customer journey mapping

What Is Customer Journey Mapping?

The customer journey mapping process can be challenging, but when done correctly, it becomes an excellent tool for marketing personalization. What is this map? A Harvard Business Review article defines it as, “A diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination.”

There are several ways to visualize a customer journey map. In general, they look like a timeline that represents a chronological order of events. Instead of investing too much time coming up with a format on your own, you can search for templates online. You will find many formats that vary in shapes, sizes, and complexity: from the basic PowerPoint-friendly ones to the more intricate maps you can create in visualization tools like Miro.

Why Is Customer Journey Mapping Important?

Customer journey mapping is a worthwhile time investment for any marketer who wants to get into the mind of their customers. To do so, they must understand each client’s steps as they progress in the sales funnel from initial interaction with the business to a loyal customer. 

Whether it is for a small business or a multinational company, the mapping process will help marketers predict and potentially change customer behavior. The map helps marketers identify opportunities to personalize marketing to attract and retain target customers.

You will likely increase conversions and sales metrics by giving your customers the experiences they value most, including engaging, timely, and organic interactions. Recent data collected by Salesforce revealed that:

  • 80% of customers consider their experience with a company to be as important as its products.
  • 69% of them want to talk with a company in real-time.
  • 84% of consumers feel that being treated like a human rather than a number is crucial to winning their business.

If these numbers are not compelling enough to convince you to start creating or reviewing your maps, here are a few more arguments in favor of customer journey mapping:

  1. It is an easy way to visualize marketing and experience improvement areas. The maps let you step back and look at the “big picture.”
  2. It lets the organization focus on the customer, improving service and brand sentiment.
  3. It is a fantastic way to learn about your audience: the trends they follow, their habits and feelings, their expectations, etc.
  4. It is an easy way to share and explain the customer sales cycle to teammates and other stakeholders within the company.
  5. It is a simple way to detect marketing automation gaps in your customer’s journey.

Related: Creating a Synchronized Customer Experience

How to Create a Customer Journey Map

Regardless of the template you choose for the map’s final visualization, there are basic steps you should take to build it. The final product should be an organized collection of the client’s typical actions, motivations, questions, and barriers as they interact with the brand, the product, or the service.

Step 1: Set Up an Objective

Many variables will affect the specific objective of your customer journey map. For instance, the size of your company, the category of products or services it sells, and its geographic locations will influence the type of customers you attract. 

Your overarching objective is to understand how a customer experiences your company, product, or service across various touchpoints, but you can have specific objectives tied to it. Perhaps you are building a new website or app, revamping customer service, or changing eCommerce options on your website.

Set yourself a goal to study a particular area, so your map is clear and provides valuable details at the end of the process.

You may want the map to answer questions like the following:

  • Why are these leads disengaging at this point?
  • How is the onboarding process performing?
  • Are there any marketing communications I could automate?
  • How are emails working compared to SMS on a particular stage of the journey?
  • How easy is it for the customer to navigate our existing website, app, or purchasing flow?

Step 2: Define Target Audience

Before you can understand your customer, you need to be clear on who your target audience is. Who are you selling to and will they be interested in what you are selling? Determine your target audience’s demographics, such as gender, age, marital status, and education. If you are targeting a company, the demographics may look a bit different, such as the market, the size of the organization, and the buyer position.

Step 3: Define Customer Persona

In this step, you should be more specific about the profile you want to analyze through the customer journey mapping process.  What does your ideal customer look like and what are they looking for? Tie your answers to these questions to your brand so you can determine the persona your products are most likely to attract.

A helpful exercise is to write down a description of this imaginary person. You can get as creative as you want and even give them a name. If you sell coffee, for instance, you can go into the details of their morning routine and describe how your product fits into their lifestyle. You should end up with a detailed description of this persona, clearly defining their background, attributes, and product needs.

Step 4: Notice All Journey Checkpoints or Touchpoints

A consumer goes through various points through a sales funnel, from their initial awareness stage to the more advanced purchase stage. These are called checkpoints. They will help you identify where your customer is in their journey, and they will also let you see the possible red flags requiring action.

A typical checkpoint in an eCommerce business is the step that takes a buyer from “Shopping Cart” to “Checkout.” Customer journey mapping can help marketers understand, for instance, why a certain percentage of clients is or is not taking that step.

Below are some recommended questions you may want the map to answer for you in this step. You can reach out to a sample population of your customers to ask them these questions to identify where and how to connect with other customers who may be in a similar place:

  • How did they hear about your company?
  • What attracted them to your brand?
  • Why did they decide to make a purchase?
  • Why did they disengage?
  • What are their goals?
  • What do they expect from your company at a certain point in the journey?

Related: 3 Hallmarks of an Engaging Customer Experience

Step 5: Identify Roadblocks

Following the example above, you may discover customers who do not complete the “Shopping Cart” to “Checkout” process could be facing an issue, such as:

  • They find the checkout process difficult or not secure.
  • They get to another task, forget the purchase, but don’t receive a reminder of their abandoned shopping cart.
  • They believe reviewing and updating their shopping cart is complicated.
  • They had questions about a particular product, and there were no customer service channels available.

All of these are possible roadblocks that marketers need to address with the business to increase engagement and conversion metrics. Customer journey mapping will let you identify these types of challenges in your own company’s scenario.

Step 6: Measure and Make Adjustments

Creating and reviewing customer journey maps should be a habit. It may take more than one visit to a particular map to get all the possible data (measure) and make the necessary adjustments to improve the customer experience.

Remember: the tool’s importance is to continually improve marketing strategies and the customer experience through personalization. When you get those right, your conversion metrics should also improve. 

Your customer journey mapping will give you data to know if your marketing decisions are reaching your goals? When you find you are missing the mark, you can always go back, review, tweak the journey, and start again.

Another beneficial practice is to go on the journey yourself and have your teammates do the same. An insider’s look may help you detect additional roadblocks so you can make adjustments before they start affecting your real customer’s experience.

Customer journeys can be complex, and making decisions to personalize each step can be overwhelming. The right martech stack is only the first step to obtaining relevant, clear, and organized data. How can you make the best of these tools and data to establish personalized relationships with your customers? Sureshot can help. Book a demo to learn more.