Customer Journey Maps: The Complete Guide

A customer journey map visually shows you every step in a buyer’s journey with the brand, from their first interaction through to the purchase, tracing a customer’s actions. Keep reading to learn why it’s important and how to create one for your organization.

What is a customer journey map?

Customer journey maps visually show all the steps customers take from the time they first begin interacting with your company until they end their journey. In essence, customer journey maps trace a customer’s actions from when they first embark on their website journey or app until they leave, complete a purchase or abandon the site or app.

Journey maps typically provide a bird’s eye view of the customer journey stages – the behaviors customers exhibit, what they’re engaging with on a page or screen, the actions they’re taking (or not taking) and where they’re struggling to move forward.

These insights help you understand which areas of the site or app may need more or different information or functionality, learn where errors occur and identify opportunities to increase conversion or decrease the time it takes to close.

Creating an effective and accurate journey map requires a large volume of data and highly detailed analytics to identify customers' most common journeys when purchasing a specific item or service. Using data to create a practical customer journey is vital for optimizing the experience users have with your brand.

What is a digital customer journey map?

A digital customer journey map is a visual representation of the various stages a customer goes through while interacting with a business or brand online. It illustrates the different touchpoints and channels a customer uses during their journey, from initial awareness and consideration to making a purchase and beyond.

Differences between customer journey maps and digital customer journey maps

while a customer journey map covers the customer's entire journey, both offline and online, a digital customer journey map narrows down the focus to the digital touchpoints and channels. The digital customer journey map provides a more detailed view of the customer's online interactions, allowing businesses to optimize their digital strategies and deliver a seamless and personalized digital experience.

Benefits of customer journey maps

Using customer experience performance data and digital business metrics in customer journey touchpoints can assist you in these ways and more.

Gain a deeper understanding of your prospects

Create a new customer base by defining your target market and identifying specific customer personas. Personas are fictional characters that you create based on your research that represent the different types of people that might use your service, product, site or brand similarly.

Increasing your understanding of your target market and the different buyer personas will help you understand the entire customer journey and optimize touchpoints to improve your customer’s experience. If you're creating your first journey map, choose your most common customer persona and consider the route they would typically take when engaging with your business for the first time.

Make proactive customer service a priority

Proactive customer service delivers personalized experiences that make clients feel special. It shows that you focus on their needs first and care about providing the best website journey possible. Customer journey mapping allows you to collect data and turn it into insights and activities that can positively and proactively impact your customer relationships.

Improve customer retention rates

Many successful businesses use a journey map to see exactly where and why they lose customers in the customer lifecycle. It makes it easier to identify what is causing customer churn. Your organization can remove the roadblocks causing customers to take their business elsewhere. By identifying and combating customer churn, you can improve customer retention and increase revenue to the bottom line.

Optimize the customer brand experience

When you adopt a customer-focused mentality, you’ll have a better idea of how to optimize the customer experience with your brand. You can use customer journey software tools to collect data across your website. Mobile apps help you assess the customer experience and improve it without direct customer input. Knowing what the website and mobile app experience are like for your customers gives you the valuable information you need to begin the optimization process.

Eliminate ineffective touchpoints

Some customer journey touchpoints are more effective than others. Using customer experience analytics to diagnose and improve the effectiveness of a website or mobile application by capturing, visualizing and analyzing the specific aspects of the digital experience that work or don’t work. By eliminating points of frustration, struggle and abandonment, you can improve the customer experience, build loyalty and differentiate your company and your brand. It’s a powerful opportunity to delight customers and ensure that your business thrives regardless of the macro environment.

Better predict customer behavior

A customer journey map that visually represents the customers’ experience helps predict customer behavior. The insights can help you identify all the customer's touchpoints with your company and show you how customers react when they reach that touchpoint. Armed with this knowledge, you can better predict sales and improve conversion rates, which drive additional revenue.

Types of customer journey maps

Four significant journey maps can help you understand various scenarios your customer may encounter. The four are current state, future state, day in the Life and service blueprint. You probably won’t need or want to chart all four journey maps, but it doesn’t hurt to understand each one, depending on your objectives.

Current state journey maps

A current state map should help you make incremental improvements based on how your customer interacts with your brand today. Current state journey mapping mainly focuses on identifying and problem solving the various pain points throughout the customer journey, from initial contact to repeated use. This process draws mainly on customers as we know them: relying on their existing behaviors, thoughts and emotions.

