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How to Make Your First Customer Journey Map (Quick Guide)

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Read Time: 8 min

Noon just hit, and I’m anxious for a coffee and a break from my apartment, since I work from home.

I decide I want a latte from Starbucks. Next, I must decide which Starbucks I want to get my latte from. I know that there’s two Starbucks within the same distance from my apartment so I base my decision on which Starbucks I believe will have less people; and therefore, open space for me to work.

Typically, I choose the Starbucks north of my place not only for the aforementioned reason, but also because there’s a Panera Bread, which always has open seating, directly across the street. Therefore, if I don’t find an open seat at Starbucks, I can easily walk out after a quick scan and move on to the next best spot.

An important factor when deciding where to get coffee for remote workers like me is atmosphere.

The problem for us is we don’t know what the atmosphere will be like until we’re already there.

While I definitely prefer Starbucks’ atmosphere to Panera’s, I also value my time, and I’m not going to drive around to all the nearby Starbucks just to not work from home and grab a coffee.

If Starbucks created a customer journey map for their remote worker persona then they’d quickly see an opportunity to capitalize on more business from regulars who enjoy working from Starbucks by allowing customers to track which locations have open tables nearby in its app.

This is an example of what you would do when you create a customer journey map.

Customer journey maps illustrate the totality of the experience users have with your business, pointing out interesting points for intervention.

For Starbucks, in the example above, an interesting point of intervention would be before I get in my car to purchase coffee and find a place to work. This point could lead to an innovation, such as a new feature in its mobile app that gets more remote workers to go to Starbucks as opposed to, say, Panera, by letting them know which Starbucks has room for them to work.

Customer journey maps aren’t just for innovations though. In this post, I’ll explain what a customer journey map is, why you’d want to make one, and how to build it yourself.

Ready? Let’s get started.

What is a Customer Journey Map?

According to Harvard Business Review, a customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination. The more touch-points you have, the more complicated—but necessary—such a map becomes.

Traditional customer journey maps include online and offline interactions, like the example I explained above. They help you understand where personas are experiencing points of friction and how they are feeling at each step of the way.

Map the path and points of friction of your visitorsMap the path and points of friction of your visitorsMap the path and points of friction of your visitors
Map customer journey paths and points of friction of your visitors. (graphic)

In this post, we’ll use customer journey mapping to improve your persona’s experience on your website, with the goal of increasing sales.

A Customer Journey Map Framework for Online Businesses

Step 1: Choose a Buyer Persona to Focus on

Before you can begin your customer journey map, you must have buyer personas.

If you’ve been following along on our content marketing journey, then you’ve already created your buyer personas. If you haven’t, then check out our post on how to create buyer personas here: 

Done with your personas? Great. Choose one to focus on for now.

Step 2: Understand Your Persona’s Goals

What does this specific persona hope to achieve as they experience each step in their journey through your website?

You can learn what your persona’s goals are by:

  • Conducting customer surveys.
  • Conducting one-on-one interviews.
  • Using tools, such as Hotjar, to ask website visitors what they expect on specific pages.

A good question to ask, if you decide to use Hotjar or something similar is “What’s missing on this page?”

Once you gather this information, then you’ll better understand whether your website pages are supporting your persona’s goals.

This is vital because if you’re not meeting your personas goals then you cannot achieve your goal of increasing sales for your company.

Step 3: Map Touchpoints

A touchpoint is any time a potential customers comes in contact with your business—before, during or after they purchase something from you.

You want to take every touchpoint into account so you don’t miss an interesting moment of intervention or opportunity to improve your persona’s experience with your company.

This step seems dreadful at first because there’s an endless stream of touchpoint possibilities, which is why I have a trick for you.

Put yourself in your persona’s shoes—or in this case—their trackpad. With your persona hat on, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where do I go and how do I get there when I have [a problem your company solves]?
  • Where do I go and how do I get there when I discover the solution that will solve my problem?
  • Where do I go and how do I get there when I make my solution/purchase decision?
  • Where do I go and how do I get there when I need support or something else from the business after I make the purchase?

