Everything You Need to Know About Making a Customer Journey Map

You see it every day: company execs scratching their heads wondering why they don’t get and keep more customers.

Why didn’t they click my ad? Why didn’t they sign up for the mailing list? Why did they abandon their shopping cart? Why aren’t they happy with the product?

In a nutshell, these questions boil down to one mindset: Why aren’t they doing what I want them to?

Instead of being “me-centric,” companies can go a long way with a more customer-centric approach.

That’s what a customer journey map is all about.

This process aims to understand the customer’s internal motivations, needs, and wants, and working backwards to align those with their brand experiences.

It’s not about getting them to do what you want. It’s about giving them what they need – every step of the way.

In this article, we’ll define customer journey mapping, explain how to create a customer journey map, look at a few strong examples, and show you some tools to get started on your own map.

Here we go.

What Is Customer Journey Mapping?

A customer journey map is a chronological representation of every interaction a customer has with your business, starting when they first learn about you. It can extend however long you like, depending on your goals.

Many customer journey maps will map their journey up until the first sale, or through to becoming a loyal, repeat customer. This journey is broken down into steps or stages of the customer lifecycle.

In addition to these lifecycle stages, a customer journey map digs deep into each customer’s personal experience as they progress through that life cycle. This includes their needs, wishes, concerns, and expectations, as well as how your business caters to these elements with every new interaction.

Here’s an example of  a customer life cycle in six stages:

  • Awareness: The customer is aware of a problem they have, so they start researching it.
  • Engagement: They’re first introduced to your business and start engaging with it.
  • Evaluation: They’re evaluating whether you’re the best fit for their needs.
  • Purchase: They take the plunge and buy.
  • Experience: They’re happy with your offering and experience, so they come back for more.
  • Bonding: Your brand is so valuable that they loyally keep choosing you over competitors.

the stages of the customer lifecycle

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Of course, this is just one way to break up the stages of the customer journey. It all depends on your business and marketing model.

That’s why a customer journey map can come in many forms. Here’s an example of a map with only four stages: visiting the website, registering, onboarding, and retention.

customer journey map

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You can think of customer journey mapping as an exercise of your expectations versus reality – and an opportunity to turn those expectations into reality.

Let us explain.

Say you have a dropshipping store that you advertise primarily through Facebook Ads.

In an ideal world, your customer sees your ad, clicks through to your website, makes a purchase, loves the product and experience, and stays a loyal customer forever.

But if you’re a business owner, you know that this dreamlike scenario is rarely how it actually goes. Namely because there are a lot more steps and a lot of opportunities to lose that prospect along the way.

By creating a user journey map, you’re able to see what exactly is happening in the customer’s journey through your sales process and to identify patterns of things that don’t go according to plan.

With this knowledge, you can pinpoint where issues typically occur and fix those issues as they arise.

Thus, the reality of the customer journey can become more aligned with your original expectations.

Why Is Customer Journey Mapping Important?

There’s plenty of research to prove how effective customer journey mapping is.

A study from Aberdeen showed that companies with a customer journey program had significant year-over-year (YOY) growth than companies without one:

  • Employee engagement went up 25.3 percent versus 10.8 percent for other companies.
  • Return on marketing investments went up 24.9 percent versus 16.2 percent.
  • Customer service costs improved 21.2 percent versus –2.2 percent.
  • Number of positive mentions via social media went up 20.7 percent versus 16.7 percent.
  • Customer referral revenue went up 17.9 percent versus 5.1 percent.
  • Improvement in the sales cycle went up 16.8 percent versus 0.9 percent.
  • Cross-sell and up-sell revenue improved 15.3 percent versus 9.8 percent.

Why manage the customer journey?

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This survey alone shows how customer journey mapping not only provides opportunities to make more revenue, but it can also reduce operational costs and improve experiences with a brand, both internally and externally.

Doesn’t get much better than that, folks.

Now that you’re sold on how good of an idea it is, let’s explore how to map the customer journey.

How to Create a Customer Journey Map

There’s no single process for creating a customer journey map, but there are some general guidelines to make sure you’re hitting the right points.

Here are four steps to get started on your own customer journey map:

  1. Understand your customer.
  2. Map out your life cycle stages and customer journey touchpoints.
  3. Align your customer’s goals with your stages and touchpoints.
  4. Identify and fix the current gaps and misalignments.

And here’s a customer journey map template that you can use as you follow the steps:

customer journey map template

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1. Understand Your Customer

Understanding your customer is the backbone of a customer journey map.

One of the best ways to do this is to create a buyer persona for your primary types of customers. You can think of a buyer persona as a “prototype” of what a typical customer might look like.

If you’re doing this for the first time, start with one or two personas to keep it simple. Over time, you can work your way up to more, if needed.

You can even name your personas and use a stock photo to bring each one to life, like this one:

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You can use a market segmentation strategy to build your persona. Include elements like:

  • Geographics: Where they live and what it’s like to live there.
  • Demographics: Their age, gender, occupation, income, education, and the like.
  • Psychographics: Their lifestyle, values, and attitudes. What are their goals, needs, and pain points, especially as they relate to your brand? How can your brand fulfill their needs and solve their pain points?
  • Behavioral: What they’re looking for, how they like to interact with brands, and the expectations they have for doing business. The end goal here is to make sure your touchpoints align with their behaviors.

market segmentation

We strongly encourage you to build your personas using real data.

Don’t just wing it! There are so many things that can go wrong if you play the guessing game.

You can gather data through online research, direct feedback via customer surveys and questionnaires, and specialized data tools like Google Analytics.

