A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Customer Journey Maps

A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Customer Journey Maps

How do you get your customers to do what you want them to do on your website?”

Digital marketers get asked this question all the time. Without realizing it, the businesses who want the secret sauce, the quick fix to more “conversions,” are asking the wrong question.

What they really should be asking is, “How do I help my customers achieve their goals on my website while still achieving mine?”

Focusing on that question is the starting point for building an effective customer journey map.

From Customer Personas to Customer Journey Maps

It’s all about understanding what motivates your customers – what their needs are, their hesitations, and concerns. In a previous post, I discussed the importance of developing customer personas to do just that.

But, just knowing who you’re talking to isn’t enough. Being able to align what they want to accomplish when they come to your website is the key. Mapping customer journeys from the first interaction to the last will show if they are achieving their goals.

We’re finding that the most successful companies are digging deep into the data-driven research available to them… giving them a leg up on customer retention and bolstering the bottom line.

RSR Real Analytics Report

The Devil Is In The Data

According to RSR’s Benchmark report, Retail Analytics Moves to the Frontline, retail winners saw year-over-year sales improvements by not only acknowledging that they must be sensitive to the needs of their customers’ appetite for information about their products and services but also that they must move from an experience/intuition model of decision making to one that relies more heavily on data.

RSR Real Analytics Report

Those companies having the best results across the board incorporated data driven research with “gut-based decision making.”

This lack of focus on using data to understand the customer and retain business is neither a recent occurrence nor confined to traditional retailers. A CMO Council study conducted from 2007 to 2008, “Business Gain From How You Retain,” found that:

 “Over 50% of global marketers report that they have fair, little, or no knowledge of the customer demographic, behavioral, psychographic and transactional data. Just 6% say they have excellent knowledge of the customer.”

In 2014, amazingly nearly 8 in 10 marketers of global companies are continuing to rely on customer acquisition strategies when they agree it’s cheaper to simply retain their customers. E-Consultancy’s Cross Channel Marketing Report 2014, reports that only 2 in 5 responding companies “‘understand customer journeys and adapt the channel mix accordingly’.”

Cross Channel Marketing Report

Image Source – Marketing Charts

Mapping The Customer Journey… The Next Step

By now if you haven’t realized the importance of putting customer data-driven research to work for your business, take a look at my persona post along with these two recent posts on ConversionXL:

All of them refer to more statistics, studies, and reports that make it clear much of businesses outpacing their competitors has to do with pulling together the right data about their customers and using it effectively.

But, what now?

The next step to involves organizing all this rich data so you can take actionable steps to improve how you manage your customers’ experiences with your business – and more specifically, your website.

The Customer Journey Map Defined

A customer journey map is an illustration or diagram of all the places (touchpoints) your customers come into contact with your company, online or off.

Kerry Bodine, a customer experience consultant, explains the purpose behind traditional customer journey maps in a recent Whiteboard Friday video on the Moz blog as follows:

kerry bodine“The goal of the customer journey map is really to get a holistic view of what the customer is going through from their point of view and really what it’s like for them on a personal level, that human level.”

Kerry Bodine

No Matter The Approach The End Goal Is The Same

No two journey maps are exactly the same. Depending on the customer experience expert you follow and the business/product/service mapped, the design will be different.

The guys over at Adaptive Path, a UX/digital design agency, talk in terms of “experience maps.” In order to put together a visual representation of how a customer not only moves through each phase of interacting with a company but how he experiences each one, Adaptive Path starts with building a touchpoint inventory after conducting qualitative and quantitative research.

Adaptive Path Customer Journey Touchpoints

Image Source: Adaptive Path

As you can see above, they start the customer mapping process by defining the behavioral stages a typical customer will go through then more specifically by each touchpoint.

With that in place, they bring in their customer personas to create a “lens” by which to view the journey. Each persona can yield it’s own map – becoming the reference point by which to base the journey.

In an attempt to help their client, Rail Europe, get a handle on how North American travelers engage with them across all touchpoints – not just booking their tickets – Adaptive Path took this initial diagram and built on it.

Adaptive Path Rail Europe Map

Image Source: Adaptive Path

The result is a model that provides both a visual representation and a synthesis of the data gathered. Ideally, it helps to crystallize where customers are getting stuck or frustrated on their path to purchase and beyond.

Making It All About Your Website

Customer journey maps traditionally have been used to show the progression from first interaction to last – no matter where that might be.

But, there’s no reason we can’t modify this tool and use it to make the process of organizing our customer data and optimizing our websites easier.

Here’s a great article by Joanna Lord over at BigDoor that outlines a simpler approach to creating a map and well worth the read. It provides a nice launching pad for our purposes.

BigDoor.com customer journey stages

Image Source – BigDoor.com

Step #1: Define The Behavioral Stages

Depending on the business, the stages your customers will go through while navigating your site may be different. After looking through your personas built on your initial qualitative and quantitative research, you’ll have a pretty good idea the process your customers go through from first landing to eventual purchase and subsequent interactions.

Step #2: Align Customer Goals With The Stages

This may well be the most critical (and in some cases most difficult) step when creating a customer journey map. From all the data on how informed companies are about what makes their customers tick, it’s clear that understanding their customers’ goals has not been a priority.

Here’s your opportunity to key in on them. Put some thought into what your customers want to achieve as they move through each phase. Then, you’ll be able to see if you have the necessary places on your website to support those goals.

