Did you know nearly 70% of online shoppers abandoned their carts in 2021? Why would a customer spend hours looking through a store and adding products to their cart just to close the tab right at the last second?
Well, here’s the thing — understanding your customers’ minds can be extremely challenging.
And even when you think you’ve considered every possible factor, the journey from awareness to purchase for each customer will always be unpredictable, at least to some level.
That said, while it isn’t possible to predict the customer journey with 100% accuracy, customer and user experience (UX) journey mapping will allow you to understand as much as possible.
This post will explain everything you need to know about customer journey mapping — what it is, how to create a journey map, and best practices.
Table of Contents
- What is the customer journey?
- What is a customer journey map?
- The Customer Journey Mapping Process
- What’s included in a customer journey map?
- Steps for Creating a Customer Journey Map
- Types of Customer Journey Maps
- Customer Journey Map Best Practices
- Benefits of Customer Journey Mapping
- Customer Journey Map Examples
- Free Customer Journey Map Templates
What is the customer journey?
The customer journey is the entire buying experience from pre-purchase to post-purchase.
It covers the path from the customer’s awareness of an existing pain point to becoming a product or service user.
In other words, buyers don’t wake up and decide to buy on a whim. They go through a process to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and decide to purchase a new product or service.
For example, the typical Hubspot customer’s journey is divided into 3 stages — pre-purchase/sales, onboarding/migration, and normal use/renewal.
Then, within each stage, there are several “moments” such as comparing tools, sales negotiations, technical setup, and so on.
What is a customer journey map?
A customer journey map is a visual representation of the customer’s experience with a company. It also provides insight into the needs of potential customers at every stage of this journey and the factors that directly or indirectly motivate or inhibit their progress.
The business can then use this information to improve the customer’s experience, increase conversions, and boost customer retention.
Free Customer Journey Map Template
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What is UX journey mapping?
A UX journey map represents how the customer experiences their journey toward achieving a specific goal or completing a particular action.
For example, the term “UX journey mapping” can be used interchangeably with the term “customer journey mapping” if the goal being tracked is the user’s journey toward purchasing a product or service.
However, UX journey mapping can also be used to map the journey (i.e., actions taken) towards other goals, such as using a specific product feature.
Why is customer journey mapping important?
While the customer journey might seem straightforward on the surface — the company offers a product or service, and customers buy it — for most businesses, it typically isn’t.
In reality, it is a complex journey that begins when the customer becomes problem-aware (which might be long before they become product-aware) and then moves through an intricate process of further awareness, consideration, and decision-making.
Within this process, the customer is also exposed to multiple external factors (competitor ads, reviews, etc.) and touchpoints with the company (conversations with sales reps, interacting with content, viewing product demos, etc.).
Keep in mind that 80% of customers consider their experience with a company to be as important as its products.
By mapping this journey, your marketing, sales, and service teams can understand, visualize, and gain insight into each stage of the process.
You can then decrease any friction along the way and make the journey as helpful and delightful as possible for your leads and customers.
The Customer Journey Mapping Process
Customer journey mapping is the process of creating a customer journey map — the visual representation of a company’s customer experience. It compiles a customer’s experience as they interact with a business and combines the information into a visual map.
The goal of this data gathering is not simply for the sake of the data itself but to draw insights that help you understand how your customers experience their journeys and identify the potential bottlenecks along the way.
It's also important to note that most customer journeys only sometimes happen linearly. Instead, buyers often take a back-and-forth, cyclical, multi-channel journey.
Let’s look at the stages in the customer journey.
What’s included in a customer journey map?
- The Buying Process
- User Actions
- Pain Points
1. The Buying Process
To determine your customers’ buying process, you’ll want to pull data from all relevant sources (prospecting tools, CMS, behavior analytics tools, etc.) to accurately chart your customer's path from first to last contact.
However, you can keep it simple by creating broad categories using the typical buying journey process stages — awareness, consideration, and decision — and mapping them horizontally.
2. User Actions
This element of the customer journey map details what a customer does in each stage of the buying process. For example, during the problem-awareness stage, customers might download ebooks or join educational webinars.
Essentially, you’re exploring how your customers move through and behave at each stage of their journey.
Whether the goal is big or small, it’s important to remember your customers are solving a problem. That means they’re probably feeling some emotion — whether that is relief, happiness, excitement, or worry.
Adding these emotions to the journey map can help you identify and mitigate negative emotions at various points.
