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What is a Customer Journey Map? An Indepth Guide

Discover the transformative power of customer journey maps (CJMs) in our latest article, where we delve into the essentials of creating effective CJMs that center your customers' experiences. Learn how these maps can guide businesses across various sectors in enhancing user engagement, refining customer interactions, and boosting conversion rates. Whether you're grappling with high cart abandonment rates or looking to optimize the customer experience, this guide offers actionable insights and strategic frameworks to help you build a journey map that truly resonates with your target audience.

Only three out of ten customers who fill their online shopping cart make it to the checkout page to complete their purchase. Unexpected hidden costs at checkouts, a complex navigation process, or unclear return policies could be the culprit.

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And when it comes to service-based businesses, the Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) to Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) rate can be as low as 10%.

High cart abandonment and low MQL to SQL rates point to a critical gap in the customer experience. 

Customer journey mapping steps in to bridge this gap: It is a convenient tool for understanding the roadmap of a customer's journey and optimizing and refining it to address their pain points and boost conversion rates. 

Customer journey maps (CJMs) center the user above everything else and are invaluable for companies in all fields when applied correctly. 

In this post, we'll explain customer journey maps, their benefits, and, most importantly, how to create one that works for your business. 

What is a Customer Journey Map?

A customer journey map (also called CJM) is a visual representation of a customer’s experience with a brand through each interaction and engagement phase. These visuals provide insights into potential customer’s needs at different journey stages and the factors that can motivate or restrict their progress.

User journey mapping is based on a series of events, such as when a customer first visits and how they progress to the initial in-product experience, then make a purchase, sign up for newsletters, cancel a sign-up, etc. 

Businesses can use this information to improve customer experience and retention by tailoring the CJMs to talk to customers in each phase.

Before building a website or product, you must first research your target audience to learn how they make purchase decisions. Without this knowledge, you’re poking around in the dark and leaving significant potential revenue on the table.

Customer Journey Maps vs User Journey Maps

User journey maps and customer journey maps are similar but not identical. 

A user journey typically focuses on a single user's experience when interacting with a product or service. It details a user's actions or steps to complete a specific task or achieve a goal, such as purchasing a product, signing up for a service, or obtaining information. User journey maps often highlight the user's emotions, pain points, and moments of delight throughout the interaction with the interface.

A customer journey map, on the other hand, is a broader tool that visualizes a customer's entire process when interacting with a brand, product, or service. This can include multiple user journeys, spanning several platforms or touchpoints and often incorporates aspects beyond digital interactions, like physical store visits or phone calls. CJMs are more comprehensive and typically used to understand and improve the customer experience. 

They include not only the steps and experiences of the customer but also the different phases of the customer relationship (awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy) and often involve multiple stakeholders' perspectives (like sales, customer service, and marketing).

The Benefits of Customer Journey Mapping

Customer journey mapping provides a deeper insight into the customer beyond the information evident to you. Creating a digital customer journey map covers all loose ends, from when a customer becomes problem-aware to the point where they advocate, refer, and repurchase (think reviews, testimonials, referral programs, and reactivation email marketing)). 

In recent years, customer journey maps have emerged as an undisputed way to understand buyer behavior, with two-thirds (68%) of enterprise marketers using them in their product strategy. 

Mapping your customer journey offers plenty of benefits: 

  • Promote customer engagement through channel optimization 
  • Identify and optimize for your customer's needs 
  • Clear out ineffective touchpoints 
  • Focus on improving conversation rates
  • Get accurate reporting for maximum marketing campaign results 
  • Significantly reduce churn rates 

All or most of these benefits likely apply to your business. That's why a customer journey map is essential to any product or service business.  

Characteristics of Customer Journey Maps

We have explored the importance of customer journey mapping as an excellent tool for understanding your customer's experiences. But what exactly makes them up? 

Actors

In mapping your customer journey, it’s essential to consider the different actors involved. These actors include your potential customers, whose behaviors and preferences are informed by data and personas. 

At the core are the primary actors—your customers themselves. The journey map revolves around their perspectives and experiences as they interact with your brand. Understanding their needs and expectations is crucial for curating a journey that meets their needs. 

The secondary actors support these primary actors, who play influential roles throughout the customer journey. These may include your sales team, customer support representatives, or external influencers advocating for your products. 

The actors are the foundation of your map and dictate the steps needed to succeed. 

Customer personas and buyer personas: What’s the difference? 

A buyer persona is a detailed profile of your ideal customer based on real customer data and market research. It helps you humanize your target audience better. Identifying their demographics, behaviors, motivations, and challenges helps create a more focused marketing strategy. 

A buyer persona is a profile of your customer created during the research phase. Creating multiple personas for different customer types is important for understanding your audience, and knowing these personas well is key for customer retention. 