Future state journey maps

Future-state journey maps visualize the best case, ideal state journey for an existing product or a journey for a product that doesn't exist yet. The process lets you explore various potential experiences and identify viable strategies for delivering the best possible journey to your customers. A future state journey map can serve as visual inspiration for the organization and may be valuable during resource and capabilities planning.

Day in the life journey maps

Day in the life journey maps help paint a more detailed image of your customer or prospect by helping you discover what customers think, feel, see, hear and do about your business. For example, a day in the life journey map can tell you if your customer checks Instagram first when they wake up or goes straight to the news. The more you know about your customers, the better chance you can uncover ways to meet their changing needs.

Service blueprint vs. journey maps

Although journey maps and service blueprints are conceptually similar, there are some key differences: Journey Maps are more commonly used in user experience (UX) design, whereas service blueprints are used in appraising customer experience (CX). A service blueprint diagram visualizes the relationships between different service components that are directly tied to touchpoints (people, product, process) in a specific customer journey.

Stages of the customer journey

Understanding your customer makes it possible for you to create a much better user experience for your product. High customer satisfaction leads to less churn or increased customer retention, positively impacting the bottom line.

There are five stages of the customer journey—awareness/discovery, consideration, purchase, retention and advocacy. Understanding these stages will help you build a more compelling user map.

Awareness/discovery: The awareness/discovery stage is where a user first encounters your brand but may not be ready to buy. The potential prospect is looking for a solution to a problem. Some consider this the information gathering stage. Generally, consumers become familiar with brands through various channels, including advertising and recommendations from others. Creating customer awareness depends on reaching them at the right moment, and on the right platform, at the right time.

Consideration: The second stage involves consideration. Thoughts become concrete and specific considerations emerge. The user knows what the solution is to their problem, but they don’t know where to go to solve it. Prospects are weighing their options. You need to convince them you have exactly the product, service or process they need and that it’s better than the alternatives. People in this customer journey stage are looking for the right brand signals. This is where having a powerful brand pays off.

Purchase: By now, your prospect has done their research and compared options, and now they are ready to decide whether or not to buy something from your business. If they choose not to buy, their journey with your business ends. This is the time to encourage the customer to act by highlighting reviews and testimonials or providing value by instilling confidence and making it easy to purchase from you.

Retention: You probably already know that it’s far easier and cheaper to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one. You’ve worked hard to gain the customer’s trust and turn them into a buyer, so it’s worth working hard to maintain it. Keep in touch with your customers. Surveys and feedback are invaluable resources that will help you stay relevant to continue to meet their needs.

Advocacy: When customers have a positive experience, they may become true evangelists for your brand. Advocates are more than just repeat buyers. Brand advocates are customers willing to refer new customers by persuading them to try your products using one of the most powerful marketing tools in the book—word-of-mouth referrals.

How to create a customer journey map in six steps

Customer journey maps should be actionable, measurable and dynamic. The best maps offer a six-step proven framework that helps ensure that your efforts are successful and that your team is on the same page.

1. Set clear objectives and goals for the map

Start by asking and answering questions about the reason and intent of your journey map. Why are you making a customer journey map? What are your goals? What experience will it examine? Which type of customer will it follow? Which business processes will it relate to, who will benefit from it and how? Once you have decided on specific and measurable objectives, you can use them to profile personas.

2. Conduct buyer research

Research the business’ buyer persona and behavior. Buyer personas are a proven way to drive sales and significantly boost ROI. The most crucial reason to get your personas right is to improve customer experiences. A well-constructed persona results in more effective marketing and sales.

Evaluate your products and services from your persona’s point of view. The strongest buyer personas are based on market research and insights you gather from your existing customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.). Some valuable strategies include collecting customer feedback, conducting user testing, creating questionnaires, searching customer complaint logs, looking on social media, etc. Understanding your target audience and what motivates them to purchase your product or service is key to success.

So, where do you start? What questions do you ask? Who is your ideal customer? What do they want? What are their pain points? How did the customer find out about your business? What made them choose your business over competitors?

3. Choose which customer personas you want to target

How many buyer personas does your business need? Large corporations with a broad customer base may have as many as twenty buyer personas. At the same time, businesses that offer a particular service like high-tech software may only ever need one. However, most businesses are likely to have three to four buyer personas. It’s ok to start small and add more personas as necessary based on the data you’ve gathered.

