The Customer Journey Map: Why It's Essential and How to Create an Effective One


Want to improve the effectiveness and engagement of your customer base and considering an insights community? First, prioritize making a customer journey map to see if it makes sense for your brand.

Meaningful relationships with customers are essential, but getting it isn’t so easy. How do you keep a customer engaged in your business when there are dozens of other opportunities, and competitors, lurking on the internet for them to grab onto? Figuring out a path towards a meaningful relationship can boost your engagement, reinforce relationships, and build brand loyalty.

What is a Customer Journey Map?

Your customer’s journey map shows where they are at every step of their process as it relates to your product. This typically follows the customer from first discovering your business, making a purchase, and finally what happens after they’re no longer a paying customer (relationships don’t end just because people stop buying from you.) Customer journey mapping is quickly growing in popularity. 34 percent of all companies currently engage in the process, popular companies like Starbucks and Uber depend on customer journey maps to convey the importance of their customer’s experience at all levels of transactions to the entire company.

customer journey map

Why Create a Customer Journey Map?

In our recent blog post, we cover the reasons behind needing a customer insight strategy and how to develop one. Here we cover how understanding a customer’s journey with your product, company, the organization is important – without understanding this, you won’t know how to cater to your client’s needs and wants as time progresses. This often leads to customers moving onto another product that better fits their current needs. Here are some common reasons brands

  1. Better understand customer behavior. And not just once transactions are over. A customer journey map will reveal how your customers’ behavior at each stage of engagement.
  2. Foster improved customer relations. Like everyone else, consumers just want to know that someone understands them. When they see that your business gets them, they’ll be more likely to stick around.
  3. Build your brand loyalty. Stay connected and establish your business as a trusted place to go.

You’ll use touchpoints to visualize the customer’s journey. A touchpoint is each place of contact that a person makes with a business. This could be online or offline. Depending on your product or services, your map might feature anywhere from a few to a dozen touchpoints. These can include:

Making the Connection: Online Communities and the Customer Journey

Your online community benefits both you and your customers. You get invaluable insights for business and marketing campaigns, and they get an area in which they can engage with other customers, discuss products, and even earn company-related rewards. (Think discounts or member-only specials!) The insights you gain through these communities also help explain what might otherwise seem like erratic or unexplainable consumer behavior. For instance, when you expect customers to do A and instead they do B, go to the customer community and 9 times out of 10 you’ll find the explanation.

Related Post: How to Make the Most of Customer Insights

Customer Experience Satisfaction Survey

A good customer community has the power to retain a person who is still on the fence about your product or services. For many, the community is among the first stops on the customer journey. There, potential customers will get a feel for your business culture, the ideas you support, and how you treat your established customers. Your customer journey map will probably have multiple touchpoints involving your online community. Can they access customer service reps through the platform? Engage with brand loyalists? Research products, navigate social media links, and get assistance when needed? What else can you do with your online community?

Ways To Use Customer Journey Maps

Need to validate your assumptions about how your customers behave? Then you’ll need a customer insights strategy, and your customer journey map is a powerful way to identify key areas for your team to tackle in your research activities. Want to get an even broader image of what’s going on inside your business? Frequently share your map with every department in your business and make sure to collect feedback from them, and then update the map accordingly. Your business will perform more effectively when everyone is on the same page. Here are some suggestions of other uses for your Customer Journey Map:

Customer Journey Stages

Your map should follow the customer’s journey through at least five different stages. These are:

  1. Brand awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. On-boarding
  4. Education
  5. Product Engagement

customer journey map

Take each stage and break it down into actionable steps. Increase brand awareness through social media engagement and increased marketing runs. Help potential customers through the consideration stage by maintaining well-run online communities and providing easy-to-understand product information. Your map isn’t just about documenting the customer journey, it’s about facilitating the journey into a future relationship. Make sure you have the right steps to get you there.

Related post: How To Get The Most Out Of Your Customer Community Platform

9 Steps To Mapping Out Your Customer’s Journey

  1. Review Goals – These should be brand and product specific
  2. Market Research – Use customer interviews, customer support logs, surveys, etc.
  3. List Touchpoints – Include both the action and the available paths. For example, “purchasing a product” might be the action and “in-person” or “online” might be the paths.
  4. Empathy Map – Get a sense of how customers really feel about the product, not just if they like it or not.
  5. Brainstorm with Lenses – Use specific words, key concepts, and branding ideas to quickly generate ideas over short periods of time.
  6. Affinity Diagram – Organize the information from the past steps.
  7. Sketching the Journey – Get creative! Pull together your organized data and start creating your journey map. There’s no wrong or right way to do this, and remember — it’s only the first draft!
  8. Refine and Digitize – Visual design is fun, but isn’t easy. Consider teaming up with someone to create a refined digital design once the final version of the map is ready to go.
  9. Share – Get it out there! Get it into every department of your organization, post it proudly, and make sure it’s the focal point of customer interaction.

Related post: 10 Things You Need to Know About Online Community Research

Customer Journey Mapping Tools and Resources

Here are some of our favorite online tools when needing to go to the drawing boards and create maps and flowcharts for the team.

Canvanizer This mapping software makes it easy to develop and structure your map. There are pre-built templates you can use as-is or edit where needed. This program also makes collaboration with tools for delegating and tracking tasks.

Realtime Board Worried you have too many touchpoints than the average program can handle? Not to worry! Realtime Board doesn’t limit how many touchpoints you can use. No matter how many you add, your board will grow to accommodate your needs.

Gliffy Have a basic map that doesn’t need a lot of extra tools and resources? Then this web-based editor is a perfect choice. It offers a decent number of diagrams, but you can’t work collaboratively on the service and everything you create is automatically public. Smaller businesses and start-ups might use Gliffy as a good starting point.