Understanding the customer journey is becoming increasingly complex as the number of digital and offline touchpoints proliferate.

However it’s important to try and create an accurate map of how customers are interacting with a brand in order to optimise marketing channels and campaigns.

But to what extent are brands able to properly understand the customer journey?

A new report from Econsultancy and ResponseTap investigates this topic, looking at what companies are doing to map journeys and improve the overall customer experience across an array of different touchpoints, including interactions in the digital and physical worlds.

The Understanding The Customer Journey report is based on a survey of almost 2,000 digital marketers and ecommerce professionals.

The vast majority of respondents were aware of the benefits of understanding the customer journey, which suggests that one of the major hurdles has already been overcome.

For example, 86% of companies said that ‘profitability and increased revenue’ were a major benefit, while a similar proportion (83%) said that ‘identifying pain points and reducing customer struggle’ were a significant benefit.

But simply being aware of the benefits doesn’t equate to being able to understand the customer journey.

Just 12% of company respondents described their understanding as ‘advanced’.

Around half of those surveyed (51%) said their capabilities in this area are ‘intermediate’, meaning that some of it is joined up but that some important pieces of the jigsaw are missing.

How would you best describe your understanding (or your clients’ understanding) of the customer journey?

Data is key to understanding

Data is fundamental to implementing an effective digital marketing strategy, so it comes as no surprise that respondents identified data as the most important area for understanding the customer journey.

Almost three-quarters of respondents (73%) said that data was critical in this regard and a further 25% said it was ‘important’.

In comparison, while people and skills (97%) and systems and processes (96%) are seen as at least important by a near identical proportion of companies, they are both significantly less likely to be rated as ‘critical’ (53% & 47% respectively).

How important are the following areas for understanding the customer journey?

When company and agency respondents were asked to elaborate on the reasons why they have excelled at understanding the customer journey, many of them referred to data in a variety of forms.

Some organisations that are successfully understanding the customer journey are tracking and monitoring customer behaviour, while others find nuggets from sources such as customer feedback via reviews, call centres, in-store and beyond.

But it’s not just about data. A respondent working for a small company extolled the virtues of only hiring people who have a good understanding of the company’s end users, so they can work with a considerable amount of empathy for their customers.

This word cloud shows the most common themes derived from answers to this question.

Please briefly describe the primary reason or reasons why your organisation (or your clients) excels in understanding the customer journey.

The importance of post-purchase activity

When analysing the customer journey much of the focus falls on activity leading up to a purchase.

However post-purchase is equally important as that’s often where brands can build loyalty and encourage repeat purchases.

Less than half (46%) of responding organisations indicate their attempts to understand and improve the customer journey are evenly spread between pre- and post-purchase lifecycles.

Where does your company (or your clients) focus most attempts to understand and improve the customer journey?

Over a third (36%) focus on the pre-purchase lifecycle, potentially because it is easier to track, whereas less than a fifth (18%) work on optimising post-purchase interactions.

There’s no doubt that the post-purchase lifecycle brims with opportunities, particularly through the use of triggers and automated communications, allowing organisations to stay front of mind and remind customers why they chose them in the first place.

For a more in-depth look at this topic, download the full report: Understanding the Customer Journey