What is the Customer Journey?

The Customer Journey

 “Know your customer” is just about the best advice that anyone can give to build a successful business. After all, the customer is the hero in this story and your business is the sage, the expert, the Yoda– if you will–helping solve their problems.  How can you guide them anywhere if you don’t know them? 

But–as is the case with a lot of business advice–”knowing your customer” happens to be much easier said than done.

Where things are easy on paper–but a little less so in practice–a framework is helpful. Enter: the customer journey.

A customer journey is the sum of all interactions and experiences a customer has with a company or brand, from the initial contact to post-purchase. It includes all touchpoints and channels a customer uses to interact with the company, including advertising, social media, customer service, and the actual product or service itself.

The customer journey can be broken down into stages, which typically include awareness, consideration, purchase, and post-purchase. 

Each stage represents a specific point in the customer journey and requires different tactics and strategies to ensure a positive experience for the customer.

Why is Understanding the Customer Journey Important?

Understanding the customer journey is important as it provides insights into how customers interact with a business– from the initial point of contact to the final purchase decision and beyond. In a world of SaaS businesses with monthly recurring revenues, this is particularly important, as customers need to be won and re-won every month.

By mapping out the customer journey, businesses can identify pain points and areas for improvement, as well as opportunities to create positive customer experiences that hadn’t existed before.

There are the several reasons why understanding your customer’s journey is important:

  • It can enhance customer experience: When businesses understand the customer journey, they can identify areas where customers may be struggling or experiencing friction, and make improvements to make the customer experience smoother and more enjoyable.
  • It can improve customer retention: By understanding the customer journey, businesses can identify touchpoints where customers are most likely to drop off or switch to a competitor. By addressing these issues, businesses can improve customer retention and reduce churn.
  • It can help to optimize marketing and sales:  Understanding the customer journey allows businesses to identify the most effective marketing and sales channels at each stage of the journey (including content marketing, we’ll discuss this later). This enables businesses to optimize their marketing and sales efforts to better engage and convert customers.

Knowing your customer’s journey is essential for any business looking to generate leads, drive sales, build long-term customer relationships and improve customer satisfaction. 

How Understanding Your Customer’s Journey has an Impact on Key Performance Metrics (KPI’s)

Customer Journey KPI's

You might be skeptical and wondering how understanding the customer journey can impact the actual metrics you look at every day to measure the health of your business. After all, this all sounds like marketing jargon–how does this all help the bottom line?

Knowledge of your customer’s journey (and–of course–acting on the information) can have a huge impact on the following metrics that are likely important for your business:

  • Conversion rate: By understanding the customer journey, businesses can identify where customers drop off and optimize those touchpoints to increase the conversion rate. For example, discovering an important site landing page with a particularly weak call to action along the customer’s journey path can lead to improvements that increase leads and sales.
  • Customer retention: Understanding the customer journey can help businesses identify the pain points and address them, thus improving customer satisfaction and increasing customer loyalty.
  • Customer lifetime value: By mapping the customer journey, businesses can identify opportunities to upsell and cross-sell products, improving the customer’s lifetime value.
  • Customer satisfaction: Understanding the customer journey helps businesses provide a seamless and personalized experience, leading to higher customer satisfaction.
  • Return on investment (ROI) and Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): By optimizing touchpoints and improving the customer experience, businesses can increase sales and revenue, resulting in a higher return on investment.
  • Customer advocacy: By providing an exceptional customer experience, businesses can turn their customers into advocates who will refer their friends and family, increasing the customer base and revenue.

Assuming you’ve been convinced of the value of understanding your customer’s journey and are ready to move forward, your next question may be: How? Well–like with any journey–you’ll be needing a map.

What is a Customer Journey Map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of the end-to-end experience a customer has with a business. It is a step-by-step depiction of the customer’s interactions with a brand, from the initial point of contact to the final purchase decision. 

The map outlines the customer’s thoughts, feelings, and actions at each touchpoint of the journey. It helps businesses understand the customer’s perspective, identify pain points, and find opportunities for improvement. 

The customer journey map can be used by businesses to develop a customer-centric strategy, create personalized experiences, and optimize touchpoints to improve the overall customer experience. It is a powerful tool for businesses to gain a deeper understanding of their customers and improve their engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty.

