Effective customer journey maps and how to create them

Mapping your customers’ journeys can feel daunting. There are many steps involved, and you may even need to create different maps for different types of customers.

Once you learn to break down the journey mapping process step-by-step, however, creating customer journey maps becomes not just manageable, but simple. This post explains what customer journey maps are, why they’re important, how to create them, and how to make them as effective as possible.

As you'll learn, there are a variety of resources available to help create customer journey maps. The more you leverage them, the faster and more efficient your mapping process will be.

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a visualization of the steps your customer goes through during the process of engaging with your company. It’s visual storytelling that helps you understand and optimize customers’ experiences with your business.

Most customer journey maps are designed chronologically, meaning they represent the customer experience as a timeline of events. But in reality, customer journeys — the series of steps from brand awareness to customer loyalty — are often not linear. Instead, customers follow a cyclical, multichannel set of steps as they engage with your business. For example, they may make purchases online as well as offline during the same period (if you operate both types of sales channels).

Customer journey maps need to account for the nonlinear nature of customer journeys, even as they also represent customer experience in a chronological fashion. To achieve the right balance, journey maps should include:

The benefits of using customer journey maps

Understanding your customers’ experiences is critical. Investing in the customer experience leads to revenue increases in 84% of cases, according to research from Dimension Data. And PwC reports that poor customer experiences are the primary reason that people sever brand loyalties.

Increasing return on investment (ROI) and building a stronger brand are definitely sufficient goals, but how does customer journey mapping do it? Journey maps provide detailed benefits, including:

How to create a customer journey map

Successful customer journey mapping can be broken down into five key steps.

1. Set goals

First, you need a clear goal. Rather than creating a customer journey map just to create one, decide what you are hoping to accomplish through the map, which customers you are targeting, and which types of experiences you want your maps to highlight. In addition, your goals for creating the customer journey should reflect your overall company goals, such as increased revenue or improved customer retention.

Be sure to also decide on relevant metrics you can track as you create and use your customer journey maps. Setting clear goals is worthless if there’s no standard for measuring them.

2. Define your personas

Determine which customer personas you want to target when creating maps.

If you don’t have well-developed personas, or you need to update them, you can get the insights you need through surveys, interviews, testimonials, reviews, and feedback from customer relations teams. These teams tend to have a good perspective on the pain points that lead to falloffs during the buying journey.

The more specifics you can collect about who your customers are and what they want, the more effective your customer journey maps will be.

3. Determine your touchpoints

Identify the touchpoints that you’ll represent on your customer journey maps. Touchpoints are any point of engagement between customers and your brand, and they are the foundation for your customer journey map.

Consider all of the places where the customer may interact with your business. Be sure to factor in indirect engagements, like reviews of your brand that customers read on third-party sites, in addition to direct touchpoints that you maintain. Each and every touchpoint can drive customer conversion, so it’s critical to represent all the possibilities.

4. Map the current buyer journey

Once you’ve identified your customers and touchpoints, you can map the steps that buyers follow on their way to making purchases. Be sure to represent every variation on the buyer’s journey, including different types of sales channels, multiple product versions, and small-volume as well as large-volume purchases.

5. Map the ideal buyer journey

The journey you want customers to take may vary from their actual journey, especially if you release new products or services and the desired buyer journey changes as a result. Be sure to represent the ideal buyer journey alongside actual buyer journeys on your maps.

Optimizing your customer journey map

Creating customer journey maps is a huge step toward increased visibility into the customer experience, an enhanced ability to reach new personas, and better cross-unit functionality within the business. No customer journey map is ever truly “done,” though. They need regular reviews and updates to keep them optimized.

Whenever your product or service offerings change, your customer journey maps will need to change too. Likewise, whenever you detect new types of customer roadblocks — challenges related to pricing, brand credibility, or product functionality — you’ll want to add them to your customer journey maps.

You can also optimize these maps by investing in tools that automate omnichannel marketing. These tools can make it more efficient to generate and update customer journey maps, especially in cases where customers engage with your business through multiple channels at once.

Customer journey map resources

Although creating customer journey maps may seem complicated at first, they’re actually quite simple once you break the process down into manageable steps.

Adobe Analytics can help you optimize both online and offline interactions so that you can optimize your customer journeys using data to create comprehensive customer journey maps. Likewise, Adobe Customer Journey Analytics can help you to visualize cross-channel customer interactions.

The better your ability to automate the process of tracking and interpreting the customer experience, the more efficient and effective your customer journey mapping process will be.