How to build a customer journey map

27 Sep


Written by

Sara Jabbari




How to build a customer journey map
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A customer journey map is a visual representation of the buyer’s journey from the customer’s perspective. The map helps you to understand the customer’s experience with your business across all possible touchpoints; whether it is on your website, social media, livechat, email, or other channels. With this knowledge, you can optimize your business and marketing processes to improve customer retention and boost conversion rates. So in this article, we will look at how you can build a customer journey map, examples to follow, and the best practices to ensure success. 

Let’s get started.

Why you need a customer journey map

On the surface, the customer journey looks like a simple linear process – from point A to B.

Point A, the company offers a product or service. And at point B, the customer purchases the offer. 

In reality, this is not the case. There are several touchpoints from when the company promotes a product to even after the customer makes a purchase. And the more touchpoints there are in the customer journey, the more complicated the map can become. 

For example, a customer sees an advertisement for a brand’s product on social media. This is the first touchpoint. The customer then clicks on the ad and lands on a sales page. This is the second touchpoint. They like the products and make a purchase. That’s the third touchpoint. If the brands send them a thank you email, this is the fourth touch point. And if the customer signs up for the brand’s newsletter, this will be the fifth touchpoint and so on.

So a customer journey map will help understand how the customers view your brand and their experience during each stage of the buyer’s journey. 

Here are some other benefits of creating a customer journey map.

1. Helps you improve your marketing strategy

Marketing strategies are divided into outbound and inbound marketing.

Outbound marketing involves reaching out to your customers to get them to buy your product. It includes the use of TV ads, cold calling, email blasts, billboards, display ads, etc. On the other hand, inbound marketing involves the use of content and social media strategies to raise awareness for your brand, get people to show interest in your offerings, and eventually make purchases. 

Outbound marketing is ineffective and costly. You are casting your net widely with the hope that you reel in some customers. 

By contrast, inbound marketing allows you to leverage different types of content to engage and attract your target customers. It helps you to gently nurture customers as they pass through the buyer's journey while gradually increasing their interest in your brand and boosting customer engagement. Using inbound marketing strategies will help increase conversions and retention. And by creating a customer journey map, you will be able to identify the content that your customers are interested in and the touchpoints where the content will be most effective. 

2. Allows for proactive customer service

The customer journey map gives you insight into your customers' experiences while dealing with your business. You will be able to see what they are satisfied with and the areas where there is friction. With this strategy, you can optimize your customer service process to proactively assist customers before they even reach out to you. It can be something as simple as creating a knowledge base with self-service articles that customers can browse through when stuck using your product.

Improving the customer experience is necessary for a successful business. The fewer friction customers encounter, the less likely they are to go to your competitors. In fact, 33 percent of customers will consider going to another brand after one poor experience. 

3. Helps you understand the complexity of your customer base

Touchpoints vary by customer. For instance, older customers might arrive at a website from Google searches while Gen Zers from social media. Gen Zers might prefer to watch fun video content on social media while older customers might prefer written content that explains the product in detail.

A journey map will allow you to visualize the different types of customers you have, their experiences with your brand, and the kind of content that is most effective for attracting and educating them. 

Stages of the customer journey

Before you create a customer journey map, you need to first understand the different stages a customer goes through before making a purchase. Here are the five common stages:

  • Awareness stage: This is the stage where the potential customer first finds out about your product. This can be on social media, through advertisements, or a referral from a friend.
  • Consideration stage: Here the customers begin to research your business, product, and your unique selling proposition.  They are also searching on social media, and reading blog posts, reviews, and testimonials to determine if your product is the best option on the market.
  • Purchase stage: Finally, after their research, the customer is satisfied with your product and then makes a purchase.
  • Retention stage: Some customers stop at the purchase stage. Others go on to become long-time paying customers. It is necessary that businesses improve their customer retention rate as it is more cost-effective to retain old customers than to get new ones.
  • Advocacy stage: Here, the customer has become an advocate for your brand. Note that the customer’s experience during the previous stages impacts this stage. For example, customers who rate their experience with a company as “good” are 82% more likely to recommend that company.