Google Analytics has incredible tracking and data collection capabilities about users that visit your website, like:

  • Where they visited from geographically
  • Demographic info, like their gender and age
  • Personal interests and hobbies
  • Which browsers and devices they used to visit
  • Which websites and campaigns directed them to your site
  • What they did on your site (we’ll cover this more in the next section)

If you’re not familiar, here’s a little tutorial on the awesome features of Google Analytics. Check it out!

2. Map out Your Life Cycle Stages and Customer Journey Touchpoints

Now, it’s time to create the framework for your user journey map.

Say that you have a retail business like a dropshipping store. In this case, the life cycle is similar to the one previously mentioned (Awareness, Engagement, Evaluation, Purchase, Experience, Bonding).

You can choose to shorten or expand it – whatever suits your unique business situation. Here’s a shortened version from HubSpot that just features three stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.

touchpoints customer journey

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If you’re not exactly sure what your life cycle is, this example is a good place to start.

Once you have this info, you can map out your customer journey touchpoints along that life cycle. A touchpoint is any interaction and engagement that someone can have with your business.

SurveyMonkey put together a great list of common customer journey touchpoints along a broad three-stage life cycle of before, during, and after purchase:

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For your customer journey map to be truly impactful, it should be customized to illustrate the average touchpoints that each persona hits throughout their life cycle.

Using Google Analytics Reports

In addition to getting intel on your personas, you can also see how they’re behaving on your website.

The Behavior Flow is a great resource for mapping out your customer journey touchpoints because it shows the path that each user took on your site – down to each page they clicked on and how much time they spent on those pages.

You can use this to look at trends among the visitors who made purchases. Ideally, you’ll be able to identify the common flows your customers share, then tweak your user experience to guide new visitors into those money-making flows.

google analytics reports

3. Align Your Customer’s Experience With Your Stages and Touchpoints

At this point, you have a customer journey map with life cycle stages and the customer journey touchpoints that the typical customer flows through.

Now, plug your buyer persona and their experiences into the mix.

Do some critical thinking – fueled by as much data mining as you can – to explore questions like:

  • What is my customer thinking and feeling at each life cycle stage and with each touchpoint engagement?
  • What questions are they asking, and what actions are they taking?
  • What are their needs, desires, expectations, and concerns for each of those points? How are these emotions and goals motivating their behavior?
  • How is my business fulfilling those emotions and goals? More importantly, am I doing a good job of showing them that I’m capable of fulfilling them?
  • How does their experience shift as they move through the life cycle? Do their emotions, attitudes, and moods change? How can I nurture these changes?
  • What are my opportunities for generating more trust and building a stronger relationship with the customer?

Here’s a fun customer journey example for an ecommerce laptop buyer. It uses emojis to illustrate the emotional changes that take place along the life cycle, which helps the brand to understand how it can best support them:

ecommerce laptop buyer's customer journey

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4. Identify and Fix the Current Gaps and Misalignments

On the path to creating your customer journey map, you might discover that there’s a flaw in your website that causes most of your visitors to leave instead of making a purchase.

Or perhaps you’ll discover that customers don’t resonate with your marketing messages. Or that they aren’t happy with your shipping times or the quality of your products or services.

This might seem like bad news, but it’s actually great news!

It means that you’re one step closer to fixing those issues and creating a fantastic experience for your prospects and visitors.

If it’s immediately obvious that things aren’t going as you’d like them to, try creating two customer journey maps: one for the current customer journey, and one for your ideal customer journey.

In the ideal customer journey map, list out how you’d like things to go.

Then, you can implement strategies to get there.

Now that you know the basic steps for how to create a customer journey map, let’s look at a few more examples to give you a better idea of the possibilities.

Best Customer Journey Maps

To get your creative juices flowing, let’s look at a few user journey map examples that do a good job of laying out the process.

Simple Customer Journey Map

This simple customer journey map from Bright Vessel shows the journey map for an app. The stages of the customer’s buying process from beginning to end are research, comparison, workshop, quote, and sign-off.

For each stage, they’ve listed out the typical questions that prospects are asking, the emotions and feelings they have, and what the company needs to do to answer those questions and nurture their needs.

simple journey map

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Multiple Buyer Persona Map

This map shows the user journey for three different customer personas. The life cycle is broken into four stages: discovery, research, conversion, and post-sale engagement.

It lists out the customer journey touchpoints in the left column and uses the grid spaces as “checkmarks” to show how each persona engages with each touchpoint.

multiple buyer persona map

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Comprehensive Customer Journey Map

This user journey example takes a more comprehensive approach. The life cycle has five stages: Awareness, Consideration, Acquisition, Service, and Loyalty.

As you can see, there are no customer journey touchpoints left behind – it lists out nearly 40 of them, color-coded to easily match with the corresponding life cycle stage.

It even lists out which internal departments are involved in every stage and touchpoint of the experience, and a total count of how many opportunities their team has to influence the journey. This suggests that it’s for a larger company with a more involved business model.

Of course, you don’t need to go this in-depth to have a great customer journey map. But it doesn’t hurt to put in the extra effort where you can!

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Mapping Your Way to Success

If your business needs a bit of a boost, customer journey mapping may just be the missing link.

When you collect real user data and dig into that data as deeply and meaningfully as you can, you’ll be able to uncover incredible insights.

These insights can help to inform all sorts of brand strategies, from improving your website to tweaking your marketing efforts to creating all-around better experiences for your customers.

In the long run, taking the time to understand your customer and their relationship with your brand will help to gain and keep their trust – which means more customers who love you and keep coming back for more.

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