Customer journey maps look relatively simple, but they do require expertise and experience to get right. This article will help you research and design a customer journey map better than your competitors.
A customer journey map is a visual diagram which highlights the different steps a customer takes when interacting with your business. It encapsulates a customer’s experience with products and services, online or offline touch-points – and every other engagement stage.
This map may show the start-to-finish route for a customer’s full engagement with your brand – or just an element of it. It helps marketers visualise the actions and motivations at each stage, enabling them to understand the barriers that prevent continuation of a journey.
By knowing this, businesses can streamline the route and give customers the right content when they need it most. An effective customer journey map will help a business improve conversions and customer retention. This will ensure sustainable long-term growth.
In this article, I will outline:
- How to start building a customer journey map
- The key considerations for a customer journey map
- How to gather the right customer data
- Customer journey map templates and designs
How to Start Building a Customer Journey Map
A customer journey map allows you to view the full experience through the eyes of the customer. From initial awareness to consideration, purchase, delivery, customer service, and aftercare – the map should illustrate each customer’s hesitations, thoughts, feelings, worries, and emotions at every stage.
It’s important to have certain things in place before you can start putting together a comprehensive customer journey map. In this section, I will show what you need...
1. Audience Personas
Creating buyer personas is a well-established part of initial research. It’s imperative to have a clear understanding of who your customers are from the outset. This will provide a base to work from, which will allow you to start mapping the journey.
What motivates them to buy? What are their goals? What are their thought patterns, payment preferences, and doubts they have about your product? Building and validating these personas will help you tap into characteristics, personalities, and pain points. If you’ve already created personas as part of your go-to-market strategy, revisit them to ensure that you’ve got the most updated and relevant information to work with.
2. Buyer Stages
These stages are usually pretty similar across different industries, but you’ll undoubtedly want to customise them somewhat – depending on your customer behaviour. Broadly, you’ll be looking at something traditional like: discovery > consideration > choice > purchase. Typically, more granular and nuanced stages can be defined from these starting points.
3. Establish & Track Goals
Using data you’ve collected via surveys, feedback interviews, and customer service correspondence (more on that later), you can begin to match up customer goals with the stages on a map. You’ll have built an overall image of your customer’s persona, but unless you understand their primary goals and ambitions for each step of the process, you’ll find it difficult to identify where to make improvements.
Place yourself in their shoes and pinpoint exactly what you believe they want to achieve at each stage. Use the Goal Flow Report feature on Google Analytics to set specific goals. Keep track of whether these were fulfilled, aborted or postponed.
4. Consider Touch-points
Touch-points are the moments along the customer journey that may require support in order for the customer to complete their next goal. What information or action can be taken at these points to ensure customer satisfaction and progress through the funnel?
For example, once your customer enters the payment page, is it an easy, hassle-free process? Does it feel secure as they type their card or PayPal details in? Perhaps there’s a technical issue or an overly complicated sign-up process. This will slow them down and cause increased abandonment rates.
Earlier in the process, it’s also necessary to understand how you can elevate your brand above competitors. During the discovery stage, you might want to focus more heavily on helpful blog content and email content As the customer moves through the funnel, you can ramp up the (middle-to-bottom of the funnel) practical information and sales-led communications. It really depends on your industry as to the nature of different touch-points.
Consider your human resources. This mapping will reveal gaps in what you’re able to deliver, opening up the visible areas in which your business should adapt and improve. It’ll highlight where you need more efforts, and provide some ideas as to whether teams can be shuffled around to cover certain customer touch-points at particular stages.
Customer Journey Map: Key Considerations
There are many key elements to developing a comprehensive and useful customer journey map. Here’s an overview of some of the most important considerations...
Remember emotions. Whether for B2B or B2C, tapping into genuine emotion is absolutely essential for effective marketing. Ultimately, your revenue originates in the mind of a human before he or she takes decisive action.
Humans are inherently emotional, and thus respond more acutely to things that make them laugh or cry – and things that educate, address and allay fears, and reinforce feelings of affinity. Reflect these emotions in your customer journey map.
