Fundamentals of Digital Marketing
By the end of this chapter, you will be able to:
- Explain what a customer journey is
- Develop insights across the entire customer journey / lifecycle
- Describe the benefits of a customer journey
What is a Customer Journey Map?
In our customer-centric world, providing a superior customer experience (CX) is a priority for any organization pursuing real success. Today’s organizations are doing everything they can to better understand their customers. Whether your brand is business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C); a start-up or corporation; global or local, providing exceptional customer experience is a must. One of the best ways to get to know your target audience is by walking in their shoes and mapping each and every interaction you share. This is where the customer journey map comes in.
A customer journey map is a visualization of an end-to-end customer experience. It’s essentially a visual narrative that allows you to understand each process your customer encounters with your organization, spanning each step from their initial engagement to, hopefully, a long-term relationship. As Matthew Fairweather, director of Matthew Fairweather Ltd., has stated:
Customer journey mapping is really a mixture of art and insight … But that’s just a visual aid. The real work in journey mapping is using all of the customer information and data available to you from across the business and delivering a process and structure to their experience.
A great customer journey map should highlight how your customers discover, research, purchase, interact, and even promote your offerings. One of the easiest places to start is by outlining all the touch points your organizations has with its target audience. In the graphic below, the touch points are listed in the boxes and represent customer interactions as they move through each of the stages. And, as you can see, these touch points can be either online or offline.
Simply stated, a customer journey usually includes the following five stages:
A prospective customer learns about an organization, product, or service. In this initial stage, marketers create awareness through ads, events, articles, or other content
A relationship develops between the prospective customer and the organization via several, positive interactions. This is achieved by nurturing leads with targeted content., e.g., on social media, through email marketings, or other events / owned media.
The prospective customer decides to buy a product or service from the organization. By presenting a unique value proposition and creating a sense of urgency, e.g., special offers, marketers can help prospective customers convert.
The customer has a strong and loyal relationship with the organization and becomes a regular customer or active user. While often the domain of customer support or customer success, marketers can assist by providing the appropriate training materials, support, and resources to ensure customers are satisfied and stay.
A regular customer is satisfied with the organization’s products and/or services and recommends them to others. To create advocates, organizations must deliver compelling experiences worthy of sharing. To support these experiences, marketers can can provide ready-to-share content.
Please note that depending on your organization, you may choose to rename some of the stages from above or perhaps even break up a stage into multiple stages. For example, if you are in HR and mapping the “customer journey” for recruiting new employees, “Conversion” could be changed to “Application Submitted” and “Engagement” might be broken up into First interview, Second Interview, etc. So, feel free to tweak the specific names and number of stages to best fit your organizational processes. But do make sure that you are capturing all the steps in your target audience’s journey.
In addition to specific stages and touchpoints, a great customer journey map also includes additional information and details. Here are six more areas to consider when building a comprehensive customer journey map:
- Customer’s Perspective
When you build your customer journey map, ensure that you are mapping and presenting everything truly from the customer’s perspective. This is a great opportunity to use the customer personas that you have created to closely map out their customer journeys. Organize the stages to reflect the conversion process from your customer’s (or customer persona’s) perspective, as opposed to your own internal processes. This can often include aspects out of your direct control, such as social media influences, web searches, and steps your customers take even before you enter the picture.
- Customer’s Thoughts, Emotions, Pain Points, and Goals
For every stage of your customer journey map, write out what your customers are thinking, contemplating, feeling (even fearing), struggling with, and what they hope to accomplish. This will help you, as an organization, meet and address those specific needs. Here are a few examples:
- Customer Thoughts
Customer thoughts represent what customers are thinking at a specific stage of their customer journey. Examples include:
- I hope I can find _____?
- Is this organization credible?
- How do I use _____?
- Is there support post-purchase?
- How does ____ compare to other offerings in the market?
- How much does it cost?
- How long will it take to get it?
