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The Opportunity of the Retail Customer Journey

Retail Customer JourneyIf your retail business is looking for an immediate and cost-effective way to increase sales and retain customers, look no further than the retail customer journey. Every interaction you have with an existing or potential customer is an opportunity to move that customer closer toward their next purchase with you. In order to create a truly exceptional retail customer journey, retailers must have a deep understanding of their customers, account for every customer touchpoint, and deliver an unmatched experience that meets consumer expectations.

What is the retail customer journey?

The retail customer journey is the process of interactions between a retailer and its customers. It encompasses all communications, purchase paths, fulfillment, and experiences with your product or service. A customer, or potential customer, is on your retail customer journey from the moment they become aware of your business and during any subsequent interactions with your brand.

Why is the retail customer journey important?

Consumer spending decisions are not based purely on value and price comparisons. A big driver of our spending choices is emotional. In his book How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, author and Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95 percent of our purchase decision making is driven by unconscious urges, the biggest of which is emotion. The retail customer journey presents an enormous opportunity to tap into these emotional decision-making factors because this journey is all about experience. No longer can retailers rely on their products and services to meet customer needs. Modern retails must deliver an experience that meets customer needs as well.

What do consumers want in the retail customer journey?

Generally speaking, consumers want their experiences with a business to meet a basic set of criteria. Consumers want the retail customer journey to be:

  • Personalized: The experience feels customized, as if the retailer is speaking directly to the individual.
  • Simple: The experience is user-friendly and does not require a large amount of effort or navigation by the customer.
  • Appropriate: Communications and processes feel respectful and timely.
  • Relevant: Information is streamlined and focused, and it relates to what the customer is looking for.
  • Meaningful: There is a deeper emotional connection within the entire experience.


How do I deliver this experience?

The key is to create individualized experiences informed by personal preference data. Over the past decade, consumers have become increasingly empowered to define their own shopping experience. They expect that retailers will understand what they want and will deliver that experience with consistency across all channels. It used to be that retailers created marketing campaigns and customer experiences for certain consumer groups, such as by region or demographic. But today, retailers need to understand individual motivations, needs and pain points and respond accordingly.

How do I collect personal preference data?

Start by generating a list of questions regarding the customer’s current experience. Use these questions to collect qualitative insights using tools such as customer surveys, individual interviews and focus groups. You can also collect quantitative data by looking into your web traffic, opt-in and opt-out rates, and by performance testing various communications messages. Collecting this information on a frequent and regular basis is important, as consumer expectations are constantly evolving. The more agile and responsive you can be to current preference data, the better experience you can deliver.

How do I analyze my retail customer journey?

Start by breaking down your retail customer journey into phases and then make a list of all the touchpoints within each phase. 

Retail Customer Journey

Retail Customer Journey Phase 1Phase 1: Decision Making (Before a purchase) 

The customer is looking to make a purchase and may be deciding among brand and product options. Examples of touchpoints include:

  • Direct marketing messages
  • Advertising messages
  • Retailer’s website
  • Consumer reviews on other websites

Retail Customer Journey Phase 2Phase 2: Transaction (During the purchase) 

The customer has chosen to buy from your retail business and is now going through the steps of purchasing. For in-person purchases, example touchpoints include:

  • Check-out lines
  • Interactions with the cashier or self-checkout station
  • Bagging or packaging of items at checkout
  • Receipt you receive at the end of check-out

When the purchase is made online, example touchpoints include:

  • Purchase path webpages to collect contact and payment information
  • Rewards redemption
  • Customer service assistance needed to complete the transaction
  • Confirmation page

Retail Customer Journey Phase 3Phase 3: Fulfillment and Follow-Up (After the purchase) 

This phase includes any post-transaction communication with the customer. Examples of touchpoints include:

  • Thank you message
  • Customer satisfaction survey
  • Item return and refund experience.

Retail Customer Journey Phase 4Ongoing Customer Relationships 

In the days of social media and newsletter lists, retailers have constant and immediate access to anyone who has opted-in to receive their communications. This means that customers could receive these messages during any of the above phases. Examples of these touchpoints include:

  • Social media
  • Text message marketing
  • Regular newsletters

Now that you have a complete list of all your customer touchpoints, it’s time to map them out on a Customer Journey Map. 

Creating a complete Retail Customer Journey Map

A Retail Customer Journey Map illustrates the visual story of your customers’ interactions with your retail business. The visual representation helps to illuminate all customer touchpoints along the journey, how they work together, and where there may be broken paths and disconnects between various interactions. Your retail customer journey map might look something like this:

The task now is to create specific objectives for each phase of the retail customer journey. The objectives should align with customer needs and expectations. And all touchpoints along the journey should align with these objectives. This is how retailers can create a consistent, personalized, enjoyable experience for their customers.

The ultimate goal? An unmatched customer experience.

Ultimately, you are looking to create a unique and exceptional experience for each of your customers. When you choose to invest in your retail customer journey, you are choosing to invest in becoming an experience-led business. And in today’s retail world, it’s all about the experience.