How to create a data-driven user journey.

We’ve often spoken about how customers are spoilt for choice these days. With so many options out there to choose from, who wouldn’t be? Thanks to being digitally connected 24/7, consumers are always on the lookout for the things that delight them, and are always buying. However, this also poses a greater challenge for businesses; while there is incredible demand, there is an equally incredible risk factor of losing out to the competition.

It’s the reason why SEO exists – nobody will proceed to the 5th page, let alone the 50th, to look at the last search result displayed. Likewise, ensuring your brand receives the visibility it deserves (and stays there) is indispensable in today’s business age. 

But how do you make sure that your customer sees you before your competitors, and chooses you over them? Wholly open to deep discussion and contemplation, no two individuals will have the same opinion on such a topic. It’s not surprising really, as almost everyone is jumping into the ‘disruptive’ or ‘transformative’ bandwagon to ensure their businesses, or their clients’ businesses remain at the very top.

Irrespective of differences in opinion, there are certain factors that are undeniable. Big data, AI and business intelligence are some of these, to name a few. With so many viewpoints out there, it may seem overwhelming, and you may not know where or how to start. 

But it doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems to be. As long as you stick to the basics and get the gist of things, advancing your way up can happen gradually. After all, your business pathway is unique, and it’s always wise to take steps depending on your individual situation.

Taking that first step towards understanding your user journey

All the above-mentioned advice translates perfectly well into the context of user journeys. Remember that a user journey is any pathway which leads a customer towards your brand. It doesn’t have to be only via an online platform such as a website or mobile app. You need to take all entry points into consideration – be it in person or via the phone. 

This is the reason why most website and mobile app development companies in Sri Lanka don’t simply create UI/UX strategies based on digital mediums alone. A holistic, all-round approach is key to making sense of how customers visit your brand, and how they subsequently interact.

It’s also good to remember that a proficient user journey is data-driven and personalized at the same time. While both qualities go hand-in-hand, they need to be amalgamated strategically enough so that they can complement, and not cancel each other out.

For this purpose, it’s sensible to adopt a two-pronged approach to behaviour mapping.

Step 1: Conventional customer-centricity

Just because sophisticated digital tools and platforms are ubiquitous and are referred to as the go-to means of accomplishing anything in the enterprise world, it doesn’t mean that you cannot rely on traditional methods of gathering user feedback. As ironic as it seems, nothing really beats talking to your customer one-on-one, and asking what ails them when it comes to your product or service.

The beauty of this tried-and-tested method is that it gives you insight directly from the user, instead of presuming – something that very many brand professionals are guilty of doing, without them even knowing it. With the exception of UI/UX designers, other team members and stakeholders (especially those who own the brand/business) assume what users will do and/or think – and transfer those assumptions into their user journey.

However, this is always counter-productive as the average user’s thoughts and decisions are vastly different from our own. In turn, it is these very thoughts that lead to their decisions – and affect your business’s bottom line. This is where the concept of empathy mapping comes in. There’s no other alternative to empathising with your user, than by walking in their shoes. 

Numerous corporate giants, some of which are household terms, still use traditional survey methods to analyse customer behaviour. Whether it’s through an SMS following the service provided to a customer, or the good ol’ rate and review system seen online, many businesses are evaluating the sentiments of their primary stakeholders – and still garnering positive results.

So what’s the secret? While traditional of sorts, this is where the wittier businesses separate from their truly old-school counterparts. Inputting all the data obtained into a competent business intelligence solution for further insight is what makes all the difference. The right analytics platform can churn that data and display it for you in perspectives you may never have thought of before.

Taking this one step further…

Social Listening and Sentiment Analysis are two great tools to one up your survey efforts. It’s a commonly known fact that engagement obtained by businesses through social media is far more measurable than any other medium. So while you’re trying to analyse your customer, why not give these two tools a shot too?

While social listening involves using keywords to track brand sentiment from users who may not have tagged you, sentiment analysis (with a fair amount of help from natural language processing) automatically gauges emotion(s) conveyed through words. While the former is great for engaging with customers and assisting them with what they need, the latter can help distinguish what users feel about your brand – both consciously and subconsciously.

Combined together into one powerful analytics system, these statistics can then enable your team to create a user journey that is far more clarified than simply using anecdotal references as benchmarks to decide what your ideal user likes or dislikes.

However by this point, you may have already begun the next course of action…

Step 2: AI and machine learning makes more sense

Although big data, AI and machine learning are frequently talked about when mapping user journeys, it’s seldom noted that these elements need to be integrated well before you start brainstorming. A useful thing to keep in mind is that behaviour mapping is always an ongoing process – and also one of the key reasons why Agile development methodologies are so popular in this day and age.

