Reevaluating the Customer Journey in 2021

The customer journey impacts virtually every angle of your business, and it’s been disrupted in a major way by the pandemic. What, where, when, how and why we buy were all challenged in 2020. E-Commerce, delivery services, omni channel, remote work, and do-it-yourself exploded. Curb-side pick-up became a thing, touchless payment became the norm, and if it could be digitized and taken online, it was disrupted. The pandemic radically changed customer journeys across the spectrum, exposing gaps in processes, and suggesting ways to improve post-pandemic.

Are you still driving the same old road, while your customers have introduced new curves to the process?

What the research reveals

According to a survey of marketers conducted by Marketing Week, over half of marketers (53%) say the pandemic has caused “radical” or “significant” changes to the customer journey. Only 19% noted no change at all. That same study found more changes in the customer journey for B2C with 62% saying there was “radical” or “significant” changes to the customer journey, compared to 51% of those working in B2B.

Some of my own primary research back in the early days of May and June during the pandemic revealed some startling trends. 73% of respondents had changed products, suppliers or services they were previously loyal to. And a further 65% of those pleased with the alternative found they were likely or strongly likely to continue the behavior in the future. Link to that post about Substitutes and Hybrids here. Granted, some of these shifts were due to availability of the product or service, but they signaled an early pattern of willingness to change. Suffice it to say, almost all of our customers have likely been exposed on some level to different systems, methods and ways of delivering satisfaction. That has made them question every “curve” you toss them along the way.

The pandemic created further opportunities for companies to build direct-to-consumer (D2C) digital pipelines. The cloud also played a role in the digital transformation process allowing improved costs and speed in dealing with vendors. And throughout the process, the methods for connecting with consumers through various communications channels also experienced upheaval – as digital consumption patterns shifted and increased.

The place to start is validating the buyer’s journey by looking closely at the pinch points encountered at awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, purchase, fulfillment, distribution, delivery, follow up, after sales service, repeat purchases, loyalty, and of course communication at every step along the way. 

Questions to ask?

  • What is still true?
  • What has changed?
  • What could be improved?
  • Can anything be simplified or removed?
  • Is our offering still relevant & meaningful?
  • Are we timely and responsive to changing needs?
  • Are the channels and formats used for promotion, targeting, distribution and pricing still valid?
  • Is our creative content still meaningful and timely?
  • Do we need to reconsider how we measure success?

Front line employees are a company’s eyes and ears on the ground, so we shouldn’t forget to include them in this process. Soliciting employee feedback can help gauge how customers are feeling and how daily interactions are changing.

Many new patterns of consumer behavior were driven initially by safety, but will remain longer term for other reasons such as convenience.

While digitizing sales and customer care became more common during the pandemic, digital inclusivity for users who are less technology savvy should be a key part of revamping customer experience going forward, so it is inclusive. So too should providing a customer experience that reflects care, safety and trust right now. In subsequent trends I will be digging more into demonstrating empathy, trust and safety, as well as being human centric at every touch point, but these are all areas to use as a lens when asking the questions above.

In the context of increased digital interactions, it is important to ensure that website customer experience has impact enough to convert a significant proportion of visitors. 90% of visitors will never convert on their first visit to your website, according to studies. It takes 3-4 visits for them to consider doing business with you. That makes “What is required to make the visitor come again?” the million-dollar question. Analyzing the customer journey to conversion, through different metrics, can help.

Monitoring your website analytics can reveal clues

Here are some things you should be monitoring in Google Analytics anyway, but now armed with an additional set of questions noted above, be critical of what you see. And if there are changes compared to historical data, dig deeper and start asking “why”.

  • Page views: Overall traffic of the website
  • Unique visitors: Unique visitors interacting with the website
  • Engagement: Time spent on various pages
  • Bounce rate: Visitors who immediately leave the webpage. Higher bounce rates could indicate landing pages or home pages take too long to load of fail to attract attention
  • Exit page: Pages visited most often before leaving site
  • Referrals: Tracking users who are landing on websites by typing URL, clicking on ads etc
  • Keywords: Tracking keywords that are generating more traffic
  • Browsers: See what devices are creating more traffic – desktop, laptop, mobile phone
  • Conversion: Conversion from visitor to customer
  • Cost per conversion: Amount spent against conversions

During the pandemic, these numbers have become essential to understand the customer journey and experience pinch points in a world that is now driven largely by digital first. Although some buying patterns may shift yet again in the future back towards more traditional channels, for sure a lot will stay put.

What we need to be seeking overall is to SIMPLIFY and REMOVE THE FRICTION for the customer, whether it be online or off, with a clear understanding about how the journey has changed as we enter 2021.

Mary Charleson

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