User journeys are a hot topic right now in content. 2016 was coined “The Year of the Customer” by Forbes, “The Year of Customer Experience” by Adweek, and CIO explained “why you need to make 2016 the year of the customer.” In truth, companies that want to thrive and survive must be audience-first this and every year because “customer journey mapping will become a mandatory tool for digital transformation. Enterprises will begin to do customer journey mapping as the first part of their planning activities,” predicts Mahesh Kolar, Director of Mobility Applications at Dell.
As content strategy and content marketing have exploded, it’s time to evolve beyond user personas and focus on user journeys. Sure, if you have a brand new product or service you will have to approach this exercise as a hypothetical, but talking to real people (and ideally real customers) is the surest way to safeguard that your user journey doesn’t sit languishing on your desktop or whiteboard. And it’s crucial to keep in mind that the bulk of your customers user journeys are interacting with your content or content available about your organization.
In fact, “82% of consumers research products prior to going in the store,” according to Salesforce Research’s 2015 Connected Shoppers Report. For B2B decisions, that number jumps to 94%.
One of the goals for creating user journeys is to ensure that a user’s experience is better with your brand than all (or at least most) of the other brands they encounter on a daily basis. The sheer mass of content that people experience across varied touchpoints each day is staggering, with “U.S. adults spen[ding] 10 hours, 39 minutes a day consuming media in the first quarter of 2016,” says Adweek.
So how can an organization stand out among all the noise? Colleen Jones, CEO of Content Science, points to four differentiators.
While everyone vows to improve user journeys, the reality is that “aggregate customer satisfaction remains depressed at a lower level than at any point in over a decade,” shows the 2016 American Customer Satisfaction Index.
How can mapping user journeys improve this deep-seated dissatisfaction? Donna Lichaw, author of The User’s Journey: Storymapping Products That People Love, suggests hunting for cliffhangers: “Stories can be found in qualitative data you gather from your customers as well as the quantitative data that you collect from your business intelligence and analytics tools. Consider funnel analytics that you find in typical software like Google Analytics. When do people drop off? Those are your cliffhangers.”
And cliffhangers happen far too often.
However, not all data about customer experience is negative. In fact, Forrester reports in their 2016 Customer Experience Index report for U.S. brands that “between our Q3 2015 report and our 2016 report we saw modest but clear progress among many of those brands, as 58 out of 319 had a significant improvement in their experiences.”
The benefits to improving your users’ journeys is evident. As SAS shares from their Forbes Insights study, Data Elevates the Customer Experience: “Leaders in using data-driven experience management highlighted benefits including faster time to decisions (67%), a more comprehensive common enterprise view of customers (51%), more confidence in their decisions by managers and employees (49%), and greater collaboration between departments (36%).”
Luckily, more and more executives are recognizing the importance that their organizations better understand user journeys. As Hubspot’s Chief Revenue Officer urges in a recent report from GetApp, “What companies need to do is start with their buyers’ perspective and their journey. View your product and company through the lens of the buyer. What opportunities are you trying to pursue? How are you prioritizing? What categories are you looking at to solve it? And, for your category, how are you uniquely positioned to solve it? When you understand those pieces and work them into the sales process you’re showing buyers that you appreciate their obstacles and concerns.”
According to Gartner, marketers are acutely aware of the importance of delivering a positive customer experience throughout user journeys: “By 2017, 89% of marketers expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator.” Those that focus on improving user journeys stand to be rewarded with a much higher ROI.
Why is such a high percentage of marketing-qualified leads not converting? Papillaud suggests companies need to use data in smarter ways so they focus their storytelling efforts on the right users. Plus, “mapping is very difficult given the heterogeneity of all markets, and the same consumer may have a totally different journey at different times because of different contexts,” offers Wharton professor Jerry Wind. Jones advises companies home in on their metadata to safeguard that their content will actually end up in the right user journeys.
While the task of mapping user journeys can be daunting, more big and small data is available than ever. By constantly analyzing users’ journeys, organizations can better deliver relevant, welcomed content to the right audiences through the right touchpoints at the right moment. We’re in a perpetual era of personalization, and it’s imperative to strive for positive user journeys that end with the desired result — for both the user and the organization.
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