What is a Customer Journey Map? (Why You Need One)

Jonas Sickler SEO Manager
Key Points
  • A customer journey map allows you to see things from the perspective of your customers and then craft a personalized buying experience.
  • The customer journey map helps you take stock of all customer touchpoints and ensure that each one is fully optimized.
  • The ultimate goal of creating a customer journey map is to ensure that you are creating a superior customer experience from start to finish.

If you’re a marketer for a billion dollar retailer, you probably know your customers pretty well. No doubt you have dozens of buyer personas that describe when they wake up, their favorite foods, and where they shop. But, do you have a customer journey map?

Customer journey maps allow you to get a better understanding of the customer’s perspective so you can craft a more personalized shopping experience. The more you understand your customers, the better you can serve them and the more likely it is that they’ll come back again and again.

Read on and uncover the what, why, and how of customer journey mapping.

What is the customer journey?

Customer Journey

Definition

The customer journey is all the interactions a customer has in order to achieve a particular objective with a company. It includes everything from their first brand touchpoint, to their initial purchase, to post-purchase engagements that develop customer loyalty and lead to repeat purchases.

At a high level, the customer journey can be broken down into three stages:

  • Awareness – The person is aware of a problem or opportunity, but they need more information so that they can fully understand the issue and specifically name it.
  • Consideration – The person clearly understands the problem/opportunity. They are now thoroughly researching options so that they are aware of different methods for addressing the issue.
  • Decision – The person is making a final decision as to which product/service to purchase.

Of course, a real customer lifecycle is much more complex. It may involve many smaller touchpoints and decisions that differ based on the specific journey.

Hence the need for a customer journey map. 

What is a customer journey map?

Customer Journey Map

Definition

A customer journey map is a visual representation of each stage of the customer journey, from start to finish. It highlights your customers’ needs and feelings at key moments, as well as brand touchpoints, gaps, and friction areas.

Journey maps are like roadmaps for your personas. They go beyond demographic information and help marketing team members and stakeholders walk in your customer’s shoes. As a result, you’ll set more customer-focused business goals, and create a more seamless omnichannel experience.

Journey maps also give marketing teams a customer-centric visualization of how your audience thinks. They encourage you to ask important market research questions like:

  • What caused them to identify a frustration, problem, issue, need, or new goal or opportunity?
  • What do they do when they realize this problem/opportunity?
  • Where do they turn?
  • What sources of information do they use?
  • Where do they visit online?
  • Whose advice do they seek?
  • What frustrations do they encounter along the way?
  • What are their questions at each step of the journey?

Think of all the different ways prospects experience your brand in real-time: email, social media, video, search engines, your website, TV, etc. The customer journey map helps you take stock of all these different customer touchpoints, optimize them, and fill important gaps.

Why is customer journey mapping important?

woman holding a map

Customer journey mapping is important because it helps marketers connect with buyers and remove roadblocks that could lead to lost sales, increased churn, or a poor reputation. As a result, you’ll shorten the buying cycle, improve conversion rates, and increase customer retention.

It also gives you insight into how different types of customers move through your marketing funnel so you can improve the user experience for each demographic. For example, millennials will interact with your company differently than Boomers. C-Suite executives have different priorities than small business owners, and each will take different steps before arriving at the purchasing decision.

Customer journey mapping optimizes your marketing strategy for each buyer persona.

Ultimately, the goal of mapping is to create a personalized, positive experience for real life customers. Research by Salesforce showed that 84% of people believe that being treated like a real person instead of a number plays a significant role in the purchase decision. So, when you map out the buyer’s journey for your customer personas, you’ll better understand their needs. And that translates to more customer satisfaction.

As Seth Godin put it in his book This Is Marketing:

If you bring someone belonging, connection, peace of mind, or status, you’ve done something worthwhile. What you sell is simply a road to achieve those emotions, and we let everyone down when we focus on the tactics, not the outcomes.

Mapping the customer journey helps you focus on the outcomes rather than the tactics. 

How to create a customer journey map

sign that reads customer journey

Now that we’re clear on the what and why, let’s talk about how to create a simple customer journey map.

1. Define audience segments and buyer personas

First, define your audience segments based on the different types of customers that you serve. Then, create buyer personas within those segments.

If you sell consulting services, you may have one segment for healthcare clients, another for financial services, and yet another for technology. Or maybe you segment your audience by the number of employees or geography.

Perhaps you instead segment your audience by age group — an ecommerce fashion brand may target pre-teens, teens, and women separately. Or, if you’re a fashion brand like Athleta, you target by activity — yoga, running, hiking, cold weather training, tennis, golf, swimming, etc.