Types of Customer Journey Maps

There are several types of customer journey maps, including:

  • Current state journey maps: These maps represent the existing customer journey and identify areas for improvement. They often highlight pain points, bottlenecks, and areas where customers may drop off (Current state Journey maps are the most commonly used type of customer journey map).
  • Future state journey maps: These maps depict the desired customer experience and outline the steps necessary to achieve it. They help organizations set goals and prioritize improvements.
  • Day-in-the-life journey maps: These maps show a typical day in the life of a customer, including all of their interactions with a brand, both online and offline.
  • Service blueprint journey maps: These maps focus on the internal processes and systems that support the customer experience. They help identify areas for process improvement and automation.
  • Persona-based journey maps: These maps take into account the specific needs and preferences of different customer personas. They help organizations tailor their customer experience to different segments.

Examples of Customer Journey Maps and How They are Used

Customer journey mapping is commonly used by many successful customer and experience-centric companies (no comments from Delta customers):

Disney uses customer journey maps to understand and improve the experience of their theme park visitors. They map out each stage of the visitor’s journey, from planning their trip to leaving the park, in order to identify areas for improvement and enhance the overall guest experience.

Airbnb created a customer journey map that maps out the experience of a guest from searching for a rental to checking out. The map helps Airbnb identify areas where they can improve the booking process and make the experience more seamless for guests.

Starbucks uses customer journey maps to understand and improve the experience of their customers from ordering to receiving their beverage. The maps help them identify bottlenecks and areas for improvement, such as reducing wait times or improving the store layout.

Toyota uses customer journey maps to understand the experience of car buyers, from initial research to making a purchase. The maps help them improve the sales process and enhance the overall customer experience.

Delta Airlines 
Delta Airlines created a customer journey map that maps out the experience of a passenger from booking a flight to arriving at their destination. The map helps Delta identify areas where they can improve the customer experience, such as reducing wait times or improving the in-flight amenities.

How to Create a Customer Journey Map

Here are the 7 steps to create a customer journey map:

  1. Identify your customer persona: Define your ideal customer by creating a detailed profile that includes demographic, psychographic, and behavioural traits.
  1. Identify customer touchpoints: Identify all the channels and touchpoints where customers interact with your business, such as your website, social media, customer service, and advertising.
  1. Map out the stages of the journey: Map out each stage of the customer journey from initial awareness to post-purchase. The typical stages are awareness, consideration, purchase, and post-purchase.
  1. Define customer goals and emotions: Define customer goals and emotions at each stage of the journey. What are they trying to achieve, and how do they feel about their experience?
  1. Create a visual representation: Create a visual representation of the customer journey map that includes all touchpoints, customer goals, and emotions.
  1. Validate the map with customer feedback: Validate the map by gathering feedback from customers and incorporating their feedback into the map.
  1. Continuously update and refine the map: Continuously update and refine the map based on customer feedback, behavior, and changes in the market or your business.

Creating a customer journey map is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and optimization to ensure that you are meeting your customer’s needs and delivering a positive experience 

What’s Included in a Customer Journey Map?

 The Buying Process: In order to understand how your customers make their purchasing decisions, it’s important to gather data from various sources such as prospecting tools, CMS, and behavior analytics tools. This will help you to create an accurate chart of your customer’s journey from their initial contact with your business to their final purchase.

 Alternatively, you can simplify this process by categorizing the typical stages of the buying journey, including awareness, consideration, and decision, and mapping them horizontally.

User Actions: This component of the customer journey map outlines the actions that a customer takes at each stage of the purchasing process. For instance, during the problem-awareness stage, customers may download ebooks or participate in educational webinars.

In essence, this involves examining how your customers progress through each stage of their journey and what behaviors they exhibit along the way.

Emotions: Regardless of whether the objective is significant or minor, it’s crucial to keep in mind that your customers are attempting to resolve a problem. This implies that they’re likely experiencing some sort of emotion, such as relief, happiness, excitement, or worry.

Incorporating these emotions into the journey map can assist you in pinpointing and addressing negative emotions at different stages.

Pain Points: Whenever a negative emotion arises, it is often triggered by a pain point.

By including pain points in your customer journey map, you can pinpoint the specific stage where your customer experiences negative emotions and identify the root cause behind it.

Solutions: The solutions component is the last element in your customer journey map, where you and your team can collaborate to generate ideas on how to enhance your buying process, resulting in fewer pain points for customers throughout their journey.

