The Customer Journey and the Role of Benchmarking

By |2018-03-23T13:40:14+00:00January 30th, 2017|

The customer journey is the route a consumer takes to reach their goal. This goal could for example be the purchase of a product, solving a problem with a service, or finding information. Companies have become increasingly interested in consumers’ experiences and perceptions during this journey.

Opportunities for growth and loyalty are created through a better understanding of what consumers encounter during their ‘journey’, what they find pleasant, what causes them to give up, and where decision points are located. Service, according to an increasing number of digital professionals, is actually the new sales…

The Digital Sales Journey

The customer journey often starts online. In this orientation phase, the consumer goes online to find information to become more familiar with the product, for example. Here, they encounter various parties who provide what they are looking for, and develop a preference for a particular provider. The tremendous yearly growth of online spending shows that Dutch consumers often complete their purchases online. In 2015, Dutch consumers spent 8.41 billion on product purchases; 21.9% more than in 2014. Spending on services such as travel and event tickets, shows a growth of 10.3%. (source: gfk.com, Thuiswinkel Markt Monitor research)

Especially in online, an optimally organised customer journey on the website is key. After all, for the consumer a different ‘store’ is just one click away. If you want to keep a consumer happy on your website and convert them, you have to at least offer them a clear journey without obstacles that slow them down (e.g. unclear visual navigation, too much information, irrelevant information, an unreliable impression, or technical issues). Companies often get it wrong still, which is evident from the fact that many have low conversion rates hovering around 1%. Unbelievable, really: there are 100 consumers in your store, and 99 of them leave without buying anything.

To get the journey in order, usability tests, A/B testing, and pop-up questionnaires on the website offer a solution. But what is often overlooked, is that a consumer’s digital journey often doesn’t start and end with a visit to a single store. Natural behaviour would be visiting multiple websites by Googling keywords, entering company names directly into the address bar in the browser, or visiting comparison sites.

No matter how well-designed a usability test may be, you won’t know if you’re actually scoring well until you know what is happening within the competitive environment. What do people experience on all these different websites with respect to one another? What makes consumers prefer one but not the other? Which aspects of the customer journey take priority when it comes to improving?

The Digital Service Journey

These days, the optimal organisation of online self-service is considered to be almost as important as the online sales journey. By allowing consumers to answer their questions themselves online, make changes, or manage an account, there is a ‘win’ on both sides. Companies can reduce their service centre costs and thus achieve higher margins, and consumers can get to work whenever it suits them. Without having to worry about office hours, waiting times, and menus. Our own WUA! studies show that more than 70% of consumers want to be able to deal with service-related issues themselves online. And this percentage is increasing rapidly. In order to optimally organise self-service online (think app and the My-environment within websites), it is fascinating to find out what is the standard in the world around the consumer. This standard is determined by the best in class – that is the bar the consumer will set for you.

The role and value of benchmarking

Comparing digital sales and service journeys is something we do on a daily basis at WUA!. Together with our customers, we are building the best digital experience benchmark in the world. In our view, it is rather illogical NOT to compare consumers’ experiences on your website to their experiences on the websites of the competition. This comparison is what we call benchmarking, and we don’t just do this for customer sales journeys, but service journeys as well. When we look at service journeys, we can see that service level expectations are increasing: that is a big challenge!