Once you segment your audience, build personas of your ideal customers in each segment. Here are some examples of buyer personas to get started.

Obviously, persona information will vary depending on whether you’re B2B or B2C and the price of your product/service. Some information you may want to include:

  • Age range
  • Income / revenue
  • Job title
  • Priorities
  • Goals
  • Challenges
  • Interests
  • Industry
  • Job to be done (JTBD)
  • Pain points
  • Products desired
  • Features desired

The objective is to thoroughly understand your ideal customers. When you have clarity on what they want and what their struggles are, you can create a customer journey that resonates with them, guides them through the process, and moves them to take action. 

Unravel the Customer JourneyTerakeet builds intent-driven customer journey maps informed by search data.Contact Us

2. Identify customer pain points with empathy maps

The next step in creating your customer journey map is to clearly identify customer pain points at each step of the journey. 

  • In the initial awareness stage, what are they feeling? What frustrations are they experiencing? What is motivating them to start exploring solutions to their problem? Do they need a certain type of educational content?
  • During the consideration stage, what information do they need? What is keeping them from moving forward?
  • In the decision stage, what is hindering them from pulling the trigger? Do they have sufficient comparisons with alternatives? What are their fears, and how can you alleviate those fears? Have you provided them with sufficient social proof and assurances.
  • During the retention stage, gather Voice of the Customer feedback such as a net promoter score (NPS) from long-term customers.

Remember, the buying process is both factual and emotional. People’s decision making is based on a combination of concrete information and subjective emotions. To truly understand your customers, deploy an empathy map to address both types of potential roadblocks.

3. List the customer journey touch points

people mapping customer journey touchpoints with colored notes

What are customer touch points? They’re all the different ways a prospective customer interacts with your brand during their journey. This includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Your website
  • Third-party websites
  • Social media
  • Search engines
  • Videos
  • Email
  • Ads
  • Review sites
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • TV
  • Radio
  • Influencers
  • Product demos
  • Sales team interactions
  • Customer service interactions

Include each touch point in your customer journey map. Seeing the different touch points gives you insight into the different steps customers take before finally making a buying decision. By understanding their state of mind at each step in the customer journey, you can uncover psychological triggers that can help them feel more confident in taking the next steps. You can then optimize each brand touch point, or even reduce the number of touch points required.

What are Customer Touch Points? (Defining the Buyer Journey)

Read the Article

Audience actions

When identifying touch points, focus primarily on ones where people take action. Whether they click on a Google search result, interact on social media, or respond to an email, look for all the different ways your audience takes action. 

Once you have a list of actions, determine the underlying motivations and reasons at each step in the journey. Then, look for ways to reduce the number of actions a person must take along their customer journey to increase conversion rates.

Questions throughout the customer journey

It’s also important to identify the questions potential customers ask at each touch point in your customer journey map. Confusion, jargon, and uncertainty can hinder prospects from moving forward in the buying journey.

Document the actual questions running through the minds of your prospective customers at each step of the journey. Do this, and you’ll likely be ahead of many of your competitors.

If you don’t know the questions they are asking, start interviewing them and conduct surveys. You can also get insight from live chat sessions, your salespeople, and support teams.

The more questions you can answer at each touch point, the less friction potential customers will feel and the more likely it is that they’ll move on to the next phase of the journey.

Content Strategy PlaybookBuild a better content strategy informed by each stage of the customer journey.Read the Guide

4. Optimize the conversion funnel (tofu, mofu and bofu)

The purchase funnel can be segmented into top-of-funnel, middle-of-funnel, and bottom-of-funnel (tofu mofu bofu). Each part of the funnel maps to a stage in the buying journey (as outlined earlier):

  • Tofu: Awareness
  • Mofu: Consideration
  • Bofu: Decision

At each phase of the funnel, you need to provide relevant information that moves potential customers further along their journey. Find out how to build a better conversion funnel here.

At the top of the funnel, you want to expand reach, increase awareness, and build trust with prospects. Often, in the tofu stage, they won’t even know your brand. It’s your job to make a strong introduction and position yourself as a go-to resource.

Instead of selling, provide prospects with information that answers their questions and builds trust. Focus on capturing their contact information so that you can continue to nurture them. 

In the middle of the funnel, provide prospects with the information they need to make an intelligent buying decision. Instead of the hard sell, though, highlight your value and differentiation to educate your prospects and increase their confidence in what you’re offering.