A basic buyer persona is made of these details:

  • Demographics cover personal and professional details such as age, gender, location, education, income, marital status, skills, and daily routines. 
  • Goals cover personal and professional matters, priorities, and challenges. 
  • Values reflect their personal and professional beliefs, highlighting what they prioritize in products and companies. 
  •  Their preferences include content consumption habits, communication preferences, community involvement, and daily activities, both online and offline. 

These characteristics contribute to the customer journey map on the buyer’s journey. 

Customer Journey Phase

The customer journey includes every interaction with your brand across all touchpoints and channels, from initial awareness to post-purchase support. Essentially, this journey phase provides a blueprint for mapping out the information, and it varies depending on the scenario. 

Phases of the Customer Journey

Navigating the customer journey effectively is crucial for businesses looking to build long-lasting customer relationships. This journey can be broken down into key phases: Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Retention, and Advocacy. The phases might be different for you depending on the type of business. You can go granular, detailing specific stages or actions, or keep it simple with the above phases.

Each phase represents a critical stage in how customers interact with your brand—from first discovering you to becoming loyal. 

Bear in mind that every customer takes a specific action based on a pre-determined mindset and will express it in any of these ways:

  • Actions: The actions a customer takes when going through the journey. This can be visualized with storyboards.
  • Goals: The outcomes a customer is trying to achieve at each stage.
  • Mindset/Interactions: Address user’s thoughts, questions, motivations, and information needs as they progress through each phase. 
  • Emotions/Experience: Track how customers feel about your brand—positively, negatively, or neutrally—throughout their journey. Map these emotions on a timeline across different phases, showing the ups and downs of their experience. 

Finally, opportunities are the preferred outcomes of a customer journey map. When creating one, identify personas, plot triggers for desired outcomes, and explore improvement opportunities. 

What are Customer Journey Touchpoints?

Customer journey touchpoints are the channels your customers find your business through. . 

The average journey includes 5 to 7 touchpoints and can appear across different channels

When customers begin to return, new touchpoints are introduced, such as ongoing product engagements and recurring website visits.  

Examples of Customer Touchpoints

Businesses must identify each touchpoint to create a customer journey map that improves customer experience. Once these touchpoints have been planned, all possible customer actions for each should be identified. 

Some touchpoint examples include filling out a questionnaire, booking a demo call and subscribing to a newsletter. 

Here are some more examples of touchpoints:

  • Social media posts 
  • Website visits
  • Product demos 
  • Live chats 
  • Advertisements
  • Face-to-face
  • Visits to physical stores/office
  • Email
  • Customer service

Mapping out the customer touchpoints isn't enough. You need to understand what customers lack during these interactions. This could mean looking for improvements such as better service, more information on the website, more testimonials to reduce friction, or additional product features. 

Additionally, confirm what currently works in your customer interactions and ensure these processes and systems are constantly optimized to ensure a consistent experience. 

Once you’ve found touchpoints that work, scale them. This could look like increasing ad spend to funnel more cold traffic into your customer journey. You could also copy and paste your journey to other parts of your business.   

Types of Customer Journey Maps

There are six types of customer journey maps to choose from, each with a unique focus on service-specific purposes for businesses. The CJMs below help UX designers gain specific insights into different aspects of the customer journey, allowing for targeted improvements within UX design. 

  1. Current State CJM: This is the most common type of CJM. It maps the existing customer journey, outlining all customer touchpoints with a product or service, from initial awareness to post-purchase interactions.  
  1. Future State CJM: This type builds on the current state CJM but also envisions an ideal future customer experience with your company. Based on these interactions, you now have a clear picture of where your business fits in the near future. 
  1. Day in the Life CJM: These CJMs capture the actions, thoughts, and emotions customers experience daily, whether or not they are directly related to the product itself. 
  1. Blueprint (service blueprint): Blueprint diagrams often start with a simplified version of an existing journey map or a future state journey map. Layers are then added to the system (people, processes, and policies) responsible for delivering a desired future result or identifying the root causes of current issues. 

  1. Circular: The circular CJM is used for a subscription-based product model. These maps visualize the customer journey as a circle or loop, emphasizing the significance of customer retention and lifetime value. 

  1. Empathy: These maps are designed to create a shared understanding of customers’ desires, needs, thoughts, and behaviors. They focus on the emotional and psychological aspects of the customer journey, aiming to build empathy within the organization. By using empathy maps, businesses can develop more human-centered designs and solutions that address the true needs and motivations of their customers. This type of CJM is particularly useful for fostering a customer-centric culture and improving overall customer satisfaction.

The core principles of CJMs remain the same in that they can be tailored to specific industries.

How to Create a Customer Journey Map

Creating a customer journey map can be overwhelming unless you keep it specific to your target. While you may be targeting multiple personas, settling on one customer scenario to build around and visualize at a time is a more effective approach. Here are 7 steps to creating a killer customer journey map. 

