The customer journey is the decision-making process each buyer goes through before converting to a paying customer of your business. Mastering this journey will require an in-depth understanding of each stage and how you can continually improve your efforts.
To understand this journey, you need to take a customer-centric approach, putting yourself in your customer’s shoes to understand their point of view. This requires collecting large quantities of data across multiple touchpoints, from your company website and social media to your marketing campaigns and other initiatives.
The question is: once you have all this data in hand, how can you turn it into powerful, actionable insights for improving the customer journey for your target audience? In this article, we’ll discuss how to better understand your customer journey through data integration—including the concrete example of one of Integrate.io’s recent clients.
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Table of Contents
What is the Customer Journey?
The term “customer journey” describes an individual’s path going from a prospective patron of your business to a paying customer. Each customer journey is unique: some may buy immediately, while others can wait weeks or months before making a purchase. However, there are generally five agreed-upon stages of the customer journey:
Awareness stage: At this stage, potential customers first become aware of your business. This may occur through various methods, such as search engines, paid advertising, or social media.
Consideration stage: Prospects are now actively considering becoming a customer of your business. These deliberations may include whether to purchase in the first place, or whether your company is the best choice among its competitors. More expensive and important purchases usually take longer than impulse buys.
Decision stage: At this stage, prospects make the final decision on whether or not to buy from your business. Discounts for new customers and a simple checkout process can be make-or-break factors for converting more prospects.
Retention stage: Once a prospect has become a paying customer, the business pivots to focus on customer retention. Personalized marketing campaigns and strong customer support are two factors that can help boost post-purchase retention efforts.
Advocacy stage: In this final stage of the customer journey, existing customers become advocates for your business by recommending you to their family and friends. This should be the ultimate goal for any customer: generating organic interest in your business via word of mouth, reviews, and other methods.
How Can You Understand Your Customer Journey?
Defining and following the customer journey from start to finish is known as the journey mapping process. The good news is that there are many different methodologies to better understand the customer journey. In this section, we’ll discuss five techniques to understand the customer journey that you can use.
1. Customer feedback
Perhaps the most obvious way to understand the customer journey is by explicitly asking for customer feedback. There are multiple ways of doing this: surveys, focus groups, website forms, etc. You can solicit feedback at specific moments of the customer journey that are most important for you to understand: for example, when a shopper abandons their cart, or when a buyer makes a purchase for the first time.
Getting feedback can be a low-investment but highly effective method of understanding customer needs, customer emotions, and more. However, you should be careful that the results are not biased by those who feel a strong incentive to provide feedback (such as highly dissatisfied customers).
2. Customer interactions
In the absence of explicit customer feedback, you can also observe how people interact with your business. This may include website visits, downloads, social media likes and shares, purchases, emails, text messages, and more. Savvy, data-driven businesses collect all this data and store it in CRM (customer relationship management) software to build individual profiles of each customer.
Understanding this history of customer interaction across multiple touchpoints is crucial. However, using this information requires a robust data integration strategy, extracting records from multiple sources to build a singular profile of each customer.
3. Market research
Performing market research is key if you’re not sure what your customer journey should look like. Speaking with your target audience will help you understand their beliefs, desires, motivations, and more, so that you can best tailor your marketing funnel and user experience to match.
The information you might look to collect during market research includes:
How users navigate your website to find information or make a purchase.
What factors users prioritize when choosing between competing products.
Any pain points, challenges, or friction when progressing along the customer journey.
4. Buyer personas
Constructing customer personas of your audience is an excellent way to better understand your customer journey. A buyer persona is a fictionalized representation of each type of customer you want to target with your marketing efforts. This includes information about the persona’s demographic profile, objectives, needs, and typical behaviors.
Importantly, buyer personas may take diverging paths along the customer journey. This is because each one may have varying priorities and motivations: for example, one persona may be looking for the best deal, while another obsessively reads third-party reviews.
5. Metrics and KPIs
Once you have concrete data in hand, you can start analyzing it by selecting the right metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). Different metrics are most valuable at different stages of the customer journey:
During the decision stage, the conversion rate metric can help you understand how effective your efforts are to convert prospects into paying customers.
During the retention stage, your customer satisfaction rates can help you detect if and how you are losing customers.
During the advocacy stage, your net promoter score (NPS) measures how likely your customers are to recommend your business to their friends and colleagues.
How a Tour Operation Company Capitalized on Their Data to Understand Their Customer Journey
So far, we’ve seen how collecting the right information, and choosing the right metrics, can help you understand your customer journey. But what does this look like in practice for an organization looking to integrate its customer journey data?
The client in this case study is a tour operator based in the United Kingdom that has helped customers book vacations, cruises, guided tours, and other packages for more than four decades. This Company prides itself on offering carefully selected custom travel itineraries that they believe customers will rate highly and recommend, returning to the business year after year.
This naturally led to the question: through careful use of the client’s customer data, could the client predict which packages would be most successful, and use this information to design better products and offerings?
At the start of this case study, the company received roughly 50 percent of all bookings through its call center, with much of the remainder coming through its website. Key team members included the chief product officer and various data analysts. In addition to standard data sources such as Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and Salesforce, they also employed some lesser-used tools for understanding the customer experience:
Piwik (now Matomo): A web analytics tool that allows users to analyze the customer journey across different websites and apps. Users can slice and dice the data to examine individual customers, as well as explore the flow of customers from a particular source.
