How do we start planning for the customer journey?
Hemphill: When a business comes to us and says they need a new website, we have to figure out what they’re trying to accomplish first. Do they need a website up so people know they exist? Do they need it for actual product purchases? Do they need it so people can find information about their business? And then, we say “Okay, what do you want your customers to do on your website when they get there?”
Mackel: I think the next kind of progression of that is to really dive into what the conversion steps are for the customer. Every website is different, and every purchase is different. A natural next step is to really dive into that with the client and understand the preferred method to get someone through their website’s process.
How do we optimize content around the customer journey?
Hemphill: When we’re setting up a brand new website or even condensing or expanding an existing one, we look at the site outline and how we want to set up all of the pages so we can accomplish multiple goals. Obviously, we know we need to accomplish SEO goals, and we need to accomplish brand marketing goals. As far as the content information delivery system, it has to be simple enough that somebody can land on the homepage and understand where they should go next.
Mackel: You really need to approach every main entry point as having a little bit of that lobby aspect, where you’re able to include important brand elements, important competitive advantages, and keep that present throughout the entire site. It’s important to not have these only on a homepage or an about page because you never know where the visitor is going to go next. You want to make it easy for them to navigate from those pages to other important pages without having to think if it’s the right step. This keeps them moving in the right direction.
How do we avoid creating a website that only feels like it’s selling something?
Hemphill: A big thing we think about when setting up the website is that we don’t want people to just feel like the website is saying “Give us your money,” even if the ultimate goal is a transaction. You don’t want it to be that way for the customer. You’re supposed to have a relationship of “We give you this, you give us this” and back and forth as they make their way through the site. We want there to be a specific direction and not have the customer feel like they’re constantly bombarded with “Fill out a form!” or “Sign up for our newsletter!” because that will negatively impact that customer journey.
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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to I’ve Heard That, the podcast from Hurrdat Marketing that discusses digital marketing trends, tips, and more.
Hi everyone. Welcome back. I have Aaron and Bailey for this excellent adventure.
Hi, I’m Aaron. I’m the Director of Strategy at Hurrdat.
I’m Bailey. I am the Director of Content.
And we are going to cover customer journey. Oh, my gosh, so much goes into planning this, but this is really kind of where we start. So, how do we start planning for the customer journey? What are a few of the questions we have to answer first?
When a business comes to us and they’re like, “We need website.” We’re like, “Okay, cool. Do you have one already? Do you need a new one?” And so, that’s kind of like our starting point. And then it’s, what are you trying to accomplish first with your business goals? Do you just need a website up so people know that you exist? Do you need it for actual product purchases? Do you need it so people can find information about your business?
And then, on the flip side of that too is then, okay. What do you want your customers to do here when they get there? Are they signing up for an email? Are you trying to convert with a contact form or click to call button? What’s going on here? So, it’s really just funny, because we’ll get a lot of people who come in and they’re just like, “I need a website,” but they haven’t kind of made that next jump of, “And here’s why,” or, “And here’s what we want to accomplish with it.” So, that’s usually where we want to start is just tell us your goals, tell us what you want this website to do for you.
Yeah, definitely. And I think you made a great point, too. Sometimes, in a customer journey, the website is one of the steps. It’s not even where the final conversion happens. It’s like a piece, maybe just like in the discovery phase, someone’s trying to research and other times, it could be the entire customer journey in one session or one visit to your site. So, understanding what the business wants out of their site is how we can start to plan for like, what is this customer journey? How do we handhold that customer and use this site to walk them further during down that conversion funnel? Maybe all the way, so awesome. Well, tell me some of the tools you use? How do we measure?
Yeah. I think, the next kind of progression of that is to really dive into what are the conversion steps for the customer and Bailey kind of alluded to this already, but every website’s different and kind of every purchase is different in that way. So, a natural next step is to really dive into that with the client and understand what is the preferred way for you to get someone through your process? A lot of businesses, especially business-to-business or something where the product’s more complex, they need to have a phone call. It’s not an online conversion necessarily. So, that changes the whole scope of how you’re going to build out that customer conversion, where other sites, it could be a lead capture online or a purchase online.
So, going through that process is really important. And then also kind of the tools that go into making some of those decisions are definitely things like Google Analytics and understanding the traffic flow through the site and things like that, as well as using heat mapping tools to understand the way people interact with pages, where they’re looking for information, and then helping that to guide kind of how you make some adjustments going forward.