How to build a customer journey map

Regardless of your business type, you will follow the same steps for building a customer journey map. Although you may have different touch points and may target different buyer personas, the principles of a customer journey map remain the same. 

#1. Create buyer personas

Before you create your map, you need to first understand who your average customers are. You will do this by creating buyer personas.

Buyer personas are a fictional representation of your target customer. It gives you a clear picture of who your audience is, their pain points, and how they make decisions. Understanding the buyer persona will allow you to create customer journey maps that are personalized to your audience and effective. 

Here is an example of a buyer persona.

Buyer Persona Example

The best way to start creating your buyer persona is by interviewing your current customers. You can send out surveys or use in-person interviews. 

Along with general demographic data like gender, age, job title, location, level of income, and marital status, here are some good questions you can ask during the interview:

  • How did you learn about our brand or product?
  • What challenge were you facing and did our product help you solve the challenge?
  • What was the deciding factor that made you purchase from us?
  • What are the obstacles you face when using our product?
  • What are your goals for your business?
  • What tools do you use at your job?
  • How do you determine success for your business?
  • Have you ever gone to our website intending to make a purchase and then not doing so? What stopped you from making the purchase?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how easy was it for you to make your purchase? 
  • Do you use our product for your business or just for personal use?
  • What does your typical day look like?
  • What blogs and publications do you read?
  • How do you prefer to interact with brands and sellers?
  • How do you research products and sellers?
  • What is your most recent purchase?
  • What social media platforms do you use?
  • Do you belong to any organizations?

Questions like this serve as customer feedback and will allow you to better understand who your customers are. 

#2. Identify all of the customer touchpoints

A touchpoint is anytime a customer or prospect interacts with your business during the customer journey. Every touchpoint is an opportunity for a business to turn a potential customer into a loyal customer. 

Digital and Physical Touchpoints

On the customer journey map, the touchpoints will be displayed chronologically – from before the customer makes a purchase to after the purchase. These touchpoints will give you insight into your customer experiences as well as the performance of your sales and marketing teams. For example, if your customers go through a lot of touchpoints before making a purchase, it might mean that your sales and marketing processes are complicated. This can lead to poor customer experience. 

Another example is from a company’s customer journey that spanned 3 months. At each touchpoint, the customers reported at least a 90 percent satisfaction rate. But at the end of the customer journey, the satisfaction rate dropped to 40 percent. After mapping their customers' touchpoints, they found out that they weren’t onboarding customers efficiently. This led to customers having problems when using their technology. Although they were making sales, the business kept losing customers due to improper onboarding and a lack of technical support. 

By mapping your customer touchpoints, you will identify the areas you need to work on to offer customers an all-around positive experience. Highlighting potential roadblocks in your customer journey will help you create strategies to mitigate them. 

Examples of touchpoints where customers can interact with your brand include your website, social media, paid ads, email marketing, company events, point of sale, review sites, customer loyalty programs, customer onboarding, customer loyalty programs, customer success programs, and product catalogs.

Here are some places you can get data on customer touchpoints:

  • Your buyer personas. From the questions that you asked your customers when developing your buyer persona, you can identify some of your common touchpoints.
  • Analytics tools like Google Analytics. You can set up a behavior flow report that offers insight into how your customers interact with your site or a goal flow report that shows the path the customer takes before conversion.
Google analytics flow report
  • You can use on-site surveys to ask questions and collect feedback from customers when they visit a specific page on your website. 

Additional reading – Customer Experience: 5 Trends That Are Changing The Game

#3. Collect data on obstacles and pain points

By now, you should have a good understanding of the evolution of your customers as they move through each stage of the buyer journey. The next step will be to collect data on your customer experiences and the obstacles they encounter. Analyzing this data will show you the areas where your customer needs aren’t met. 