Customer Journey Map Templates

To develop your own customer journey maps, there are a variety of online resources as well as Customer Journey Map templates(most of them are free of charge) here are a few we recommend:

  • HubSpot’s Customer Journey Map Template – This template is designed to help businesses visualize and analyze the customer journey across different stages, from awareness to loyalty. It includes sections for touchpoints, goals, emotions, and pain points. Access the template here.
  • Canva’s Customer Journey Map Template – Canva’s template is a customizable journey map that helps businesses visualize and understand the customer journey. It includes sections for personas, pain points, and opportunities. Access the template here.
  • Smaply’s Customer Journey Map Template – Smaply’s template is a comprehensive and customizable journey map that includes sections for customer actions, emotions, and touchpoints. It also includes a section for business goals and actions. Access the template here.
  • Xtensio’s Customer Journey Map Template – Xtensio’s template is a visual journey map that includes sections for stages, customer touchpoints, emotions, and pain points. It also includes a section for business goals and opportunities. Access the template here.
  • Creately’s Customer Journey Map Template – Creately’s template is a customizable journey map that includes sections for personas. It also includes a section for business goals and opportunities. Access the template here.

What is the Difference Between a Customer Journey Map and a UX Journey Map?

Customer journey mapping and UX journey mapping are two related but distinct concepts in the field of customer experience design.

Customer journey mapping is a process of creating a visual representation of the customer’s journey from the initial contact with a company to the final purchase and beyond. It involves identifying and mapping out all the touchpoints that a customer may encounter along the way, as well as the emotions, thoughts, and actions that they may experience at each stage.

UX journey mapping, on the other hand, is a more focused process that specifically looks at the user experience (UX) of a product or service. It involves creating a visual representation of the user’s journey as they interact with a product or service, from the first point of contact to the final usage and beyond. This includes identifying the user’s goals, motivations, pain points, and opportunities for improvement in the overall user experience.

In short: customer journey mapping is a broader concept that looks at the entire journey of a customer’s interaction with a company, while UX journey mapping is a more specific process that focuses on the user’s experience of a product or service.

Why is Knowing Your Customer’s Journey Important for Content Strategy?

The customer journey is critical for content marketing because it enables businesses to understand their customers’ needs and preferences throughout their interactions with the brand. By understanding their customers’ needs, businesses can create content that is relevant and valuable, leading to better engagement, conversions, and customer retention.

The customer journey helps businesses segment their audience and create targeted content that addresses specific needs and preferences. It also assists in content planning by identifying the types of content that are most relevant and valuable at each stage of the journey.

Furthermore, mapping out the customer journey enables businesses to engage their customers and build stronger relationships with them by creating content that is relevant and valuable at each stage. It can also help identify barriers to conversion and create content that addresses those barriers, leading to higher conversion rates.

By delivering a positive experience throughout the customer journey, businesses can build customer loyalty and increase customer retention, ultimately leading to long-term success. In summary, understanding the customer journey is essential for creating a successful content marketing strategy that delivers value to customers and drives business results.

Examples of Companies Mapping their Content to Their Customer’s Journey

There are some great examples of companies that have mapped their content strategy to their customer journey, and in so doing see some great successes:

HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Methodology
HubSpot has developed a comprehensive inbound marketing methodology that is designed to attract, engage, and delight customers at every stage of the customer journey. Their content is tailored to meet the needs of buyers at each stage, with blog articles, e-books, webinars, and other resources that help customers make informed purchasing decisions. HubSpot’s blog is one of the most popular marketing blogs in the world, with over 7 million monthly visitors and more than 600,000 subscribers.

REI’s Expert Advice
Outdoor retailer REI provides expert advice on their website that is tailored to the different stages of the customer journey. For example, they provide beginner-level articles on topics like “How to Choose a Hiking Boot,” while also providing more advanced resources for experienced outdoor enthusiasts. According to REI, their Expert Advice content receives over 9 million views per year and has helped to increase customer engagement and loyalty.

Airbnb’s Travel Guides
Airbnb’s travel guides are a great example of content marketing that is inspired by the customer journey. These guides provide destination-specific recommendations and insider tips that help customers plan their trips and make the most of their travel experiences.

Sephora’s Beauty Insider Community
Sephora has created a thriving community of beauty enthusiasts through their Beauty Insider program, which provides members with personalized recommendations, reviews, and other resources at every stage of the customer journey. Members can earn rewards for engaging with the community and sharing their experiences with others. According to Sephora, Beauty Insider members spend twice as much as non-members and are more likely to shop at Sephora both online and in-store.

