Define Your Customer Journey for Better Email Marketing

Build relationships with your audience at every step—from prospect to purchase.

Understanding your customers’ journey is key to sending them the right message at the right moment. It’s essential for building relationships with your audience, and it helps you pinpoint when, how, and why key performance indicators (KPIs) fluctuate.

The customer journey tells the story of a prospect encountering your business and the steps they take toward conversion, or purchase, and beyond. It’s not necessarily a linear journey—not all customers follow the same path from one step to another. They may encounter obstacles that delay or prevent them from making a purchase. They might also receive marketing content that propels them toward a purchase, subscription, brand loyalty, or another end goal for your business.

When crafting an email marketing strategy, it’s essential to understand your business’s customer journey.

Start with these 5 stages

Customer journeys often align with the 5 key stages in lifecycle marketing, and this can be a great place to begin mapping:

  1. Acquisition. Acquiring customers is vital for any business, and it's essential to attract contacts to your audience. Signing up for your email marketing or following one of your social media pages typically comes after a customer has learned about your business. At this point, they may be researching your brand alongside several others. So, it’s vital to make a good impression with an automated welcome series. Use this moment to share what your business offers, set expectations about what you’ll send them, provide discount codes, and gather more information about them (like their birthday or preferences).
  2. Consideration. The consideration stage is when a person thinks about moving from a prospect to a customer. For example, a customer may browse your e-commerce store, adding items to their basket. Then, for whatever reason, they close the tab and abandon their cart. Adding items to their basket brings them close to a potential transaction, and that sale can still happen with a timely reminder. Automated abandoned cart emails are a highly effective way to bring customers back at this stage in their journey. If items in the basket are going out of stock, create a sense of urgency by telling them that there are only a few left, or include customer reviews to convince them.
  3. Purchase. Marketing doesn’t end when a customer makes a purchase. Marketing is about communication and communication is very important at the point of sale. Be sure to send order notifications, thank you notes (especially to first time shoppers), and product follow-up emails. Include product recommendations in personalized emails.
  4. Retention. Keeping customers is essential for all businesses. There are many ways to build loyalty, like offering discounts to your best customers, acknowledging important dates like birthdays, and asking customers for their feedback. If you want customer feedback, send emails that remind them to provide it and thank them when they do. These engaged customers are extremely valuable, so you should treat them accordingly. Consider offering them exclusive content, like the latest offers and sneak previews.
  5. Re-engagement. Even inactivity can be a touchpoint on a customer’s journey. There are many opportunities to strengthen your relationship with your audience, even when some contacts haven’t interacted with your business lately (or ever). Highlighting the anniversary of a contact’s subscription can help bring them back. You can also re-engage a customer by sending them special offers. It’s important to remind unengaged customers how important they are to your business.

Use data to identify your customers’ journey

Understanding, mapping, and engaging with customer journeys requires analyzing data about your market and audience. The right data can tell you a lot about behavioral patterns that lead customers toward (or away from) the actions you’d like them to take.

The first step is to divide your audience into segments using data. You can identify common touchpoints at which different audience segments interact with your business, and then use those touchpoints to map out customer journeys.

Customer journeys will differ widely, depending on factors as varied as your business model and the particular circumstances of each customer. However, with the right data and segmentation, you can map customer journeys which will align with the behaviors and motivations of your segments.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) tools that log website interactions are invaluable when gathering the kind of data which tells a brand how customers behave on their site. CRO data can provide information on which content gets the most engagement, and where customers are likely to drop off. This information can also be found through your website analytics or in your all-in-one Marketing Platform. Use this data, as well as your email marketing reports, to maximise interest at points of engagement and to improve the user experience or increase engagement where it seems to decline.

Identifying obstacles on the path to purchase is vital. Barriers can be:

  • Motivational. Motivational obstacles occur when customers lose interest in the product or have second thoughts about their purchase. Sometimes, motivational obstacles can be fixed with more engaging content at drop-off points. At others, marketing is key. Well-timed marketing emails, targeted at points in the journey when the customer starts to lose motivation—like abandoned cart emails—can make all the difference.
  • Experiential. User experience (UX) is the key to a smooth customer journey. A clunky website or a dysfunctional email is likely to make prospects look elsewhere. Customer feedback is important to understand your business’s UX, and marketing is important for gaining feedback. For example, customers who leave items in their basket for a certain length of time may do so because they found the payment process too slow, involved, or frustrating. Email these customers to ask for feedback so that you can improve and potentially re-engage them.
  • Temptation. If customers aren’t concentrating their efforts solely upon your business, there are points at which they may start to think that they could get a better deal from a competitor. Matching up data on customer drop-off points with data from competitor research may provide some insights into this obstacle, as will customer feedback.

Keep a close eye on your data and reference customer feedback for a clear idea of what is (and is not) working for each segment. When you identify obstacles on your business’s customer journey, you’ll know where to concentrate your attention.

Treat customers like people.

At all times, it’s important to remember that customers are people. It’s easy to get lost in the data and think of them as statistics and goals rather than the humans that they are. When working on customer journeys, it’s vital that you put yourself in their shoes. Data and automation provide much insight into when and where obstacles to the customer journey occur, but they can’t provide that human insight into why they occur. Data is key to defining customer journeys, but without human insight into what the data reveals, it’s useless.

But with customer feedback, robust data, and defined customer journeys, you’re on your way to the perfect email campaign.

Written by Jenna Tiffany for Mailchimp. Jenna is an expert in digital marketing strategies.