The customer journey map and why it’s important

Illustration of a customer journey

Digital transformation has been shifting customer journeys in ways we could never have envisioned, even a few years ago. Many marketing and sales programs aren’t connecting like they used to, largely because consumers have exponentially more choices than ever. Marketing strategies that used to work for generating leads, nurturing them through the customer journey, and building customer relationships don’t work anymore.

A fresh customer journey map can help chart a course to better communication with clients by giving you a complete picture of the process they go through on their way to making a purchase. It can also help brands keep pace with the changing customer journey by providing a bird’s-eye view of all points of contact. That responsiveness inspires engagement and customer loyalty.

Understanding customer journey maps is vital for the modern marketer, so this post will discuss:

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of the contact points between a customer and a company throughout the entire relationship. This complete picture of all the customer touchpoints helps marketers predict customers’ behavior and direct the company’s response. The customer journey map enables marketers to plan strategies based on customers’ behaviors and needs.

Customer journey mapping is the process of creating the visual story of all the ways a client comes into contact with your company. As you map out all the touchpoints, you’ll see your company through the customers’ eyes. That insight allows you to identify and address customers’ pain points.

A well-designed customer journey map is the best way to combat the endless changes taking place in the digital landscape. It is a comprehensive plan for engaging with your clients and building a relationship that will last.

Benefits of a good customer journey map

It’s hard to overstate the benefits of a thorough customer journey map. The insights you gain and then make available to the entire team can become the foundation for a uniquely targeted marketing strategy.

Enable omnichannel marketing

A comprehensive customer journey map covers touchpoints on every channel, including email, social media, paid and organic site visits, and more, and allows you to get very strategic about omnichannel marketing. A good customer data platform will gather data from your audience on every channel, but effective omnichannel marketing is about knowing the best ways to get your brand to your audience on every channel.

For example, mapping your customer journey might reveal that most purchase cycles for a particular persona start with a web search. Representing that on your map is an insightful reminder to answer their top-of-funnel questions and needs as a key part of your SEO marketing plan.

Improve the customer experience

A customer journey map also demonstrates where there may be gaps in the marketing strategy, causing a bad customer experience. You should have a plan for meeting and engaging every persona at every stage of the journey, and a customer journey map can help identify where you might be missing your audience.

Compare your customer journey map to your content marketing plan by assigning journey stages to each piece of the content strategy. You will quickly identify which stages, if any, are underserved and creating a gap in your user experience. Then look closer and see if your strategy is providing the right kind of content on the right channel at each stage of the journey.

Get a better understanding of your audience

When you’re able to see every step of your customers’ journeys, you develop an empathy for who they are, what they want, and how they make decisions. The customer journey map allows you to keep user personas and client profiles accurate and up to date.

Customer journey maps, buyer personas, and client profiles should always be reviewed and updated together, especially if your software doesn’t unify the data in real time. Refreshed customer journey maps will inform updates in personas and profiles.

Encourage a customer-centered culture

A customer journey map focuses your team’s attention on what the customer is doing and how to best prepare for and follow up on the audience’s concerns. When your team is attentive to the customer and dedicated to providing the services, products, and interaction the customer wants, the result is a truly customer-centric philosophy.

Keep the customer journey map visible and accessible so that it can inform marketing decisions. Ideas for new campaigns, messaging, tactics, and more can all be held up against the customer journey map. Ask if that idea serves the target audience appropriately at a stage of their buying cycle to help decide if it’s worth pursuing.

Optimize customer onboarding and turn personas into fans

A complete customer journey map doesn’t end with a purchase because that’s not where the relationship with the customer ends. It should also include a customer onboarding stage, brand advocate stage, and an upselling stage as appropriate.

Representing post-purchase stages on the customer journey map ensures that they don’t become an afterthought. There is still marketing and sales work to be done in onboarding and continuing to deepen customer relationships.

Empathy map canvas

Canvas by Dave Gray. Image credit Gamestorming.

How to create and perfect your customer journey map

To get the maximum benefit out of your customer journey map, create the map thoughtfully. There are different strategies for developing a customer journey map, but the first few steps are the foundation.

  1. Set business goals. If your map doesn’t line up with overall business goals, it won’t provide you with the insights you need to make meaningful strategies. For example, if one goal is to improve customer retention, you’ll want your map to reflect the channels and touchpoints that most impact retention.
  2. Set the map’s scope. Customer journey maps can cover different ranges of the relationship, depending on what information or insights your team needs most. The first customer journey map usually shows the entire experience, from awareness to brand advocacy. But you can also create more targeted customer journey maps to focus on specific channels or goals.
  3. Clarify your relationship with customers. Bring together data from across your organization for a complete picture of how your customers are interacting with your brand. For instance, sales can provide specific information on conversion rates, and product design might have UX studies that demonstrate what users need during onboarding. All this information together provides a complete picture of what your customers are experiencing.
  4. Create or update user personas. You need to know who your customer is to fully understand their experience with your company. A user persona represents your target audience so you can thoughtfully plot their customer journey.
  5. Create a list of touchpoints and channels. Identify all the points of contact between you and your customers and where those contacts happen. You can then plot each of those touchpoints along the customer journey.

Start optimizing your journey maps

When you start with a good customer journey map, you will be confident that you’re meeting your customers’ needs and solving their problems. You can identify each touchpoint and avoid potential issues, improving customer experience and building brand loyalty at the same time.

If you have an existing customer journey map, your first step is to identify all the gaps created by digital expansion. If you’re starting from scratch, begin with a comprehensive assessment of your business goals to help determine the scope of your map.

When you’re ready to get started, Adobe Journey Optimizer can help. Get real-time insights into customer behavior, immediately unified with customer profiles. Modern omnichannel orchestration tools let you manage digital assets and put the power of artificial intelligence to work so you can personalize at scale.

Ready to dig in a little deeper? Take a look at Adobe Journey Optimizerfor a free video overview of how it works.