Engaging new buyers and repeat customers are the lifeline to achieving growth. While the context of these fundamental challenges has changed via digital technologies, they nevertheless are constant pressures. Recent surveys of CEOs by IBM, PWC, and KPMG all point to major concerns and priorities in expanding the lifeline to growth.
Creating distinctive and engaging experiences, as part of how people and businesses go about making purchases, is getting more attention today than ever. Causing many to rethink long-standing practices on customer acquisition and customer retention.
In order to learn how to create distinctive buying experiences, businesses are embracing new means and approaches. Including experience mapping, journey mapping, ethnographic research, design thinking, and customer co-design. In consumer-driven marketplaces, some of these approaches have been used successfully to reshape overall customer experiences. While in B2B marketplaces, these approaches may represent first-time efforts brought on by rapid changes in digital technologies and buying behaviors.
Understanding Buyer Interactions Matter
How new buyers and repeat customers are interacting with organizations today is putting many companies on the spot to adapt. Companies can be lulled into a false belief that their customers preferred way of interacting has not changed much. Towing a company line of “our customers have always done it this way” mentality. Missing significant shifts in how buying, in general, is being redefined.
How can companies today map buying experiences and stay on top of shifts in buying trends? Here are important elements based on working with organizations over the past fifteen years who have utilized an experience mapping approach to achieve customer-centered strategies:
- Get to know your buyer: companies today are beginning to understand the need to go beyond data analytics. Data analytics can yield insights into buying behaviors but lack in context and all-important empathy. Buyer interviews and on-site observations (ethnographic-based) can yield deeper insight into the why context and enable organizations to build empathy with buyers.
- Focus on path and end goals: typically, buyers are taking a path towards an end goal. Not having insights into these types of goals will mean any experience or journey mapping will lack direction and a compass. Goals serve as the basis for understanding the how and why of the buying experience buyers seek and engage in.
- Scenario-driven: oftentimes, the concept of journey mapping is mistaken to be a generic overview of a generalized buying process. To deeply understand how buyers behave and engage, organizations will need to adopt a view of experience and journey maps, which depicts one path per one scenario. Taking this further, the one buyer, one end goal, one path, and one scenario framework is an important principle towards making such exercises insightful and actionable. Far too often, experience and journey maps wind up as very complicated and complex maps.
- Buyer Persona-driven: goal-directed buyer personas contribute to ensuring experience and journey maps are relevant and specific to a group of buyers and that they align well with the relevant goals of a specific buyer group.
- Emotions are factored into maps: emotions are a significant portion of buying behavior and decisions today in B2B. Throughout experience mapping, emotions, thoughts, and thinking should be incorporated into understanding buyers. For example, one Fortune 100 organization discovered that fear and anxiety were heavily present in the early stages of buying experiences and journeys. Leading the organization to restructure important content towards instilling confidence in goals being reached versus a constant reminder of fear.
- Identify key interactions: experience and journey mapping can help companies gain insights into which types of interactions buyers’ value. More importantly, also uncover important interactions that may be missing. Another important aspect here is some interactions are more crucial than others and can turn the tide towards buyers proceeding down the path towards an end goal with or without a specific company. Knowing the weight behind certain types of interactions can make a big difference.
In the end, mapping buying experiences allows for a holistic view of an archetypal path that begins with gaining the attention of buyers through the eventual onboarding of new customers. Let us not forget the earlier mention of repeat customers. Many experience and journey mapping efforts are centered on new customer acquisition. The repeat customer journey, in essence, is neglected. The repeat purchase experience, thus, ending up leaving a very sour taste in the mouths of existing customers.
Organizations today can take a similar approach to mapping out the repeat buying experience. Including add-on of newer products and services. The correlation between repeat buying experience and customer retention is strong. Here is one repeat customer viewpoint that stems from a buyer research interview I conducted last year:
“It is astonishing to me that it is so difficult to work with any of these companies on ancillaries you may need after the initial install. I have to make multiple calls, get transferred around, and wait for someone to call me back. And nobody does because the big check has already been cashed!”
Senior Director, IT Infrastructure
(A brief word on formats and layouts. Whether they are linear or circular, the key is to include the important elements and to reduce complexity. Follow the one buyer persona, one scenario, one goal, and one path framework principle. Below is a previous view I have suggested in terms of how to think about the customer journey and how micro-journeys may exist within an overarching customer journey.)
Aligning With Goals
Mapping buying experiences can be an essential means for companies to gain valuable insights into how and why customers pursue goals and value certain types of interactions. The most effective experience and journey maps share common traits of being goal-directed and focused on deep insights into the paths buyers take towards specific end goals.
Producing an archetypal experience and journey map, relevant to buying experiences, can help create shared common views of how to support better customer experiences across multiple functions. This can especially help marketing and sales to be in alignment on interactions with new buyers and repeat customers.
The optimal scenario is when both marketing and sales are not only in alignment with each other, but are also in alignment with the goals of buyers.