Customer journey mapping: Creating an effective journey map

If you offer a product or service to consumers or other businesses, you need to understand and plan the best customer journey to meet their needs. The details and unique turns in this journey will depend on your market, but to attract and retain loyal customers, you want to include a few universal touchpoints on your customer journey map

By the time a customer decides to purchase a product or enroll in a service, they have already taken steps to seek solutions and weigh their options. To ensure you win and keep their business, you need a plan to stay relevant and top-of-mind at every junction on your ideal customer’s journey map.

Many strategists forget that their brand needs to stay proactive and agile throughout this process — customers aren’t the only ones taking this journey! This resource will show you how to plan an effective customer journey map and share a user-friendly customer journey map template. We’ll take you through critical steps in the customer journey and offer advice about what your company can do to build trust, engagement, and loyalty with new and returning consumers or clients.

What is a customer journey?

A customer journey is the sequence of steps that consumers take as they seek solutions to their problems, wants, or needs. Usually, these journeys follow similar steps across industries, but they are not always linear. 

If a prospective consumer is not satisfied with their options at any point in the journey, they may return to a previous step in search of something more compelling. This is why it’s vital to create a focused and informative journey for customers that pays attention to all of the significant steps:

  • Awareness: When prospective customers are searching for solutions and first encounter your brand.
  • Consideration: When prospects are learning more about your brand and its offerings through research, referrals, and comparison.
  • Decision (or Conversion): When prospective customers weigh their top choices and select the product or service they think is right for them.
  • Action: When new customers purchase, book, or enroll with your brand and start using your products.
  • Loyalty (or Retention and Advocacy): When customers interact and establish a relationship with your brand (through feedback, return business, referrals, and so on).

As you compel consumers to engage with your brand, you’ve created a touchpoint. It’s essential to provide touchpoints throughout the customer journey with actions and assets that impress them. 

The activities needed to impress prospects along the way will depend on several factors. Before we start charting an unfamiliar course, let’s take a look at what you need to know before you create an effective customer journey map. 

Building a successful customer journey strategy 

A journey map that converts prospects to loyal customers starts with a stellar strategy. Follow these five steps to make sure your customers get the most relevant products and resources for their needs with a user experience that will bring them back for more. 

  1. Understand what you have to offer and who benefits from it 

Every member of your team should know how to communicate the benefits of your offerings. You can’t share something as effectively when you don’t know what it is! Likewise, you need to know who your ideal customer is. Ask yourself, “Who needs this solution the most?” This is a good opportunity to leverage easy online surveys that reveal your target demographic, their primary needs related to your offerings, and any other considerations you need to make to attract prospective customers. 

  1. Create personas of your ideal customers 

Once you have a general idea of who your ideal customers are, create a few personas to give these customers a name and a face. When you have a well-developed sense of who to include in your key demographic, you’ll have a more nuanced understanding of the variations that will take place in their customer journeys. For example, you may discover that your reusable water bottles will solve problems for athletes of all ages, sustainability-conscious millennials, and adults with limited mobility. Avoid broadening your market too much, because that can take focus and efficiency away from your marketing tactics. 

Create a persona for each of these groups within your target market, accounting for these imagined but realistic variables: 

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Economic status/income range
  • Occupation
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Main sources of media and information
  • Daily habits
  • Consistent pain points
  • Favored brands and products
  • Spending habits
  • Any details specific to your industry or offerings

While the general stops on their customer journey maps will be similar, each persona’s specific needs should influence your value propositions and the assets you create for marketing your product.  

  1. Refine your value propositions

Customer journeys are personal, but your value propositions need to remain consistent through every encounter with consumers. As you become more familiar with your target market and your customer personas, refine your value props to be inclusive, communicative, and aspirational. You will use these statements as guiding pillars in your customer journey map and marketing assets across your company. 

  1. Create your customer journey map 

Yes, it’s time to put your strategy and careful planning onto an actual customer journey map. At each step in the process, it helps to list the following elements that will satisfy prospects and compel them to move forward. Consider these examples: 

  • Consumer activities and questions
  • Touchpoints like websites, review forums, and advertisements
  • Assets like paid media, blog posts, videos, and webinars (some assets are touchpoints)
  • Strategies like SEO, social media and community management, and referral programs
  • Tools like engagement reports and online surveys 

Consider what each of your personas would need and do throughout the entire process as you assign these elements to each phase in the customer journey map. 

  1. Build assets for each touchpoint in the customer journey

As you map out the customer journey, you’ll have a clearer picture of what your ideal consumers will be asking, which brands they might be considering, and the types of content they will most likely consume to move them from one phase to the next. Depending on your industry, that content may include the following types of assets as well as others: 

  • Blog posts
  • Partnered or influencer content
  • Print or email newsletters
  • Infographics
  • Paid media and social media copy and graphics
  • Surveys
  • Videos (ad spots, tutorials, webinars)
  • Promotional flyers
  • Sample kits or demos

 When you’re ready to customize your journey map with action items and assets, use the following section as a customer journey map template. 

5 Touchpoints explained: Creating an effective customer journey map 

It’s time to take a closer look at what you can do to engage with prospective and new customers at each step in their customer journey. 

