Consumer Decision Journeys

27 November 2011

David Edelman has an interesting recent article in The Harvard Business Review entitled “Aligning with the Consumer Decision Journey.”

He writes:

Marketers need to drop the funnel metaphor to describe consumer touch points and instead study the evolving and increasingly digital consumer decision journey (CDJ). The CDJ illustrates how consumers add and subtract brands from a group under consideration during an extended evaluation phase. And purchase is no longer the end of the relationship. Now consumers often enter into an ongoing relationship with the brand during which they enjoy, advocate for and bond with it.

That feels very intuitive–even obvious–to anyone who has been working in design in the online space. But it’s important that managers and marketers are looking at the entire customer experience. If using a CDJ diagram helps, then that’s a good thing.

Decision making is a key dimension to look at in a company’s relationship with customers, for sure. Still, I’d not classify the CDJ technique as outlined by Edelman as an alignment diagram. This is primarily because it only captures one dimension of the customer experience. There’s also no mapping back to internal process within the business, and so no real alignment.

The article shows in a case study how one company used a CDJ map to instill change in the organization:

As a result of this reconceived CDJ, Global Light rethought its go-to-market approach, expanded the role of the corporate digital marketing team, and changed the nature of its customer relationships.

This is an important, non-trivial outcome of customer journey mapping in general. It builds agreement and a fosters a culture of customer-centricity internally. These effects are sometimes overlooked in such efforts, with project sponsors looking for an immediate, monetary return. It’s hard, however–if not impossible–to put a value on shared vision and culture of service in a company. A recent study on innovation by Booz & Co. shows that organizational culture is the single most-important factor the predicts how successfully a company innovates. They found that:

Spending more on R&D won’t drive results. The most crucial factors are strategic alignment and a culture that supports innovation.

I’ve had success with customer journey mapping and similar techniques in building a common vision of the ideal experience. I encourage you to try experience mapping out. It may just transfer your view of the customer from the inside out to the outside in.

For more, see my list of resources for customer journey mapping on the web.

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