4. Pain Points
Where there is a negative emotion, there’s a pain point that causes it.
Adding pain points to your customer journey map can help you identify which stage your customer is experiencing negative emotions and deduce the reason why.
As the final element in your customer journey map, solutions are where you and your team will brainstorm potential ways to improve your buying process so that customers encounter fewer pain points as they journey.
What is a touchpoint in a customer journey map?
A touchpoint in a customer journey map is an instance where your customer can form an opinion of your business. You can find touchpoints in places where your business comes in direct contact with a potential or existing customer.
For example, a display ad, an interaction with an employee, a 404 error, and even a Google review can be considered a customer touchpoint.
Your brand exists beyond your website and marketing materials, so you must consider the different types of touchpoints in your customer journey map because they can help uncover opportunities for improvement in the buying journey.
Steps for Creating a Customer Journey Map
- Set clear objectives for the map.
- Profile your personas and define their goals.
- Highlight your target customer personas.
- List out all touchpoints.
- Determine the resources you have and the ones you'll need.
- Take the customer journey yourself.
- Make the necessary changes.
1. Set clear objectives for the map.
Before you dive into UX journey mapping, you need to ask yourself why you’re creating a map in the first place.
What goals are you directing this map towards? Who is it specifically about? What experience is it based upon?
Based on this, you should create a buyer persona. This is a fictitious customer with all the demographics and psychographics representing your average customer.
Having a clear persona helps remind you to direct every aspect of your customer journey map toward them.
2. Profile your personas and define their goals.
Next, you should conduct research.
Some great ways to get valuable customer feedback are questionnaires and user testing. The important thing is to only reach out to actual customers or prospects.
You want feedback from people interested in purchasing your products and services and who have either interacted with your company or plan to do so.
Some examples of good questions to ask are:
- How did you hear about our company?
- What first attracted you to our website?
- What are the goals you want to achieve with our company? In other words, what problems are you trying to solve?
- How long have you/do you typically spend on our website?
- Have you ever made a purchase with us? If so, what was your deciding factor?
- Have you ever interacted with our website to make a purchase but decided not to? If so, what led you to this decision?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how easily can you navigate our website?
- Did you ever require customer support? If so, how helpful was it, on a scale of 1 to 10?
- Can we further support you to make your process easier?
You can use this buyer persona tool to fill in the details you procure from customer feedback.
3. Highlight your target customer personas.
Once you’ve learned about the customer personas that interact with your business, you’ll need to narrow your focus to one or two.
Remember, a UX journey map tracks the experience of a customer taking a particular path with your company — so if you group too many personas into one journey, your map won’t accurately reflect that experience.
When creating your first map, it’s best to pick your most common customer persona and consider the route they would typically take when engaging with your business for the first time.
You can use a marketing dashboard to compare each and determine the best fit for your journey map. Don’t worry about the ones you leave out, as you can always go back and create a new map specific to those customer types.
4. List out all touchpoints.
Begin by listing the touchpoints on your website.
Based on your research, you should have a list of all the touchpoints your customers are currently using and the ones you believe they should be using if there’s no overlap.
This is essential in creating a UX journey map, as it gives you insight into your customers’ actions.
If they use fewer touchpoints than expected, does this mean they are quickly getting turned away and leaving your site early?
If they are using more than expected, does this mean your website is complicated and requires several steps to reach an end goal?
Whatever the case, understanding touchpoints can help you understand the ease or difficulties of the customer journey.
Aside from your website, you also need to look at how your customer might come across you online. These might include:
- Social channels
- Paid ads
- Email marketing
- Third-party review sites or mentions
Run a quick Google search of your brand to see all the pages that mention you. Verify these by checking your Google Analytics to see where your traffic is coming from.
Whittle your list down to those touchpoints that are the most common and will be most likely to see an action associated with it.
Consider the following touchpoints as you create your UX journey map.
List your customers’ actions throughout their interaction with your brand. This might be a Google search for keywords or clicking on an email.
You may wind up with a long list of actions, and that’s fine. You’ll get a chance to rationalize your information later.
It’s important to recognize when customers are expected to take too many actions to achieve their goals. Reducing the number of steps a customer needs to take can feel risky but pays off in higher conversion rates.
Customer Emotions & Motivations
All marketing is a result of cause and effect. Likewise, every action your customers take is motivated by emotion. And your customers’ emotions will change depending on which part of their journey they’re at.
A pain point or a problem is usually the emotional driver of your customer's actions. Knowing this will help you provide the right content at the right time to smooth the customer's emotional journey through your brand.
