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Journey mapping essential to omnichannel success, say retailers

3rd Apr 2014
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Retailers know the importance of delivering an omnichannel experience to their customers, but the processes for doing so are rich and varied from business to business.

At the recent Internet Retailing Expo in Birmingham, the topic of how to tackle omnichannel customer experience was central to most seminar discussions. Yet despite the seemingly diverse methods by which each retailer stated they delivered their strategy, there was one thing most agreed - the need to understand customer journeys within an omnichannel context.

According to RichRelevance, a US-based business that provides personalised shopping experiences for large retail brands, metrics are the basis by which they map a customer journey, when the company outlines omnichannel strategy for its new clients:  

“What is success and how do we know we’ve got there? One of the biggest challenges for retailers is moving their metrics along from the traditional processes,” Jane Dixon, senior consulting manager, client excellence, at RichRelevance, told attendees. “Developing a basket of metrics that reflects how customers interact cross-channel, and making those metrics actionable.

“For instance, the conversion on mobile may be low, but find out why. If a customer is using a mobile to research products it might be doing a different role for them specifically. Understand that customer’s journey. We focus a lot on this in building a roadmap for customer journeys, because you need to understand each touch-point and why customers visit different channels and make different decisions at each.”

In addition, Paul Loft, the managing director of Homebase explained how his marketing department was embarking on an overhaul of its services based on a new omnichannel philosophy, and revealed the detail by which each customer journey is physically mapped out at the home improvements company.

Loft said his team splits its customers into two different overarching ‘people’; one called Helen – a self-confessed home enhancer and one called Bob – a quintessential DIY enthusiast. The company uses these two broad stereotypes to then delve down into each and the potential differentiators that might evolve, in turn dividing them into a series of journeys based on their likely stories:

“We’ve developed 9 missions for why customers come to Homebase. For each of those missions we’ve matched the complete journey, from inspiration through to order, delivery and share,” he stated.

“Our role is to transfer that experience. There are multiple movements in and out of the digital world. When people talk about omnichannel, it’s against this level of complexity and it’s this challenge we’re trying to deal with by journey mapping.”

The detail of each journey was mind-boggling, but essential for getting a picture of the points in which Homebase customers switched channels, and the assistance the company needed to provide at each switch:

“We need to understand where they are in a project,” Loft added. “For instance, life-changing events like moving home play a vital role and we need to be seen to understand our customers when this happens. These are long-standing relationships and our task is to take this complexity, simplify it and make the customer experience better.

“The whole experience needs to be connected and easy…and central to the journey is a clear picture of the customer experience.”

Paul Knutton, commercial channel development manager for clothing multinationa, Boden, stated a key to delivering any successful omnichannel experience was user testing. He suggested that whenever the online retailer pushed its products into new international markets, it was vital that all elements of the customer journey were understood and that cultural differences were thrashed out before going live with anything. In Boden’s case, this ranged from differing clothing measurements across nations, language changes and nuances (for instance jumper / sweater in the UK and US), payment differences and even the simple case of imagery on-site:

“We need to give new customers a great experience, first time,” Knutton stated. “That our websites work in the markets we’re concentrating on. Having six different sites with six different sets of rules is challenging.

“Don’t assume your home market norms work in other cultures. Listen to local customers and users and take on board what they have to say before you go to market.”

Richard Weaver, ecommerce director at Majestic Wine, takes the concept of localised customer journeys one step further, by giving all Majestic store staff the opportunity to be in charge of guiding their local customers through the omnichannel process:

“We want it to be part of our culture to become omnichannel. We highlight best practice through internal communications, and it’s known that you’re judged by how well you do in your store’s online marketing.

“We personalise store pages with content that’s been generated in-store. Stores can post news items on their pages. This generates creativity among staff. For people working in our stores this gives them an outlet and encourages them to improve the visibility of their specific stores.

“We also have social media channels that are specific to each store. It generates direct interaction with customers and gives staff an opportunity to guide their local customers through their omnichannel journey. There may not be mapping involved but empowering staff helps to sow the seeds of an omnichannel attitude, and ultimately, develop better journeys for all our customer.”

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