It would probably be easiest and most effective to ask these questions to current customers though. Try to set up one-on-one interviews. Or, again, use a tool like Hotjar, to record your site visitors and see how they’re experiencing your site firsthand.  

Find your persona’s touchpoints and brain dump a list of all the potential ways they may be in touch with your business. Here’s a few ideas to jumpstart your brainstorming:

  • Before they land on your website: How did they find it? What did they Google to reach your site? Maybe they discovered you by ads—on social media or via Google. Or perhaps they reached your website from a link in another site’s blog post. Maybe they visited a review site, like Yelp, and you had good reviews.
  • While they’re on your website: What are they doing onsite? What pages, and in what order, are they clicking on? How long do they stay on each page?
  • After they’ve decided to purchase on your website: What’s the purchase experience like? How many pages do they have to go through to get what they want? Did you email them after? How much information does your buying process require users to complete?

Advanced Tips:

  1. Behavior Flow Report: If your website has Google Analytics installed and it has a good amount of data, consider creating a behavior flow report, which visualizes how visitors move through your site—from one page or event to the next.
  2. Goal Flow Report: The goal flow report shows the path your traffic traveled through a funnel towards a goal conversion. This report can help you see if users are navigating your content as expected, or if there are problems, such as high drop-off rates or unexpected loops.
Envato Tuts Crafts Behavior Flow Report ExampleEnvato Tuts Crafts Behavior Flow Report ExampleEnvato Tuts Crafts Behavior Flow Report Example
Envato Tuts+ Behavior Flow Report, highlighting reader traffic paths and points of friction (drop-offs).

Step 4: Look at the Big Picture

Once you understand your persona’s goals and plot their touchpoints, it’s time to look at the big picture—the totality of their experience with your company.

Ask yourself the following questions (which are just a few of many that you should ask) if you’re using tools like Hotjar and Google Analytics:

  • Is my persona achieving their goal(s) on my website?
  • Where are there points of friction and frustration?
  • What pages have the highest bounce rates?
  • Where are people dropping off?
  • Are people clicking your purchase button but then leaving once they see the form?

Ask yourself the following questions (which are just a few of many that you should ask) if you’re conducting interviews with customers:

  • How did you discover our website?
  • What made you leave our website?
  • What pages are most important to you on our website?
  • Did those pages have the information you were looking for?
  • Which information were you looking for during each stage of your decision-making process?

Good Resource: Here's a large selection of questions Hotjar compiled to ask your site visitors.

Step 5: Prioritize

Where’s the low-hanging fruit?

At this point, it’s time to prioritize which of your website pages are the most economical and efficient to optimize and test first.

For example, if your personas are continually getting stuck on one question in your project planning form then you may need to just add a short blurb with helpful details and include an example answer(s).

This would be relatively quick and easy to test and see if it increases form completions.

Step 6: Visualize Your Information

I find it easiest to draw out my customer journey maps on a large whiteboard or huge piece of paper. Of course, there’s also online tools specifically made for customer journey mapping that look useful, like UXPressia and Canvanizer.

Below I’ve included a list of templates to give you a dose of inspiration, but keep in mind that there is no one universal customer journey map, and they vary based on the person building it and the goals of the business they’re building it for.

Clarabridge Customer Journey Map TemplateClarabridge Customer Journey Map TemplateClarabridge Customer Journey Map Template
Clarabridge customer journey map template.


Before You Leave…

You’ll quickly learn that building customer journey maps is a challenging but well worth it, if you give it the time it deserves.

Focus less on making the “perfect” or “right” type of map, and instead focus more on dissecting your website visitors’ experiences on your site so you can find those interesting moments and/or opportunities for intervention.

If you’ve created a customer journey map, please share it in the comments below. I’d love to see your work and how you approached this challenging process.

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