The bottom of the funnel is where the most direct selling should take place. Position yourself as a consultant, helping them tailor their purchase to best fit customer needs. Highlight things that will reduce their feeling of risk, such as social proof, case studies, warranties, highly-rated customer support, money-back guarantees, projected ROI, etc. The objective with bofu is to remove any friction and make the sale.

Use customer journey maps to boost engagement

At each step of the customer journey, you need to have specific, effective ways to engage with your audience. You need to be able to speak to relevant pain points, thoroughly answer questions, and help prospects take the next step in the buying journey. 

There are dozens of ways to engage your audience. You need to choose the ones that will best serve your potential customers in contextually relevant ways through their journey. At each step in the customer journey map, determine what the potential customer wants or needs most and how can you provide that for them.

Customer journey map example

screenshot of ember website

For example, let’s look at Ember, which sells temperature-controlled coffee mugs. What does their customer journey map look like and how should they engage their audience?

  • Imagine someone realizes how often they have to reheat their coffee or simply toss it when it gets cold.
  • They become frustrated and Google terms like “coffee warmer” or “how to keep coffee hot”.
  • They find lists of hacks to keep their coffee warm, including cup sleeves, scarves, lids, and metal coffee beans. But, mentions of Ember or temperature-controlled mugs are rare.
  • They don’t find Ember in the first two pages of Google organic results.
  • Ember is included in the product ads in the search results. However, banner blindness causes most people to scroll past the ads. 
  • Ember could use interactive assessments to discover when users search for hot coffee (at home on the weekends, while at the office, etc.).
  • Where Ember does better is in the middle of the funnel. Once the coffee lovers hear about Ember, they check out the brand. 
  • This is where Ember’s videos make a difference. Ember’s videos cover everything from product introductions to recipes to the brand’s focus on “putting time back”. Some videos have thousands of views, while others have millions.
  • While on the Ember website, the brand shares its story, commitment to exceptional design, and its technology. On the product pages themselves, they seal the deal with video, customer reviews, product details, a CTA for the help center, and a FAQ.

Ensure a superior digital customer experience

man with mobile phone on a long windy road

The ultimate goal of creating a customer journey map is to ensure that you provide a superior digital customer experience (DCX) from start to finish.

A user journey map clarifies each step a customer takes so you can make them as pleasing and painless as possible. The bottom line is that outstanding experiences leads to more customers, orders, and revenue. 

Need proof? Look no further than Amazon.

Known for their obsessive focus on the customer’s experience, they’ve spent billions to make online purchasing as easy as humanly possible. One-click ordering, free two-day shipping, ultra-personalized recommendations — the list goes on and on. The result of creating such a fantastic experience is millions of customers and hundreds of billions in revenue.

Track, measure and optimize

The final step in the customer journey mapping process is tracking and measuring the data, followed by optimization. You need to know the key metrics for each touchpoint and evaluate the conversion rates of those touchpoints.

For example, if you have organic search traffic coming to your website, how long are visitors staying on the page? What percentage of them opt into your email list or make a purchase? How can you optimize the page so that site visitors convert?

Consistent optimization leads to compounding improvements. Creating a better experience in your website leads to better engagement metrics, which leads to better performance in search results, which generates more organic traffic and email opt-ins, etc.

Not sure what to measure? Check out our post about the top SEO metrics to track.

Summary: building an effective customer journey map

Customer experience maps enhance your marketing intelligence so you can engage with buyers more effectively. Defining the path your customers follow increases conversions, attracts new customers, and grows revenue. Customer journey mapping is also an effective way to visualize the ideal future state of the buyer’s journey.

Follow these important customer journey mapping steps to drive better business outcomes:

  • Define your audience segments and personas
  • Identify their challenges and pain points
  • List the different touchpoints through the customer journey
  • Ensure coverage across tofo, mofu, and bofu
  • Develop effective ways to engage your audience throughout the journey 
  • Ensure a superior customer experience
  • Track, measure, and optimize

Customer journey map FAQS

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of each touchpoint across every channel throughout the conversion funnel. It begins with the first instance a customer encounters a brand and ends with a conversion. However, customer journey mapping may also include additional touchpoints beyond the initial conversion to build loyalty and trigger repeat purchases.

Why is customer journey mapping important?

Customer journey maps are important because they help you understand how buyers experience the purchase funnel, and how you can improve the user experience at each step to remove friction points.

How do I create a customer journey map?

1. Define your buyer personas.
2. Identify customer pain points.
3. List the customer journey touchpoints.
4. Optimize your conversion funnel.
5. Improve user experience throughout the journey.