Yeah. I know like in the past, you’ve put some of that conversion tracking or heat mapping onto their existing site to just even get a baseline for how customers are using their existing site before we plan out what needs to happen. Maybe they need major changes, maybe some things are working and we’re like, “Hey, we keep that part of the journey the same on your new site.”
Heat mapping is so interesting too, because I mean, you don’t understand how people interact with your website until you do that heat mapping test. It’s just, you’re like, “Oh, I bet people probably scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page.” And then you’re like, “Oh no, they don’t. Oh, we need to fix this. We need them to find the contact button a lot faster.” And I mean, just think about how you interact with websites, too. Where do you go first? So many people go different paths and you kind of have to build a website around all those different potential paths, so that you are accommodating all kinds of customers.
Oh, my gosh. Even planning, well, I mean planning customer journey, you kind of mentioned a few things, but Bailey was just discussing a little bit about navigation. I know, as a customer, there’s been plenty of times I’m like, “Does this click? This seems like this should take me here.” And you’re like, “That’s not a button?” I mean, what a terrible customer experience, and you’re not helping me down the path. I’m not going to convert. I may not even be able to figure out how. So, yeah. You get those kind of conclusions out of heat mapping like, where are somebody clicking? Where are they scrolling to? How deep in your site using Google Analytics? How deep in your site are they making it? What time on page are they getting? Maybe they’re not finding what they’re looking for, or I guess we’ve seen vice versa, too. The analytics showing like, “Well, they’re not on here very long, but that’s great.” That’s because they’re finding what they’re looking for.
Yeah. And to go back to one of Bailey’s points about, “Oh, they don’t scroll to the bottom.” There’s another scenario where you’re like, they’re scrolling to the bottom at an unusual rate and clicking on something way at the bottom. So, why did we put that so far down the page? That’s clearly what they wanted to find. So, we need to move it up and make it more prominent. So, it’s really educational and you really get some great insights by doing that upfront research on how the site is currently, people are using the site currently and that can really help you understand what the customer journey should be based on seeing those results.
Well, especially as a business owner or even as the marketer, we’re on the site all the time. We’re like, “Oh, of course they know to click this.” That makes so much sense. And then, you see the heat map or some of the user behavior, like “Nope, only us.” We’ve only seen it every day, and that’s why we know to click over here. So, yeah, seeing how real people use your site is way more beneficial in planning that at least for me.
Yeah, because you’re like, “Oh, yeah. I know that’s a hamburger menu. I can go find a service page or a contact page in there,” but some people might not know that. And then, they get frustrated and they’ll leave and that’s exactly what you don’t want happening.
Yeah, don’t leave. Don’t leave. So, tell us a little bit about content, because that’s another place that we’ve talked about, structure a little bit, navigation, the content and what we’re actually trying to communicate to them plays a big role. So, how do we plan for that and optimize for that?
Mm-hmm (affirmative). This is something that Aaron and I talk about quite a bit, which is like when we are setting up a brand new website or even condensing an existing one or expanding an existing one, we look at the site outline and how we want to set up all of those pages, so that we can accomplish multiple goals. Obviously, we know we need to accomplish SEO goals. We need to accomplish brand marketing goals. But as far as the actual content information delivery system, it has to be simple enough that somebody could land on the homepage and understand where they should go. So, I always consider the homepage to kind of be like, if we’re talking like a virtual storefront, this is like the lobby. From there, I have all these different doors I could go through. And potentially, the ultimate goal is to get to the cash register on that other side of the building.
And so, what doors do we place there for people to go through? How do we make sure that they flow from the first page that they land on to the place we’re trying to get them to go? Probably, a contact page, a product page, whatever it would be. And so, as we look at site structure, we think, “Okay, we know we need the big ones.” The home page, the about page, the contact page, but then we can also build out service pages, location pages, product pages, depending on what the business is trying to do. And in doing that, we have to think about it from the perspective of the customer like, where would I go if I landed on this page? Where do I find this information? And how do I know just by the name of a page or the hierarchy of the content on the page that I’m supposed to go there to get that information?