Overall, these examples demonstrate how businesses can use content marketing to provide value to customers at each stage of the customer journey, building trust, and establishing long-term relationships with their audience.

Customer Journey FAQ’s

What is a Touchpoint in a Customer Journey Map?

A touchpoint is any interaction between a customer and a business at any stage of the customer journey. They can be physical or digital and occur before, during, or after a purchase. Touchpoints are represented in a customer journey map by icons with descriptions of the interaction, channel used, customer’s goal, and emotions associated with it. For example, a social media post that leads a customer to visit a business’s website is a touchpoint in the awareness stage. Touchpoints offer businesses an opportunity to make a positive impression on the customer and strengthen their relationship.

How Long Does Typical Customer Journey Mapping Take?

The length of a typical customer journey mapping exercise can vary depending on the complexity of the customer journey and the number of stakeholders involved. It can range from a few weeks to several months, with some organizations conducting ongoing updates as the customer journey evolves. The mapping process involves researching customer behavior and preferences, identifying touchpoints, and developing a visual representation of the journey. The time required for each stage depends on the amount and quality of data available and the level of collaboration and consensus-building among stakeholders.

How do I  Run a Do-it-yourself Customer Journey Mapping Workshop? 

To run a DIY customer journey mapping workshop, follow these steps:

* Define the customer persona(s) and identify their pain points.
* Map out the customer journey using a whiteboard, sticky notes, or an online tool.
* Identify touchpoints and emotions at each stage of the journey.
* Analyze the gaps and opportunities for improvement.
* Brainstorm and prioritize solutions.
* Create an action plan and assign responsibilities.
* Follow up with progress updates and iterate as needed.

Who Invented Customer Journey Mapping?

It’s not clear who exactly invented customer journey mapping as it has evolved over time through various marketing and design disciplines. However, it is commonly attributed to the software and design consultancy firm Adaptive Path, which popularized the concept in the early 2000s. Since then, many other companies and individuals have contributed to the development and refinement of the methodology.

What are the 7 Steps to Map the Customer Journey?

These are the 7 Steps to Map the Customer Journey:

1-Define the customer personas: Identify the different types of customers that your company serves, and create a detailed profile of each one, including their demographics, behaviors, and motivations.
2-Identify the customer touchpoints: Determine all the points at which the customer interacts with your company, both online and offline, and make a list of all the channels that customers use to engage with your business.
3-Gather customer feedback: Collect data and feedback from customers about their experiences, through surveys, interviews, and social media monitoring, and analyze the results to gain insights into their needs and preferences.
4-Create a customer journey map: Use the insights gathered in the previous steps to create a visual representation of the customer journey, highlighting each touchpoint and identifying the customer’s emotions, motivations, and pain points at each stage.
5-Analyze the customer journey: Analyze the customer journey map to identify areas where the customer experience can be improved, such as reducing friction points, streamlining processes, or providing better customer support.
6-Develop an action plan: Use the insights gained from the analysis to create an action plan that outlines the steps needed to improve the customer experience, including changes to processes, training for staff, or new technology implementations.
7-Implement and measure: Implement the changes identified in the action plan, and track customer feedback and metrics to measure the impact of the changes on the customer experience. Continuously iterate and refine the customer journey map and the action plan based on ongoing feedback and analysis.

Is the Customer Journey the Same as the Sales Funnel?

The customer journey and the sales funnel are related concepts, but they are not exactly the same thing.

The customer journey refers to the process that a customer goes through when interacting with a company or brand, from the initial awareness stage through to the post-purchase experience. It can involve multiple touchpoints and channels, and can vary depending on the customer’s needs and preferences.

The sales funnel, on the other hand, is a specific model or framework that companies use to guide customers through the buying process. It typically consists of several stages, such as awareness, interest, consideration, and decision, and is designed to help businesses understand how to optimize their marketing and sales efforts at each stage.

While the customer journey and the sales funnel share some similarities, they are not identical. The customer journey is a broader concept that encompasses the entire customer experience, while the sales funnel is a specific tool used to manage the sales process. However, understanding both concepts is important for companies that want to create effective marketing and sales strategies that engage customers at every stage of their journey.

Are there Customer Journey Map Templates Specifically for Content?

Not really. Your customer’s journey is your customer’s journey, and touchpoints are touchpoints– whether they be through a company’s product, website or social channels. The point of customer journey mapping is to try to see the whole picture of the experience that then can be used to optimize specific touchpoints–including those focused on content

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