Customer Journey

Definition, Mapping, Examples and Template

The customer journey, also called the shopper journey, is the series of steps a customer takes when interacting with a brand, product, or business. It starts with the realization of a pain point and ends with a purchase decision. The customer journey refers to the entire experience a customer has from discovery to purchase.

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What is a customer journey?

The customer journey illustrates the shopping process from discovery to purchase (and beyond). Various customers will take different journeys. For example, return customers may navigate directly to a brand’s website, but audiences might see an ad on social media, have their interest piqued, then go to the brand’s website. And a customer journey is not necessarily linear: Customers may retrace their steps in the journey, zig-zag to a different touchpoint, or skip ahead to the end.

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a visualization of the customer’s journey. The map covers the five “A's” of building a customer journey map: aware, appeal, ask, act, and advocate.

The customer journey starts with awareness, or the moment when new customers discover your brand. That’s when brands have the opportunity to appeal, or make their product pitch. The appeals are closely tied to the ask, when customers explore the brand and shop for the solution to their needs. They may also shop in a physical store, read reviews, or crowdsource to get recommendations. Next customers act, which is when they make their purchases. Finally, the brand has an opportunity to advocate, following up with buyers by emailing a thank you, asking them to leave feedback, or providing opportunities for reviews and ratings, for example.

Each brand will have their own custom journey map; it’s not one size fits all. To make a map, begin by thinking about how customers are introduced to your brand. Then, walk through the shopping and purchasing process, considering every possible interaction that customers may make with your brand’s website, ads, customer service, or social media.

Different types of journey maps can follow the trajectory of current customers or future customers. There are also variations that consider an in-depth look at a sample journey. Customer service offerings can also make their own journey map, to follow the path that may lead customers to making contact for assistance.

Why is customer journey mapping important?

Customer journey maps are important because they can help identify customer frustrations or pain points, which will help you figure out what parts of your shopping process are not working or are confusing to customers.

Another reason to consider customer journey mapping is to make improvements to your customer-centric marketing plan. The goal is to fulfill the customer needs at every point of their shopping journeys, whether it’s early browsing or post-purchase reviews.

Mapping can also help brands understand their audiences, and if it matches what you want it to be. Mapping out the journeys of current and future customers can provide you with a comprehensive view of the shopping experience and help you anticipate the needs of potential customers. It can lead to a proactive plan for reaching new customers and determining best practices for satisfying existing customers. This could then lead to an increase in customer engagement and retention, and provide opportunities for personalization, as well. Familiarizing yourself with your customers is key to delivering what’s needed to improve customer experiences and supplying the products they want.

How to create a customer journey map

To get started creating a customer journey map, think about any micro-moments when customers interact with your brand. These micro-moments can occur on social media, in emails, on a website, or on an app–anywhere customers see or interact with your brand. These micro-moments will become the touchpoints of your customer journey map.

As a next step, ensure the map aligns with your brand’s marketing funnel. The marketing funnel is similar in that it also addresses the customers’ journeys, but it begins with the broadest reach of potential buyers and narrows down to the most loyal customers. A customer journey map should attempt to give customers a great experience so audiences are more likely to return to brands in future.

Define touchpoints of customers

Step 1: Define touchpoints of customers

A touchpoint on a customer journey map is any instance of customers’ interaction with a brand. For example, one touchpoint would be when customers see an ad, followed by another touchpoint when they visit the brand’s website. The touchpoints will become the points on the illustration of your customer journey map spanning their route from awareness to purchase to follow-ups.

Build buyer personas of customers

Step 2: Build buyer personas of customers

To help visualize your customer journey map, consider the audience personas, or the fictional characters who are shopping for your products. By familiarizing yourself with your brand’s audience personas and their demographics, you can start to compare your existing audience to your goal. Think about the areas where there’s room for improvement or expansion and the types of customers that would consider adopting your brand.

Set goals

Step 3: Set goals

There should be goals for each customer touchpoint on your customer journey map. Are your overarching goals to raise brand awareness, increase sales, or encourage return visits from your customer base? Think about the touchpoints that are most important for achieving your goals, and devote attention there. Also, consider the stakeholders in your company, and make sure to share your map broadly to confirm that each team is on the same page.

Conduct user studies and surveys

Step 4: Conduct user studies and surveys

Talk to your customers to ensure your customer journey map is accurate. Every step of the customer journey map should be user-friendly with as few stressors as possible. By conducting user studies or surveys, brands can find out how customers discovered products, how frequently they interact with the brand, and where they see it in their everyday life, for example. Receiving comments and answers directly from customers can be eye-opening.

Also, talk to your brand’s customer support team to find out what complaints they hear and if there are any recurring pain points or topics of negative comments that should be addressed. Find out what existing frustration there is with the steps your customers take, and adjust your map accordingly.

Analyze your customer journey map

Step 5: Analyze your customer journey map

Begin by determining the metrics for success, whether that’s repeat purchases, sales, bounce rate, or something else. Is your goal to increase the number of customers or optimize for the happiness of existing users? Once you decide the metrics you care about most and analyze the results, you can tweak your customer journey map for improvement.

Add updates

Step 6: Add updates

After completing your customer journey map analysis, you should have a better idea of pain points for customers and can make any necessary adjustments to your business plan and improve what customers are experiencing. Also, a customer journey map will evolve as a business grows and changes. A map that’s helpful today won’t always be relevant in a year, so make sure to update your map as necessary.

Free customer journey map template

There are a variety of customer journey maps available to peruse online, and many marketing companies offer customer journey mapping workshops. You can also find a sample of a free customer journey map template below, and you can edit the customer journey map as necessary to match your brand’s audience and customer needs.

For example, the journey map can be organized with the five “A’s” at the top, with boxes below for each touchpoint. Different customer personas can be called out in circles and defined at the top, as well. Touchpoints can fall into categories of positive, negative, or neutral on the journey map. Feel free to customize your customer journey map to best suit your brand.

Blank customer journey map

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