Step 1: Set Goals

Setting goals helps you plan out the outlook for each stage. Here’s how you can get it right:

First, gather feedback from everyone involved—your team, company leaders, and, most importantly, your customers. You can do this through surveys or direct questions. 

Next, set clear goals within your customer journey map. Do this by seeing your product from your customer’s perspective. Find ways to optimize the map based on responses to surveys carried out in the first step. 

Additionally, involve key stakeholders from various departments within your organization to make high-level improvements for maximum results. 

Step 2: Build Your Customer Persona

Your customer is the focal point of the journey map process. Therefore, it is appropriate that you build your customer persona right after setting your goals. 

Who is your target audience? 

You can gather customer data from Google Analytics, social media, and your CRM. If you’re just starting out, ChatGPT is a good tool for developing rough personas. Make sure you validate your GPT data with real customer data after launching. 

Breaking it down by demographics (name, age, job role, personal and professional goals, etc.) ensures the CJM truly reflects the reality of your diverse user base. 

You can also go the extra mile to get better persona representation by gathering feedback from people who have interacted with your product. Customer feedback surveys (53%) and market research (47%) are the two most effective ways to collect data and build journey maps. 

Once this is done, you will create multiple personas that best describe different buyer’s experiences with your product. 

Step 3: Define customer stages

Customer journey maps are structured based on customer stages. Each stage signifies a goal that needs to be achieved in their journey, both in the short and long term. In essence, the CJM should include stages representing only the customer’s goal-oriented phase and nothing else. 

Upon recognizing the customer persona and touchpoints, plan out the different stages your customers experience over time. Here’s how to do this: 

Find answers to these questions:

“What will it require for a customer to go through all stages of the buying process?” 

“What external factors hinder their decision-making?”

“How can we position our product as a better offer than our competitors?”

These are crucial questions to answer to define each customer journey stage best. In doing so, you will cover each of the four stages the customer will pass through: awareness, research, evaluation, and decision. 

Step 4: Define customer touchpoints

Customer touchpoints make up the backbone of your customer journey map. They are the points where customers interact with your product and their overall experience with it. 

We’ve already established that the average journey will have 5 - 7 touchpoints; however, it will depend on the type of business.  

For example, a CJM for a travel booking platform might include touchpoints like browsing destinations, comparing prices, booking flights and accommodations, and managing the trip experience. 

Another example is a CJM for a financial service involving touchpoints like researching investment options, opening an account, managing online banking features, and interacting with customer support. 

Once you define your touchpoints, arrange them on your customer journey map. 

Make sure you define the actors involved in the interaction. 

Step 5: Emotion/Thought Process

After defining the touchpoints and stages, the next step is to map the emotions and thought processes of your customer journey. 

It is an excellent idea to prioritize helpful content over a flashy design. In each phase of the journey timeline, define the touchpoints, expected actions, channels for these actions, and assign ownership (sales, customer support, etc.). 

Step 6: Solutions/Opportunities 

The next step is to take notes on the CX gaps in the current state map, including poor stage transitions and unclear information—which is now evident due to multiple unsuccessful customer attempts to make it to the final stage. 

Using features like hotpots and layers can help map out solutions compared to the current and ideal future states. Always share all findings with all stakeholders for easy collaboration. 

Step 7: Learn the customer's emotions and motivations

You need a clear overview of your company’s customer experience to learn about customers' emotions and motivations. 

Businesses must consider all customer personas and rectify any friction points from the previous steps. 

A good practice for learning about customers is to speak to them. Ask questions that matter: 

“Why are people abandoning their carts? Is it because of an unclear checkout process, confusing policy, or something else?”

“Do customers see our solutions the way we see them?”

Questions like these provide a retrospective overview of how customers react to your product or service. It is the best way to learn about customers. 

How to examine customer emotions and motivations

The first decision for your customer is made with emotion, perhaps born out of a need or pain point. You need to determine which of these is the primary concern and use that to learn about their motivations. 

Take the customer journey steps to see what your customers see. It is important to take notes on each persona’s differences for future maps. 

Customer Journey Map Examples

When creating a customer journey map, you should consider your business perspective and the customer experience. Let’s explore real-life customer journey mapping examples to understand why these maps are so valuable. 

Spotify

Spotify is a popular music streaming service that has adopted a B2B customer journey map to improve its customers' music-sharing experience. 

In the mapping process, you can see how they list what the customers will engage with, do, and think to prevent them from feeling lost. 

Using this journey map, Spotify discovered a better way to address user pain points and make the music-sharing experience seamless. 

Amazon

Amazon is one of the most popular e-commerce stores, with its own infrastructure set up to help customers throughout each stage of their journey. Its e-commerce journey map monitors multiple customer engagements, such as impressions, reach, conversion rates, etc. 

