What is customer journey mapping?
Customer journey mapping is an exercise where teams create a step-by-step visual representation of how customers discover, purchase, and experience their products, services, and brand. Journey mapping means figuring out what it’s like for customers to interact with your brand over time and across different channels. It means taking a step back and looking at the whole picture at once. It helps you understand where you’re putting up barriers between them and what they want. When you identify those barriers, you can remove or reduce them and boost your conversions and revenue.
Because there’s a gray area in the differences between a “customer” and a “user,” product designers and marketers tend to use the terms “customer journey map,” “user journey map,” “buyer journey map,” and sometimes “empathy map” interchangeably.
Lots of teams map the customer journey to develop empathy for the customer. It helps them keep the customer’s needs and intentions at the center of their decisions. This is a must for companies that want to be customer-centric.
The important thing to understand is that these labels refer to the same exercise of visualizing a person’s journey of interactions with a product or experience. it’s an extremely valuable exercise that'll give you a clear picture of the interactions customers have with your brand—both positive and negative. And it’ll help you discover opportunities to increase conversions and provide a better customer experience. Ultimately, organizations create customer journey maps to have a single source of truth for understanding their customers and their experience.
Today, organizations must do all they can to capture the attention and delight of customers. That’s why customer journey mapping is an essential framework organization use to get a bird’s eye view of the entire customer experience to optimize customer interactions before, during, and after the buying process.
Related reading: What’s the difference between CX and UX?
What are customer journey touchpoints?
A good customer journey map thoroughly explores each customer interaction with the brand. These interactions between customer and brand are called “touchpoints.” They come in both physical and digital forms. Examples of physical touchpoints include billboards, mail, in-store experiences, and interactions with salespeople.
Digital touchpoints can happen via social media, email, search engines, film, video, podcasts, in-app experiences, and more. As technology becomes more integrated with the physical world, the lines between physical and digital touchpoints will continue to blur. Already, brands are using omnichannel testing to ensure a consistent experience that can start on one piece of tech and end on another.
Related reading: What’s the difference between multichannel and omnichannel?
The size and scope of customer journey mapping
Customer journey maps vary widely. For some organizations, their business revolves around one customer journey map. Larger organizations could have dozens of products with multiple maps associated with each.
Generally speaking, marketing and sales teams create customer journeys focused on problem recognition, information search, solution comparison, and purchase evaluation. Product design and UX teams create customer journey maps for different product “flows” or key moments that occur while customers use the product. Of course, these two realms frequently overlap. The best organizations have thorough multichannel testing procedures to ensure the brand experience is consistent across devices and experiences.
Why is customer journey mapping important?
With technological advances, organizations have more potential touchpoints than ever. At the same time, customers’ attention spans and tolerance for subpar experiences are shrinking.
Customer journey maps are like a map of the battlefield for organizations. They’re vital. Without a single source of truth to rally around, internal conversations tend to go nowhere. Stakeholder disagreements abound, and wheels spin as teams toss ideas around with little rationale to back them up. Real human needs tend to fall by the wayside as speculation and guesswork drive decision-making.
Organizations today must ensure that a person’s journey from customer to lifetime advocate is seamless. To retain customers, customers’ experience of the product must be delightful and consistent with the journey that first drew them in. Journey maps are useful tools that provide clarity and allow organizations to be more strategic as they refine their offerings.
What makes a good customer journey map?
When marketing or design teams set out to create a customer journey map, the process hinges on research and later testing to understand the customer and their challenge expertly. Once the customer journey map is designed, data is gathered to see how the customer responds to the experience. From there, the customer journey map is tweaked and perfected until it is as detailed and effective as possible.
Consider these points before creating a customer journey map:
Understanding the customer and their challenge
Teams create a customer persona to fully understand the human experience behind the problem they’re trying to solve. Teams need to know details like age, role, preferences, feelings, and more before they think about brainstorming solutions. To fully understand the problem customers need to be solved, look at any methods customers currently employ to reach their goals. Create competitor audits and conduct qualitative or qualitative research to identify pain points and customer behavior. Note any moments of friction or opportunities for innovation in your findings.
Common customer journey map stages
The customer lifecycle has four general stages:
The moment a prospect first becomes aware of a potential product solution to the problem they are trying to solve.
A time when prospects further educate themselves about the problem and compare the different solutions offered by various brands.
The moment when the prospect selects the solution they feel is right for them and takes the necessary steps to order the product or service.
The time when a customer is actively using the product to determine whether or not the experience lives up to the expectations set during earlier stages.
Product teams track behavior across every phase of the customer lifecycle. Depending on the complexity of the marketing funnel or user experience, teams might create one customer journey map that covers all phases, one journey map for each phase, or multiple journey maps within each phase. Journey maps are a flexible concept that can be applied to macro or micro contexts.