- Customer Feelings
Customer feelings reflect what customers might be feeling at a specific stage of their customer journey. Examples include:
- Excited – often at the beginning when a “solution” is a possibility
- Curious – usually at some point when doing research or trying to find out more information
- Confused – for complex or complicated products / services
- Hopeful – perhaps after purchase, but before using the product / service
- Impressed – post-purchase
- Frustrated – when things go wrong
- Overwhelmed – too much information
(For visualization purposes, emotions are sometimes represented by emojis.)
- Customer Pain Points
Customer pain points are specific problems that prospective or existing customers are experiencing at a specific stage in their customer journey. Examples include:
- ____ takes too much time. (process pain point)
- ____ is too complex and I don’t understand how to use it. (product/service pain point)
- I can’t find the information I need. (accessibility pain point)
- I can’t connect with the appropriate person. (support pain point)
- It’s too expensive. (financial pain point)
- Customer Goals
Customer goals highlight what a customer is looking to accomplish at a specific stage of their customer journey. Examples include:
- I want to find out how much it costs.
- I want to solve “this” problem.
- I want to learn about _____.
- I want to buy ____
- Customer Thoughts
- Customer Activities
What does the customer actually do at every step along the customer journey?
As you review each stage of your customer journey, think about what content (articles, FAQs, video, white papers, videos, training materials, etc.) you need to provide to address the customer’s issues.
The length of a customer experience provides important context. Does a typical stage last minutes, days, weeks, or months? How long does your customer remain in a specific stage? A great journey map recognizes that this information is essential and takes time into consideration.
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) / Data Collected
At each stage, the organization should think about what data it will collect, measure, evaluate. What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that show the organization is performing well (or not) in meeting the target audience’s needs at that specific stage? Often organizations will focus on high-level KPIs and outcomes, but by creating KPIs for each stage, an organization can better identify where in the customer journey things are either performing well or not.
Once mapped out, where are the gaps and the possibilities? The main purpose of any customer journey map is to improve your customers’ experiences and satisfaction. Given all of the above considerations, where is there room for improvement or new opportunities?
If you want to see some very good, visual examples, please read the following articles, Nine Sample Customer Journey Maps – And What We Can Learn from Them and 144 Best Customer Journey Map Templates and Examples.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of customer journeys. To better complete your customer personas and customer journeys, you will need to collect and analyze lots of data about your customers. This customer research is critical to the accuracy, precision, and validity of these tools. While the goal of these tools is to improve the customer experience and to make better customer-focused decisions, if the underlying data is not appropriate, recent, and/or accurate, your entire analysis may be flawed. So, if you are planning to use customer personas and customer journey maps as a strategic, decision-making tool, do make sure you have the appropriate data to support it.
Here is a YouTube video (6 mins), Customer Journey Map Workshop, that does a nice job explaining how data, customer personas, and customer journeys work together:
Benefits of a Mapped Customer Journey
Now that you have a more detailed understanding of what a customer journey is and how to track customers as they move through their customer journeys, let’s talk about why you should map the customer journey:
- Consistency of touchpoints across the entire organization
Similar to the customer persona, customer journeys are a valuable tool in understanding your customers and the various touch points across the entire organization. Customer journeys provide a holistic view of your customers and also highlight how the various departments and teams can work together to create a more seamless customer experience. Furthermore, organizations can use a customer journey to ensure consistency across the entire customer journey and a more consistent customer experience.
- Deeper understanding of customers
As mentioned previously, your customer journey should include your customer needs, wants, pain points, and preferences at each specific stage of the journey. By identifying these characteristics, organizations can better provide support, content, and services to address these very needs, wants, pain points, and preferences.
- Closer and stronger customer relationships
Organizations with detailed customer journeys tend to develop closer and more meaningful customer relationships because they know exactly what customers need, when they need it, and where / how they need it. This level of personalization and customer care translates into more loyal customers and ones that often turn into brand advocates.
- Tailored and timely communications
From a marketing communications perspective, knowing what to communicate, when to communicate it, and through which specific channels ensures that marketers are optimizing their return on marketing activities and investments. These activities deliver more personalized and targeted messaging, which can resonate more with target audiences and customer personas.
