In class we talked about process maps, a tool for analyzing and presenting an activity- such as a consumer shopping experience- in a sequence of chronological steps. The main point of process mapping is to place the marketer in the shoes of a consumer. This allows us to gain insight into their perspectives and decision-making patterns. However, I think one of the biggest problems with process mapping is its tendency to make simple activities more complicated than they really are.
When we made our own process maps in class about going to the movies, a seemingly simple activity gave birth to a whole slew of decisions, each branching into multiple tangent points. The paper became really crowded and at first glance all the symbols seemed confusing and overwhelming. By the time we got to buying the actual movie tickets, we were already almost out of room on the paper, and we had not even covered whether or not to buy snacks! I think our biggest problem was figuring out the level of detail we wanted to incorporate and maintain it throughout the entire process map. The best way is to decide on the level of detail you want before starting the actual mapping. The different types of process maps- ranging from macro to micro- each offer a unique style to limit or expand on the level of detail depending on the specific activity.
I think one of the greatest advantages of process mapping is that it shows processes that may be redundant so you can keep cutting down until the process becomes very efficient. For example, in our process map, we ended up with two different scenarios- one where the couple wanted to rent a movie and watch it at home and another where they wanted to go to a theater. However, both scenarios required the couple to make similar decisions afterwards- for example, which movie to watch, what time to watch the movie, invite others or watch it with only each other, etc. So instead of making two sets of similar choices, the process map allowed us to connect the same decisions to each scenario, thus eliminating any redundancy. Many times, the most efficient process map is the simplest and most concise one.
Despite some minor drawbacks, I believe the benefits of process maps as a whole outweigh the cons. In addition to looking at things from the customers’ point of view and reducing redundancy, process maps also stress unanticipated difficulties that customers may encounter when faced with a decision. Thus, marketers can zone in on problematic areas of a shopping experience and try to make it more customer-friendly.