Map your customer journey for stronger email marketing

If there’s one thing this last year has taught us, it’s that consumer behavior has changed drastically. And brands who have pivoted to meet changing expectations are those who will build even stronger relationships with their customers.   

While no one could have predicted the drastic changes coming from COVID-19, it’s important for brands to get in the mindset of their customers and adapt to their needs. Customer journey mapping is a way that brands can understand and improve each unique customer experience. 

What is a customer journey map? 

Simply put, a customer journey map is an outline of the experiences that a customer has while interacting with a brand. Sometimes these are a single experience, such as one path to purchase, and sometimes they are longer term, such as the lifecycle of a customer with a brand from acquisition to decline. Overall, these maps are a visual tool that help brands think about an interaction, usually tied to a business goal, from the customer’s point of view.    

How do I use a customer journey map? 

By mapping out the customer journey, brands can understand the factors that play into an action of a consumer. You may wonder what brings someone to make a decision to buy your product via your website, and mapping out that experience can help you understand the research, considerations, and decision-making process of selecting the products, and the experience they have with the ease—or pain—of purchasing on this channel. 

You may feel confident in knowing the profile of your customer and what motivates them to interact with your brand. However, going through the exercise of customer journey mapping helped you go even deeper in your understanding of your customer. By breaking down each touchpoint, you can evaluate how to restructure each interaction to minimize friction and maximize the customer experience. Customer journey mapping may help you realize there are too many steps in a process, which you can easily reduce to simplify the process. Or it can help identify which touch point isn’t contributing to goals, or which touchpoint you can improve to solve customer problems.  

"By breaking down each touchpoint, you can evaluate how to restructure each interaction to minimize friction and maximize the customer experience."

I’m in. How do I create one?  

Start by creating an outline of all the touch points across the consumer experience. Once the map is outlined, filling it in is fairly straightforward. And after customer journeys are mapped, brands should use the map to ensure that the right message is reaching the customer at every point along the journey.  

The right message is the real challenge, as it can take a simple concept into a complex territory. Identifying touchpoints is the ultimate objective of customer journey mapping. Taking a peek behind the curtain, we showcase how the overall approach aligns to reveal high-opportunity journeys for brand communications. 

How do I get started? 

Here’s how Epsilon solves the complexity challenge of customer journey mapping in email:  

1. Identify phases 

From awareness through to conversion, customer journey mapping requires considering what the customer experiences along their path to purchase as well as each key phase of their relationship with your brand.  

The pushpins in the customer journey map above identify all the potential phases of a start-stop brand relationship. Onboarding and Win-Back have been highlighted to identify the portions of the relationship that often provide the most significant value to map out. 

While the Growing and Stable pushpins are less sensitive phases well served by Business As Usual (BAU) promotional messaging, it is important to mix up the cadence with standout relationship recognition communications and the occasional “surprise and delight” messages. For instance, identify, acknowledge, and even reward relationship milestones. 

Epsilon uses these journey maps to improve personalization in every phase—particularly in pursuit of continuous retention, those deep and rich “maintain and retain” efforts in the Stable category where “simplifying the complex” is so important. 

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2. Break it down 

When breaking down the phases, you can identify all necessary touchpoints on the customer journey map. For instance, Welcome and Onboarding acknowledges that there are potential touchpoints between opt-in and ideal behavior (usually first purchase). 

The customer journey map should telegraph all the necessary pieces involved in bringing that journey to life. Account for: 

  • Timing 
  • Communication Objective 
  • Channel 
  • Offer (if applicable) 
  • Call to Action 

Pro Tip: Communication Objective should very clearly state…the objective. It should not have placeholder language. If the Objective is to “acknowledge opt-in,” then the Communication Objective square should read “Acknowledge Opt-In”—not “Welcome to [Program Name].” Your creatives will appreciate you setting them up for success. 

