What is a customer journey map and how can it benefit your business?

In ancient times, to find food, humans would conduct research by asking for a cave drawing.

Trying to remember an etched stone diagram showing something like “Just past the third rock formation, the buffalo are roaming at dawn,” proved a bit spotty.

Then came paper maps, a definite upgrade until the terrain or what was known about it changed (such as when it seemed that Earth might be round and you wouldn’t actually fall off that cliff on the map.)

Even with sophisticated modern GPS, quirks in the programming can make you go in circles or take odd detours.

So maps, while they’ve undoubtedly been a brilliant invention, have a somewhat checkered past.

One type of map that’s likely to not disappoint, however, is a customer journey map, also known as a user journey map. That’s because the data nuggets mapped out by one of these often-artsy-looking things can lead a company to make positive and highly profitable changes to their website or mobile app.

What is a customer journey map?

This type of modern-day map was invented in 1985 by a couple of innovative business guys, Chip Bell and Ron Zemke. Basically, a customer journey map is a visual representation or “timeline” of how a typical customer navigates a company’s marketing and sales funnels, including all the relevant touchpoints in all the relevant channels.

How is a user journey map charted?

The first step in creating this kind of map is acquiring all the appropriate content related to your typical customer interactions, whether on your site or in other on- or offline venues.

To get started making a map, you would gather:

  • Marketing metrics: the details on how your customers have been acquired
  • User research: step-by-step analysis of the shopper journey
  • Market research, for instance, gleaned by interviews with customers and survey data
  • Data on how your buyer persona uses the product

Your data trove might include informational tidbits gleaned from customer touchpoints such as:

  • Email interaction
  • Social media visits
  • Research activity on competitive sites
  • Clicks and interactions on your product overview and product detail pages
  • Abandonment of a partially full shopping cart (which happens often)
  • Returning to your site after abandonment
  • Chats with sales or support reps 

Creating insight with journey mapping tools

The next task in the mapping process is pouring all of this data out in a way that’s clear and inviting to look at and chew on. To achieve this, you can use any of the available customer journey map templates and formats out there, which are ideally:

  • Comprehensive in the steps and observations they cover. A great user journey map effectively documents the whole customer experience, from people’s possibly being unaware that the product or company even exists to their getting progressively more interested to their making a purchase to their leaving a review and beyond. The map documents every user action touchpoint — the person’s feelings, point of view, questions they ask while on the site, what they’re thinking about or wanting, their customer pain points — to supply you with the most intricate picture of their shopping experience. 
  • Visually attractive and engaging: a map could, for instance, feature one or several infographics, diagrams, videos, and storyboards (collections of sequential images)
  • Easy for your company’s teams to decipher and use for drawing conclusions

The benefits of customer journey mapping

Is it really worth going to the trouble and annoyance of creating a real-life user journey map?

After all, it’s your company, or you’re a well-versed executive. You know what’s great about your product and (duh) why people like it. You feel like you know your customers’ needs almost too well, after all, it’s obvious. Just like you’re confident you can easily proofread your own writing to catch obvious typos, right?


Yes, you actually probably do need the equivalent of an independent “user-experience proofreader” to review your user journey with a fine-tooth comb. It’s easy to completely miss and unknowingly minimize — or casually overlook and downplay — problems with your user experience.

You may also be missing something that seems minor but is actually pretty critical. A single, seemingly minor issue in your customer’s shopping experience, such as a broken link or a form on your ecommerce site that won’t allow a prospective customer to quickly submit it, can result in them saying goodbye without purchasing a thing. And if that little snafu happens to impact multiple customers, or you have multiple little snafus, you’ve probably got a high churn rate.

You need a fully accurate experience map of what your customer persona is doing so that you can apply that information to better guide them on their buyer’s journey.

A well-thought-out customer journey map could surprise you with its valuable corrections and customer feedback to heed. 

What could you do better?

Of course you want your shoppers to always buy and be thrilled with their purchase, but if they don’t, you still want to know why. And how you might turn their experiences around or improve your site usability or the quality of their shopping. In all cases, a customer journey map could hold the blueprint for shoring up a lagging customer experience.

With enough data and after doing a thorough analysis of the user flow, you can draw some pretty accurate conclusions. You can then use this insight to put in place customer-centric improvements and start meeting or exceeding your customers’ expectations.

So when it comes to doing “voice-of-the-customer” type research, an up-to-date map of your typical user journey — what it’s like getting from point A to point B in a customer’s shoes — can make all the difference.

Valuable nuggets to distribute across teams

Plus, a customer journey map can be a handy tool for you to offer your product team members. They can point out any issues they see from their unique expertise vantage points. Marketing and sales teams are the obvious stakeholders who should get their mitts of your map, but Customer Support might also learn from more deeply understanding customer needs. 

By unearthing and making everyone aware of your user needs from the customer’s vantage point, you can identify friction points and plan how to take advantage of opportunities for UX improvement. You can brainstorm ways to streamline the current state of your user experience. You can then implement website or app optimization (and subsequently check whether it’s working by creating, you guessed it, another user map).

Customer journey map examples

What could possibly go wrong in the life cycle of a typical customer shopping expedition on your site or in your app? Here are a couple of different customer use-case scenarios:

  • Your pricing is conflicting with the pricing of items in your recommendations of similar items. When shoppers see these alternatives pop up before they go to their cart, instead of happily proceeding, they check out the similar products. Hmm; these items seem the same, so they opt to broaden their search and check prices on other sites. They leave and unfortunately don’t come back, as they’ve found the item for less on Amazon. There go your excellent conversion rates.
  • You’re not coordinating your omnichannel experiences so that your latest customer data populates all your avenues of customer connection. That means, for instance, your email attempt to upsell a recent buyer may not include the person’s name, which seems too impersonal given that they’ve recently supplied you with a bunch of personal data. So they lose interest and you lose a prospectively loyal customer, all because of disconnected information silos.

As you can tell, the ripple effects possible with making a tiny change to your UX design that you’ve gleaned from a customer journey map and acted on to improve your customer experience can be outsized. When you improve your customer satisfaction, you can get not only better revenue but a better reputation, higher levels of trust, higher customer retention rates, higher everything.

How’s your site search working?

If your search functionality or UI design aren’t as well oiled as you’d like from your typical customer’s perspective, you can create a buyer journey map focused on helping your customers easily find what they’re seeking the first time they try.

Search goes way beyond typing in queries; it encompasses narrowing the focus through choosing categories, noticing promotional banners, reading the content and looking at the images on product pages, and digesting others’ reviews in order to make what feels like an informed decision.

Now that you know how customer journey mapping works, you can create a customer journey map about your search functionality. Then contact our team and we’ll help you create dream search experiences that both meet your potential customers’ needs and help you potentially  shatter your business goals.

About the authorCatherine Dee

Catherine Dee

Search and Discovery writer

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