Customer Obstacles & Pain Points
Get to know what roadblocks stop your customer from taking their desired action.
One common obstacle is cost. For example, one of your customers could love your product but abandon their cart upon discovering unexpectedly high shipping rates.
Highlighting these potential obstacles in your customer journey can help you mitigate them. For example, you could provide an FAQ page that answers common questions about shipping costs.
5. Determine the resources you have and the ones you’ll need.
Your customer journey map is going to touch on nearly every part of your business. This will highlight all the resources that go into creating the customer experience.
So taking inventory of your resources and the ones you’ll need to improve the customer’s journey is essential.
For example, maybe your map highlights that your team doesn’t have the tools to follow up with customers properly. Using your map, you can advise management to invest in customer service tools to help your team manage customer demand.
And by including these new tools in your map, you can accurately predict how they’ll impact your business and drive outsized value. This makes it much easier to convince gatekeepers and decision-makers to invest in your proposals.
6. Take the customer journey yourself.
Just because you’ve designed your map doesn’t mean your work is done. This is the most critical part of the process: analyzing the results.
How many people click on your website but then close out before making a purchase? How can you better support customers? These are some of the questions you should be able to answer with your finished map.
Analyzing the results can show you where customer needs aren’t being met.
By approaching this, you can ensure that you’re providing a valuable experience and making it clear that people can find solutions to their problems with your company’s help.
The whole exercise of mapping the customer journey remains hypothetical until you try it out yourself.
For each of your personas, follow their journey through their social media activity, reading their emails, and searching online.
7. Make the necessary changes.
Your data analysis should give you a sense of what you want your website to be.
You can then make changes to your website to achieve these goals. Perhaps this is adding more specific call-to-action links, or it’s writing longer descriptions under each product to clarify its purpose.
No matter how big or small the changes are, they will be effective as they directly correlate with what customers listed as their pain points.
Rather than blindly making changes in the hopes that they will improve customer experiences, you can feel confident that they will.
And, with the help of your visualized customer journey map, you can ensure those needs and pain points are always addressed.
How often should you update your customer journey map?
Your map should be a constant work in progress.
Reviewing it monthly or quarterly will help you identify gaps and opportunities for further streamlining your customer journey. Use your data analytics along with customer feedback to check for any roadblocks.
Keep all stakeholders involved in this process, which is why you should consider visualizing your maps in a collaborative tool such as Google Sheets.
Additionally, consider having regular meetings to analyze how new products or offerings have changed the customer journey.
Types of Customer Journey Maps and Examples
There are four customer journey maps, each with unique benefits. Depending on the specific purpose of the map, you can choose the proper one.
These customer journey maps are the most widely-used type. They visualize the actions, thoughts, and emotions your customers currently experience while interacting with your company. They are best used for continually improving the customer journey.
Day in the Life
These customer journey maps visualize the actions, thoughts, and emotions your customers currently experience in their daily activities, whether or not that includes your company.
This type gives a broader lens into your customers’ lives and what their pain points are in real life.
Day-in-the-life maps are best used for addressing unmet customer needs before customers even know they exist. Your company may use this type of customer journey map when exploring new market development strategies.
These customer journey maps visualize what actions, thoughts, and emotions your customers will experience in future interactions with your company.
Based on their current experience, you’ll have a clear picture of where your business fits in.
These maps are best used for illustrating your vision and setting clear, strategic goals.
These customer journey maps begin with a simplified version of one of the above map styles. Then, they layer on the factors responsible for delivering that experience, including people, policies, technologies, and processes.
Service blueprints are best used to identify the root causes of current customer journeys or the steps needed to attain desired future customer journeys.
Customer Journey Mapping Best Practices
- Set a goal for the journey map.
- Survey customers to understand their buying journey.
- Ask customer service reps about the questions they receive most frequently.
- Consider UX journey mapping for each buyer persona.
- Review and update each journey map after every major product release.
- Make the customer journey map accessible to cross-functional teams.
1. Set a goal for the journey map.
Determine whether you aim to improve the buying experience or launch a new product. Knowing what you need the UX journey map to tell you can prevent scope creep on a large project like this.
2. Survey customers to understand their buying journey.
What you think you know about the customer experience and what they actually experience can be very different. Speak to your customers directly, so you have an accurate snapshot of the customer’s journey.
3. Ask customer service reps about the questions they receive most frequently.
Sometimes, customers aren’t aware of their specific pain points, and that’s where your customer service reps come in.