Bizo: Ad targeting technology that breaks down the data into different customer segments and demographics.
ResponseTap: A call tracking and analytics service that provides the data needed to reveal the right campaigns, channels, and messaging—making more customers pick up the phone with a more effective marketing strategy. ResponseTap also links phone sales to a company’s digital marketing activity, helping users understand every touchpoint leading up to a call. Agents are provided with unique real-time suggestions for each customer based on the individual buyer’s journey before the call.
The Problem: Disconnected Data Analytics
The client was experiencing various pain points and roadblocks that prevented them from fully understanding the customer’s perspective. These included:
The “status quo” method of gathering and analyzing information limited the client to examining data disparately within each tool, rather than as a holistic view. The client could not automatically connect to crucial data sources, such as those tied to web tracking and call center data.
The client’s business intelligence tool Sisense, which was otherwise used to extract and analyze all of its data, could not create custom API pagination for these crucial sources. API pagination is a technique for efficiency and performance when querying an application programming interface (API). By separating a long list of results into multiple pages, the user has greater control over how and when to download large amounts of data.
Using multiple analytics tools led to data silos. Even though the client was collecting enough information for actionable insights, there was no way to connect the dots and tell a coherent story tying together all the details, from marketing activities to revenue.
The Solution: A Powerful ETL Platform
Given these challenges, They knew that it needed an ETL (extract, transform, load) solution that met two objectives. First, the software needed to be flexible enough to connect to any API source, including the client’s unique combination of analytics tools. Second, the software needed to be easy enough for a typical data analyst, business user, or product team to use—not just accessible to developers or data engineers.
Like many organizations, this client had the end goal of a sophisticated business intelligence infrastructure. However, they lacked the human resources necessary to do this the “old-fashioned way”: developers and data engineers manually building pipelines. This led to the need to turn to a mix of cost-effective out-of-the-box data integration tools to achieve the same objective, which also had the benefit of a quicker time to implementation.
Integrate.io was not the only data integration solution that the company considered. The client carefully weighed alternative ETL platforms such as Stitch, but ultimately decided that Integrate.io was the best option.
The make-or-break factor for this client was Integrate.io’s universal REST API connector, which would allow them to quickly fetch data from any service with an HTTP-based REST API. Stitch offered out-of-the-box integrations for some of the client’s more common data sources, such as Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and Salesforce.
However, sources such as Piwik, Bizo, and ResponseTap, which were unique and fundamental to the client’s business model, were not available out-of-the-box from Stitch. Customers who use data sources beyond the most common cloud services instead need a flexible tool like Integrate.io.
An additional concern for the client was GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliance, given that they were based in the United Kingdom. Much of the client’s information was customer data—including sensitive details such as full names, phone numbers, and email addresses—which required any ETL tool to be GDPR-compliant.
Here, Integrate.io’s ETL solution won again on flexibility, variety, and ease of use of data transformations, including hashing, masking and encrypting data while at rest and in movement. Integrate.io was also able to sign a GDPR data processing agreement (DPA) for the client, outlining how Integrate.io will process the client’s data in accordance with the GDPR.
The Results: Better Marketing, Stronger Sales, and Higher Revenues
Integrate.io is a powerful yet user-friendly solution for ETL and data integration. Using Integrate.io, this Tour Operation Company can extract data from their choice of REST APIs, flatten it, parse and transform it, and finally load it into the target data warehouse. This process is then repeated for every data source, uniting all the client’s information under one roof. At the end of this process, the client has established a single source of truth with the most accurate and up-to-date data, letting everyone in the business work with the same baseline information.
Thanks to Integrate.io, they can now properly track information such as campaign and channel attribution, making it easier to create customer journey maps as buyers move through the marketing funnel. This has resulted in several downstream benefits: optimizing marketing efforts, giving a competitive edge to their sales team, and ultimately improving their revenue.
How Integrate.io Can Help You Understand Your Customer Journey
The New Data Warehouse Stack for Tomorrow’s Leaders
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The client in the case study above is just one example of how the right data integration platform can help you understand your customer journey and transform your business. Collecting and analyzing the right data gives you a much more accurate and informative picture of your customer behavior, customer expectations, and much more.
Integrate.io is a new cloud-based ETL (extract, transform, load) and data integration solution that has been designed from the ground up for the needs of Ecommerce companies. With Integrate.io’s simple, no-code, drag-and-drop visual interface, it’s never been easier for users of all backgrounds to start defining complex, automated data pipelines. What’s more, Integrate.io has over 140 pre-built connectors and integrations for the most popular data sources, as well as a universal connector for any data source with a REST API.
Integrate.io comes packed with features that make it as easy as possible to get started with data integration. The Integrate.io FlyData CDC (change data capture) tool automatically detects which records have changed since your last integration job, so you only extract the information that needs to be updated in your data warehouse. Integrate.io also supports reverse ETL, pushing data out of your warehouse and into third-party tools to make analytics more accessible.
Want to learn more about how Integrate.io can help you understand your customer journey? Get in touch with our team of data integration experts today for a chat about your business needs and objectives, or to start your 7-day pilot of the Integrate.io platform.