Yeah. I mean, you just mentioned coming in through the lobby, like the home page, but we know that happens. People drop in on the site on other resource type pages though. How do you help steer them where they’re going and structure the site knowing that they’re not always coming in on the homepage.
Yeah. You definitely have to approach it with that understanding. And that’s one of the things that’s easy to forget when you’re familiar with the site. You’re like, “I said that somewhere else. They should know that we said that,” but you really do need to kind of approach every main entry point as having a little bit of that lobby aspect, where you’re able to include really important brand elements, really important competitive advantages, and keep that present across the site, not just on a homepage or an about page or something, because you never know where they’re going to go. So, and also making it easy to navigate from those pages to other important pages that are relevant to that experience and keep them moving in the right direction.
Yeah. That could be the first experience they have with your brand is coming in like through search engine results, and landing somewhere in the middle of your site.
They’re like, “Tour guide, help me through.”
I think like a location page is a perfect example of that, where they’re often not thought through very well. They’re kind of just a simple…
A map. Yeah.
A phone number.
A phone number and address, but that’s actually one of the most landed on pages on the site and understanding that and understanding what a customer landing on that page should know is really important. And they might not find everything they need there. They might not be ready to call just like that. So, making sure they have the resources available and they’re coming in through that path is super important.
Yeah. That’s a great point because a lot of times, when you land on those location pages, like I do a lot for a local search optimization and that’s where we want to send people like, “Hey, you want direction? Do you want the phone number? Land here.” Well, yeah. Maybe they don’t, “I’m looking for LASIK. I would love to get LASIK. My contacts are hurting me now and I’ve been researching,” and I’m like, “Cool. I know you’re open. I don’t feel comfortable with you touching my eyes with the laser unless I know more. What’s your doctor? What process? What’s this going to cost? There’s so much more research that I want to do before I call you.”
And that’s a really perfect example of where the customer journey’s going to be so important for something like that because no one’s going to feel comfortable on just like a quick glance of the website. There’s going to have to be educational resources. You should probably be pushing towards a free consultation, so that you can talk with them in person and get them to understand what your process is and share your experience, so that they trust you more like that’s not a simple conversion. So, really building out the customer journey there is super important.
Yeah, or sharing it, too.
So, that’s what we try to do with content, too. So, let’s say we’re talking about like a LASIK services page. Obviously, we know if someone lands on that page, we want to have like a big, bold title. That’s like LASIK services at whatever location. It’s a little description about like, “Hey, we offer this.” And then, within that very first section, like contact us or like sign up for consultation, whatever it would be. And then, as we kind of scroll down the page, there would be elements of why you should choose our particular LASIK facility, and then some details about cost of the services, what the services include, all kinds of stuff like that. And then, again, as we kind of go down, there’s more information about like how to contact, how to schedule consultation.
And there’s all these buttons that we try to place around in places. Just kind of going back to what I was saying earlier about ensuring that you are giving people enough places to find information because nobody goes the same route. Not everyone’s going to click the first button. They might scroll down to read more and then click a button later. So, as we look at structuring that, we are trying to think, okay, if I’m a customer and I’m like, “Nope, I’m ready. We want that at the very top.” If I’m a customer and I’m like, “I need some convincing. Maybe I’ll have a button that I’ll click on after the, here’s why you should choose our business. And then maybe I’m still not convinced. I want to see the cost. Cool. I like that cost. Let’s go.”
Yeah. And I was just going to say, like I mentioned or shortening it because I’ve had also the opposite experience on some other sites where I’m like, “How do I contact you? Okay, I get you use this laser. I know how much it costs. I know you take my insurance. That’s great. Your doctor went to that school. When are you open? Can I call you now?” And PDFs. God, bless PDFs. I do not want to download your PDF to read more because then I’m onto something else. I left your site. So, if you want me to exit quickly, if you want me to leave, just give me a PDF. Kick me out. I love it.
I think another thing that’s really relevant here as things progresses, we’re starting to be able to do things online that we couldn’t do before. So, financial services is one area of that. Some mortgage application processes are a hundred percent online now. I don’t know if I’d actually be comfortable with that myself. I’d want to meet up with someone and talk to them and be like…
You don’t want to make the biggest financial decision of your life. Like just over lunch.
