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Customer journey mapping: Using conversational research methods to understand the buying process and experience

June 25, 2024
Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria

Marketing, Reach3 Insights

Capturing behaviors, emotions and context via conversational research can help brands uncover holistic consumer insights.

Consumers today can engage, research, and purchase in countless ways. And, given the dynamic and evolving landscape today, doing customer journey mapping effectively matters to businesses today. A lot. 

When done right, this exercise can provide a huge competitive advantage, helping your company deliver the best buyer experience. 

Unfortunately, traditional research approaches often fail to deliver rich insights about the buyer journey. One of the issues is that old-school approaches are often static and episodic, relying on email-based surveys to get feedback. The result is an inability to capture key emotional drivers, leaving gaps in your consumer insights. 

But first: what is customer journey mapping and what are the benefits? 

Customer journey mapping is defined as the process of visualizing and understanding the various stages a customer goes through when interacting with a brand, from initial awareness to post-purchase engagement. 

It involves identifying key touchpoints, emotions, and experiences that shape the customer’s decisions and actions. Customer journey maps also consider tensions and barriers in the buying process. 

Depending on the industry, customer journey mapping might be called something else. In consumer goods and services, for instance, it may be called path to purchase. Healthcare professionals refer to this as patient journeys. Media researchers are interested in audience journeys. And folks in tech and financial services sometimes refer to this as simply CJM or journey mapping

Regardless of the name, the goals and benefits of customer journey mapping largely remain the same, which are to: 

  • Identify customer needs and gaps
  • Prioritize the most common pathways in the buyer journey
  • Quantify tensions and triggers
  • Put insights into action and measure ongoing impact

By mapping the customer journey, you can gain insights into customer behaviors, preferences, and pain points. This makes it easy to tailor your strategy and tactics to better meet real customer needs and expectations.

Improving customer journey mapping with conversational research 

To address the problems posed by traditional research when developing customer journey maps, you need a more modern approach. 

That’s where conversational research comes in. 

customer journey mapping - survey exampleMimicking the look and feel of mobile messaging, this approach provides research participants with an experience that feels less like they’re taking a test and more like having a text conversation with a friend. It creates an environment where people are more forthcoming and candid in their responses. 

This approach is mobile-first, which is critical because 23 billion text messages are sent every day worldwide, and in the U.S. alone, 90% of adults own a smartphone. Texting is the fastest and most natural way to engage modern consumers today and understand the how’s and the why’s of their shopping behaviors. 

Powered by the Rival Technologies platform, the conversational surveys we use throughout customer journey mapping research capture behaviors, emotions, and context in one learning stream. This makes it easier to triangulate insights and understand what’s really going on in the buyer journey. 

How do I recruit consumers for customer journey mapping research? 

Any research project is only as good as the people who are participating. This principle applies to customer journey mapping as well. 

The conversational research approach is all about reaching real people where they already are. In addition to traditional sample providers, you can tap into diverse sources like QR codes on targeted websites, client lists, product packages, in-store recruitment, and social media. This multi-channel approach to recruitment reaches underrepresented cohorts (like Gen Zs) and brings new voices into the research process.

The conversational research approach is all about reaching real people where they already are.

Recruiting enables your team to conduct in-the-moment research and get real-time insights while buyers are in the experience you’d like to understand. So at the end of the recruitment survey, invite qualified participants to continue the conversation and opt-in to follow-up surveys. 

The conversational approach to research has on average a 65% recontact rate, making it easy to reach the right people later on in the customer journey mapping process. 

What are the steps to customer journey mapping? 

In a recent masterclass webinar, our very own Matt Kleinschmit and Will Buxton shared how Reach3 clients in financial services, CPG, retail, tech, and more use conversational research to understand shopping behaviors and customer journeys

They recommended this step-by-step process: 

Step 1: Need identification to understand the context: Use a foundational survey to quantify the size of unmet needs, integrating video feedback to hear about them in your customers’ own words.

Step 2: Consideration pathways: Use text notifications to recontact participants and capture a snapshot in time of the journey. In this step, you can incorporate behaviorial science principles as you’re designing your conversational surveys to get gut reactions. 

