Table of contents
To put it simply, a customer journey map is a visual map that represents the process your target audience member goes through to complete a particular action. This action could be a purchase of your products or services (in which case, the person becomes your customer), a subscription to your newsletter, joining your loyalty program, and so on. Virtually, it can be any action you want the person to complete.
I want to stress that a customer journey map is a visual representation of this process (for visualisation, I like using either Canva or Piktochart, depending on map complexity) – and not anything else. You may already have a checklist somewhere detailing which steps your customer goes through before making a purchase, but that is not a customer journey map. A customer journey map is meant to be visual because that’s what allows you to better understand what your customers go through.
The process of customer journey mapping includes this initial outlining phase, where you make a checklist of the steps your customers go through to perform a particular action at the end. But it also includes the phase when you turn this checklist into a diagram, a visual representation of your customer journey. Your customer journey map covers everything from key events in the journey to the motivations of your customers.
When you understand how your customer journey plays out, you are able to set up the necessary touchpoints that your customers will have to go through to get to the endpoint, the goal you set for them. If you see that your current customers aren’t reaching the goal, then they are probably missing certain touchpoints in their journeys.
One thing I believe every beginner thinks about customer journey mapping is that this journey is fairly linear and easy to map. This is not true. The journeys your customers go through are usually non-linear, cyclical, and even multi-channel. To make an accurate customer journey map, you will need to consider all these aspects of the journey. Moreover, different types of customers in your target audience will have different customer journeys.
While you will certainly have to create multiple customer journey maps for your business (for the different segments of your target audience), you will also be working with the different types of customer journey maps. Some of these are more common, while you may not even have to use others once. Nevertheless, it’s important to know that these different types of customer journey maps exist and can be used in different situations.
2.1 Current state
By far the most common type of customer journey map is the current state type. These customer journey maps are popular because they are pretty much the starting point, the most essential type of customer journey map. As the name suggests, such maps work with the current data you have about your customers – their actions, thoughts, and emotions as they are in the current setup of your customer journey. Creating a current state map will show you the issues your customer journey has at the moment that needs to be changed or improved.
2.2 Future state
Future State customer journey maps follow a similar template to the one used in the Current State type maps. They also work with customer actions, thoughts, and emotions, but instead of focusing on the now, you are visualising the future. This type of map is often used to help visualise what you want your customer journey to be like after you have made the necessary changes (that were visible with the Current State map). It’s an excellent way to visualise your short-term and long-term strategic goals.
2.3 Day in the life
Unlike Current State and Future State types, the Day in the Life type of map doesn’t focus on your customers’ activities precisely in interaction with your company. Such maps take the current actions, thoughts, and emotions of your customers that they experience daily, whether they are related to your business in some way. While at first, this type can seem unnecessary, it actually gives you a better picture of what your customers’ lives are like. This, in turn, allows you to see the pain points that your customers might not even be noticing themselves. And once you know about these pain points, it will be much easier to address them with the products and services you provide.
2.3 Service blueprint
The last common type of customer journey maps is the Service Blueprint type. Most of the time, such maps take one of the three previous types and simplifies it to use it as a foundation. Then, different factors are layered onto it to understand why your current customer journeys are the way they are. These factors can include people, technologies, processes, and policies that your customers experience. The Service Blueprint maps are best used for identifying the causes or the “backstory” of your customers so that you can then use this data to craft and adjust your customer journeys the way you want them to go.
Service Blueprint. Source: Behance
As experts from the online paper writing services put it, “Customer journey maps follow a particular structure at the outlining stage. You can, of course, change the order of some parts, but you shouldn’t skip any of them. When you start visualising the map, skipping important parts can end up with large gaps or holes that you will need to ultimately fill out with valuable information about your customers and their journeys.”
Here’s what you should include in your customer journey map:
3.1 Customer personas
Customer personas are the detailed profiles of the kinds of customers your target audience consists of. Usually, you will want to have a single customer persona for a single customer journey you map. However, there could be times when several customer personas could have the same (or a very similar) journey. Whatever the case is for the specific map you are crafting, you should always create at least a single customer persona for it (or rather, the other way round). Start by collecting data about your current and potential customers. You need both demographic and psychographic data, so the more customer characteristics you cover, the more detailed your personas could be.