Types of data to mine to understand what the goals are:

  • Survey answers
  • User testing feedback
  • Interview transcripts
  • Customer service emails or support transcripts

Step #3: Plot Out The Touchpoints

Think of the touchpoints as both the places where your customers are engaging with you on your site and where you can be supporting the completion of their goals. These touchpoints will be grouped under the relevant stage in your customer’s journey.

For retailers, a common touchpoint would be a product description page – in a business selling services it could be anything from a pricing page to a contact form.

Find touchpoints on your website by looking at your Google Analytics:

1) Behavior Flow Report

This provides a visual path showing how users move from one page or event to the next. The added benefit is that it will help you understand where your users are struggling to get where they want to go on your site. You can choose the dimension you want to segment by then analyze specific steps in the flow by mousing over them.

GA behavior flow report

Image Source – Google Analytics

2) Goal Flow Report

This report helps you to see whether or not your users are completing a goal of your choosing through a funnel. You’ll be able to determine if users on your site are unexpectedly leaving in the middle of their journey on the path to the goal or if there’s a place where your traffic loops back.

Check out these CXL posts for more specifics on reporting.

Step #4: Determine If Your Customers Are Achieving Their Goals

This is where you bring the data you’ve collected and measure it against how easily your customers can get done what they need to do.

Ask yourself the following types of questions:

  • Where are roadblocks appearing?
  • Are people abandoning their purchases on the checkout page in large numbers?
  • Are you finding that the people clicking on your opt-in download page are not then signing up to get the download?

The reports you’ve mined from your Google Analytics will give you precise points where issues are cropping up. Your qualitative research should help you understand the why behind the problems.

Analyze the actions (or lack thereof) of your customers in terms of how well their needs are being met at each touchpoint and during each phase.


Step #5: Recommendations For Change

Start by prioritizing which pages/touchpoints to be addressed first. You can rank your pages by ease and cost-effectiveness to implement changes. Then, it’s a matter of determining what to test.

For instance, if your research has shown that your customers are concerned about getting locked into a particular plan once they sign up for your service – then tweaking your copy on the relevant page to alleviate their hesitations makes sense.

Visualizing The Journey With A Simple Spreadsheet

Spreadsheets may not be sexy but they’re ideal for organizing data. As I mentioned before, your customer journey map doesn’t need to be complicated. Remember, it’s just a tool to help you get a handle on how users are interacting with your site, where they’re getting stuck, and hypotheses on how to improve trouble spots.

customer journey map website analysis spreadsheet

Above is an example I put together to represent the journey a customer may go through when dealing with a company selling software as a service. Each stage has a corresponding customer goal along with touchpoints.

Keep track of the reports and surveys you reference along with what stages they illuminate.

customer journey map website analysis spreadsheet2

Go as granular as you like. Add annotations where you’re finding customers seem to be missing steps or looping back. Then, plug in your analysis of the journey under “Key Findings” and hypotheses to test under “Recommendations.”

How Improving Steps Along The Customer Journey Lifts More Than Just The Bottom Line – A Real World Example

The guys at TrackDuck, a SaaS company with an interactive website tool for feedback and bug tracking, gleaned insights from customer comments in order to improve registrations.

TrackDuck email via Intercom.io

Image Source – InsideIntercom.io

Responding to the difficulties users were having simply registering, they changed the 10-step registration form to a 4-step process – increasing registration completions by 120%.

TrackDuck realized that by taking advantage of their qualitative data they could improve revenue and set their customers up for success at the same time.

10b3d62“If you are working on an app for developers, be ready for a high bounce rate at the user registration stage. Converting a visitor into a customer is really difficult. To achieve this it’s essential that the visitor figures out how your app works in the first 3-5 minutes.”

Eddy Balcikonis – CEO of Track Duck

This is a good example that not only shows what the customer goal is (to become a user) but also where a roadblock to success was occurring and how it got fixed. Tackling these kinds of frustrating user issues helps to reduce churn and the mitigates the emphasis on new acquisitions.

Final Thoughts On Customer Journey Mapping

How your customers interact with your website or your brand isn’t a linear process – no matter how much you might like it to be. Getting people to move from point A to point B without jumping ship or missing a step in between doesn’t always happen.

But, taking the time to understand as much as you can about what your customers’ goals are along with how they already move through your website can go a long way towards keeping them happy… and growing your business.

What has been your process for tracking your customers’ journey through your website or with your brand?

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Join the Conversation Add Your Comment

  1. Excellent post. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great post and resource for journey mappers! I applaud how you call out that rather than looking for a quick fix, businesses should be asking “How do I help my customers achieve their goals while still achieving mine?” You nailed it! And that’s exactly what a journey map can do — it’s such a powerful tool!

    You pointed your readers to a lot of helpful mapping resources, and I’d like to recommend another — it’s Touchpoint Dashboard’s Guide to Journey Mapping. It provides mapping theory and outlines the steps for creating a data-driven, insightful maps. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/1pg5kxE (free download)

    Thanks again for the awesome post!


    1. Thanks for the kind words and I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I’ll stop on over and check out your guide!

  3. Brilliant post. Much appreciated.

    Thank you

  4. Hey Jen,

    Thank you for your article and for such detailed explanation!
    Your article was one of those that inspired us to create UXPressia!

    UXpressia (http://uxpressia.com), a web application that allows to create appealing and easy to support Customer Journey Maps (Experience Maps). Unlike some alternatives (sticky notes, Excel, Photoshop), our product is friendly to users who is novice in service design field by providing meaningful defaults, real map examples, tips on discovering problems and improving services and help. Besides it gives more beautiful output to present clients and team without making user invest their time in graphic design.

    If you have enough time to test our product I would love to hear your feedback on it!

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Customer Journey Maps