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Direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands are continually looking to expand their reach by leveraging web and social. While the ability to engage consumers online represents a massive opportunity, it also brings an intensely competitive environment.

Understanding how customers interact with your brand over time helps build brand awareness and develop a rewarding relationship with your consumers. By creating a customer journey map, you can understand the path that they take from the first introduction to your brand through to customers (and repeat customers). This clarity enables your marketing team to develop the right messaging and offers for each stage of their journey, ideally giving them a friendly push to the next step of the buying process. As you consider the multiple channels and touchpoints that each consumer experiences, remember that it’s imperative to create a streamlined and logical user experience across channels. 

Later in this article, we’ll share with you how to create a customer journey map. But first, we need to have a better understanding of what it is.

For more on identifying the customer journey stages:

Customer Journey Stages: A Breakdown for Agencies [AUDIO GUIDE]

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. The process of mapping out this end-to-end journey will help your brand more easily determine how to improve experiences and deliver value.

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

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 mapping.

For more on how to identify buyer personas:

Step-By-Step Guide to Building Buyer Personas

3. Enumerate your touchpoints

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 direct 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.

  • 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 the journey 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.

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:

How to Build a Customer Journey Map [TEMPLATE]

Chris Van Wagoner
Author

After 15 years in e-commerce, Chris left marketplace management at eBay to lead customer lifecycle programs at AdRoll. Today, Chris is using his love of the small business to connect AdRoll’s unique and diverse customer base with growth. Beyond the office, Chris is a lover of art, cars, and quiet nights with his family.