- More targeted product development
As we mentioned, customer journeys are also a great tool in identifying product or service development opportunities. For these development teams, customer journeys can identify areas where an organization might introduce new products and/or new ways to improve existing products and services to better serve your target audiences. In other words, customer journeys are not just about marketing but about the overarching organizational customer experience.
- Improved identification of cross and up-selling opportunities
From a sales perspective, customer journey maps identify those opportunities to create cross and up-selling opportunities that are complementary. Remember that this should not be the sole focus of your customer journey. However, there are times when complementary products or services will significantly improve the customer experience. Customer journey maps can serve as strategic tools in uncovering these opportunities.
Customer Journey Optimization
While customer journey maps are helpful in identifying new opportunities, they also allow organizations to quickly identify areas to optimize and/or automate processes or communications based on the data. In building your customer journey maps, it is critical to think about the key data that you will collect along the journey and how that data can help in making better organizational decisions. In other words, your customer journey map should always include the key data and analytics that you plan to collect and evaluate at each stage of your journey. By closely analyzing customer journey data, organizations can better assess how customers move from one touchpoint to another and how to make incremental improvements to the customer journey and customer experience.
A customer journey map is both a discovery and strategic organizational tool. In developing a customer journey map, organizations may discover areas that need improvement or can be supported better. However, a customer journey map can also be used to prioritize which target audiences to pursue or serve better.
- A customer journey map is a visualization of an end-to-end customer experience.
- A customer journey map covers the customer experience across multiple stages, from awareness through to advocacy. It does not stop at the point of conversion, e.g., purchase.
- For each stage, a customer journey map should include the following:
- Customer’s Perspective
- Customer’s Thoughts, Emotions, Pain Points, and Goals
- Customer Activities
- KPIs & Data Collected
- Not only can mapping the customer journey improve sales, it should also improve the overall customer experience leading to happier and more loyal customers.
Here are some articles and online tools for developing your customer journey:
- Nine Sample Customer Journey Maps – And What We Can Learn from Them
- 144 Best Customer Journey Map Templates and Examples
- 25 Tools to Create Stunning Customer Journey Maps (Templates Included)
Depending on your needs and complexities of your customer journeys, there are several ways to map your customer journey. Here are a few examples and options:
- Whiteboards and Post-Its
Sometimes the easiest and simplest option is to get everyone together in a room and use a whiteboard and post-its to brainstorm and map our a customer journey. The Post-Its allow you move ideas around and can make creating a first version much easier. If you want to do something online / virtually, there are many free online whiteboard and collaboration tools such as Padlet, Miro, Lucidspark, and Ayoa that allow groups to perform activities like these online.
- Excel or PowerPoint Templates
Depending on how much real-time collaboration you want, you can also create customer journeys simply using Excel or PowerPoint. There are websites that will sell you inexpensive PPT templates or you can simply search for free customer journey templates online. That said, here is an Excel customer journey template as a starting point.
- Online Customer Journey Mapping Tools & Technologies
As mentioned in our Customer Persona Chapter, there are a several online services like Smaply and Flow Mapp. If you are looking for tools that can incorporate data from other databases / services and apply machine learning to that data, check out Mnemonic AI, and Delve AI, which combine customer personas with the customer journey mapping process:
- Mnemonic AI
Mnemonic AI analyses publicly available data and internal data and extracts the crucial insights to generate personas for your product, service, or organization. Mnemonic AI can import your internal data such as surveys, interviews, CRM, email analytics, web analytics, and call logs, as well as leverage external data such as social media, reviews, and third party research.
- Delve AI
Create data-driven personas and customer journeys for your organization using your Google Analytics data. Delve AI also offers competitor personas and a variety of B2C and B2B industry-specific comparisons.
- Mnemonic AI
- Customer journey map – example by Rochelle Grayson is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.
- Customer Journey Map Workshop by PlaybookUX is under a Standard YouTube License.
- Customer journey touchpoints by Rochelle Grayson is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.
- Conversion funnel with descriptions by Rochelle Grayson is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.