It’s Not All About You – Part 4 of a 6 Part Series
When executed correctly, a customer journey map can help a brand better understand its customer experience—from customers’ earliest preexisting associations of the brand through purchase and loyalty. However, there are also several ways that a customer journey can go astray.
In this series, we’re exploring six reasons why brands are struggling to use customer journeys to create authentic, consistent, and differentiated experiences for their customers (and more importantly, how to fix it). Up fourth: It’s Not All About You.
SHOUTING IN THE SAME ROOM
Customer journey maps, by their nature, are created in the context of a single brand. Even the most robust ones detail the customer’s experience with one brand and therefore exclude the customer’s relationship with competitors. In reality, however, a customer’s journey with one brand is inextricably linked with competitive brands; in fact, the customer often moves through multiple customer journeys simultaneously.
In today’s competitive world, without an understanding of the customer’s relationship with the category in the context of their journey with your brand, it’s impossible to provide the customer with a differentiated experience.
In today’s competitive world, without an understanding of the customer’s relationship with the category in the context of their journey with your brand, it’s impossible to provide the customer with a differentiated experience. Brands tend to seek the same low-hanging fruit, and without acknowledging the full landscape, it’s likely that you’re communicating the same message in the same place to the same target as your competitors. So how can you break through when everyone’s shouting in the same room? Perhaps try going to a different room and whispering. Here’s how.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY WHAT YOUR COMPETITORS ARE DOING
Understanding where and how your competitors overlap with your customer journey requires taking two viewpoints: as a marketer and as a customer. From a marketing perspective, identify your entire competitive set (both direct and indirect competitors), determine their primary and secondary target customer segments and articulate their product offerings, value propositions, and positionings.
Then apply this information in the context of your customer journey, this time from the customer’s perspective. Are parts of the journey dominated by competitors, or are there areas where your competitors are showing up that you’re not? Where does your brand stand out? At what points in your journey are you losing prospects to competitors? Are your competitors doing a better job of maintaining a relationship with the customer post-purchase? At the end of this analysis, you should have a thorough understanding of the competitive landscape and how it overlays onto your customer journey.
STEP 2: DEFINE THE EXPERIENCE
It’s impossible to optimize the customer’s experience without first understanding what experience you seek to offer. To achieve this, it’s critical to define your brand’s singular brand idea, which is the brand intent boiled down to the simplest language possible. For example, “Value and Simplicity” is Trader Joe’s brand idea (an American grocery store chain). From the clearly marked low prices on each shelf; to the lack of gimmicks, shopper clubs, or special savings cards; to the aesthetic of the stores themselves (simple cedarwood planks and bright, warm colors), the sum total of all of the interactions a customer can have with the Trader Joe’s brand points back to Value and Simplicity.
Before optimizing your customer experience against competitors, review each touchpoint along the customer journey and ensure that the experience is driven by a singular brand idea. By offering a clear, compelling, and consistent experience, you can significantly enhance the customer journey before even considering your competition.
STEP 3: OPTIMIZE
With a comprehensive understanding of the competitive landscape and a clearly defined brand experience, the final step is to optimize the customer experience across the entire journey. To do this, evaluate your customer journey, and determine where there are table stakes touchpoints, where there are unnecessary touchpoints, and where white space exists.
IF IT’S TABLE STAKES, DIFFERENTIATE.
It’s possible you’ll find that the majority of your customer journey overlaps with one or more of your competitors’ touchpoints. For example, you might be present at the same conferences and events, advertise in the same publications and on the same channels, have products sitting on the same shelves, or offer similar apps, customer service channels, or loyalty programs.
Most likely, these overlapping touchpoints are considered table stakes for your category, so your brand is required to show up there to compete in the category. However, we all know the story: when many brands appear at the same place, one brand will attempt to stand out by spending more money, by yelling louder. To catch up, the rest of the category will amp up their budgets, the room gets louder and louder, and the customer doesn’t know what to think.
Fortunately, there’s a way to differentiate and cut through the noise by leveraging your brand idea. For example, in the airline industry, although it costs airlines millions each year and is an expected and unimpressive experience for passengers, essentially every airline offers a complimentary in-flight snack or beverage. However, JetBlue found an easy way to take this banal experience and differentiate it by offering blue chips to its passengers. Receiving JetBlue’s blue chips is not much different from receiving peanuts or crackers from another airline, yet the allusion to JetBlue’s color in its snack choice delights customers and brands the interaction as a uniquely JetBlue experience.
IF IT’S UNNECESSARY, CUT IT.
On the other hand, as you review your customer journey map, you’ll likely find several existing touchpoints that aren’t table stakes, aren’t producing ROI, and might even conflict with your brand idea. If two or more of these are true—cut them. Especially in B2B, brands tend to accumulate “legacy touchpoints” over time, such as a conference or trade show that a company has participated in for over a decade that seems out of the question to cut from this year’s marketing budget.
However, a brand is the sum total of every interaction a customer has with a brand. So even if it takes relatively few resources to maintain a legacy touchpoint, if the interaction does not clearly champion your brand idea, it is hurting your brand.
IF THERE’S WHITE SPACE, OWN IT.
Instead, focus your dollars on filling in white space. In theory, there is infinite white space around the customer journey, and—as a result— there are infinite touchpoints that a brand could create to engage prospects and customers in new areas. However, not all touchpoints are created equally, and the vast majority will likely not help a brand enhance its customer experience. In order to better assess white space opportunities, consider the following questions:
- Is it appropriate for your brand to show up at this touchpoint? Does it align with your defined brand experience?
- Is there a compelling reason why competitors are not active at this touchpoint?
- By building this new touchpoint, will your brand be able to better reach and engage the customer?
- How can you measure the success of the touchpoint?
Venturing into unexplored territory can be daunting; it requires effort,
resources, and maybe even taking a small risk. When executed correctly,
however, it allows consumers to interact with a pure, uncluttered version of your brand.
You’re in a competitive space, and that’s not going to change. However, by activating your brand’s core identity to craft differentiated customer experiences, you can stand apart. To get started, gather some research on what your competitors are doing, note where you overlap, and then—objectively—analyze your customer journey to determine which touchpoints should be tweaked, cut, or created. By doing so, you’ll find the space to finally be heard.
Customer journeys are so much more than customer data organized on a piece of paper—they’re pools of insight, providing clues into how we can better engage and propel customers through their journeys. Differentiating your brand experience from competitors represents a crucial step on the path toward journey optimization. But it’s not the only answer. Stay tuned for Part 5, where we discuss how integrating digital and physical touchpoints can help drive a better, more branded experience.