Customer journey maps are relatively simple in essence, but require expertise and experience to get right. This guide will help you research and design a customer journey map better than your competitors.
What's the secret to a perfect customer journey map?
A journey map is a visual diagram that highlights the different steps a customer would take 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.
A journey 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, brands can streamline the route and help customers along with the right content, when they need it most.
An effective journey map will help a brand maximise conversions and improve customer retention in the short-term, while ensuring efficient and sustainable growth for the long-term.
Filling the sales funnel
A customer journey map allows you to view the full brand experience through the eyes of the customer. Mapping may reveal positive and negative elements of your sales and marketing processes, but you can use this information in tandem with other tests to improve bottom line performance and the growth of your business.
From first impressions, to consideration, purchasing, delivery, customer service, and aftercare - the map will illustrate your customer’s thoughts, feelings, worries, and emotions at every stage. This will help you nudge people down a streamlined sales funnel.
You’ve got to stay as close to your customer as possible as they go through the purchase process, ensuring that you’re able to address concerns and point them in the right direction. Furthermore, you also want to minimise the necessity for human interaction, so visualising the customer journey will help in optimising your marketing automation.
How to start your customer journey mapping
It’s important to have certain things in place before you start putting together a comprehensive customer journey map.
1 - Personas
Creating buyer personas is a well-established element of initial research. It’s imperative to have a clear understanding of who your customers are from the outset. Not all customers are the same, but you should have a base to work from, which will allow you to start mapping their individual journey.
You want to look into what motivates them to buy, their purchasing goals, thought patterns, payment methods and concerns they may have about buying your product. Knowing your customer will help you to create a personable and human interaction, whether in person, over the phone, or online.
If you’ve already created personas, revisit them to ensure that you’ve got the most updated and relevant information.
2 - The 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 like; discovery > consideration > choice > purchase. Typically, the more granular stages can be defined from these starting points.
Keep reading for some visual examples of detailed customer journey map designs.
3 - 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 the map. You may have built up 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. You can keep track of whether these were fulfilled, aborted or postponed.
4 - Touch points
Touchpoints are the moments along the customer journey that may require support from your brand for the customer to complete their next goal. What information or action can be taken at these points to ensure customer satisfaction and continuation 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 your involvement will elevate your brand above competitors. During the discovery stage, you might want to focus more heavily on delivering helpful blog content and newsletters. As the customer moves through, more can be gained for both parties by ramping up the 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 thought as to whether teams can be shuffled around to cover certain customer touch points at particular stages.
The key elements of a great journey map
There are many key elements to developing a comprehensive and useful customer journey map. Here’s an overview.
Remember emotions. Whether for B2B or B2C, tapping into genuine emotion is absolutely essential for effective marketing. Ultimately, your revenue will originate in the mind of human beings, before they take decisive action. Humans are inherently emotional, and thus respond more acutely to communications that make them laugh or cry, and those that educate well, allay fears, and reinforce feelings of affinity. Reflect these emotions in your 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 brand more powerfully. These are the moments in which meeting - and indeed, exceeding - expectations is paramount to your success.
Above all, a customer journey map needs to reflect the genuine experiences of the customer; from their perspective. By immersing oneself in the world of the customer, marketers can grasp their individual interactions, plus the reasons behind them. You can also feel the same pain points. This is where skilled research reaps rewards.
I talk in more detail about research in the next section of this article. Essentially, in order to understand as much as possible about your customers’ feeling at each stage of their journey, you need to take a hands-on approach, do some digging, and acquire some data. This might be from Google Analytics, or through interviews and surveys.
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 purchase and aftercare. Remember that you may need multiple customer journey maps, depending on the variety of products and services you offer and their different audience behaviours.
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 their place on the map. This will help different groups within the business to work together towards a common goal, whilst also visualising their own role within the overall growth of the company, and their importance to its customers.
Research: Gathering your data
Whilst you can undoubtedly make some educated guesses about a target audience, there’s no substitute for well-researched and evidence-based planning. Unfortunately, this valuable data doesn’t grow on trees, especially when your startup is trying to disrupt a market for the first time. 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 metrics within 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.
For some smart ways to conduct audience research, read our article; How to do audience research better than your competitors.
The challenges to overcome
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 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!
Your customer journey map design
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.
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, I’d recommend avoiding PowerPoint. Use tools like InDesign, or even Canva. A customer journey map won’t necessarily be the tidiest diagram in the world, but an eye for detail will ensure that it’s consumable. Some marketers kick things off in Excel or Google Sheets. Whilst this is fine for starters, I’d recommend making it as visually appealing as possible. It should be easy for every member of the team to understand.
A customer journey map is a truly holistic approach to understanding who your customers are and what they want, at every stage of their engagement 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 to elevate oneself above the rest. It’s also useful to note the most competitive stages of your journey, to understand where the most resources should be targeted for retaining crucial interest.
Generating the right kind of awareness is the first stage; being in the right place to attract prospects and contacts. The next stage might be an enquiry, or perhaps an email newsletter sign up. Then, we’re at the consideration and sales stage. If that journey is smooth, there’s aftercare and follow-up sales to consider. As I mentioned earlier, not every customer will enter the process at the beginning - it’s not linear. But by having a map, you can pinpoint where each individual is, whenever they make contact.
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 journey, you can streamline the route and ensure no barriers block the way ahead.