Step 3: Tensions and triggers: Identify, size and prioritize pain points, barriers and drivers along the customer journey. In this step, you can use advanced analytics to analyze predictive quant data, while using AI (such as Rival’s A I Summarizer) to make sense of unstructured data faster. 

Step 4: Measure ongoing impact: Understand how the customer journey evolves over time and understand the impact on brand, product, customer loyalty, and more. 

Tentpoles of modern customer Journey Mapping - Reach3 Insights

Beyond customer journey maps: How to make your insights stick

Of course, having a buyer journey map is pointless if stakeholders don’t use it. So Matt and Will also advocated for the use of a suite of deliverables to inspire action.

Great insights do your business no good if they aren’t shared in a way that makes them accessible, relevant and applicable to solving business challenges.

At Reach3, our goal is to arm clients with a suite of deliverables that will elevate their storytelling. The actual customer journey map is important, but we deliver more to help you inspire immediate action in your company. 

reach3-cjs-page-deliverables-support-graphic-1

Providing a mix of real-time mobile toplines, in-depth reports, interactive journey maps, video showreels, and curated digital stories can help to socialize findings and drive stakeholder buy-in. Tailoring deliverables to specific stakeholders based on key objectives ensures they will be engaging and actionable, not to mention elevating the role of the insights team within your organization. When the insights you deliver are tailored to your internal audience, your stakeholders will take note. 

Think beyond traditional PowerPoint presentations here: Visually engaging interactive journey maps as well as curated digital stories optimized for mobile can help socialize your work, elevate storytelling, and drive customer-centricity in your organization. 

Customer journey mapping examples and case studies

So, what does this look like in action? Matt and Will provided some examples during the masterclass webinar on customer journey mapping

In one instance, a major consumer goods company wanted to eliminate tensions around finding the right products and converting to purchase. By using screen share, screen capture, and video recording techniques, Reach3 helped the brand identify key blockers in a specific retailer’s mobile grocery app. The retailer made changes based on the findings, resulting in a 20% sales increase in six months.

In another example, a car manufacturer wanted to uncover opportunities to attract new auto buyers in key segments. So we designed a multi-phased research study that included video selfies collected via the Rival platform, in-the-moment mobile diaries, and in-depth interviews. We used advanced analytics and Rival’s AI Summarizer to prioritize pain points along the journey. The result is a path-to-purchase map that helped the client better understand the unique needs of high-value customer segments about auto financing. 

The retailer made changes based on the findings, resulting in a 20% sales increase in six months.

As these customer journey mapping examples show, using a combo of quant, qual and videos captured via mobile provides a more holistic understanding. 

Driving ongoing impact of customer journey mapping

An often-neglected aspect of journey mapping is measuring the impact of actions taken based on the research. By transforming a customer journey mapping project into an ongoing program, brands can continuously optimize the consumer journey as the competitive landscape evolves.

Many marketing, CX and research teams we’ve worked with on customer journey mapping projects have taken the next step by creating an insight community. This lets them get ongoing feedback from pre-profiled consumers and drive longitudinal learning so they can adjust quickly as the buying landscape changes. It allows them to allows research and CX teams to test, refine, and retest ideas, acknowledging that consumer behaviors and interactions are fluid and dynamic.

If you’re considering the same thing, make sure you choose the right partner when evaluating top insight community platforms

What are the best practices for customer journey mapping? 

In our webinar on customer journey mapping, we shared some key best practices, including the following: 

  • Engage in the moment: Use research technology to connect with people during their journey. A mobile-first approach lets you get in touch with people as close to the buying experience as possible. 

  • Blend methodologies: Combine qualitative, quantitative, video, and AI to capture emotional and contextual insights in a single learning stream. This helps reveal nuances and delivers deeper insights. 

  • Consider the entire journey: Include post-purchase behaviors like word-of-mouth and online reviews in your mapping. 

  • Customize deliverables: Tailor your outputs to specific audiences to improve storytelling and drive action. 

In today’s competitive landscape, innovative, flexible, and immersive research methodologies are essential for understanding behaviors and emotions and mapping complex customer journeys. Leveraging advanced technology and conversational research approaches can provide deeper consumer insights, driving better business outcomes.

Curious to learn more? Read more about our approach to Consumer Journey Mapping here.

Kelvin Claveria
Kelvin Claveria

Marketing, Reach3 Insights

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