4. List out all your customer touchpoints

A customer touchpoint is any time a consumer interacts with your brand, whether through an employee, a website, an advertisement or mobile app. The experiences consumers have with those touchpoints can shape how they view your company. Each is an excellent chance to wow customers with experiences that will transform them into loyal evangelists.

In a customer journey map, different companies rarely have the same touchpoints. For example, in retail, a buyer’s journey could include touchpoints like ads, a visit to a website where they’re directed through a sales funnel or a visit to a store where there’s human interaction. If you offer subscription software, your touchpoints might be an ad, a marketing team, a sales rep, an onboarding team and a technical support team. In any case, your touchpoint map should include customer support and customer feedback.

Some examples of touchpoints are:

  • Advertising (including digital, out of home, print)
  • Social media
  • Website
  • Welcome/thank you emails
  • Physical stores
  • Customer service (cashier, contact center, sales rep)
  • Product reviews
  • Subscription renewals
  • Influencer recommendations
  • Peer reviews
  • Point of sale
  • Customer onboarding
  • Physical and digital events

Match touchpoints to actions, emotions, motivations, hurdles and pain points

Once you’ve figured out your prospect's touchpoints, digital or otherwise, associate each touchpoint with action, emotion, obstacle or pain point.

Actions

After you lay out the stages of your customer’s journey map, ask yourself what the customer is doing at each one of the stages. Actions can also refer to the number of activities your customers may need to take to achieve their goals, for example, buying a product but needing to click through several different menus.

Some actions that result from customer touchpoints might include:

  • Downloading an eBook
  • Clicking on your FAQ
  • Requesting a demo or call
  • Subscribing to your blog
  • Clicking a paid ad

Emotions and motivations

Each action customers take results from emotion, and these emotions change throughout their journey. What will encourage your customers (or discourage them) from moving to the next stage? What kinds of emotions do they feel in each one of the stages? Pain points or problems usually influence emotions, so figuring out solutions to these can positively impact emotions.

Obstacles and pain points

Obstacles or pain points stop your customers from acting. What kinds of obstacles do customers confront in each of the stages? Is cost a factor? The return policy? Think about anything that might cause the customer to give up and not complete the sales cycle at any point in the customer journey. By identifying these pain points, highlighting them and then offering solutions in the customer journey, you can help to mitigate hurdles.

Make listening to customers a top priority

Understanding your users' digital experience and optimizing your most essential touchpoints can make or break a deal. Use customer feedback to develop an in-depth understanding of your customers. Implement a system to help you collect feedback, analyze it and act on it regularly.

5. Go through the customer journey yourself

All your internal employees should go through the customer journey, behaving like genuine buyers. This will help uncover any flaws or frustrations throughout the journey. Use your observations to take notes, make corrections and analyze future data.

6. Make necessary changes and implement

When a customer journey ends unexpectedly, assess how and why a potential customer drops off your site or mobile app. Always be willing to refresh or revise a strategy once it is no longer working to help you achieve your goals, and be on the lookout for new strengths and opportunities as they emerge.

What were they experiencing that was not aligned with their expectations or purpose for engaging with your company? Reviewing what happened during the customer journey can help spotlight trends that disappointed customers. Look into what marketing factors attract your ideal potential customer and what don’t and adjust accordingly. Look for and fix the inefficiencies and technical issues like broken links. Plan to continually review and improve the customer journey, especially when new products, features or services are rolled out. And never stop analyzing the data!

Customer journey tools put a framework around the process

Customer journey mapping tools—also known as user journey mapping tools— are digital tools that collect and present quantitative and qualitative data about how users interact with your product or website so you can better understand your buyer persona. A digital customer journey mapping tool can also support your IT department’s troubleshooting process.

Customer journey map examples & templates

Glassbox Augmented Journey Map™

Visualize, observe, analyze and elevate your digital customer journey with Glassbox Augmented Journey Map™ for web and native mobile apps. Get a real-time, comprehensive and multi-dimensional view of the customer journey. Increase engagement and maximize conversions automatically, with no need for tagging.

