‘Tis the Season to Find Pain Points in Your Retail Customer Journey

by Jeannie Walters

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When Santa delivers stress…

As December furiously barrels on toward the holidays, your customers will become more and more hurried and stressed as they try to find the perfect gifts. How well will your retail experience handle it?

Do you have a working customer journey map? If you don’t, the holiday season is a perfect time to get started so you know your customer journey will be up to snuff throughout the coming year.

Why map the retail customer journey?

Understanding your customer’s true journey is a very helpful way to improve the experience and rise above the competition.

In traditional customer journey maps, the map is developed from the customer’s viewpoint. Then the highs and lows of interactions are recorded via the entire relationship a customer may have with an organization.

Customer journey maps follow these steps:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Selection
  4. Purchase
  5. Use
  6. Satisfaction
  7. Loyalty
  8. Advocacy.

These can, of course, be customized based on the industry or specific experience, but these are the basic steps of any customer journey.

These maps tend to become very detailed and quite robust and can take months to really capture accurately. It’s a critical part of designing the best experience for your customers, however, because otherwise it’s common to view everything from the organizational perspective.

Too many retailers assume their customers are experiencing exactly what was developed for them. Processes work, people deliver and expectations are exceeded!

But this is a false assumption. Customers are human, meaning they are emotionally-driven and irrational. They don’t follow the linear patterns the way our processes are designed.

To really exceed expectations, it’s time to understand your customer’s journey from their perspective. To do that before the holiday shopping season is over, it’s time to do a quick and dirty customer journey mapping.

No (jingle) bells and whistles, just insights and action. And no internal lingo. It’s time to think like a customer.

Ready? Let’s go.

5 ways to assess your retail customer journey map:

 

1. Take a walk.

It’s time to try on the shoes of your customers. This means really thinking through how they shop with you.

pain points

Wander through the store and look for points of confusion:

  • Are the signs clear enough?
  • Is checkout obvious?
  • What about price checks? Do they have to hunt somebody down?

Make notes and dive in for those easy wins.

2. Do your (their) research.

About 81% of your customers conduct plenty of research in advance of purchase, many of them using their mobile devices and this continues to be an ever-growing trend.

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming all your customers go about their research the same way. Look for ways to connect your products with the obvious ways they search, like customer reviews online. Then look for the less-obvious ways, like searching for nearby merchants, and make them an offer they can’t refuse.

Know what the big products will be this year? Keep your content marketing engine running, and you’ll start seeing clues for what they need the most. Help your best customers stay “in the know” by sending emails with specific information on how they will use those products.

Customers will be searching and researching a lot during the holidays, and seeking out the great deals for several weeks afterwards.

 

3. Consider the worst.

What if your inventory can’t keep up? What if deliveries are delayed? Even if you’re able to avoid disaster, was it a close call? Keep track of those worst cases.

But don’t forget to put on your customer hat! How will they react when things go astray? How can you proactively manage those situations?

Weather happens. Supply chain mishaps happen. Think about how to communicate and set expectations with customers before they become irate with unmet expectations.

Have Plan B ready so you don’t need a Plan C!

 

4. Consider the best.

How can you really bring out the best in your customers? Watch your current journey and look for opportunities to create moments of unexpected delight.

Offering real-time rewards for loyal customers via mobile messaging and discounts can earn not only more loyalty, but a little social media sharing from customers.

Offering free gift wrapping or even special gift tags can help your harried shoppers when they need it the most.

 

5. Watch out for the exits.

Instead of considering the journey as one straight line, consider how your customers may be leaving you. Do they abandon their shopping carts? Do they check online for better deals? What does their behavior today tell you about their behavior tomorrow?

If you pinpoint the exit points, you can also create winning strategies to combat them.

In one scenario, a local store offered to provide Santa’s warehousing for busy parents. After wrapping the gifts, parents were invited to leave the gifts in the store until Christmas Eve. This small but important gesture helped the independent store gain business that would’ve otherwise gone to online and big box stores. Parents appreciated the gesture and took advantage of the help from the in-store elves!

 

Recapping the 5 ways to assess your retail customer journey map:

 

  1. Take a walk. Wander through the store and look for points of confusion, then brainstorm efficient ways to improve them.
  2. Do your (their) research. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming all your customers go about their research the same way.
  3. Consider the worst. How will customers react when things go astray? How can you proactively manage those situations?
  4. Consider the best. Watch your current journey and look for opportunities to create moments of unexpected delight.
  5. Watch out for the exits. If you pinpoint customer exit points, you can also create winning strategies to combat them.

Understanding your customer’s true journey can help you improve experiences that may not be broken, but require attention in order to get ahead of the competition.

Are you confident you really know how to walk in your customer’s shoes?

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators™ by 360Connext, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker. Learn more here.

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