1.

Let's just highlight that; Useful. Being useful is a hugely overlooked facet of a digital strategy. Having a product page, bulging with features, with video smattered all over the page and big, bold call to actions may not be "useful". Possibly informative, but very likely, not useful.

Another way to avoid being useful is if someone in your business says that they know customers and they can create a customer journey. If this is raised, get out the big stick. What tends to happen is that you end up with an operational map of how a customer is supposed to go through your sales funnel. It rarely reflects the customer's choice; it tends to focus on what you would like the customer to do, rather than reflect on the reality of the customer experience, an experience that is as influenced by emotion as it is by logic. The customer journey that's been created internally tends to miss this. You end up changing very little that helps the customer.

The only way that you can make a digital strategy work for your customers and, in turn, your business is to make sure that you can understand what your customer needs at critical points of the journey. And the only way to do gain that understanding is by talking to your customers. 

Talking to customers seems straightforward; the trick is to forget what you know. Don't guide, nudge or imply. You need to listen to them and follow their lead. That's why bringing in a third party like us in is worthwhile. We have no baggage; we have no skin in that game. We can ask the question that kicks off the whole journey and see where it goes. What's that question? It's so apparent it'll burst your head:

"Take me back to the day when you first decided to evaluate a new insert your product/service here and tell me what happened."

And let the customer take you on the crazy, convoluted, surprising journey. You'll learn why they started, where they went to, what made them happy, what made them anxious, who they had to convince, what held them back, what pushed them forward. Oh, the things you will learn.

And how does that learning shape your digital strategy? It's important to realise that this is the foundation of the whole approach. The first thing that you'll understand is how the digital journey influences the offline journey. Understand the complete journey, online and off, is important. Are your customers doing a lot of research online that influences the visit to a store or to your office? It will provide context to a whole range of areas that may have previously been hidden from you.

You'll gain insight into what's important to your customer, what they need to complete a purchase, not just what you want them to do. It's ok to challenge their preconceptions. Your research may uncover a Harley Davidson when they feel they're after a faster horse. Combined with the digital goals that you've set for your business, this stage of creating your digital strategy provides direction and focus on delivering for your customers rather than just starting with the sentence that kills a thousand digital projects, "Do you know what I think we should have on the site?". Let's not think, let's talk to the customer so that we know and give your digital strategy the very best chance of success.  


1Kristina Jaramillo, “B2B Buyers Are Calling for a Change in How You Socially Sell to Them on LinkedIn,” Salesforce, April 20, 2016.