Why the Customer Journey Matters to Retailers

Kim Harris Busdieker
Marketing Insights
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Key Takeaways

What? How customers view their experience with a retailer is directly linked to the health of that business.

So what? Retailers who can optimize touch points along the customer journey will grow today’s sales.

Now what? Find a way to step into your customer's shoes to understand their mindset as they discover, shop, buy and reflect on your brand, and you’ll be able to access untapped sales potential.

​Nov. 17, 2016

Retailers who have a comprehensive understanding of buyer needs and how they meet them will leapfrog the competition


Understanding that customers have needs isn’t a new concept, but creating and managing customer journeys that satisfy those needs has become a competitive advantage. Retailers who can optimize touch points along the customer journey to create seamless and meaningful experiences will grow today’s sales by meeting customers’ stated needs and secure tomorrow’s sales by delivering against those needs customers don’t even know they have.

A customer journey is a collection of actions, moments, and touch points that a customer experiences while trying to fulfill a goal or a purpose. Until we understand a customer’s full journey and how they fulfill their needs along the way, we aren’t delivering a meaningful experience to them.

How customers view their experience with a retailer is directly linked to the health of that business. According to Forrester research, a customer’s rating of their experience is directly correlated to future sales and a decreased likelihood to defect to a competitor. Their research shows that retailers moving from a below-average customer experience score to an above-average score ranged from a sales improvement between $55 million to $1.6 billion depending on the industry.

Customer journeys vary by the customer and goal. Recognizing the different mindsets of customers along the journey allows us to better create and deliver solutions to fit their needs. These mindsets are universal to almost all retail purchases.

  • Discover: when customers minds are open to new information.

  • Shop: when customers narrow down their options to suit their need.

  • Buy: when customers give something up to get what they want.

  • Reflect: when customer's evaluate their experience and create their perception of how it went.

While touch points within each of these mindsets can be quantified and measured to understand retailer performance at different stages, retailers who want to compete tomorrow must also measure the entire customer journey.

Social media has become a ubiquitous platform for customers to share their feelings about retail experiences that is often seen by hundreds or thousands of potential customers when it transcends into a viral phenomenon. With social media, we can find many examples of customer journey phases as customers readily share their retail experiences.


A fish and chips restaurant in Alberta, Canada, has turned around slow sales thanks to one customer willing to advocate for the quality of the restaurant and the owner, and to help his friends discover it. Colin Ross said he stumbled across Whitbie’s Fish & Chips near his home when looking for a hangover cure. He was sad to discover from the owner that business was slow and he took to Facebook to share “the owner was a jem real classy stand up guy so I ask everyone in Lethbridge to share this and go support this hard working gentleman he deserves it.” Within 10 days the post was shared over 8,000 times and business is reportedly booming. Without asking Colin directly, it’s hard to say the exact driver of his actions, but based on what he posted it is a safe assumption the owner went out of his way to talk to Colin and to make him feel welcome, and that personal experience made a difference.


Nothing gets the internet in a frenzy like a hilarious rant over something we can all relate to, such as not being able to find something in your favorite store after a remodel. Susannah Lewis, freelance writer, wife and stay-at-home mother of two, satirically reviewed her local grocer during a recent store remodel. Through her unique style and exaggerated drama, she takes viewers on a five-minute tale of her attempt to find juice in the store and instead finding maxi-pads. “I don’t like change, I don’t understand it, I don’t know why they had to change things up. The store was fine before this nonsense.” Under the humor is a customer need to be able to navigate new store layouts when change inevitably happens. In the six months after posting the video it has been viewed over 140,000 times. 


 For the love, Kroger!



A customer was checking out at a Trader Joe’s and, during conversation at the register, mentioned it was her birthday. The cashier stepped away and came back with a free bouquet of flowers. The customer responded with love and a hashtag as she shared a picture and her experience with her network on Facebook. “Love TJ’s!!! #traderjoesisawesome.” While it may seem like a small isolated act, the employee at Trader Joe’s was empowered to do something special and unique for this customer on her special day and reflects an emphasis on creating positive experiences for customers. This post had the potential to reach at least 450 friends in her Facebook network, and was liked almost 80 times in the first few days. Little gestures made by retailers can make a big impact on customers and their willingness to advocate for your brand.


Finding a worm packed into his cucumber wrapping from Tesco drove Wes Metcalf to reflect directly to the retailer about his disappointment and to describe the subsequent worm funeral he held with his family to lighten the moment. His original post ended with a tongue-in-cheek call to action: “So come on Tesco wiggle your way out of this one!?!?!?” What follows is a bizarrely amusing and involved back-and-forth between Wes and Rob from Tesco’s customer care department that includes poems, songs and proclaimed heartbreak for William the Worm and ends with a gift card in the mail to cover the cost of the worm funeral. The customer service representative recognized that under the humorous post was a family who had a bad experience, and he engaged them in a playful manner, similar to their own, to make it right. William the Worm now has his own Facebook page, and the exchange has been featured in Mashable, among other media outlets and shared over 100,000 times.

Seeing our customers as human beings with complex, yet relatable needs is a first step toward understanding the customer journey. Once retailers can understand their customer’s mindsets and find a way to step into their shoes, consistently and with every decision they make, they’ll be able to access untapped sales potential and ensure customers are experiencing the best they have to offer. 

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Author Bio:

Kim Harris Busdieker
Kim Harris Busdieker is director of customer communications for 84.51. She has been partnering with The Kroger Co. on the customer-centric loyalty journey since 2004. In her current role she develops personalization strategies and solutions to better meet the needs of Kroger’s diverse and growing customer population.
Add A Comment :

Displaying 3 Comments
Sanjeev Vanapilli NURSIMULU
December 14, 2016

Customer Contact persons at all levels should bear in mind these 4 mindsets, irrespective of the nature of their business. Organisations investing in this type of culture will definitely earmark themselves from the lot.

January 16, 2017

In modern marketing the new key to success is marketing products to the ease of consumers. These means companies need to adapt to add online options, as well as changing how they choose to use the customer journey. The customer's view on the store and its products will give insight into the strength of the company and its customer base. This can be nurtured through promoting customer loyalty through rewards programs, or additional incentives distinguishing themselves from the competition. Alternatively, companies can make themselves stand out through making their store and shopping experience different and impact so the customer will carry the memory and share their experiences. The example of the Trader Joe's employee making the customer's day shows how employees can also add to this experience by breaking away from the norm and making a customer feel special. Through this act it lead to additional benefits for the company because her video reached all her friends and any of them who shared or talked about her positive experience. With so many stores coming up with e-commerce booming, it's becoming tougher for companies to leave a lasting impact on customers. For this reason, the customer journey is becoming more important because the few companies that do impact their customers are the ones that will be most successful in the future.

October 13, 2017

We couldn’t agree more to this talk. @Emolytics we believe that Emotion is core to user experience. We have our own Net Emotion Score - the Emoscore®, who helps creating emotional bonds with customers and understand their emotions through every possible facet of a business. We also work with another similar measurement via our Net Positivity Index. Happy customers are loyal customers, knowing what they feel is, indeed, the best way to boost their engagement. 

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