And at each stage during the customer journey, three main factors can cause friction and reduce the customer experience.

Interaction friction

This occurs when your product's UI interferes negatively with the customer’s experience. For example, the checkout button on your website is missing, or the form fields on your website are too long. 

Emotional friction

Throughout the buyer journey, customers go through a variety of emotions. These emotions can be positive or negative. Negative emotions will lead to friction. For example, emotional friction can occur when your customer service reps handle support poorly. This can leave the customer frustrated. Generally, you want customers to have positive emotions when interacting with your business. 

Cognitive friction

Cognitive load refers to the total amount of mental effort customers need to perform a task. When the cognitive load is high, it leads to increased cognitive friction. Customers won't interact with your brand because it requires a lot of effort on their part. Your goal should be to minimize cognitive load.

Take for example, Uber. They are successful because they reduce the cognitive friction required to book a ride. All customers have to do is order on the app, call the rider, and wait for their ride. And by including a map showing how far away the rider is, customers have less anxiety and are more patient. Uber improved their user experience by reducing cognitive friction and making the ride-hailing process easy. 

So collect data and customer feedback on the different places your customers experience friction during the customer journey. With this information, you will be able to develop solutions to provide a smoother user experience.

#4. Design the customer journey map

After you gather all of your data, the next step will be to design the map. There are different ways you can design a customer journey map. Here are some of the key ones: 

Current state customer journey maps

This is the most common type of customer journey map. This map visualizes the current experience your customers have when interacting with your product or service at each stage of the customer journey. It is designed to include things like customer actions, feelings, thoughts, and considerations. This map type is best when you want to identify current customer pain points. 

Here is an example of a current state journey map from a case study.

Journey Map

The first part of the map shows each stage of the customer's journey. Next, we are shown the different activities the customer did and the touchpoints involved at each stage. The customer’s emotion is shown using emojis. And connected to the emojis are the feelings and needs of the customer at each stage of the journey. The last section of the map details the potential opportunities for improvement. 

Future state customer journey map

This is used to visualize how you want your customer journey to look like in the future. To create a future state map, you should first have a solid current state map as it will serve as a foundation for future speculations. This map format is best when you want to explore ways to create new customer experiences or when you are creating a new product. 

Here is an example of a future state map created by Iris Tong Wu. 

Customer Journey Map

Along with the normal things included in a current state map like customer actions and touchpoints, this map includes proposed changes that will be made to the customer journey. In this example, the customers are students of Carnegie Mellon University. 

This map allows the university to be proactive when developing processes to improve the student’s experience from when they get admission to when they arrive at campus. The final section even includes possible scenarios that may occur at each stage of the customer’s journey. 

Day-in-the-life customer journey map

This map visualizes the daily experiences and activities of the customer. You can use this map to visualize your customer’s routine, activities, experiences, and pain points during the day – even if they occur outside of your company. With this map, you will be able to identify which time of the day your product or service will be most valuable to the customer. 

Here is an example of a day-in-the-life customer journey map from an airline business.

Airline business customer journey map

Service blueprint customer journey map

This map helps you visualize all the things that need to happen backstage before the customer journey begins. Where a normal journey map focuses on the actions and experiences of the customer, a service blueprint looks at it from the perspective of the organization and its employees. 

This map format is best for optimizing your organizational processes or when you want to create solutions for specific roadblocks in the customer journey. 

Here is an example of a service blueprint of a hotel business from Miro

Miro customer journey map

In this map, you can see different actions that employees will have to take for every customer action. This will allow employees to have a clear understanding of their tasks at each stage of the customer journey so as to improve the customer experience. 

Customer journey mapping best practices

You need a clear strategy to remove guesswork when creating a customer journey map. Apply these best practices so you can effectively map your buyer's journey. 

