The end of the road for the ‘customer journey’

The term ‘customer journey’ is familiar to marketers of all stripes but I wonder how many could agree on a definition. Like a lot of marketing terminology, the meaning of this phrase has become warped over time as brands and agencies have twisted it to their own ends. Now it’s most commonly used to describe the journey that brands want their customers to take – the road that moves consumers from acknowledging their need for a product to buying a specific offering from the brand. Ironically, a phrase used to describe customer behaviour is now all about brands. And what’s worrying is that this trend is somewhat familiar.

Rewind twenty years or so and picture me sitting in a meeting room listening to my boss talk about ‘customer ownership’. The thinking then was that brands should try and ‘own’ customers and tie them inextricably to their products and services. Looking back now it seems as if little has changed. Many brands still want to tell their audience what to do, what to think, what to click and, of course, what to buy. They talk about interrupting and disrupting customer journeys. The emphasis is on control and this is an arrogant and dangerous position to take.

There’s an argument to be made that marketing is all about tangible results and it’s true that steering customers can lead to sales, but only in the short term. Savvy customers soon grow frustrated with brands that don’t take the time to understand their specific needs and challenges and instead lead them towards products they don’t particularly want.

I think it’s fair to assume that all consumers don’t want to be dictated to and brands shouldn’t want to control them. In my experience, guiding and helping customers is much more rewarding for brands and with more customer touch points than ever before, we have more opportunities to engage them and enhance their experience. Although this may not deliver the immediate gratification of quick sales, it can make the journey simpler for customers, strengthen their bond with brands and deliver more sales over the long run.

Of course achieving this is easier said than done. And as every brand is different and each customer is unique, mapping specific journeys requires insight that I can’t provide in a blog. But if you’re currently refining a customer contact or communications strategy you may be interested in the Journey Mapping toolkit we’ve developed at Karmarama. It’s designed to help users improve the experience they deliver at customer touch points and help them identify customer need states and pain points.

It’s simple to use and provides everything agencies and brands need to develop JourneyMaps – visual representations of the routes consumers take towards a brand, product or service. Once you’ve put it to the test I’d welcome any feedback on it – positive or negative. Equally, if you have any questions about how to run a JourneyMaps workshop, please get in touch. I’d be more than happy to explain how I’ve used the kit in the past.

What I like most about the kit is that it’s focused on the customer, not the brand. It removes any brand agenda from the equation and places participants in a customer’s shoes. This way brands can see the world from their audience’s viewpoint, rather than their own.

Maybe it’s time to discard the term ‘customer journey’, or at least redefine it, and accept that we can’t control what customers do and shouldn’t try to. Instead we need to focus on what we can control – delivering a rewarding user experience that engages consumers and establishes a bond with them. That way, everyone wins.

Download the Journey Mapping toolkit now

  1. How stunningly simple and non customer manipulative. Good solid stuff. Customer is king, not prisoner..if you try to imprison them, they tell their friends…. a lot.


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