That way, when you do adopt AI and machine learning systems into your business, the data generated therein can then be used to enhance your user journey. But if you’ve recently moved away from your outdated or legacy systems and freshly integrated AI, it’ll take some time to get there.

Until then, improving your service levels through intuitive chatbots and insightful machine intelligence can provide your brand the leverage it needs. Once your business and AI systems have gotten acquainted with one another and things are running smoothly, it’s time to reveal the data for better understanding!

Some questions that can be answered through this exercise may be:

  1. What are the demographics of the people showing interest towards your business?
  2. Out of everyone who’s interested, how many are buying? What are their demographics?
  3. Is there anybody who almost bought your product/service? What made them change their mind?
  4. What can be done to encourage these folks to buy? Your AI-based analytics tool may also be able to suggest this, depending on its capabilities.
  5. Are there any sections/pages that are encountering a high bounce rate? Why could that be?

And so many more, depending on the nature of what you specialize in as a business.

For example:

  1. A taxi app can detect that you’ve been taking rides to the same destination every Tuesday at 4PM. It can then send you a push notification to remind you of this every Tuesday afternoon, or ask if you would like the app to automatically schedule rides for this time frame.
  2. An air travel app has noticed that most of the flights you’ve booked during the last 6 months have been to Europe. So how about a 15% discount coupon for the next European flight you book, especially since you haven’t bought any tickets for the past month?

So as you can see, integrating AI and machine learning can personalize your user journey so intricately, that a user may feel your website or app is directly speaking to them, and is made for them! 

Now that you’re aware of the constituents that help shape a streamlined and intuitive user journey, it’s time to get to work creating it!

But before we get to that…

Who should be involved in contributing to a refreshed user journey?

Creating or revamping user journeys are usually something that the UI/UX team is responsible for. While your UX designer is capable of this undertaking as it is one of their core job duties, it pays to take a step back and observe the big picture. Your brand’s user journey determines everything from sales to retention, and thereby makes or breaks your business. As every individual in your organization strives to achieve these very objectives irrespective of what they are trained to do, doesn’t it help to get members from outside your IT teams also involved?

Lately, there has been much buzz about eradicating silos from the workplace in order to increase productivity and improve bottom lines. While AI has often been hailed as the solution to alleviating such workplace silos, it is just as capable of contributing to customer-centricity by doing more than just implementing chatbots. 

Therefore, a combination of involving team members from multiple business units and focusing your AI capabilities to improve your brand’s user journey is integral for desirable results. Just like every other aspect pertaining to your business, developing the right user journey need not be carried out in silos either. 

Now that we’re aware of the technicalities…

Step 3: Mapping out the actual user journey

The blueprint outlined below is ideal for all businesses, irrespective of what you specialize in. Of course, you may need to customize certain aspects depending on your brand’s unique situation, but as long as you follow these steps, you’ll be on your way to building a user journey that your customers will appreciate.

  1. Analyse

This is where all the above-mentioned constituents come in. By asking your customers whether they’re satisfied with your product and the means to buy it (your site or app) that’s coupled with insights from social media (through social listening and sentiment analysis), you’ll get some clarity on where your brand/app is positioned in the scale of positive, neutral or negative.

AI-powered tools can further heighten your understanding; when it comes to your app usage of course, but also on what users think about your product/service in general.

  1. Brainstorm
  • Before you begin, illustrate your prevailing user journey. There’s no fixed way on how to do this; it can be a diagram, or tabulated. Just do what articulates your user journey the best. 
  • Now, gather your data. Flag statistics that are unusual or poor.
  • At which points along the user journey are these statistics affecting turnovers? Discuss how these hindrances can be resolved. It is at this point that you will also be able to determine the business units out of which you want team members getting involved.
  • Additionally, did your analytics solution provide any suggestions? Modern AI-powered tools are capable of offering such advice, thanks to close emulation of human thought processes and behaviour.
  1. Deliver

Once you’ve figured out what the solutions to the obstacles in your user journey are, it’s time to start making them a reality! Evaluate what your deliverables are, what resources you need and how long it will take, to get the ball rolling.

As mentioned before, iterating your user journey is always a work in progress. It’s inexhaustible work, especially since technology around us and the way people interact with it is constantly and rapidly changing. 

So there you go! No matter the size and shape of your business, this is how you can create a user journey that’s pleasant and provides value to your customers, while maintaining a unified approach across all mediums – both online and offline.

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