Customer Journey Mapping: How To Create A Map That Matters

Maia Wells
Customer Journey

Think of customer journey mapping as your secret ingredient for marketing strategy success. The process allows you to gain a deep understanding of your customers’ needs, goals, pain points, desires and experiences. Companies that use customer journey mapping are twice as likely to outperform competitors that don’t, so it’s definitely worth discovering your ideal customer’s unique path, and using it to enhance her unique experience of your brand.

decorative blog image of a woman deciding her path

What is a Customer Journey Map?

As a customer prepares to make a purchase, he will likely have identified a problem he’s trying to solve. Next, he’s going to explore and compare potential solutions. This might include reading reviews or asking questions of different vendors. He might look for proof that the solution has worked for others, or ask for a demonstration, or walkthrough meeting. Usually, marketing and sales teams will identify three or more general stages and get more detailed in the process of building a customer journey map.

A customer journey map is a visual guide to your customer’s step-by-step process as they work towards a specific goal. Identifying these individual steps can give you a deeper understanding of the typical experience of your customers, and what types of information your marketing and sales teams can provide along the way to encourage the actions you’d like them to take.

Any type of action can end up in your customer journey map, including:

  • Signing up for a newsletter
  • Making a reservation
  • Completing a purchase
  • Signing up for a software trial
  • Using a comparison tool or checklist
  • Interacting with a pricing page

The goal is to create a natural-feeling customer journey that leads to a purchase, or grows existing business. In either case, the customer’s journey with your brand shouldn’t end with a purchase. It also needs to include your returns or exchange process, signing up for loyalty programs, getting support, converting on seasonal offers, and/or rewards for word-of-mouth.

Creating a customer journey map allows you to optimize the experience to create a frictionless, efficient pathway to a solved problem. Depending on the goal, customer journey maps can be very simple, or far more complex, but they offer plenty of advantages for any business. Let’s get into some of the most important benefits of customer journey mapping.

The Benefits of Customer Journey Mapping

Creating customer journey maps can take a fair amount of time and effort, but the benefits are well worth it. The main advantages include seeing the big picture, understanding points of friction, identifying gaps your marketing team needs to address, predicting customer behavior, and improving the customer experience.

Seeing the Big Picture

Customer journey mapping is a great way to make sure everyone within your team understands how a customer moves from one part of the research or buying process to another. Without a map, the CX can be very different when dealing with different departments of your business, leaving the customer with a disjointed impression. Using a map allows your team to see the big picture and ensure a consistent CX at all stages of the journey.

Understanding Points of Friction

Build your customer map from the customer’s perspective. The shift makes it easier to understand any points of friction they have throughout the journey, and you may find that the actual journey a customer takes doesn’t match up with your expectations.

Friction can slow your customer journey down and cause frustration that loses you the conversion. If someone signs up for a demo of your software, but has no access to a self-serve knowledge base where they can quickly find answers and get started, it’s highly likely they’ll give up before they have a chance to discover the amazing features that would get them hooked. Adding a content library or on-demand webinar around popular topics can help smooth this friction away.

The goal is to keep your CX as smooth as possible, so you have a better chance at optimizing sales, engagement, or other goals.

Identifying Gaps in the Path to Purchase

As you map out your customer’s journey, your team may identify gaps in the overall CX that you hadn’t noticed before. Perhaps your returns policy is unclear, or customers have urgent queries that no one responds to until the next day, by which time they’ve purchased elsewhere. You may not notice these gaps from the inside, but a customer journey map can help to uncover blind spots.

Predicting Customer Behavior

Customer journey mapping makes it easier to predict which customers will convert and at what point of the sales funnel. You may identify opportunities to help potential customers at specific stages of their journey, thus increasing your conversion rate. Knowing how your customers behave at each touchpoint can also inspire relevant content and connection points for each stage.

Improving Customer Experience

Regularly reviewing and improving your customer journey map is a great way to ensure you’re offering the best CX possible. You may uncover ways you can make the whole experience with your brand even more delightful by offering deals, surprises and value along the way. In some cases, it can be as simple as a fun animation on your website, or app. Proactively improving the experience around these helps build brand loyalty and reduce the risk that your customer decides to switch brands.

How to Build a Customer Journey Map

Use these six steps to guide the process when you’re ready to build or enhance your customer journey map.

1. Create Buyer Personas

The first step of customer journey mapping is to create buyer personas for each of your typical customer groups. Knowing the goal of each buyer persona will help you find ways to meet their specific needs. At this point, it’s also helpful to think about your goals and how a customer journey map can help you meet those while also meeting the specific requirements of each buyer persona.

2. Conduct Direct Research

Getting direct feedback from your customers is one of the best ways to find out exactly what’s important to them – and it might not always be what you expect. Questionnaires and user testing are good strategies to help you find out why customers chose your business and get insights into their experiences.

3. Identify Communication Touchpoints

Using marketing automation data to inform your customer journey map makes it possible to improve your customer experience (CX) and use advanced segmentation strategies to grow your revenue by up to 800%. One of the best places to use marketing automation data to create a customer journey map is in discovering essential touchpoints.

Touchpoints are individual interactions between your company and your customer. Identifying these interaction points in detail gives you an insight into the separate actions that your customers are taking as they move towards a specific action.

Touchpoints can occur in many different channels, including:

  • Your website
  • Email marketing
  • Social channels
  • Third-party sites

Once you’ve identified your main touchpoints, group them into three sections — pre-purchase, purchase, post-purchase. Grouping touchpoints like this helps you identify what actions are being carried out, when, and how the journey might be improved at certain stages to make the path to purchase easier and faster.

