What People Get Wrong About Customer Journeys: A CEO’s Reaction

Every marketer is familiar with the customer journey– the idea that customers engage in a series of start-to-finish interactions that culminate in an overarching buyer experience. Despite the growing popularity of customer journeys in marketing, there remains a lingering misconception that they must be as routinized, consistent, and streamlined as possible. HBR’s article, What You’re Getting Wrong About Customer Journeys, explains how customer journeys are often more nuanced than we think– and it explains how companies can consider four different customer journey archetypes to account for this nuance. As the CEO of a global marketing agency, I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of understanding the buyer’s journey, and I couldn’t agree more with the arguments and archetypes proposed. Here’s my take on the four customer journey archetypes and the implications they have on developing successful marketing strategies:

The Four Customer Journey Archetypes

Traditionally, customer journey mapping has centered around laying out a series of interactions that customers have when engaging with a company– without taking a deeper look at how a customer’s expectations and needs shape these experiences. The reality is that customer journeys are uniquely suited to varying values, needs, and experiences, particularly when it comes to predictability and effort.

Predictability refers to the level of consistency that customers can expect when interacting with a product or service. A hometown diner that always serves the same dishes on the menu offers more consistency than a pop-up restaurant that features a surprise menu.

Effort refers to the amount of effort customers have to put-in, in order to successfully engage with a particular product or experience. Things like one-click additions to a customer’s Amazon shopping cart require very little effort, whereas apps that involve logging diet and exercise are much more effortful.

When considering the various levels of predictability and effort that customers expect, encounter, and enjoy, four distinct customer journey archetypes emerge: Joyrides, Odysseys, Treks, and Routines.

Routines: Routines are categorized by high levels of predictability and low levels of effort. Routines are all about streamlining efficiencies and creating consistency. Customers don’t have to put too much effort into the process, and they can expect the same experiences and results, time and time again. Have you ever walked through the front door and instantly hopped on UberEats to have your favorite meal delivered? That’s a routine customer journey archetype in action. To effectively market to Routine archetypes, companies must ensure that they provide as much efficiency, consistency, and convenience as possible.

Joy Rides: When customers experience a Joy Ride archetype, they encounter unpredictability, while putting in minimal effort. Marketing to Joy Ride archetype customers requires the implementation of strategies that leverage endless variation to generate excitement and pique interest. A great example of a company that utilizes this archetype is Crumbl cookies. Crumbl is a bakery that offers unique cookie flavors each week. Driven by the fear that they’re going to miss out on the next great cookie flavor, customers flock to the company’s storefronts whenever the new flavors are revealed. The unpredictability of new flavors creates customer excitement that results in brand fanatics.

Treks: Trek archetypes center around high levels of predictability and high levels of effort. Customers who fall within these archetypes often set challenging long-term goals, and they need particular products or services to help achieve them. Companies that help customers do things like learn a new language, save up for a large financial purchase, or even plan-out an expensive vacation likely fit within the Trek archetype. Marketing within this realm requires companies to design products and services that help their customers break their goals down, while rewarding them for their progress along the way.

Odysseys: Odysseys involve low levels of predictability, but they require high levels of effort. For these customer journeys, value comes not from the destination, but from the journey itself. Odyssey archetypes typically align with passion-projects, outdoor adventures, and thrill-seeking experiences. Activities like mountain biking, remixing music samples, and trying to solve riddles in escape rooms are all examples of the Odyssey archetype. When marketing to customers in this area, it will be important to give them the ability to test their skills, track their progress, and celebrate their victories.

What the Archetypes Mean for Marketing Strategies

Whereas traditional approaches to developing customer journeys take a one-size-fits-all approach, the reality is that customer journeys are rarely that effortless and predictable. The four customer journey archetypes not only capture the nuanced reality of today’s customer journeys, but they also have exciting and profound implications on developing successful marketing strategies:

Implication 1: Customer personas and customer journeys MUST go hand-in-hand.

The archetype model requires companies to have a solid understanding of their target customers, in order to match an appropriate customer journey to that persona. Companies need to first develop a buyer persona, then identify and design the customer journey that best fits them. In this sense, customer personas and customer journeys must go hand-in-hand.

Implication 2: Companies can design for multiple customer journeys at once.
When identifying target customers, companies first begin by segmenting their audience. Oftentimes, companies have multiple segments, which lead to a couple different buyer personas. Therefore, companies can tailor the design of their customer journeys by picking the appropriate archetypes, and even implementing several archetypes at the same time, in order to capture the full spectrum of their customers.

Implication 3: Customer journeys, in and of themselves, can be used as retention and recruitment strategies.
A well-designed and intentionally implemented customer journey archetype can act as a marketing strategy that attracts and retains customers. Aligning an archetype to a target customer enables companies to create a value-add that keeps customers coming back for more. Whether it’s focusing on consistency, leveraging variation, assisting with goals, or even relishing in the journey, itself, when buyers feel like the customer journey adequately meets their needs and expectations, they will be more likely to take the first step. They’ll also be more likely to come back and do it again.

Implication 4: Streamline and integrate, but don’t oversimplify.
The differentiation that the archetypes bring to customer journey mapping enables companies to adjust and tailor their marketing strategies to promote the best results. While this differentiation is beneficial, it is still important for companies to streamline and integrate their marketing efforts where it’s appropriate. When designing marketing plans, consistency and integration are crucial–but oversimplifying strategies will cause companies to lose the nuance that is necessary for creating successful and satisfying customer journeys.

Nuance is Necessary
Customer journey mapping is a key aspect of any successful marketing strategy. However, traditional methods of identifying customer journeys are often over-simplified. To create meaningful customer journeys that add value to marketing strategies, companies must understand the complexity inherent within each customer’s experiences, expectations, and values. Nuanced customer journeys are necessary for success in today’s marketplace– and the four archetypes are a great place to start for any company looking to bolster their marketing strategies by appreciating and leveraging this nuance.

For additional resources related to developing customer journeys, check out Madison Taylor Marketing.

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