When mapping, identify the most critical moments of the customer journey. Some moments are particularly impactful, and will influence the individual’s perception of your business more powerfully. These are the moments in which exceeding expectations is key to your success.
Above all, a customer journey map needs to reflect the genuine experiences of the customer – from their own perspective. By immersing oneself in the world of the customer, marketers can understand pain points and the reasons that lay behind actions.
I talk in more detail about research in the next section of this article. In a nutshell, in order to understand as much as possible about how your customers feel at each stage of their journey, you need to be willing to dig into the data.
A customer journey map is no one-size-fits-all visual. Different audience members will experience the journey differently. Some will typically spend much longer researching and comparing, whilst other audience segments will quickly proceed to their purchase.
Remember that you may need multiple customer journey maps, depending on the variety of products and services you offer and the nature of each different audience.
It’s not just the digital marketing team that benefits from the customer journey map. On the contrary, the whole team should be aware of where they come into play on the journey.
This will help different departments and individuals within the business to work together towards a common goal – whilst also visualising their own role within the growth of the company, and their unique importance to its customers.
Research: How to Gather Your Data
Whilst you can undoubtedly make some educated guesses about a target audience, there’s no substitute for data-led planning. Unfortunately, valuable data doesn’t grow on trees. To truly understand your audience, time and effort is required for research.
Qualitative and quantitative data combined will offer the best support to your customer journey mapping. This is where an analytical mind comes in very useful – especially when investigating the data from a tool such as Google Analytics.
By digging into user flows, engagement stats, exit rates, and other metrics, you can gauge breakdowns in the journey.
There is always space for gut instinct and intuition, but nothing cuts it like solid data. Qualitative insights from your target audience will also prove valuable, so it’s important to get out amongst your customers, ask the right questions, and listen to people.
For some smart ways to conduct qualitative audience research, read our article: How to do audience research better than your competitors
Challenges When Building a Customer Journey Map
The customer journey is seldom linear, and rarely neat and tidy. Some customers skip the research stage and head straight to purchase. Some people are scatty, and some people are busy. They’ll get a last minute recommendation and head elsewhere, or they’ll get a recommendation and head straight to you.
You can only make sense of this to some extent, but a well-designed journey map will certainly help.
It can also be a challenge to get everyone’s input on the map at the same time. Use this as an opportunity to get all stakeholders in a room together with a whiteboard, some pens, and some post-it notes, and get hands on with your brainstorming. The best ideas come through face-to-face idea tennis, and it ensures maximum buy-in from the team.
Remember, the customer journey map is a working document. As your business grows, more data and insights will come to light. It’s important to be open for changes, because refusing to adapt will not serve you well. Competitors lurk in the background waiting!
Customer Journey Map Designs
So, you know all the key ingredients for a customer journey map, but how should you actually design and build one that can be distributed? There’s no universally agreed template in the marketing world, but the models we’ve provided below can give you some idea of what a journey map could look like. Of course, adapt yours as you see fit.
You can see here that author Adam Richardson advocates the inclusion of actions, motivations, questions, and barriers at each stage of the journey.
Source: Smashing Magazine
In this example, the map is separated out into phases, thoughts and feelings, and emotional experience across the different stages.
This version – found on Pinterest – also mentions opportunities, and includes emoticons to visualise the customer feeling at each stage.
In order to design one of these, tools like InDesign, or Canva will do the job. You can also try Lucidchart. A customer journey map won’t always be tidy, but it’s worth making as visually appealing as possible. It should be suitable for cross-departmental use.
A graphical customer journey map offers a truly holistic approach to understanding who your customers are, and what they want – at every key stage of interaction with your brand. From there, you can work towards building loyal relationships with returning customers.
You will have competition at every stage of the journey, and this makes it increasingly important that you get the touch-points right. You should also note the most competitive stages of the journey, in order to know where the most resources need to be allocated for retaining interest at a crucial time.
At the heart of any good customer journey map is an appreciation for the innermost thoughts and emotions of the customer – in the context of where they are in their purchase process.
By visualising this complex and winding journey, you can streamline the route and ensure no obstacles block the way ahead.
Kurve has built a proven track record for growing startups and scaleups. To speak to Oren Greenberg about what you can achieve, get in touch today.