It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling software or soft serve, every sale your business makes involves a customer journey. The customer journey describes the steps your customers make toward purchasing a product or service from you. From initial awareness to purchase and beyond to repeat business, knowing the details of your customer journey can help you improve experiences and deliver value.
In this guide, we’ll walk through the basics of how to create your customer journey maps. We’ll touch on the benefits of customer journey mapping, including mapping content to the buyer’s journey.
What is a Customer Journey Map?
A customer journey map is a visual or written representation of the stages your customer goes through as they identify a need and transact with your business. When you map the customer journey and tie content to each stage, you can better serve your clients with personalized ads and marketing efforts that show them relevant details—even after they’ve already bought something from you.
Mapping the customer journey will also help your brand successfully allocate resources where they are most needed, leading to efficiencies in how you spend your time and money. After learning how to create a customer journey map effectively, your brand's reputation will stand out amongst those offering similar products and services and will allow you to take your expanded reach and combine it with increased traffic.
How to Create a Customer Journey Map
There’s no one answer for how to do customer journey mapping. Because customer experiences vary, customer journey maps can come in many forms, ranging from spreadsheets and infographics to a wall full of Post-Its. How you choose to design your map is your choice. Here are six steps to help you get started, regardless of format.
1. Align the goals of your customer with the products/services you offer
The first step in creating a customer journey map is identifying your customer's primary goals and objectives using an exhaustive research process.
Research—quantitative and qualitative—informs the mapping process. Companies with a firm grasp of customer motivations, actions, and pain points typically get that information through quantitative data. Qualitative data provides more nuanced input on the emotional responses of your customers. Customer research is crucial for the next step: identifying target personas and touchpoints.
2. Identify your buyer personas
Buyer personas are a combination of demographic insights (age, gender identity, location, income, occupation) and behavioral insights (how do they shop, what considerations do they make, what values do they prioritize). A brand may have many different personas that they identify based on gathered data. However, it's best to narrow the focus to one or two personas that represent the largest segment of your customers for accurate buyer journey content mapping.
Touchpoints are instances where customers interact with a brand. They must be considered carefully in mapping because they provide critical insight into the customer's actions. Besides websites and social media channels, touchpoints can also include referrals and online research conducted by the customer, which companies may have little control over. This type of interaction is called an external touchpoint, and it is important when trying to understand where areas of friction occur.
When listing touchpoints, keep in mind these three factors that can motivate or deter customers on their journey.
Limit the number of required actions. The more steps that are needed, the less likely a customer is to complete their desired task. To improve this process, write down your customer's actions throughout their interaction with your brand before purchasing. Cut out any redundancies or excess steps to streamline as much as possible.
Understand consumer intentions. Customers typically look for your site because they have a need or a problem they want to address. Understanding that need is essential to successfully tailor marketing strategies and deliver the exact content your customer is looking for.
Identify pain points. When a customer doesn't complete their journey, they likely encountered obstacles in the process. It's critical to identify these obstacles and address them right away. If the data around the pain point is unclear, consider sending a survey to collect more information directly from the source. If that isn't an option, it can help to have a new employee, or someone outside the company, run through the process to see if they discover any hiccups that people more familiar with the process may have missed.
4. Determine which journey map you want to use
There are four common types of customer journey maps, each with a unique focus and purpose. Which kind of journey map that you choose hinges on the goals and objectives set early on. Customer journey mapping examples include the following types:
Current state. This type of map is used to understand how customers interact with a brand at that moment. It can help identify existing pain points between the brand and its customers, which can improve the end-to-end customer experience.
Day-in-the-life. Like current state journey maps, this option examines the customer's current motivations and actions. However, it looks at a more comprehensive view by taking into account their daily behavior. This option is best suited for innovation because it helps identify unmet needs and opportunities for after-sales care to increase customer retention.
Future state. A future state journey map is designed to predict and create the ideal process for your customers. This is helpful when a company plans to upgrade its marketing materials and strategies.
Blueprint. This option combines a current or future state journey map with a comprehensive system of people, policies, processes, and technologies (frontend and backend). This type of mapping can determine the root causes of existing pain points and the ideal ecosystem to support future experiences.
5. Experience the customer journey first-hand
Once the customer journey is mapped out, it's critical to follow it yourself so you can test each stage and assess its efficiency and effectiveness. If you encounter any obstacles, you can explore and address them right away. Brands with multiple buyer personas should complete a customer journey analysis for each persona from end-to-end. This way, they can see a clear picture of each customer's experience and understand how to make improvements, if needed.
A first-hand understanding of all stages of the customer journey creates empathy for your consumers, but it also brings you up close and personal to any hiccups or roadblocks in the process.
6. Get started with a customer journey map template
Creating a customer journey map helps to provide a clear understanding of the consumer experience at each brand touchpoint. The information gathered from this exercise enables companies to streamline their processes, optimize budget allocation, and boost ROI. To help you get started, AdRoll has created a customer journey map template to guide you through the steps to create your customer journey map. You can download the customer journey map template directly or check out the following blog post for more information:
Why It’s Important to Map Content to the Customer Journey for Cross-Channel Campaigns
When you map your content to the customer journey, you create elements that touch your audience at all stages of their buying experience. It makes your marketing more effective from top to bottom.