  1. Awareness

During the Awareness phase of the customer journey, consumers are searching for solutions and encountering multiple brands, products, and even DIY options. This is the time to shine if you want to grab their attention for any further consideration when they first encounter your brand. 

What consumers are doing: During this step in the customer journey, consumers are likely conducting research. This can include keyword searching for solutions to problems online, reading blog posts and news articles, browsing online forums and print promotions, and encountering brands for the first time. 

What brands can do: You might think that consumers are doing all the heavy lifting in this stage because they’re asking questions and browsing content. However, you don’t want to approach brand awareness passively. Capture inbound search queries with a strong SEO strategy. Build your presence on social media. Start a blog or partner with content creators to address the critical concerns of your target market. Consumers will come to you when you provide engaging and informative assets about what matters to them. 

  1. Consideration 

Once you’ve caught a prospect’s attention, either with your content or through other sources, you need to hold onto it. This is the Consideration phase. At this point, they move from looking for answers about potential solutions to looking for your answers about solutions. Most likely, your brand will be considered alongside other contenders, so ensure every impression you make is a strong one. At this point, consumers are interacting directly with your brand, and you want them to stick around for the next step in their customer journey. 

What consumers are doing: Researching specific brands and products, comparing competitors, and assessing their own priorities. This might include taking a closer look at your product and service specifications, looking into customer care policies, and turning to direct comparison reviews, such as “Brand X vs. Brand Y.” The consideration phase varies because consumer-focused media comes in many forms. 

What brands can do: Continuously optimize the user experience (UX) on all your touchpoints, including description and e-commerce transaction pages. Learn from the user data you gain each day to improve future encounters with your brand. Small things like making sure descriptions and processes are clear and all buttons function properly make a big difference when someone is considering you against a competitor. 

  1. Decision

The Decision (or Conversion) phase is your make it or break it moment in the customer journey. Once prospective customers are satisfied with researching and comparing their options, they will eventually make a decision. Sometimes they find that none of the brands they’ve been considering offer what they are looking for. But often they do make a positive choice; when they do, you want to make it easy to choose your brand and products with confidence. 

What consumers are doing: They are looking at “deal-breaker” factors, such as price vs. value, customer support responsiveness, company values, and policies. By the time they are at the decision phase, it’s not just about product specifications or the shopping experience. Consumers want to support a brand they can trust to deliver a quality solution to their problems. 

What brands can do: To anticipate this step, go the extra mile. This could include remarketing strategies that offer incentives to prospects who have already visited your website or engaged with your company. Make sure your return and refund policies are easy to find (and competitive), and coach your customer service team to answer key decision-making questions. Responsive community management and a dedicated email address, phone line, and chat feature are essential. 

  1. Action

At this junction on your customer journey map, you have a new customer. Congratulations! All that thoughtful planning and asset creation is paying off when they reach the Action phase. The consumer has decided to make their purchase with you (or convert in another way), but don’t assume this is a done deal. They still need to be able to complete the transaction and start using your offering. Like all other steps in the customer journey, this moment needs to be easy and intuitive for the user, as well as enjoyable or engaging. 

What consumers are doing: Depending on your business model, customers are taking this moment to purchase your products online or at a physical retailer, or are booking a service that they plan to experience soon. Once they have the product or service, they will start putting their purchase to use and — if you navigate the phase successfully — starting to interact with your brand as a loyal customer. 

What brands can do: Optimize the transaction experience on your customer journey map. QA your own e-commerce site or physical store, and regularly see how retailers on your stock list are optimizing the experience for consumers who take action at one of their touchpoints. Once the transaction is complete, follow up with your new customer immediately with the information they may need to care for their purchase and correspond with your team. 

  1. Loyalty

Guiding prospective customers through their customer journey takes a lot of work and careful planning. Once you’ve established a relationship with a new customer, nurture it to build customer loyalty and expand your reach. Enthusiastic customers are more likely to recommend your brand and products to a peer, which, for many, can be a deciding factor. When you keep current customers happy and exceed their expectations with innovation and excellent customer service, their journey map is shorter and your costs per transaction are lower. 

What consumers are doing: At this point, your customers are using your offerings to improve their lives. The better the results and experience they get with your product, the more likely they will be to repurchase and refer a peer. They may also start engaging with your brand more casually on social media and planning their next purchase.

 What brands can do: Take the initiative to check in with your customers in a friendly, supportive way. A brief survey about their experience navigating your customer journey map is a good way to let them know you care about their feedback. Consider offering a loyalty club for referrals and future transactions. This is also an excellent opportunity to bring consumers back to some of the relevant assets you create to build brand awareness and authority. This could include blog content with tips to enrich their experience with the product, a newsletter with updates and promotions, occasional opportunities to provide further feedback. Start a conversation with your customers. 

Learn more about customer loyalty and your Net Promoter Score (NPS) to boost referrals and retention. 

Responding to twists and turns in customer experiences 

Every consumer is different. They’re people, just like you. Even the most reliable demographic data or carefully planned strategies will miss an occasional twist or turn on your customer journey map. That’s OK! You do not need to set these maps in stone. It’s vital to revisit them regularly and compare your strategy with real-life results. And above all, listen to your ideal customers. 

QuestionPro makes it easy to collect consumer feedback. Our selection of 350+ survey templates and an intuitive Customer Journey Dashboard that helps you build a clear and actionable strategy for your own journey map.