Despite the elaborate charts, graphs, and other representations that marketers create to outline their theoretical Customer Journeys, the truth of the matter is that it’s not them or their companies that dictate the path of this journey.
Really, it all comes down to the customer, that same dear customer that we’ve sworn to force into a box and behave as we expect. Despite all our best efforts, it seems that this all-too-human customer rebels against our commands—perhaps it has something to do with that elusive tempter, “freedom.”
That’s why instead of a Customer Journey, we should consider an “I-Journey.” Here, the “I” represents a real person. Let’s for once think of the customer as a human being, because after all, the behaviour of that all-important person is the central piece of the puzzle that we call marketing. Let’s look at that behaviour as it is, not as we want it to be.
Today’s most popular Customer Journey representations, including the likes of ZMOT and McKinsey, define the customer’s trajectory with the precision of an engineer, from stimulus to research, from purchase to experience. The circle completes with feedback, and the engine churns on and on, ad infinitum.
Perhaps this method has worked until now. At least I have successfully used it for years, employing those flow- charts to organize my own tactics and reach customers. But convincing a human being in today’s world, with so many options at their fingertips, requires us to open our minds to new options.
Freedom to Choose
Starting with a similar representation of the existing Customer Journeys, we should start however, by placing the customer in the right place, the centre.
They are the one who decides and the often mentioned ‘customer centricity’ must not only be spoken but also proven.
Well, so far, there’s not much of a difference, right? Well, look again at the picture and you will probably see, or as we may more accurately say, you will not see a starting point.
We would necessitate a Customer Journey that is not sequential, one that is not as deterministic as many marketers may think or desire.
You, me, and every other customer on this planet have the freedom to choose a path. Our brains are not wheels that ride on rails. We are all different, and we constantly find ourselves in different situations. This means that both our experiences and our reactions are unique; therefore, we do not react in the same way to the same stimulus when faced with different circumstances or moments.
Thus, let’s construct a representation that can provide us with a sequential approach if need be, just like the ones we all know until now, but let’s make sure that it is open to the possibility of the customer taking different paths. Let’s create an I-Journey that includes and analyses our customer’s freedom of choice, one that is neither linear nor circular. Take a look at the image below.
Here, the user, still in the centre of our map, can decide where to start and end their journey. Our unpredictable human may decide to buy on a whim, for no good reason, and then, before even experiencing the product, go online and write a review.
He then realizes that their review may not be in-line with other customer reviews, so he then takes a moment to do some research. Once that’s done, he finally gets around to trying out his new purchase, and, overwhelmed with the joy that it brings into his life, he decides to look up some how-to videos on YouTube.
This I-Journey started with a purchase, ended with a stimulus, and zig-zagged all across the map for the duration.
Can you think of a journey of your own that took this form? What about your Customer Journey when buying a car? How about when hiring a lawyer’s service? Did you get references before starting your own research? Did you completely skip the research part after a friend’s recommendation?
Once you start thinking like this, you’ll begin to realize that those prescriptive and premeditated Customer Journeys happen a lot less often than we may have believed and hoped for. And there is more…