1. Set clear goals

Before you start mapping your customer’s journey, you need to first define the goals you want to achieve with the map. Maybe you want to increase your conversion rate by determining where in the user journey prospective customers get frustrated and drop off. Or you want to understand your customers better so you can optimize your product to better serve their needs. 

You can also use your business’ KPI goals to determine what metrics you will track with the map. Examples of KPIs goals can be increasing conversion rates, satisfaction metrics, or engagement statistics. These KPIs will also help you measure the performance of your strategies at each touchpoint once you start using the results from your map to optimize the user experience. 

2. Create a map for each main buyer persona

Customer demographics and psychographics play a key role in determining how customers interact with a business. If you try to create a one-size-fits-all map for every buyer persona, you will miss the opportunity to create a good customer experience for different types of buyers. 

Maybe your Gen Z customers prefer to interact with your brand on social media and will like you to continue to engage with them on their favorite platforms after purchase. Understanding your different buyer personas and creating unique maps for them will allow you to create personalized marketing strategies that are more effective.

3. Collaborate with other teams when mapping

Do not create a customer journey map for your business in isolation. Collaborate with the teams that interact with customers at every touchpoint or stage of the customer journey. Include the perspective of your sales, marketing, operations, and customer service teams. 

4. Measure customer journey mapping KPIs

At each stage of the buyer journey, there are different KPIs you can measure to determine the effectiveness of strategies you implement after building the customer journey map. 

Here are the KPIs to measure:

  • Awareness stage: You can track impressions, reach, SERP ranking, time spent on a webpage, and bounce rate to analyze how your audience is locating your business and if they resonate with your content after they find you. 
  • Consideration stage:  Track click-through rate (CTR), engagement rate, and cost-per-click (CPC). If you have a high CTR and engagement rate, it signifies that your audience is strongly considering your brand and product. Conversely, a high CPC will mean that your ads are not relevant to your audience.
  • Purchase stage: Track sales, conversion rate, and cost-per-conversion (CPC). These metrics will help you analyze how your customers make purchase decisions and if your strategies at the awareness or consideration stage were effective. But if you have positive results at the first two stages but have low sales or conversions at the purchase stage, it will mean that customers are experiencing roadblocks at this stage. For instance, your customers might decide not to purchase if you have high shipping costs even when they like your product.  
  • Retention stage: Here, you track customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and customer lifetime value (CLV). These metrics will help you determine if your customers are still engaging with your brand after their initial purchase.
  • Customer advocacy stage:  Track your Net Promoter Score (NPS) and referral rate. These metrics will help you evaluate whether your customers are telling others about your product or service. 

5. Regularly update the map

It’s important that you review and update your customer journey map as you add new products or services to your business. Just a slight change to your business process can create a roadblock that will negatively impact your bottom line. For instance, in the process of redesigning your website, you might make your navigation menu too complex leading to higher bounce rate. So you need to update your map when there are any changes in your business process, market/industry, or customer behavior. 

6. Use DAM to support the customer journey

A digital asset management (DAM) platform offers businesses a centralized system to organize and access all of their media assets in one place. It allows organizations to streamline the production, management, control, and delivery of marketing content and rich media. 

So whether it is on your brand’s websites, social media channels, or e-commerce store, a DAM platform like Wedia allows businesses to support the customer journey by providing consistent and personalized customer experiences across all touchpoints. Wedia does this through functionalities like:

  • Media Delivery and Digital Experience functionalities and APIs for delivering assets like images adapted to different digital channels (website, e-commerce site) for every screen size and bandwidth;
  • Social media cropping to adapt product images and UGC content to the right size and format (ad, post etc);
  • Brand templates for personalizing and printing POS and in-store materials, etc. 
  • Analytics dashboards for understanding which type of visual, whether pack shot or lifestyle image, should be pushed to the customer 
  • And of course generative AI that is working towards creating visuals that are adapted to its audience, on the fly 

Ready to improve the performance of your content as the customer moves through the stages of the buyer’s journey? Learn more about Wedia.

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And that's it!

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