Mapping the Customer Experience, Segment By Segment
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Mapping the Customer Experience, Segment By Segment

August 6, 2020

Chelsea Schafer Mark Micheli

Segment-specific experience maps are a powerful way to drive your marketing strategy — but they're often overlooked. Here's why they're so important, and what your brand needs to know about creating them.

Though you may typically approach them as separate efforts, combining customer segmentation and experience mapping is an important way to help your brand understand its audiences and drive marketing strategy — even more powerfully than either tool on its own. 

Creating segment-specific experience maps is a natural way to bring together the disparate parts of your business and truly empathize with your customers’ journey(s). Unfortunately, it’s a step that teams often overlook. 

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • The importance of a strategic segmentation
  • Why segment-specific experience maps are essential in understanding the unique attributes of your brand’s priority audiences (key to creating a more personalized marketing strategy!) 
  • Plus recommendations for building the best segment-specific experience maps

Why Your Segmentation Strategy Matters

There’s no one “best” marketing strategy, product innovation, experience innovation — you name it. There’s only the one that’s the right fit for the customers you most want to reach. To that end, a good segmentation framework organizes customers into subgroups with common characteristics so you can prioritize the right strategy (again, whether we’re talking marketing, product, experience, branding, etc.).

Not only can a rigorous segmentation help you identify which types of customers offer your brand the most value, it can also provide a nuanced understanding of what they need — and ultimately propel action in delivering on those needs. 

[Curious how to position your segmentation research to focus on what matters most? Check out our eBook, “The Segmentation Journey.”] 

Of course, there often isn’t one “best” experience map, either — your target segments may each have their own unique journey to purchase. 

The Benefits of Segment-Specific Experience Maps

If an effective segmentation framework is a key first step in creating a clearer picture of your customer base, segment-specific experience maps are the way to sharpen the image and add in necessary detail. 

Rigor: As we’ve covered before, good customer segmentations are rigorous. In addition to attitude-based survey data, they integrate client databases, third-party data, CRM insights, and more. These inputs lead to high-quality outputs: frameworks that reflect your brand’s priorities, drive key decision-making, and help you move your business forward. Customer segments, then, provide an extremely substantive base to build upon when it comes to experience/journey mapping work. 

Accounting for Nuances and Avoiding Assumptions: Customer segments can tell you a lot about your various audiences, but they aren’t designed to tell the story of every touchpoint those audiences have with your brand. Segment-specific experience maps do tell that story, however, providing the nuances you need to avoid any costly assumptions about your customers or users. 

Bringing Your Team Together: In an ideal world, a good segmentation architecture on its own would be enough to bring your company’s various teams together — from research to product to marketing and beyond — to rally around the needs of its customers/users. In most cases, however, that isn’t quite the reality, and segmentation frameworks need to be activated within an organization. Experience maps, given the way they tell the story of each segment’s journey, fit the bill perfectly. They make it clear how teams must collaborate to deliver a better overall experience for each segment. 

Tips to Build Segment-Specific Experience Maps 

Applying a segment-focused lens to your experience map(s) will understandably change the end product. For instance, because your target segments have more homogenous attitudes than your customers as a whole, there may be fewer trip types or Jobs to Be Done reflected in the map. Or because target segments are likely to have an already-high affinity for your brand, you’re liable to see a shorter discovery phase, with fewer brands in their consideration set. 

All that said, the process of creating an effective segment-specific experience map is no different than creating a broader map. It’s all about following a key set of principles. 

A segment-specific experience map should…

Reflect the unique experience of the segment. Experience maps tell a story from one point of view, and should capture events, actions, and emotions as perceived by the segment — not your customers as a whole. They should also elevate the segment voice by using language that reflects the way that segment talks about relevant actions and emotions. 

Be linear. Experiences unfold over time. Consumers don’t experience time loops or rewinds, so your experience map shouldn’t rely on warping time to tell the story. Start with a timeline, not a cycle. Similarly, whenever possible, focus on telling a realistic step-by-step story, rather than an idealized, replicable process. Rarely do consumers repeat an identical process of steps, even within a segment created to act homogeneously. 

Focus on the story you’re telling. No single map can show every detail of a multi-step experience. If you focus on a shorter section of the experience, you have room to include more detail. If you need to include an experience from end-to-end, you’ll need to zoom out on the level of detail.

Reveal the ecosystem. Experience maps make visible the invisible forces that influence your target segment’s behavior and memory. Good experience maps succinctly show the map reader how an ecosystem of touchpoints — including people, places, policies, tasks, and culture — influence a customer’s experience. 

Got questions? Get in touch. Whether you’re looking to explore experience maps for existing customer segments or start from scratch with a brand new segmentation architecture, our experts are always eager to help guide your brand. 

Chelsea Schafer

Senior Director, Insights & Strategy

As Senior Director, Insights & Strategy, Chelsea has a passion for using data to tell stories about how people make decisions, and to understand what drives persuasion in information-rich...

Mark Micheli

Vice President, Experience Innovation & Product Strategy

With a career spanning digital journalism, content marketing, product management, and UX design, Mark uses multiple perspectives to elevate the voice of users and unite cross-functional teams around...

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