What Is a Customer Journey Map and Why Is it Important?
The best way to understand your customer is to put yourself in their shoes. In this blog post, we will explain everything you need to know about the customer journey, what it is, why it is important and how to map it.
9 min read
Jun 10, 2021
The better you understand your customer, the better the customer experience (CX) you can offer. To create a customer journey map that genuinely resonates with your audience, you need to get in the minds of your customer. Understanding the customer journey can provide a clear vision for improving customer interactions by identifying business insights and turning them into both short-term and long-term improvement strategies. By mapping out the buyer journey and understanding your customer’s motivations, you can improve customer experience, resulting in overall better outcomes for your business.
Customer Journey vs Customer Experience
Customers will interact with a brand multiple times, across multiple touchpoints, before reaching a goal, this is known as the customer journey. The Customer experience (CX) looks at how the overall experience across the entire customer journey and looks at how it measures up to the customer’s expectations. Looking at your customer journey, helps you identify challenges and obstacles that will improve your customer experience.
What Is a Customer Journey Map?
A customer journey map is a visual representation of the customer journey; it helps to tell the story of the customer’s interaction with your product, service, or brand from the first interaction to purchase and beyond. More than just creating a visual timeline, the process of creating a customer journey map involves putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and identifying what their pain points are with the current customer experience. By mapping out the steps of how your customer is getting from point A to point B, you can gain insights, identify any challenges that your customers may be having at each touchpoint; this knowledge enables you to make improvements to the CX process that meet expectations.
Why Is Customer Journey Mapping Important?
Customer journey mapping involves breaking down the journey a buyer takes getting from first interaction to final purchase into phases, observing how they move at each phase, and consequently learning about their behaviors and expectations. A customer journey map looks at everything from why a customer may be adding products into a basket only to not make the final sale, why they are deleting your email marketing newsletter, or why they are skipping through your social media campaigns. When done well, customer journey maps can empower sales, marketing, and customer service to work cross-functionally, iron out your customer experience issues, drive growth, and improve customer retention.
Mapping out a customer journey map can help you to:
- Visualize, understand, personalize and improve the end-to-end customer experience;
- Identify the motive behind the purchase;
- Recognize customer challenges and pain points;
- Implement proactive customer service techniques;
- Increase customer loyalty and retention;
- Identify gaps in your inbound marketing strategy;
- Optimize your customer onboarding process;
- Identify different customer personas, helping you to target a new customer base.
How to Create a Customer Journey Map
Customer journey maps may vary in specific sections and design, but they all share five guiding principles:
- They embody the customer’s point of view;
- They combine the physical journey with the customer’s emotional response;
- They incorporate the customer’s entire omnichannel journey;
- They provide a visual guide of the journey;
- They are structured to support the phases of a customer purchase journey.
Every company’s customer journey map will look different, as the level of detail and complexity will vary on a business’s individual needs. However, regardless of whether you are creating your map on google sheets or using a customer journey map template, the process of creating a journey map will be similar; here are six steps to help you create your own customer journey map.
Set Clear Objectives
The best customer journey maps have clear objectives laid out, what do you hope to achieve, and what are your overall goals. For example, are you trying to optimize your buyer journey for your existing customer base, or are you looking to expand into a new demographic? Are you launching a new product or simply giving your platform a refresh? Without goals, it can be difficult to see if your customer journey map will have a tangible impact on your company.
Along with choosing your objectives, you need to determine which type of journey map you are creating. There are typically five types to choose from:
Current state map
A current state map is designed to help you visualize a user’s experience as it is today. It is an ideal approach for when your goal is to identify existing pain points and create an understanding of the end-to-end customer experience.
Future state map
Future state maps focus on what the customer journey can look like in the future. It is a useful approach for exploring new customer demographics, creating new experiences, and offering new value propositions.
Day in the life map
A day in the life map helps you visualize your customer’s entire daily routine, providing insight into their needs and pain points. It is a useful approach for businesses that need to find out what time of day their product or service will be most valuable.
Blueprinting helps visualize all the organizational things that need to happen in order for the customer journey to take place. It is an ideal approach for businesses with an omnichannel marketing experience that involves multiple touchpoints or requires the coordination of various departments.
Some companies prefer to visualize their customer journey map in a circle or loop, as a non-linear map can help reinforce the importance of retention.
Create a Buyer Persona
In order to effectively understand the buyer journey, you need to understand the customer undertaking the journey - the best way to do this is to create a buyer persona. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of a group or segment of your customer base. When choosing your buyer for your customer journey, choose the persona who is closest aligned with your goals. While you can have more than one buyer persona for a customer journey, we suggest you don’t have more than two personas in one journey as will not accurately represent the customer experience.
Creating a buyer persona involves conducting first-hand qualitative and quantitative research into your existing customer base or prospects. You want to gather information from people who have interacted with and shown interest in your brand in some shape or form. This indicates that they are actually interested in buying your product or service and are, therefore, going to give you the most valuable insights.
Define Customer Touch Points
While a customer journey map can vary in stages, it will typically be divided into four important phases: discovery phase, consideration phase, purchase phase, and retention phase.
Each phase having a number of touchpoints associated with it; analyzing these are crucial to understanding the journey your customer has with your brand. Touchpoints refer to how your customer interacts with your service, product, experience, or brand. Looking at each step of the process that it takes the customer to get from A to B, such as social media, paid advertisements, surveys, google searches, email marketing, and third-party reviews. When identifying touchpoints, you should also aim to identify any additional touchpoints you believe could potentially enhance the experience.
Analyze Customer Thoughts, Actions & Pain Points
After mapping out the current customer journey and defining the touchpoints, you need to capture the customer’s perception by looking into three important aspects of your customer: their actions, their thoughts, and pain points. By putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, you will be able to identify what they are doing, thinking, and feeling at each step of the journey, helping to recognize what is working and what is causing obstacles. If they are working their way through a large number of touchpoints but still not making the sale, does this mean that your process is too confusing or complicated, or if there are very few that are being used, does this mean that some of the touchpoints are turning your customers away?
Getting customer feedback is a key aspect of understanding the customer, some examples of questions to ask your potential and existing customers are:
- Why are they searching for a solution like yours?
- Where did they hear about you?
- Why do they keep coming back?
- How has the experience been?
- How do they feel about your product/service?
- What did they find challenging?
- Did the process seem confusing?
- How likely are you to recommend this solution to your peers?
Take the Customer Journey Yourself
No customer journey is complete if it has not been tested by your own team. Taking the journey yourself can help you to analyze the results and first-hand identify any challenges with the process. Think like your buyer persona and look at where their needs are being met while keeping an eye out for any areas you could provide better support. Make sure that your journey is uncomplicated, easy to navigate, and provides a valuable experience.
Optimize Your Customer Journey
Now that you have analyzed your customer journey, identified room for improvement, and tested it yourself, you are ready to make the changes necessary. Be sure to address any of the issues that came to light during the mapping process, such as a lack of call to action, too much writing on every product description, or a complicated purchasing process. While these changes may seem small, as they directly correlate with your customer’s pressure points, their impact will not go unnoticed.
Customers’ expectations are constantly evolving; therefore, to make sure that you are providing the best customer experience, your map should always be a work in progress. Review it monthly, quarterly, or bi-annually to help you identify challenges and opportunities to improve your customer journey.
Customer Journey Map Template
No two customer journey maps are the same; however, this template is a great place to start.
Customer journey mapping is a process that helps businesses become client-centric and improve the overall customer experience. Along with understanding the customer’s motivation behind the interaction, mapping out the buyer journey can help you to identify and address any issues that a customer may have with their journey, helping you optimize and personalize the experience.