Digital customer journey mapping with cross-channel campaigns ensures a consistency for your messaging no matter where or how the customer sees it. Create and deliver content that addresses their needs, questions, or concerns at every step of the journey to guide them smoothly from awareness to purchase.
Accurate content journey mapping ensures consistency across your media mix—from your social media and blog posts to email and direct mail efforts. It reinforces your brand image to create impactful and lasting associations in your customers’ minds. This helps lead to four incredibly important lifts in KPIs you can track:
Increased customer engagement
People like content that’s relevant to them and tend to ignore the stuff that isn’t. When you map your content to each stage of the funnel or journey, you have a better chance at reaching people at the exact place they’re ready (and willing) to engage with it. A customer in the awareness stage, for example, wants educational content to help understand their problem. A customer in the consideration stage wants comparisons or reviews. When you have both types of content available, you won’t miss out on either one.
When you offer valuable details to consumers, you help them make informed decisions. That builds trust and credibility for your brand. A consumer who trusts you is more likely to engage with your content.
Personalizing your content with consistent messaging across all channels reinforces your brand image. Think of it in terms of rowing a boat: if everyone’s moving the same direction, there’s less friction. If you’re sharing content on social media that doesn’t align with your customers’ needs, it won’t help.
Finally, don’t neglect the importance of post-purchase content. When you offer support, tips, or additional product suggestions based on what they’ve purchased, you can enhance your customer satisfaction scores and lead to one of the most treasured resources of all: customer loyalty.
Improved conversion rates
Conversions may happen as part of the decision-making phase of the customer buying journey, but that doesn’t mean your content can neglect the stages that occur before. Content mapping for the whole journey—not just the awareness or decision phases—can increase conversion rates.
Why is this the case? Because it ensures potential customers see the right message at the right time. Let’s look at how this works:
Awareness stage: Informative content like blog posts, guides, and educational videos gives prospective customers the details they need to understand their problems. It attracts potential customers and draws them into the sales funnel.
Consideration stage: As potential customers evaluate solutions, you can use comparison charts, case studies, and webinars to highlight the advantages of your product or service. This helps influence their perception and makes your offering more appealing.
Decision stage: Prospective customers who are ready to make a purchase benefit from content like product demos, testimonials, or special offers and retargeting campaigns. This content all works together to nudge your customers into saying “yes” and buying from you.
Retention stage: Even after your customers buy from you, the work isn’t done. Send follow-up emails, user guides, and support content to enhance their satisfaction and encourage repeat business. Happy customers can leave positive reviews. Showcase them as much as possible to help boost conversion rates via the trust and credibility they promote.
Enhanced customer experience
While it’s not as simple to measure the customer experience as concrete KPIs like conversion rates, you can still see evidence of an enhanced customer experience with mapped content. When you plan your content and advertising strategies and map them to your customer journey, consider the following:
Relevance: Content mapping for every stage of the sales cycle can make it more relevant and useful, which improves a customer’s perception of your brand.
Guidance: When you remove friction from the buying process, you improve people’s lives. Offering guidance to customers at all stages of the funnel, from awareness and interest and decision-making, helps to make the process more enjoyable.
Consistency: No one wants to hear different things in different channels. Tailoring your content on all platforms to different stages of the buying process strengthens a customer’s connection to your brand and makes them more likely to trust you. They may even become your best advocates.
Engagement: Content that aligns with the customer’s current stage in the buying journey is more likely to resonate with them. They may even interact, comment, or share it. This social proof is a valuable currency.
Everything we’ve mentioned above can lead to an increase in your ROI because your optimized content strategy aligns with the needs and interests of your customers. When you cater to them, you make it easier to say “Yes!” to you and your products.
That increase in engagement keeps customers moving through the funnel. When more people engage with your content—either through clicks, likes, and shares— before they purchase, it directly impacts your ROI. The higher conversion rates you notice because you’ve nurtured those leads make a direct impact on ROI.
The post-buying experience impacts ROI, too. Customers crave valuable, relevant content even after they purchase. When you create that content, you can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty. That encourages repeat business. A repeat customer who initially purchased because of an early-stage infographic you made improves your ROI. Why? Because retaining existing customers is often more cost-effective than acquiring new ones.
Ultimately, when you know what type of content best resonates with your audience, you can allocate your resources more effectively. When you spend less to create better content, you reduce costs and improve your ROI.
Once you’ve created the right kinds of content for your journey and the audiences you serve, use AdRoll’s audience targeting platform to ensure your message gets across where and when it needs to.
What are the key components of a successful customer journey map?
Your customer journey map should include all the essential pieces of the puzzle. Use buyer personas to understand who is shopping with you at each stage of the journey—from awareness to purchase and beyond. List out their goals and expectations, as well as any pain points they face. Finally, don’t forget to account for opportunities for improvement in the customer experience.
How often should I update my customer journey map?
Customer journey maps aren’t static documents, which means you should regularly update them at company inflection points, like new product or service launches or drastic shifts in market conditions. Consider reviewing and updating your customer journeys annually or bi-annually as needed.
How do I measure the effectiveness of my customer journey map?
Like other aspects of your marketing efforts, measuring your customer journey map’s effectiveness relies on tracking core KPIs. The data should tell a story about your customers’ experiences. Look at things like conversion rates, customer satisfaction and loyalty scores, and even their total lifetime value (CLV). Even the length of your sales cycle can give you insights about how well you’re doing.