Understanding the Customer Journey: Increasing Conversion Through Context

May 10, 2018
Matthew Smith

Interactions with customers are no longer finished once their purchase is complete. In a way, it's only just the beginning of the relationship.

UX & Design

As we've become more involved in commerce-oriented work, we've quickly learned that the days of a once linear conversion path, or funnel, to purchase are gone. Customers have more control of their purchase decisions than ever before. Businesses need to consider every interaction with their customers as a perpetual cycle rather than a short-lived path.

What we also knew as a traditional conversion funnel did not anticipate the experiences that stretch beyond purchase. Interactions with customers are no longer finished once their purchase is complete. In a way, it's only just the beginning of the relationship. To drive consumer loyalty and brand advocacy requires continued brand interaction and consumer experiences that leverage what the business already knows about the customer.

Of course, The C2 Group isn’t the first to come to this realization. There are many analysts, consultants, and research firms with models that support the idea of cyclical progression from research, to purchase, and beyond. One such group is McKinsey & Company and its Customer Journey Loop. C2 has its take on the model, too, which we’ve provided below.

C2's version of McKinsey & Company's Customer Journey Loop

What the model effectively means is that your customers are never on a predetermined path or journey. Digital teams would be wise to take note, and be at the ready to support their customers at each unpredictable step along the way.

While we enjoy this model and how it applies for commerce, we believe it can be applied broadly across industries. It’s really just about giving users what they need, when they need it, to make their own decisions. Here are a couple ways we’ve used models like McKinsey’s and others to help craft successful client strategies:

Experiences are for consumers

This seems obvious, but maintaining a “True North” can be difficult when navigating the needs, interests, and voices of various stakeholders. Content, functionality, and design decisions must keep these user needs in focus, and should serve to support users throughout the customer journey. As long as we’re incorporating the right brand, product, and support options on the page, this is more important, initially, than a button style or image treatment. We can button that up later, but let’s make sure to focus on those user needs first.

Is the brand along for the journey?

All the digital ad spend to drive qualified traffic to your site? It won’t matter much if the content isn’t helping users effectively evaluate your brand and product. It’s not uncommon for businesses to spend too much time, focus, and … spend … on channels that won’t ultimately influence user decisions.

Here’s the dirty little secret for brands competing with Amazon: you know your brand, products, and can speak to both better than the online retail giant. Research, observe, and test around users to reveal where needs are not being met. It could be that the content is already there, but it’s difficult to find or could be better surfaced to users. Or, maybe new content needs to be developed (educational content on product use or lifestyle content that conveys the product experience). Either way, taking the time to understand each stage and what users need is vital to supporting their customer journeys.

The work doesn’t end at purchase

It’s well-documented that acquiring new customers is more expensive than retaining your existing ones. It’s also more difficult to acquire than to keep, which is why businesses often prioritize new customer acquisition. But ignoring the time and investment users have with your brand could be a costly mistake. Don’t take your customers for granted. Just because you have these users now doesn’t mean you’ll keep them, not without some investment and strategy in driving brand loyalty. Creating a strategy for communicating to passively and actively loyal customers should be established, observed, and optimized based on interactions and questions following initial purchase.

Understanding how users make decisions, and providing the content and tools they need at each stage in the process, supports both new customer acquisition as well as retention. By applying models, like McKinsey’s, against your content and user experience strategies, you can better identify gaps or opportunities to better serve users. The prioritizing customer experienc guides decision-making, as we’re holding user needs above all else.

There’s a ton of great research that removes much of the guesswork on the “how”, it’s applying it to your business and focusing on the “what”: what users need to successfully do business with your business.