They can help fill in the gaps and translate customer pain points into business terms you and your team can understand and act on.
4. Consider UX journey mapping for each buyer persona.
It’s easy to assume each customer operates the same way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Demographics, psychographics, and even how long someone has been a customer can determine how a person interacts with your business and makes purchasing decisions.
Group overarching themes into buyer personas and create a UX journey map for each.
5. Review and update each journey map after every major product release.
Every time your product or service changes, the customer’s buying process changes. Even slight tweaks, like adding an extra field to a form, can become a significant roadblock.
So, reviewing the customer journey map before and after implementing changes is essential.
6. Make the customer journey map accessible to cross-functional teams.
Customer journey maps aren’t very valuable in a silo. However, creating a journey map is a convenient way for cross-functional teams to provide feedback.
Afterward, make a copy of the map accessible to each team, so they always keep the customer top of mind.
Benefits of Customer Journey Mapping
You might be telling yourself, “This doesn’t seem necessary for my company or me. We understand the needs and pain points of our customers.” This may be true at surface level.
However, breaking down the customer journey phase by phase, aligning each step with a goal, and restructuring your touchpoints accordingly are essential steps toward maximizing customer success.
After all, everything you do should be about solving customer problems and helping them achieve long-term success with your product or service. See other benefits below.
1. You can refocus your company with an inbound perspective.
Rather than trying to discover your customers through outbound marketing, you can have your customers find you with the help of inbound marketing.
Outbound marketing involves tactics targeted at generalized or uninterested audiences and seeks to interrupt the customers’ daily lives. Outbound marketing is costly and inefficient. It annoys and deters customers and prospects.
Inbound marketing involves creating helpful content that customers are already looking for. You grab their attention first and focus on the sales later.
By mapping out the customer journey, you can understand what’s interesting and helpful to your customers about your company and what’s turning them away.
You can create content that will attract them to your company and keep them there.
2. You can create a new target customer base.
You need to understand the customer journey properly to understand your customers’ demographics and psychographics.
It’s a waste of time and money to repeatedly target too broad of an audience rather than people who are actually interested in your offering.
Researching the needs and pain points of your typical customers will give you a good picture of the kinds of people who are trying to achieve a goal with your company. Thus, you can hone your marketing to that specific audience.
3. You can implement proactive customer service.
A customer journey map is like a roadmap to the customer’s experience.
It shows you moments where people experience delight and situations where they might face friction. Knowing this ahead of time allows you to plan your customer service strategy and intervene at ideal times.
Proactive customer service also makes your brand appear more reliable. For example, suppose it’s around the holidays, and you anticipate a customer service surge.
You can send a message to your customers letting them know about your team’s adjusted holiday hours.
You can also tell them about additional support options if your team is unavailable and what to do if an urgent problem needs immediate attention.
Customers won’t feel surprised if they’re waiting on hold a little longer than usual. They’ll even have alternative options to choose from — like a chatbot or knowledge base — if they need to find a faster solution.
4. You can improve your customer retention rate.
When you have a complete view of the customer journey, it’s easier to pick out areas where you can improve it. When you do, customers experience fewer pain points, leading to fewer people leaving your brand for competitors.
After all, 33% of customerswill consider switching brands after just one poor experience.
UX journey mapping can point out individuals on the path to churn. If you log the common behaviors of these customers, you can start to spot them before they leave your business.
While you might not save them all, it’s worth the try. Increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by 25%-95%.
5. You can create a customer-focused mentality throughout the company.
As your company grows, it can be hard to coordinate all the departments to be as customer-focused as your customer service, support, and success teams are.
They often have sales and marketing goals based on things other than what real customers want.
A clear customer journey map can be shared with your entire organization. The great thing about these maps is that they map out every single step of the customer journey, from initial attraction to post-purchase support.
And, yes, this concerns marketing, sales, and service.
Based on this rationale, you can’t deny the importance of a customer journey map. Thus, we've created the following steps for crafting the best map to help your company and customers prosper.
Customer Journey Mapping Examples
The goal of a company is to get its customers from point A to point B.
While it’s up to the business or organization to decide what that goal is, it typically involves purchasing a product or service. Potential customers and clients need to be led along this journey.
To help guide your business in its direction, here are examples to draw inspiration from for building out your customer journey map.
1. HubSpot's Customer Journey Map Templates
HubSpot’s free Customer Journey Map Templates provide an outline for companies to understand their customers' experiences.