How to map a customer journey
With the customer persona and challenge documented, the team then establishes a primary goal that the customer or user will accomplish by the end of the journey map. They also gather and list all the tasks (and associated internal deliverables) that must be accomplished for the customer to achieve that goal. This list might include items such as:
- The different stages that will be covered in the customer journey
- What information the customer needs to make their decision
- What information the company needs to receive from the customer during the process
- What options will the customer be able to choose from throughout the journey
- Any feedback gathered from customers at different stages
- Critical moments and touchpoints in the experience
- How long the journey will take
- Any internal bottlenecks or roadblocks to success
Now that the data has been gathered, the team collaborates to map out every step of the customer journey. Stages of the customer journey map are laid out sequentially, and important data from the above list (touchpoints, customer feelings, needs, choices, etc.) are organized underneath each stage.
Take a look at these 4 steps for building the customer journey map:
1. Identify the stages of a customer's interaction with your brand
Whatever medium you choose, the first step is to identify the stages of a customer’s interaction with your brand, from when they first hear about your company through the point when they become a brand advocate and customer for life. It will probably be something like this: discovery, research, conversion, and post-sale engagement.
2. Break down stages into activities
Next, break those stages into common activities that customers will complete at that part of their journey. For example, the Discovery phase for an airline company might have activities like “Search for a flight for an upcoming trip” or “Learn about traveling internationally.” Plot the stages and their activities across the top of your map:
3. Fill out the different channels
Now we’re going to fill out the different channels. Think of the ways your customers interact with your brand. You’ll probably want to include channels like Website (Desktop), Website (Mobile), Mobile App, Social Media, Phone, In-Person, and Chat Support. Plot these out on the left side of your map, from top to bottom.
4. Fill out the customer journey map
For this step, you’ll need to think about your personas. Which activities do they complete along their customer journey? Which channels do they use for each activity?
Remember, the exact journey isn't the same for each customer. Some customers will make a quick decision and move from discovery to purchase right away on a single channel. Others will take more time to research, compare, and ask questions across several channels.
For each persona, plot a point for each activity on the map and then connect the dots.
How to use a customer journey map
Here’s where things get fun (and actionable)! You’ll use the map to find opportunities to increase conversions and improve the customer experience.
Plotting your known high points and low points
First, mark your known pain points on the customer journey map.
A great starting place is to check in with your support team and find out what problems they address daily. For example, they might tell you that site visitors often chat because they’re confused about the pricing on your website.
You can also use any survey results you already have to find any problem areas. You might have a customer satisfaction survey that shows that your customers think it takes too long to get through to anyone on the phone when they need help.
Now, you’ve already identified a couple of optimization opportunities! Go ahead and mark them on the map.
You can do the same thing for places where you’re currently doing great. Do you often hear positive feedback from customers about how smooth your signup process is or how helpful your content marketing is? Add that to the map!
Discovering new opportunities
What about the interactions that aren’t positive or negative? At this point, you’ll use your analytics data and qualitative feedback to fill in the gaps in your customer journey map.
Maybe there are places where you might suspect there’s room for improvement, but you’re not sure what’s going wrong or what needs to be fixed. For example, when you look at your analytics, where are visitors bouncing from your site, abandoning their orders, or unsubscribing from your emails? When do they stop replying to your sales team’s outreach efforts? These actions tell you that there’s room for improvement and optimization.
So how do you determine what’s going wrong at these points? The best bet is to ask your customers directly. Ask questions like:
On a scale of 1 (very unlikely) to 10 (very likely), how likely would you be to recommend our company to a friend, and why?
What would you change about this product if you had a magic wand?
How did your experience today compare to your expectations? Why?
You can ask these questions via a survey, a user test, or even over the phone, depending on what stage you’re investigating.
By now, your map should be getting pretty full. Give yourself bonus points if you can add a few words describing the customer's mindset at each interaction.
Testing a customer journey map
To test a customer journey map, teams need a strong balance of qualitative and quantitative data to understand what it’s like to be their customer.
Quantitative data for customer journey maps
Quantitative research gives teams a high-level view of customer behavior at each stage of the journey map. The data is focused on understanding behavior in numbers. The more customers who go through the journey map, the better teams will be able to identify trends.
Suppose a team is gathering quantitative data on a journey map for their website, for instance. In that case, they’ll look at factors like traffic sources, conversion rates, drop-offs, heatmaps, treemaps, and more to understand the moves customers make at each touchpoint. Quantitative data can also include survey responses, ratings, A/B tests, or web analytics that might help the team benchmark performance.
Qualitative data for customer journey maps
Often, quantitative data will illuminate problems that only qualitative data can solve. It’s valuable to know that customers are dropping off at a specific touchpoint, but understanding why they’re dropping off is the key to innovation.
Qualitative testing allows teams to drill deeper into human behavior's reasons. This type of research is focused on subjective emotional components and non-numerical data. Teams seek to understand customers’ values, opinions, and choices based on observation and interviews.