Can you make sure I’m doing the right thing here? I need a little guidance, but yeah. That’s one thing that stands out to me and we have clients in that industry and I think two conversion paths is appropriate there. Have something like schedule an appointment, where someone like me, who wants to go talk to someone can and then have start online right now as another one and people can choose. So, I think understanding that is important as well, because lots of services like that are moving towards online and want to push that online conversion, but that’s probably not right for everybody.
Well, and COVID’s kind of thrown a curve ball in that. I mean, I think of how I used to behave, for example, as a customer, I’m like, “Oh, you’re driving me to come in store and try it on, or you’re driving me to schedule an appointment. It’s like at your office.” And now, with COVID, but also things are changing again, opening up. It’s like, “Do you want me to schedule a virtual appointment instead? Okay, well then steer me there instead of coming to your office or coming to try on, forget about it. Just have me ship it to my house and give me free returns.” So, I think that’s another factor that some businesses have been really great about reacting to COVID in a positive way to tailor their customer journey to how customers behave now. And then, they’re going to have to pivot again when they open up, but just adapting. Your site should reflect how your customers, streamline, how they do business with your business.
And you actually brought up a great thing too when you said steering, because that’s exactly what we try to do when we’re building out these sites is even in if the customer has kind of a certain way that they’ll do something, there are ways you can influence them to direct them through your website, just with design cues, content cues, CTAs, anything on your website can be used to actually direct the customer to where you want them to go. If you’re like, “Go on this way, keep on going.” That’s really how we look at this the whole time is just how do I get them from point A to point B in a way that makes sense and doesn’t feel like we’re shoving them to fill out the contact form.
Yeah. You’re their digital Sherpa. You’re like helping them along, meeting them where they are. If that’s a discovery phase, we’re feeding them information. If it’s ready to convert, we’re like, “Here. Check out here.” Yeah
I think a cool thing about where the customer journey and optimizing for that is going is there’s not the conflicts that there were in the past. So, there’s always, or traditionally been like SEO versus user experience, where they kind of clash and they’re not necessarily the best for each other. I think that barrier is going away, where a customer completing a goal and Google just understanding the way websites work now like goal completion, which is optimizing for that user journey is a very strong SEO factor. So, really the best way to build a website now is what makes the most sense for the customer, and just thinking about it as a marketer, not as a tactician. “Oh, we got to get this in there and we got to get this in there,” because that’s the tactic that works. It’s more what’s right for the customer along this journey. So, it’s becoming a really natural experience and web marketing is just becoming more of like traditional marketing kind of in that way. It’s not so technical. It’s not so much about those fine details. It’s more about doing what’s right.
Yeah. At least your customer is not just serving the algorithm. If you please your customer, you’ll be optimized.
The algorithm doesn’t buy anything as we know. So, you need the people who are actually going to buy things to use your site because it can be the most optimized site and Google will notice that. But if nobody actually uses it, nobody clicks through your pages, no one takes action on the site, what’s it there for?
Yeah. I mean we’ve seen that, too. You build a beautiful site and I’m like, “That was nice.”
“It looks great.”
“It looks great.” Yeah, and still don’t know how to interact with you. Yeah. Or the opposite of a slimy sales, use car salesman website. And I’m like, “No, you’re not getting my credit card. Sorry.”
Yeah. That is something we want to avoid, too. As I said earlier, when we’re directing people, we don’t want them to feel as though we’re just like, “Give us your money.” Even if that is the ultimate goal for some businesses, you don’t want it to be that way for the customer. You’re supposed to have a relationship of like, “I give you this and you get this in return and you give me something.” And so, when we’re put together this kind of direction, we don’t want it to feel like they’re just constantly bombarded with like, “Yeah, fill out a form. Give us your credit card information. Sign up for our email.” That will impact the user experience of your website, and it will negatively impact the customer journey. So, we have to be conscious of that, too.
Yeah. Can I just bunny trail onto shameless plug for Shopify? I have recently used another online shopping, it’s COVID. Like how they do their checkout. Love it, because they save your information and I’m like, “Yes. Oh, I’m browsing dresses. Oh, I like those rompers. Oh, well, it’s all on my cart. You have my credit card, just pushing the little code.” I think that’s back to planning for structure of what we’re going to build on as a platform based on your goals, like Shopify’s doing e-commerce really well right now. Obviously, we build e-commerce other places. Squarespace is good for its own purposes. It goes all the way back to what are your goals and we start from the ground up, like choosing a platform, choosing content management system, choosing what plug-ins or features or whatever else. Like when we’re thinking through CTAs, is that an auto scheduler? Is that showing you like a calendar? Showing you a calendar, or having you check out. Well, then, let’s pick a platform that’s going to drive towards that goal.