3.2 Purchase journey
Also known as the “Buying Process”, the purchase journey is another important part of your customer journey map. The purchase journey consists of the stages your customers go through to make a purchase. This is a tool used commonly by businesses of all types and sizes, so you might not be a stranger to it. But when it comes to customer journey mapping, it is just a part of the bigger picture. The Purchase Journey deals solely with purchases, but the customer journey map goes beyond that – though, both map customer actions and thoughts. The typical Purchase Journey goes from awareness to consideration to purchase to retention to advocacy.
Awareness is the stage at which a person becomes aware of your brand’s existence and becomes a prospect.
Consideration is the stage where you attempt to persuade the prospect to make a purchase (for example, through instructional videos or retargeting ad campaigns).
Purchase is the stage where the potential customer finally makes a purchase (of your product or service) and becomes your existing (current) customer.
Retention is where you turn your new customer into a returning one. Remember that having returning customers is cheaper than trying to get new ones, so this stage is essential.
Advocacy is when your returning customers actively promote your brand and your products or services. This is the final stage, which is not reached by many customers.
Now you’re getting to the details of your customer journey map. Customer actions, thoughts, emotions, and pain points are all important, but it’s worth looking at them separately first before they can make up a complete picture. Customer Actions are exactly what your customers do at different points in their customer journey and, coincidentally, during the Purchase Journey as well. For instance, at the Awareness stage, a customer could find out about your brand via social media by seeing an ad from the campaign you launched. At a different stage, your customer could be surfing your website, and yet at a different stage, they could be adding your products to their to-buy list. Writing all of these actions down allows you to guide your customers to the goal, i.e. the final action they should make.
3.4 Thoughts and emotions
As mentioned above, the thoughts and emotions of your customers are just as important because they are the ones guiding the customers’ actions. In a way, the thoughts and emotions of your customers will also undergo a transformation. This is called the customer’s emotional journey and can be used just as much as the purchase journey. Essentially, you need to write down your customers’ thoughts and emotions, just like you did with their actions. It will be more difficult to track these to check whether you are right with your assumptions, but you can still have regular customer surveys to assess your audience’s thoughts and emotions at different points in their journeys.
3.5 Pain points and solutions
Last but not least, you need to think about the Pain Points of your customers and the Solutions you will be offering. Your products or services need to directly address these points and solve the problems your customers have. Pain points and solutions are also elements of the Purchase Journey, so you will find that many things from it can already be used in your customer journey map. Remember to use the Service Blueprint customer journey map template to identify various pain points that your customers might not be aware of. This will help you create the best offer and provide the best solution to your customers.
So, what are the best practices of customer journey mapping? To start off, everything you’ve written so far when structuring and outlining your customer journey map needs to be used to create touchpoints for this map. Touchpoints are the different points throughout your customer journey map where your customer performs a particular action and/or forms an opinion about your business.
Touchpoints are needed to make sure that your customers are moving through their respective journeys correctly. Moreover, touchpoints can help you identify problematic stages in your customer journey maps that need improvement, both in terms of actions and in terms of thoughts and emotions. Besides working on your touchpoints, there are a few other best practices you should stick to:
Set clear objectives: Before you even start working on your customer journey map, you should set clear objectives for it. What is the point of this map? And what is the end goal of the customer going through the journey outlined in this map?
Always create personas: There’s not enough stressing just how important it is that you always create personas for your customers. Use different types of data and update personas regularly with up-to-date information.
Work across different channels: As mentioned earlier, customer journey maps will usually be multi-channel, which is why you need to work across different channels rather than solely sticking to a handful of them. Channels could be both online and offline, from social media to direct mail.
Use resources wisely: To make your customer journey map work correctly, you need to assess the resources you have now and the ones you need to execute your plans. If you don’t have the necessary resources yet, simplify your customer journey map and work with what you currently have.
Test your Customer Journey Map: Last but not least, the best way to know whether your map works, is by actually testing it out. Do just that, and make the necessary changes to your map. You can also update the map after new product launches, major changes to your brand, and so on.
To wrap everything up, you don’t need to know absolutely everything about customer journey mapping. I am definitely not the most authoritative expert in this field, but even with the knowledge I have now, I am able to use customer journey mapping to great success.
In other words, this detailed guide will already set you on the right path to mastering customer journey mapping. A lot of the knowledge you need comes with experience, so use this technique often, and you will be able to perfect it.