Customer Journey Maps: The Beginner’s Guide

No matter how much you optimize your website, your customers rarely take a straightforward path to your products. There’s a lot that happens on the journey from awareness to purchase. And that’s what customer journey maps are for.

In this guide, we’re going to cover what a customer journey map is and how to make one. Along the way, we’ll discuss a few ways you can improve your customer experience. We’ve also included a simple template you can use to start mapping your customers’ journeys right now.

First, let’s talk about what customer journey maps actually are—because it can be a little confusing.

What is a customer journey map?
A customer journey map is a visual representation of how your customers move from awareness to purchase. In its simplest form, this is just a table, with the stages a customer progresses through across the top, and some things to help you understand each stage from their perspective along the side.

This is a tool to help you see the entire process from your customers’ point of view. The whole point of customer journey mapping is to understand your customers better, so you can do a better job meeting their needs at every stage of the journey. It’s a helpful practice to go through as you develop a customer-centric strategy.

For example, here’s a customer journey map an athletic shoe company might create for a high-school football player:

Customer Journey Mapping Example
Customer Journey Map Example

(It’s OK if this doesn’t feel perfectly clear right now. In the next section, we’ll explain more about what each section is doing.)

This example is pretty generic and may apply to more types of athletic-shoe customers than football players, but customer journey maps can be a lot more refined and specific than this, too. As you can imagine, a shoe company may want a range of maps to represent and understand their full range of customers.

Someone who needs a wrestling shoe isn’t going to have the exact same motivations, questions, and needs as someone looking for football cleats or basketball shoes. There’s plenty of overlap, but while these athletes may be on parallel journeys, they’re completely different customers. The same goes for a parent shopping for their kid versus an athlete who can buy their own gear.

A customer journey map might also cover a broader range of steps and stages than you can directly impact. For example, an athlete will likely get recommendations from their teammates, their coaches, athletic trainers, or professional athletes. In that case, your journey map might help demonstrate why your business needs to develop relationships with influencers or create content that exposes your brand to people who affect the decision making process.

More elaborate customer journey maps also dig deeper into what your customers are thinking, feeling, and experiencing during each phase of the journey. You might want to indicate how important each possible action is to your customer.

You’ll notice that a customer journey map is not simply a path from one touchpoint to another. It’s not a flowchart of the paths a customer might take to buy your products. The customer journey is almost never completely linear, and there are infinite possible paths they could take.

That sort of map might help you eliminate some barriers between you and your customers, but it won’t help you understand the overarching journey from awareness to purchase. Customer journey maps are about understanding your customers and putting yourselves in their shoes.

Now let’s look at how you actually make one.

How to create a customer journey map
Creating a customer journey map is an exercise in understanding your customers. Here’s a quick overview of the steps you might take:

Create buyer personas
Identify all your customer touchpoints
Establish the phases your customers go through
List potential motivations, problems, and aspirations
Highlight current obstacles
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
Streamline the customer journey
Review your map regularly
Depending on your goals and how in-depth you want your map to be, your process might look a little different. As we talk through each of these, feel free to modify, add, or remove steps as you see fit.

1. Create buyer personas
Even if you only have one product or service, you likely serve a range of customers who have different desires, questions, and challenges. Buyer personas (also known as marketing personas, customer personas, or simply personas) are research-based profiles that represent specific slices of your customer base.

In the example we used above, the athletic shoe company might have buyer personas for each type of athlete they serve, or for broader categories of people who might buy their products, such as parents with young children, high school athletes, college students, etc.

You don’t have to do this step, but there’s a lot of overlap between personas and customer journey maps, and having personas will help you create more useful customer journey maps. Ideally, you want to develop personas for each of the main demographics your products attract. And every persona will have its own customer journey map.

Creating a persona requires you to synthesize everything you currently know about your customers and usually involves surveying current or potential customers. You’ll want to use sources like:

Feedback from customer service and sales reps

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