10-step guide to creating customer journey maps

A woman uses her phone to create a customer journey map.

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 understand how to break down the journey mapping process step by step, however, creating customer journey maps becomes not just manageable, but simple. As you'll learn, there are a variety of resources available to help create customer journey maps. The more you use them, the faster and more efficient your mapping process will be.

This post will discuss:

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map helps you visualize how customers experience your product and service. It does this by describing the storyline of every customer interaction step by step.

Like user experience (UX) maps, the customer journey map seeks to clarify potential interactions between a user and a brand. However, UX is most concerned with discrete and often digital-only interactions. In contrast, the customer journey represents a birds eye view of every touchpoint between individuals and your brand — starting with awareness.

Different kinds of customer journey maps include:

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:

When your customer journey maps include all of the above information, you end up with the information that can help you deliver maximum benefits.

Benefits of a customer journey map

Understanding your customers’ experiences is critical to staying ahead of changing needs, technology, and global market shifts. According to Hanover Research, 79% of companies that invest in customer journey maps report becoming more customer-centric as a result.

More specifically, customer journey mapping allows companies to:

How to create a customer journey map

Constructing a customer journey map boils down to 10 steps, which are listed below. Follow them to ensure an end result capable of delivering on all of the above benefits.

1. Set clear objectives for the map

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.

79% of companies that invest in customer journey maps report becoming more customer-centric.

2. Conduct research

Harvest internal and external quantitative and qualitative data on your customers to look for trends both in not only the types of buyers your business currently attracts, but how they feel about their experiences. Places to mine this information include your own website analytics, social media, call center recordings, support logs, or directly from customers themselves through surveys.

Keep your eye out for anything that has to do with how that customer determined they needed your product or service in the first place, how they discovered your business, why they chose it, and if they were happy with that choice in the end.

3. Profile your personas and define their goals

From that data, determine which customer personas you want to target when creating maps. If you don’t have well-developed personas or need to update them, you can pull 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 fall-offs 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.

4. Highlight your target customer personas

At this point in your process, you’ve likely gathered more information than is directly relevant to this particular project. Now is the time to revisit your target customer personas to help whittle your data down to only the most important information.

Take care, however, not to toss out any data that may feel irrelevant to the current project. Instead, store it somewhere safe should you later decide to create additional customer journey maps better suited to a different persona or personas.

5. List out all 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

Customer journey mapping is the process of creating the visual story of all the ways a client comes into contact with your company.

8. Determine the resources you have and the ones you’ll need

Translating a theoretical map into a lived experience for customers requires, at a minimum, employee time. Additional demands may include new software or an increased budget to help reduce costly friction points and holes responsible for lost revenue.

Create a detailed list of all that constructing the new map will require, and avoid getting halfway in before realizing you’re short the resources you need to complete the job.

9. Take the customer journey yourself

Don’t force your customers to double as your guinea pigs. Try out the journey yourself and identify places where the experience plays out differently in reality versus on paper. Does it feel confusing or tedious in any place? Are there any distractions that need to be eliminated?

Make note of all of these, then have someone else give it a go. Once you and several others have tested it, compare notes and see if and where tweaks are needed.

10. Make the necessary changes

Implementing those changes before you hit the green light may seem obvious. But it can be a challenge if, say, you’re already running behind the schedule you initially set for yourself.

The temptation will always be to release the current version and make adjustments over time. Do this, however, and you risk frustrating customers who may not return to see the improvements you have planned.

Customer journey map best practices

Avoid false starts and dead ends during the construction of your new map. Instead, maximize its potential reach and profitability by implementing each of these best practices.

Understanding your customers’ experiences is critical to staying ahead of changing needs, technology, and global market shifts.

Tools to create customer journey maps with ease

Smart, research-backed customer journey maps deliver more than short-term positive business outcomes. They are critical to your organization’s long-term resilience in today’s experience-driven marketplace.

Although creating customer journey maps may seem complicated at first, getting started is merely a matter of identifying clear, concrete steps. This is especially true when you enlist the right tools designed to help you understand your customers’ journeys — both online and offline — quickly and get the necessary insights to meet them with real-time experiences at scale.

Adobe Customer Journey Analytics can help you break down, filter, and query years’ worth of data and combine it from every channel into a single interface. Real-time, omnichannel analysis and visualization further allow you to make better decisions with a holistic view of your business and the context behind every customer action.

Watch the overview video to learn more about Adobe Customer Journey Analytics.

Meanwhile, Adobe Journey Optimizer intelligently determines the next best interaction with scale, speed, and flexibility across the entire customer journey and creates and delivers scheduled marketing campaigns with tailored individual communications within the same application.

Get a free demo of Journey Optimizer.