Download them today to start working on your customer journey map.
Featured Resource: Customer Journey Map Template
Download a free, editable customer journey map template.
2. B2B Customer Journey Map Example
This customer journey map clearly outlines the five steps Dapper Apps believes customers go through when interacting with them.
As you can see, it goes beyond the actual purchasing phase by incorporating initial research and post-purchase needs.
This map is effective because it helps employees get into the customers’ minds by understanding the typical questions they have and the emotions they’re feeling.
There are incremental action steps that Dapper Apps can take in response to these questions and feelings that will help it solve all the current problems customers are having.
3. Ecommerce Customer Journey Map Example
This fictitious customer journey map is a clear example of a day-in-the-life map.
Rather than just focusing on the actions and emotions involved in the customer’s interaction with the company, this map outlines all the actions and emotions the customer experiences on a typical day.
This map is helpful because it measures a customer’s state of mind based on the level of freedom they get from certain stimuli.
This is helpful for a company that wants to understand what its target customers are stressed about and what problems may need solving.
4. Future B2C Customer Journey Map Example
This customer journey map, designed for Carnegie Mellon University, exemplifies the usefulness of a future state customer journey map. It outlines the thoughts, feelings, and actions the university wants its students to have.
Based on these goals, CMU chose specific proposed changes for each phase and even wrote out example scenarios for each phase.
This clear diagram can visualize the company vision and help any department understand where they will fit into building a better user experience.
5. Retail Customer Journey Map Example
This customer journey map shows an in-depth customer journey map of a customer interacting with a fictitious restaurant.
It’s clear that this style of map is more comprehensive than the others. It includes the front-of-stage (direct) and back-of-stage (non-direct or invisible) interactions a customer has with the company, as well as the support processes.
This map lays out every action involved in the customer experience, including those of the customer, employees directly serving diners, and employees working behind the scenes.
By analyzing how each of these factors influences the customer journey, a company can find the root cause of mishaps and problem-solve this for the future.
Free Customer Journey Map Templates
To get your business from point A — deciding to focus on customer journeys — to point B — having a journey map — a critical step to the process is selecting which customer mindset your business will focus on.
The mindset will determine which of the following templates you’ll use.
1. Current State Template
If you’re using this template for a B2B product, the phases may reflect the search, awareness, consideration of options, purchasing decision, and post-purchase support processes.
For instance, in the Dapper Apps example, its phases were research, comparison, workshop, quote, and sign-off.
2. Day in the Life Template
Since this template reflects all the thoughts, feelings, actions, needs, and pain points a customer has in their entire daily routine — whether or not that includes your company — you’ll want to map out this template in a chronological structure.
This way, you can highlight the times of day at which you can offer the best support.
Get an interactive day in the life template.
3. Future State Template
Similar to the current state template, these phases may also reflect the predicted or desired search, awareness, consideration of options, purchasing decision, and post-purchase support processes.
Since this takes place in the future, you can tailor these phases based on what you’d like the customer journey to look like rather than what it currently looks like.
Get an interactive future state template.
4. Service Blueprint Template
Since this template is more in-depth, it doesn’t follow certain phases in the customer journey.
Instead, it’s based on physical evidence — the tangible factors that can create impressions about the quality and prices of the service — that often come in sets of multiple people, places, or objects at a time.
For instance, in the fictitious restaurant example above, the physical evidence includes all the staff, tables, decorations, cutlery, menus, food, and anything else a customer comes into contact with.
You would then list the appropriate customer actions and employee interactions to correspond with each physical evidence.
For example, when the physical evidence is plates, cutlery, napkins, and pans, the customer gives their order, the front-of-stage employee (waiter) takes the order, the back-of-stage employee (receptionist) processes the order, and the support processes (chefs) prepare the food.
Get an interactive service blueprint template.
5. Buyer's Journey Template
You can also use the classic buyer's journey — awareness, consideration, and decision — to design your customer journey map.
Get an interactive buyer's journey template.
Charter the Path to Customer Success
Once you fully understand your customer’s experience with your business, you can delight them at every stage in their buying journey.
Many factors can affect this journey, including customer pain points, emotions, and your company’s touchpoints and processes.
A customer journey map is the most effective way to visualize this information, whether you’re optimizing your journey for the customer or exploring a new business opportunity to serve a customer’s unrecognized needs.
Use the free templates in this article to start mapping the future of customer success in your business.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in August, 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.