Excel

When it comes to B2B customer journey maps for SaaS products like Hootsuite’s social media management platform, most, if not all, of the customer journey is handled digitally with little involvement from sales representatives.

Excel is the right tool to make customer journey maps for this purpose. 

3 UX Customer Journey Map Checklist

When designing a digital customer journey map, getting stuck on what goes where often occurs. Here are three checklists to make the design process easier:

Prioritize Clarity

Choose a clear and easy-to-understand layout. Some popular formats include flowcharts or timelines, which promote easy visual comprehension of customer journey stages and touchpoints. 

Divide the customer journey into different, distinct stages. The common stages should include awareness, consideration, decision, retention, and advocacy. Take time to separate these stages on the map for a more structured flow. 

Content Hierarchy

The map should ideally focus on the user’s perspective, not your company’s internal processes. I.e., the spotlight should be on what the user experiences at each stage instead of the internal actions your company takes. 

Identify and track users' interactions with your brand at each stage. This includes website visits, social media interactions, customer support calls, and more. Use this information to create a clear hierarchy of interactions. 

Color Coding

When done right, color coding enhances visual clarity. Apply consistent color and adhere to accessibility guidelines to avoid excluding users with visual impairments. 

You can also consider using color coding to differentiate between journey stages (for example, awareness—blue, decision—green) or user emotions (positive—green, frustrated—red). Remember that the color scheme must be simple to avoid overwhelming your audience. 

Customer Journey Map Tools

Creating a customer journey map can be overwhelming. However, visual tools and resources are available to help streamline your CJM creation. A few of these are:

Pen and Paper

This classic approach lets you sketch journey stages and brainstorm touchpoints for each. Sticky notes help add details and enable collaboration. 

Whiteboard/Spreadsheet 

Like pen and paper, whiteboards and spreadsheets are useful for organizing detailed information about touchpoints and user emotions. 

Mind Mapping Software 

Tools like Miro or MindMester facilitate visually mapping the customer journey using digital elements. These platforms encourage easy collaboration and information organization.  

Customer Journey Mapping Software

Customer journey mapping is more efficient and user-friendly with dedicated software such as Uxpressia and Userforge, which offer pre-built templates and features specifically designed for CJM creation. 

Take the customer journey mapping process further with customer intelligence by looking into behavioral data points for optimal results. 

The Take2 Elevate CJM Template

We’ve created a super basic CJM for those just starting out. It has all the bells and whistles to formulate an excellent customer journey map. 

>>Download it here.

Frequently Asked Questions on Customer Journey Mapping

Why Should You Use Customer Journey Maps?

The customer journey map helps you critically examine how your customers experience your products and services in contrast to how you view them.

When you visualize the entire customer journey—from initial awareness to post-purchase support—you can identify where customers encounter challenges or frustrations. This understanding lets you pinpoint specific pain points at different stages of their journey. So, in essence, you should use customer journey maps if you want a clear and practical way to align your business strategies to fit your customer's needs. 

How Do I Improve the Customer Journey? 

Improving a customer journey involves building seamless interactions, personalized experiences, hands-on support, and identifying opportunities to improve touchpoints throughout the different stages. Start by pinpointing where customers might face challenges or frustration during research, decision-making, or after purchase. Ensure interactions are seamless: make navigating your websites easy, information readily accessible, and transactions straightforward. Continually assess and refine each touchpoint to ensure it enhances the overall customer experience. 

What are the Pain Points on the Customer Journey Map?

Customer journey pain points are specific instances where customers experience frustration, confusion, or dissatisfaction as they interact with your business. Any of these can occur at different times, making it imperative to review all concerns during the iteration process to avoid them. This proactive approach improves customer satisfaction and loyalty by making interactions more enjoyable. 

What is a Customer Journey Map used for?

A customer journey map is a visual tool that outlines every step of a customer’s interaction with your business. It helps you understand the entire experience from the customer’s perspective—from their initial awareness of your product through the decision-making process to post-purchase interactions. 

The main purpose of a CJM is to gain insights into customer perspectives and interactions with your business. 

What Makes a Good Customer Journey Map?

A good customer journey is backed by customer feedback, customer journey marketing research, and input from stakeholders and other team members. This combination is good because it incorporates real-world experience from your target customers and their behavioral insights. 

Also, a good customer journey map should include KPIs for each stage. These KPIs are metrics to assess the effectiveness of interactions and experiences throughout the customer journey, enabling continuous improvements in customer satisfaction. 

In a Nutshell

CJMs are a great way for businesses to connect more with their customers and build experiences centered around them. 

Once you understand your target customers and their overall experience with your business, you can conveniently cater to them at each stage of their journey. 

There’s no better time to create a customer journey map than now. Know the current state of the customer journey and make changes to attract and keep your customers happy. 

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