This is a good time to do something very important: name the touchpoint. This will help everyone to use the correct nomenclature; a shared language is a positive side-effect of customer journey mapping. 

Once all the boxes are filled in, consider the business rationale for each touchpoint you’ve outlined. Ensure that every touchpoint on the customer journey map aligns with a specific business objective, and identify any objectives that might be missing. If you find any holes, you can plug them before sharing with your team. 

3. Customer mindset 

Now that you have your base customer journey map, there’s one more layer to add to ensure you’re not missing a touchpoint or misinterpreting a customer behavior: customer mindset. 

By exploring possible customer mindsets, you’ll ensure that your customer journey maps align with your customer’s needs. 

Obviously, this is the step that brings empathy to the table. But there’s another important aspect that the customer mindset phase of customer journey mapping uncovers: compassion. This is where we “get human” and accept that customer journey maps require that we be compassionate for both the customer and ourselves. 

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There are a lot of reasons your customer might not do what you hoped they would. Don’t ignore the fact that their real, lived lives can interrupt achieving your brand goals—through no fault of your communication plan as dictated by the customer journey map. 

Maybe a customer was going to act, but had to run to a meeting, or get the baby up from a nap, or answered an important phone call. There are a lot of real reasons your customer might have been interrupted. 

By accounting for real life, and showing compassion for both your customer and your brand, you can incorporate a couple more relevant touchpoints without scrapping and restarting from scratch.

And, If a customer breaks away, using your Win-Back will help them return to the journey. This is where pen-and-paper comes in handy. Because your customer journey map is the answer, and now you have to show your work (even if only to yourself). 

4. Behavioral indicators 

Look at your map. It’s glorious. You know when you’re going to reach out, what you’re going to say when you reach out, what channel you’re going to use, and why this will work. 

This is a chance to validate communication interactions to the customer journey we’ve just mapped. Have you accounted for all touchpoints that address each action? Some examples are “clicked” and “did not click,” but extend to browsing behaviors or abandonment behaviors—the list goes on. Add any in that may be missed.

Identifying as many behaviors your customers could take with your brand ensures everything is accounted for, and no messaging opportunity stone is left unturned. The customer interacts digitally or in real life with your brand, and that's a big deal. That deep feeling of being recognized, valued, and fully understood at the right times goes a long way, and can be furthered by meeting customers where they are, across all touchpoints. 

5. Realizing the value of customer journey maps 

Customer journey maps provide real value to brands, helping them identify key touchpoints and reconciling their approach with reality. 

But the greatest value is realized by the customers served by those maps. A thorough customer journey map ensures that customers are supported every step of the way. Which circles back to value for the brand. 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience, but also, 1 in 3 customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad or disjointed experience. 

Tight customer journey mapping puts your brand in a better position to increase customer spend and reduce brand abandonment—all by unifying the customer experience. 

"A thorough customer journey map ensures that customers are supported every step of the way. Which circles back to value for the brand."

6. Collaborative mapping 

Epsilon takes a collaborative approach to customer journey mapping, to ensure every perspective is accounted for. From identity and data to real-time triggers and creative strategy, a lot goes into creating—and then bringing to life—a customer journey map. As detailed above, the simple story of the map hides the many factors that get distilled. 

Epsilon’s journey mapping strategy 

Epsilon understands that personalization drives the relationships that brands have with their customers. We make it easy to insert the most relevant personalization techniques at every touchpoint on the journey map. Our journey maps help us execute the strategy by understanding that customer relevance doesn’t have to compete with brand objectives. We build cross-channel journey maps to ensure the customer experience is consistent and reliable. Then we infuse the right personalization through data, identity, and AI/Machine Learning. 

From first purchase to next purchase, from loyalty to lapse prevention, Epsilon’s focus is on delivering outcomes to convert on time and over time, thereby building valuable relationships between brands and their customers. 

Find out how Epsilon is positioned to help your brand achieve real business outcomes with our experts, services, tools and tech.