Gestalt: Enhancing the customer’s path to purchase
by Leeya Hendricks (@LeeyaHendricks) Good customer experience is the responsibility of everyone in a business, not just the sales teams or service centre. This approach is important as we consider the customers’ path to purchase. Companies that create unforgettable customer experiences set themselves apart from their competitors. To improve customer experience, we need to move from touchpoints to journey — a journey that flows.
Have you ever seen ballroom dancers float across the dance floor? Clumsy dancers think one step at a time. But professionals dance with flowing movements, telling a story as they move about and take you along with them. Your customer experience journey should be just that: a flow of movement taking your customer gracefully through a journey end to end.
McKinsey & Company outlines the potential of getting this right perfectly, which we should use as a holy grail for success: “[M]aximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential not only to increase customer satisfaction by 20 percent but also to lift revenue by up to 15 percent while lowering the cost of serving customers by as much as 20 percent.” 
Your company wants to improve its revenues while reducing its costs, right? Focusing on the customer journey will do just that; it will improve your conversion and customer retention rates, which has a substantial impact on your customer’s bottom line. But before we get to journey mapping, let’s start with customer experience.
Importance of a good customer experience
There are many definitions of customer experience but it is loosely defined as the entirety of the interactions a customer has with a company and its products. Understanding the customer experience is an integral part of customer relationship management. The overall experience reflects whether your customer has a good, bad, or neutral experience. It is important because it does the following:
- Increases customer satisfaction
- Improves customer retention
- Turns customers into advocates. This increases referral customers, which have a 16% higher lifetime value than non-referral customers.
- Improves the bottom line
Customer experience mapping vs customer journey mapping
You might think a customer experience map is the same thing as a customer journey map. They’re similar but not the same. The latter map outlines the touchpoints consumers experience from first exposure to sale, and even post-sale interactions with a company. The former takes it one step further, examining the complete picture of the customer experience with a brand, analysing behaviour and interactions across touchpoints and channels.
Rather than a linear path from point A to point B, a customer experience map provides an understanding of the process that every type of target customer goes through when interacting with your brand, visually organising every possible interaction a consumer could have with a brand throughout the entire buying journey. 
Unpacking the path to purchase
The path to purchase incorporates the customer experience but takes it a step further.
Traditionally, companies have focused on customers’ individual touchpoints — the interaction they have with sales staff at a store, or their experience using an online checkout. This is a siloed way of looking at customer experience. However, the path to purchase gives a more-holistic and -effective way of exploring customer experience that focuses on the whole shopping experience. A simple and effective path to purchase model has three stages: awareness, consideration and purchasing.
The complete path to purchase
A consumer’s path to purchase is a complex, non-linear journey. However, critical to this is getting the company firmly entrenched in the journey en route to the purchase point.
The data you may capture from a path-to-purchase study shows you how consumers behave from the start of their shopping journeys, from what they look for to where they are looking. Knowing what consumers search for when shopping for a product or service captures the search terms you should be incorporating into your content. You may then advertise on key apps, or build your own, to drive consumers to your company right from the start.
Keeping customers on track
The path to purchase goes beyond making consumers happy with your brand; it also allows you to see where you might lose potential and existing customers at any point along their entire journey. Using path-to-purchase study insights into online and in-store shopping behaviours, you may tailor your marketing approach to guide consumers back to your purchase point.
Once you know where your consumers are straying, you may start to study the competition. By considering which competitor sites your consumers are viewing on the path to purchase, you may improve your competitive angle by giving better value to your target market.
If you act on the insight from your path-to-purchase mapping, it may revolutionise your company’s customer experience and keep consumers on track to your purchase point, leading to satisfied customers and larger profits.
It’s important to understand this entire journey the customer goes through and master the subtle art of hitting the right person with the right message at the right time and through the right channel. Get all four elements of the successful connection right, and sales will surge.
- The three Cs of customer satisfaction: Consistency, consistency, consistency. McKinsey&Company, Alfonso Pulido, Dorian Stone, and John Strevel (2014)
- The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Customer Experience Map: Data Mining and Analysis, Tools and Templates, and More. Angela Stringfellow (2018)
Leeya Hendricks (@LeeyaHendricks) is a designated chartered marketer, global marketing strategist, digital driver and a Women in Tech leader. She holds a BA degree in fine arts, a BA honours degree in brand marketing management and is currently completing her MBA. She is currently director marketing for the ECEMEA region at ORACLE, responsible for driving digital strategy, demand generation and transforming portfolios to develop sustainable revenue growth. Leeya contributes the monthly column “Gestalt”, about putting customer first for sustainable business success, to Marklives.
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