Real-Time Customer Journey Mapping: Step-By-Step Guide

  • UPDATED: 10 January 2024
  • 8 min read

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Question: How do digital marketers get customers to do what they want them to do?

Many marketing professionals would like to know the answer to this, which is the wrong way to think about it.

Instead, marketers should focus on how they can help their customers achieve goals. Understanding the customer’s journey is critical in order to do this.

Enter the practice of customer mapping.

In this post, we’ll go in-depth and show you exactly how to get started with customer journey mapping and how it can be used to create an effective business website that helps customers get what they need to make a purchasing decision.

So what is a customer journey map, anyway?

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What is a Customer Journey Map and Why do you need it?

A customer journey map is a diagram, flowchart, or illustration of all the touch points associated with your customers before, during, and after they make a purchase.

It helps to reveal where exactly your marketing strategy is helping (or hindering) customers.

You may wonder why you need to have a customer journey map.

Well, the end goal is to get a clear view of what the customer is doing so you can reverse-engineer a strategy that will lead to more efficient purchase paths.

In order to get started, it is crucial to know the answers to a handful of questions.

What motivates your customers? What are their needs and concerns? How do they like to consume content? What matters most to them? This is not an exhaustive list, but, you get the idea.

Ultimately, when it comes to building an effective customer journey map for your business, guesses are not enough. You must have actual data in order to build great personas. Currently, most enterprise brands can dig deep into their data in order to build personas.

But in the past, companies had little to no knowledge regarding the customer demographic, behavioral, psychographic and transactional data. But now, with advancements in technology and more robust access to millions of data points, organizations have shifted towards using a data-driven approach when it comes to marketing.

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Now that you understand the basics of why you need a customer journey map and what answers you’ll need to get started, let’s discuss how to create one from scratch.

How to Develop and Create a Customer Journey Map

1. Understand the Mapping Objectives

A customer journey map is a single entity that defines the story of how your customer engages with your brand within the given period of time.

A well-made journey map can provide valuable insights into how a customer’s experience is working and what factors should be considered. To effectively create a journey map, it is important to start with a clear goal statement. The ultimate purpose is to determine if the current customer experience is falling short and leading to negative impressions.

To establish the goal, hold a meeting with business owners or project stakeholders. During this meeting, all the objectives of the process should be identified and agreed upon. The focus should be on identifying what can be learned during the mapping process that can drive business success. This involves identifying the key elements of the customer journey that are likely to have a significant impact.

To ensure that your efforts align with the corporate-level strategies, it may be helpful to refer to a strategy document that provides a clear vision of your business objectives. This will help ensure that your efforts are properly aligned.

2. Define your Business Scope

After you’ve agreed upon the goals, it’s time to move on to the next step which is to identify the scope of the journey for the mapping process. The scope definition of the mapping process is critical as it helps to determine what kind of additional research is needed, and also lets you know what level of storytelling is required.

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In this crucial step, it’s time for your project team to define the ideal scope to meet your previously agreed-upon goals.

Picture this: Will your map focus on the captivating customer onboarding process, where you skillfully nurture anonymous web users into loyal customers? Or perhaps, your map will set its sights on the ongoing customer experience post-acquisition, ensuring their satisfaction knows no bounds.

But here’s the secret sauce: Be mindful not to aim too high or cast your net too wide, for it may cloud the clarity of your map.

Imagine a beautifully crafted map, filled with intricate details that can be easily overlooked if the scope is too vast. By narrowing your focus, you create a frame of reference, allowing web visitors to truly appreciate the meaningful moments that shape their journey.

So, let’s dive in and craft a journey map that captivates, engages, and leaves a lasting impression on all who encounter it.

3. Collect, Evaluate and Research your Data

First, it’s important to determine the factor you’ll focus on when mapping your journey. This could be a specific customer type or a potential user, depending on the purpose of your journey. To make this decision, personas can be incredibly helpful.

Think of personas as archetypes of your customers that provide valuable insights into their behavior and needs. They serve as a powerful tool for your organization to truly understand your customers in an effective way.

If you already have personas in place, great!

You can use them to guide your journey mapping workshop and enhance the user experience on your customer journey map. However, if you don’t have personas yet, don’t worry. You can create baseline personas in your workshop (more on that in the next step) to get started. These personas will lay the foundation for a better user experience.

As you progress through the journey mapping process, you’ll have the opportunity to validate and refine these initial baseline personas. This can be done through new customer interviews and reviews, allowing you to gather more insights and enhance the accuracy of your personas. Later in this process, you can validate and enhance these initial baseline personas with the new customer interviews and reviews.

4. Create a Hypothetical Map 

To kickstart your journey mapping process and create an impactful map, it’s time to gather for a workshop.

