Customer Journey Mapping vs. CRO Audits: Which is Best?

By David Hoos
7 minute read | Last Updated: November 16, 2018

Compare customer journey mapping to CRO audits so you can determine which method is best for your business.

“Customer journey mapping” is one of the newest buzz terms in digital marketing. Over the past year, The Good has received an increasing number of calls from clients asking, “Do you do customer journey mapping?”

Our answer often surprises them:

“We’ve highlighted the customer journey in our conversion rate optimization (CRO) audits for years. Knowing that path is integral to CRO.”

By itself, customer journey mapping lacks context—it can waste time and money, and even hurt your business if misapplied. Integrating customer journey mapping into your CRO audit, however, can provide a comprehensive view of customer behavior on your ecommerce site.

Our CRO audit goes beyond typical customer journey mapping to take a deeper, more meaningful and actionable look at what your best prospects want, and suggest ways you can move them from the research phase to the buying phase.

In this article, we’ll compare customer journey mapping to CRO audits so you can determine which method is best for your business.

customer journey mapping

The image above shows a customer journey map under development by a team at USA.gov.

So, what is customer journey mapping?

Customer journey mapping tells the story of customer interaction with your business. It is the process of graphically illustrating the path customers take across different stages of interaction with your ecommerce website.

The “customer journey,” which is not a new aspect of CRO, describes the interwoven phases of what is better known as the “customer experience” (CX) or “user experience” (UX). Another term you’ll often see used to describe the customer journey is “customer path to sales.”

The bottom line is, the more you know about visitors to your site, the quicker and easier you can build your business.

Some of the data points portrayed on a customer journey map include:

  • How did visitors arrive at your ecommerce site? Did they find you through a search engine? Via one of your ads? Through a mention of your business on another site?
  • Which devices are your visitors using? Are most visiting your site on a smartphone? Tablet? Desktop?
  • What are the demographics of your visitors? How old are they? What is their education level? How much money do they earn?
  • What are the most popular entry points visitors use to access your site? Is your home page the hotspot? Do particular product pages get more traffic than others?
  • What do visitors do once they arrive on your site? How long do they stay? Where do they go when they leave?
  • What steps do visitors take before deciding to buy from you? How many times do they come back as visitors before they become customers? Do they find sufficient research information on your site to make a buying decision, or do they need to go elsewhere to get answers to questions about your products or services?
  • When do visitors contact customer support? How much do they rely on your embedded customer service options? Which customer support options do they like best?

It’s easy to see the value you gain from this type of information. The danger is in not understanding what to do with the data, which is where CRO audits come in.

Customer journey mapping is the process of graphically illustrating the path customers take across different stages of interaction with your ecommerce website. It tells the story of customer interaction with your business. Click To Tweet

How does CRO expand on customer journey mapping?

You know what you and your design team think of your website. By looking closely at how customers interact with your site, you’ll find out what they think of it.

A CRO audit is an in-depth look at segmented consumer behavior on your website. Correctly performed, it helps you see your business through your prospects’ eyes so you can uncover roadblocks and tear them down.

By applying the proven principles of conversion rate optimization, you can pave the way for visitors by improving the journey and making it easier for them to buy from you.

Customer journey mapping can be a helpful tool, but it’s certainly not a panacea for lackluster sales. You not only need to see the stuck points; you need to clear them.

Customer journey maps are often designed around business goals rather than customer goals. Conversion rate optimization gets the picture aligned correctly.

Customer journey maps (see above) are usually presented as a one-page graphical layout of how customer personas at varying funnel positions interact with your site.

Here are some of the points you should be aware of when considering a customer journey map for your ecommerce website:

  • You get more than a customer journey map when you obtain a proper CRO audit. Conversion rate optimization audits deliver all the information you’ll get from a customer journey map… and more. There is never a need to pay for both; mapping information is included with a properly executed CRO audit.
  • A good CRO audit takes you through the entire customer experience from the beginning. The included report and presentation will provide information not found on a customer journey map, such as which popups visitors are shown on the landing page and what the post-purchase experience looks like.
  • You’ll view your ecommerce website from the standpoint of your best prospects with a CRO audit. Most customer journey maps show you the company’s viewpoint. At The Good, we don’t even think about making hypotheses and recommendations until we have a firm grasp on what the experience looks like from the user’s perspective.
  • The visual representation you get with a customer journey map can help others understand the “why” behind changes. Some companies display the customer journey map conspicuously in all internal departments as a means of generating cross-functional support for improvements.
  • Going beyond the map provides granular detail. In short, the key difference between the map and a CRO audit is the level of detail. An audit gives you a close look at customer behavior, while a customer journey map provides a more high-level summary.
  • You get the best results when you turn the process around. It’s common for companies to begin with a customer journey map, then get frustrated when they can’t justify the expense of the map with more sales. When you begin with a CRO audit, the resulting map becomes a visual cue to remind you of the detailed path your best prospects can take to become your best customers.
  • You get incomplete results when you rely on the map alone. At its best, the customer journey map can help you visually summarize the path to sales on your ecommerce website. At its worst, it can fool you into thinking that knowledge changes things. Knowledge becomes valuable when we utilize the information it provides to make positive changes. That’s what conversion rate optimization is all about.
You know what you and your design team think of your website. By looking closely at how customers interact with your site, you’ll find out what they think of it. Click To Tweet

So, what’s the best option for you?

Here’s the bottom line:

A customer journey map is great for generating internal support and ideas, but it’s not a dependable roadmap for creating CRO strategy.

The scope is too limited.

To design tests and make the changes your ecommerce website needs to maximize conversion rates, your best bet is to opt for a professional CRO audit that goes deeper than a simple customer journey map.

Who can you trust to oversee that audit?

Contact The Good.

Resources:

List comparison of customer journey map vs. quality CRO audit

Customer Journey Map

  • Provides a basic context of customer behavior throughout your website
  • Graphically depicts a simplified beginning-to-end experience
  • Provides a high-level look, with no focus on individual customer segments
  • Helps generate internal support and understanding.
 CRO Audit

  • Provides in-depth context of customer behavior throughout your website
  • Provides a detailed walkthrough of your visitors’ beginning-to-end experience
  • Provides a deep-dive look into individual customer segments
  • Helps generate focused action plans

 

 

About the author: David Hoos is Marketing Manager at The Good, conversion rate experts who deliver more revenues, customers, and leads. David and the team at The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see online revenue double through their conversion rate optimization services.

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