Yeah, absolutely. And within that, and this probably goes in line with the platform, so what platforms can accommodate? What kinds of thing’s the best? You said, the checkout process, of course, in an e-commerce scenario where Shopify thrives, that’s so important, and then even down to the little details of, do you have something Apple Pay or PayPal, where it’s a one click checkout. I’ve become that person where it’s like, I just always pay with PayPal now because I never have to put in my information, where I just click one button and it knows what to do and I’m done and that’s a huge deal. That changes the experience for the because customer drastically and makes them appreciate and just value the experience you’ve provided more, where almost now, sites that don’t have that, people are like, “Oh, I got to fill out my information.”
Oh, my gosh. And then I’m sure they have a higher drop off rate. There’s no way that they have equal conversion rates because I know there’s times I abandon my cart. Sure. You can email market me to death, but I’m a like, “No, I thought about it. No, I don’t want it.” So, if you can get me while I’m on your site to complete the conversion seamlessly, then yeah, it’s got to have a higher rate.
But to that point too like some types of products need video. Some types of products, like you said, need a scheduler. “Oh, if I can see an open appointment time, I’m going to take it.” So, it’s really thinking through that, again, what the customer wants and making it as simple as possible and just understanding, and part of that’s the competitive research too, going through the industry and understanding what people expect. Not that this is necessarily something with a conversion, but like recipes now, it’s like, if you don’t have a quick video showing me putting it together, I’m like, “I’m going to go find one that does.”
“I need a video.” Well, I guess that goes to show like I probably gave an example and you should tell me your example because there’s so many variations to this. It’s really unique to like what the business wants or wants to the customer to do. And then, you’re tailoring this hand holding on our site to achieving that because yeah, what’s your example? I know, I don’t always check out. Maybe there’s a good time when you want me to walk away and think about it.
This is probably a very relevant example for a lot of people at this current time, but one that I think has an interesting customer journey and also user experience and kind of relates back to what Aaron was saying about like mortgages are really complicated. I don’t know if I want to fill that out online, but the tax software that we use to fill out our taxes, a lot of times are actually structured very, very well. I know the one that I use, it starts me on a dashboard page where it’s like, “Hey, Bailey. Welcome back.” And “Hey, let’s import last year’s information,” so you can just quickly update everything. And then it tells me, “Here’s exactly what we’re going to do. Here are all the steps.” So, I know right off the bat, I have to hit these four steps before I can complete my taxes.
And then the whole way through, it walks me like I have to click a lot. I know, but it also is ensuring that I get from each page. I’ve done what I need to do. And it has all these little helpful things in there that are like, “Hey, do you not know about this? Here, watch a video or read more about this. Or we can have a chat pop up if you need some help.” But the whole time they are directing me through each step in a very simplistic manner, especially for taxes, which, ah, because nobody wants to do taxes. So, make it as easy as possible for me, and that is like a really, really great example of how you can kind of guide somebody through what you need them to do until they get to the very end point. And in this point, it’s file your taxes and…
Don’t go to jail.
You just spent $30 fee for doing it.
I think that’s a great point too, because I mean sitting down to do your taxes all in one go sometimes, it’s not doable or you have questions, you have to come back. We’ll find some of your returns and whatever, but it’s just like, “Yeah, make it easy for me to come back to that and pick up where I left off.” Don’t, “God, I hate it when they dump my shopping cart and I have to come back.” Yeah. So, I think it’s just finding where they’re at in the journey back to those side door injuries and picking them up wherever they’re coming back to you in their journey or in your site and carry them, handhold them the rest of the way through.
Make it easy for them because when they don’t have to do work, they’re more likely to do the thing that you’re trying to get them to do.
Yes. That’s so true. All right. Awesome. Well, this has been so helpful, you guys. I know that we put out a lot of great work for our clients and it’s because we take that approach of aligning our design development, copywriting structure, CTAs, all of it based on what our client’s goals are. So, thanks for breaking it down for us. I enjoyed having you both.
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