4. Uncover Positive and Negative Moments

Knowing which positive or negative moments come up repeatedly with each touchpoint can offer additional clarity on how to improve the customer journey. It’s important to consider both positives and negatives at each stage of the journey, because your customers’ opinions are likely to differ, and you’ll want to have the chance to adjust and improve either way.

Positive moments can include things like offering free shipping with orders over a certain amount, and adding a 1% discount, or other bonus at checkout as a surprise. Afterall, high shipping costs account for 44% of abandoned shopping carts, so that’s a huge opportunity to save the sale. Clearly, advertising free shipping can help customers decide to move forward with their purchase and a special surprise makes them feel like they’re getting great value for money with a brand that cares about their satisfaction.

On the other hand, negative moments can be hard to overcome. A slow-loading site, for example, can quickly become a negative moment that halts the entire journey. Multiple studies have shown the average person expects a site to load within a few seconds. Pages that take 10 seconds and more to load are dead in the water.

Offering limited channels for technical support can also lead to negative moments. If a customer’s preferred channel isn’t available, they may feel resentful that they can’t pick up the phone or send a quick chat message. This is where your direct research can come into play, because knowing which channels your customers prefer can help you better tailor their journey.

Once you’ve identified negative moments, you’ll need to decide how to overcome them by improving the customer journey, whether that’s making your returns policy easier to find, increasing the speed of your site, or adding a chatbot option to answer important questions and direct someone into a sales conversation. When you’ve uncovered positive moments, enhance them by figuring out how to duplicate across personas, channels, or stages of the buyer’s journey.

5. Travel the Journey Yourself

Now that you’ve gotten this far, the next crucial stage is traveling the customer journey map yourself. Put yourself in the place of each persona, and go through the entire journey. Another option is asking someone else to do this while you observe. Was the process easy, or can it be improved? One pro tip is to have people from different parts of your business test the journey as well, including online and offline components.

Experiencing the customer journey of your competitors can also be a valuable way to gain insights into how the experience of other brands can impact a customer’s perception of your own business. Start by visiting a competitor’s website. For example, you may sign up to receive an ebook with a similar topic to one of your own gated assets. Then, observe the emails or SMS communications you receive. If you’re invited to follow the brand on social media, follow. See what you see. Pay attention to the ads you start to see and schedule a sales call or demo when you are invited to do so. Take screenshots and recordings along the way to keep for inspiration.

6. Create a Visual Map

Customer journey mapping is a visual process, so now it’s time to combine all of your work into a visual. If you’re not sure exactly where each step of the journey goes, start out by using post-it notes to create an initial journey, with touchpoints that can be moved around.

Your map can be simple and linear or more complex, outlining touchpoints across multiple channels.

A basic customer journey may include the following stages:

Awareness → Research → Evaluation → Justification → Purchase → Retention

A more complex journey might look like:

Engagement → Education → Research → Evaluation → Justification → Purchase → Retention → Expansion → Advocacy

For each stage, add in the touchpoints you identified earlier. Then for each piece of the journey, consider:

  • Customer goals
  • What is your customer likely to be thinking?
  • What are their emotions likely to be?
  • Any points of negativity or positivity?
  • Opportunities to improve and enhance

It’s generally easier to lay out your stages horizontally, with a column for each bullet point above. Once you have everything in a cohesive structure, you might prefer to create a digital version, like this example from a Carnegie Mellon project for Travel Mate.

How to Implement Customer Journey Mapping Into Your Marketing Strategy

Creating a customer journey map is only the first step toward building enhanced experiences that lead to sales growth for your company. You actually have to implement your customer journey map. So, what does that mean, exactly?

Adjust Your Marketing Strategy

The most powerful way to use your customer mapping journey to help grow your business is to integrate it into your marketing strategy. Consider how you can create or improve content, offers, and calls-to-action at each touchpoint to help meet both your customers’ goals and your own.

A negative experience could occur post-purchase when a customer realizes the service they just signed up for is more complicated to use than expected. If there’s a lack of support post-purchase, the customer may feel frustrated. These negative feelings can be compounded if it’s difficult to contact the account manager for support. Resolving this could involve adjusting your email marketing to include options to book a support slot with account managers, or adding a chatbot for instant advice.

Implementing automated programs that offer relevant content to your customers at just the right point along their journey is an important part of any modern marketing program. Specific marketing strategies like personalized email automation can be used to extend each customer’s lifecycle by creating and delivering content that drives loyalty and retention. Personalized marketing like customer segmentation and adaptive sending can help result in a 10% increase in sales.

Consider how the customer journey also extends post-purchase. Existing customers are your best customers, with a 60-70% chance of making a purchase, compared to 5-20% for new customers. Nurture those relationships by using segmentation to match them with new products or services. Launching referral or advocacy programs can help drive brand loyalty as well.

Use Marketing Automation Data to Reassess Regularly

Once your first customer journey mapping is complete, it’s important to revisit it regularly. Aim to reassess at least every 6-12 months. You can collect data from Google Analytics, social media, reviews, and your marketing automation platform. Analyzing this will give you powerful insights into which points in your customer journey need to be improved.

Other points when it’s useful to reassess are when you launch new products, find that your customers are using different technology, or that their tastes are changing. Once you’ve made any changes, adjust your marketing strategy as necessary.

Customer Journey Mapping In Action

RATESDOTCA used customer journey mapping to create a more personalized customer narrative, leading to a 15% increase in annual email revenue. The financial services aggregator used customized content to accelerate the customer journey with the right information at the right time to advance toward the conversion.