This workshop will serve as a platform where you can collaborate, work, and organize the content needed to build your first map.

But here’s the key: to truly understand the customer’s perspective, it’s essential to create a shared environment by inviting teams from various functions like Go-To-Market, Product, Design, and Operations. By bringing together these diverse perspectives, you’ll gain valuable insights into the customer journey.

To ensure a comprehensive understanding, it’s crucial to involve business process owners and individuals who have a deep understanding of the target customers like the sales team or folks from customer support. Their expertise will contribute to a holistic view of the journey.

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Now, let’s dive into the content of the customer journey map.

It can be divided into two main categories.

First, we have customer-oriented elements. These elements capture the crucial aspects of the journey experienced directly by the customers themselves. They provide insights into their needs, emotions, and interactions.

The second category consists of front or back support elements. These elements encompass the systems, people, and processes that support customers in reaching their goals. Some of these elements directly impact the customer, while others work behind the scenes to ensure a seamless and enjoyable customer experience.

By understanding and incorporating both of these categories into your journey map, you’ll create a comprehensive and insightful representation of the customer journey. So, let’s come together, collaborate, and craft a map that truly reflects the customer’s perspective and enhances their experience.

5. Test and Update your Hypothesis

If you have a solid grasp of how consumers experience your product or service and are familiar with hypothetical maps, now is the perfect time to make informed assumptions based on your basic customer research. One effective method to gather insights is through a process called contextual inquiry. This approach places a strong emphasis on observing customers as they use your product or service in their everyday environment.

Rather than bombarding customers with a lengthy list of questions, contextual inquiry encourages them to use the product or service naturally, just as they would in their regular routine. This allows you to gain a deeper understanding of their behaviors, preferences, and pain points.

By combining your existing knowledge with the valuable insights gathered through contextual inquiry, you can refine your assumptions and create a more accurate representation of the customer experience.

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Furthermore, there are instances where direct customer observation or contextual inquiry may not be feasible, preventing you from obtaining factual data. In such cases, you’ll need to resort to conducting new surveys specifically designed to gather input and validate the assumptions made in your hypothetical customer journey maps.

Once you’ve analyzed the primary research findings, it’s crucial to conduct a dedicated workshop to survey and assess the insights gained from your exploration. This workshop serves as an opportunity to update and refine the theoretical maps based on the knowledge and understanding acquired.

By conducting these surveys and workshops, you’ll ensure that your customer journey maps are grounded in real data and insights. This will enable you to make informed decisions and create experiences that truly resonate with your customers.

Create a Visually Compelling Journey Map

After getting all the important data for your map, its time to create the best story in a compelling format.

One option is to use a template from Miro, a popular visualization tool, but there are also other alternatives available. Explore different options to find the one that best suits the unique needs of your organization.

To effectively publish your map, it’s important to consider the context of your targeted customer personas, observations, and research data. This ensures that the map resonates with your intended audience and delivers a meaningful message. Think about how you can present the map in a way that aligns with the preferences and needs of your customers.

During the process mapping, it’s crucial for team members to disperse the vital data throughout the story. This helps bring the map to life and ensures that the message is clear and impactful. The goal is to create a map that jumps off the page and engages the audience, leaving a lasting impression.

Activate and Socialize

Now it’s time to showcase your customer journey map to a wide audience!

If you’re using any customer experience platforms, you can send invitations to others to review your map and gather valuable feedback.

To ensure a seamless integration of the identified activities and pain points, you can directly incorporate them into application development environments like Rally, Atlassian Jira, or Version One. This allows for a streamlined process and ensures that the insights from your journey map are effectively utilized in the development of applications.

Additionally, it’s beneficial to discuss your hypothetical journey process maps during team meetings. This helps facilitate discussions and allows for improvements to be made in areas of the experience that are valued by the majority of your customers. By engaging in these conversations, you can enhance the overall customer experience and drive greater satisfaction.

Customer Journey Mapping and the Road Ahead

A customer journey map is a powerful tool that can greatly improve the experience your customers have with your business.

By understanding their goals and how they navigate your website, you can make strategic improvements that lead to increased customer retention and revenue.

While it’s important to note that a customer journey map is not a magical solution that solves all problems at once, it does add value for your customers. However, as we’ve discussed, creating a customer journey map can be complex, as it involves analyzing the behavioral patterns of different audiences. It requires discipline and a deep understanding of your customers’ needs.

Remember, the way your customers interact with your company may not follow a linear path. It’s not always easy to guide them from Point A to Point B without missing a step.

Taking the time to understand their goals and how they interact with your business across all communication channels can go a long way in keeping them satisfied (and in helping you continue to grow).

Learn how you can use survey to ace customer experience:

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