With a quick look at the Augmented Journey Map, you’ll spot any conversion drops, visitor struggles or system errors on your website or app. And more importantly, you’ll understand the reasons for these issues, with AI revealing how an experience at one stage of the journey can impact later behavior.

Every dimension and KPI is presented in a user-friendly, interactive visualization. That includes the audience, acquisition, traffic type, referral, attribution, engagement, errors, visitor struggles and conversion rate. Slice and dice the maps any way you like to immediately find, isolate and fix issues—even if they happened during a previous step. View a demo.

Lucidchart

Lucidchart is a visual workspace that combines diagramming, data visualization and collaboration to accelerate understanding and drive innovation. With customizable templates and extensive formatting options, this customer journey software lets you easily visualize and share your findings, helping you target specific personas, increase customer engagement and ultimately increase your organization’s revenue. Try it free.

Smaply

Smaply is customer journey mapping software. Like others on this list, they offer a range of pre-built assets to help map out customer pain points across Google, social media and more. Try Smaply for free.

FlowMapp

FlowMapp offers dedicated tools for several user experience deliverables, including customer journey maps. They offer pre-built blocks for every section of the journey map. They also offer the ability to easily integrate any personas you’ve created on the platform into your maps. The FlowMapp website offers a very accessible user demo project, so you can see the tool in action without submitting an email address. Get a free FlowMapp account.

Google Slides

Stay in sync in your slides with effortless sharing and real-time editing with Google Slides. Use comments and assign action items to build your ideas together. With easy-to-use presenter view, speaker notes and live captions, Slides makes presenting your ideas a breeze.

Slides are thoughtfully connected to other Google apps, saving time for Google users. Embed charts from Google Sheets or reply to comments directly from Gmail. You can search the web and Google Drive for relevant content and images directly from Slides.

Easily edit Microsoft PowerPoint presentations online without converting them, and layer on Slides’ enhanced collaborative and assistive features like comments, action items and Smart Compose.

Gliffy

Gliffy is a web-based diagramming tool in the Atlassian suite of products (makers of Jira and Trello). This tool can map customer touchpoints but is aimed at highly technical users. It has Amazon Web Services symbols built into its default icon pack to help create visually correct technical diagrams. If you don’t know what that means, you’re probably not the target user for Gliffy. But if you’re highly technical and are just starting your UX journey, Gliffy should be on your shortlist. Try Gliffy for free.

Conceptboard

Conceptboard is a visual collaboration workplace that provides an infinite digital whiteboard for collaboration and diagramming. The user interface is simple, with only a few buttons, which keeps the focus on whatever you create. The Conceptboard team offers a free customer journey mapping template, though the supporting assets such as images and icons aren’t as robust as other options on this list. The base plan is free and allows unlimited boards.

Many analytics tools map your customer's journey across your website and mobile app. But showing what they are doing is only the first step. Understanding why they behave this way is the key to prioritizing your efforts and driving conversion, revenue and customer satisfaction gains.

In this on-demand webinar, you will learn about real-world examples and how you can use them to understand customer behavior.

Learn more about customer journey mapping

Are you looking to understand your customer journey on a deeper level? See how Customer Journey Analytics can allow you to deep dive into a customer’s behaviors and actions.

Learn more about Customer Journey Analytics
FAQs

Check out the customer journey maps FAQs if you’re short on time or are looking for a quick cheat sheet on the topic.

What is a customer journey map?

Customer journey maps visually show all the steps customers take from the time they begin interacting with a company until the end of their journey. Journey maps provide a view into the customer journey stages – the behaviors customers exhibit, what they’re engaging with on a page or screen, the actions they’re taking (or not taking) and where they’re struggling to move forward.

What are the benefits of customer journey maps?

Customer journey maps provide many business benefits, such as helping companies:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of prospects
  • Make proactive customer service a priority
  • Improve customer retention rates
  • Optimize the customer brand experience
  • Eliminate ineffective touchpoints
  • Better predict customer behavior
What are the stages of the customer journey?

The five stages of the customer journey are awareness/discovery, consideration, purchase, retention and advocacy. Understanding these stages will help you build a more compelling user map.

How do you create a customer journey map?

The six steps below outline how to get started in creating a customer journey map:

  • Set clear objectives and goals for the map
  • Conduct buyer research
  • Choose which customer personas you want to target
  • List out all of your customer touchpoints
  • Go through the customer journey yourself
  • Make necessary changes and implement them