You may have heard the term ‘customer journey mapping’ before. It’s something that the biggest and best marketing departments do and is how Fortune 500 companies know where to focus their attention to drive more customers and customer action.
But what is it really? Is it something smaller brands should be doing? What are the benefits of it? Below, we explore this topic in full and give you our 8 top customer journey mapping tools to support you and your business.
Customer journey mapping is the process of creating a visual that shows the journey your customers make when completing a certain task. It’s often used to understand all the customer touchpoints and interactions between your brand and the customer, which lead to them buying from you. Beyond that, this process then looks at client loyalty, support and retention once the customer has converted.
There are plenty of benefits to creating an accurate customer journey map. For starters, it will allow you to gain a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in your current customer journey. By understanding the journey your customers take when purchasing from and interacting with you – as well as their needs, thoughts, and feelings along the way – you’ll better understand what your customers want from you at each step and whether you’re meeting their needs.
It’s important to create the map in chronological order: from first touchpoints to last. To make the journey as simple as possible to understand, choose a sales funnel format to follow – the simplest of which is Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action.
Once your customer journey map is ready with all touchpoints, emotions, and relevant data, you can then start to use this to your advantage. Your map will affect all departments and processes within your business, including:
- Manufacturing and logistics
- Website and development
- Customer service
So, it’s important to share your journey map and relevant findings with everyone in the business.
How to create a customer journey map
When creating a customer journey map, don’t just include customer service or direct brand interactions, it’s important to also focus on:
- The consumer need
- The research stage, including any third-party review websites, interactions with friends and family, and exposure to your advertising
- The feelings, thoughts, and emotions of your customer as they go through the journey and learn more about your business, its products, and services – think about what they’re trying to achieve at each stage. For example, are they looking for a brief overview of your product? Are they looking for information about your business to gauge whether you’re reliable and trustworthy? Or are they ready to purchase?
As well as monitoring interactions between your brand and a potential customer, an effective map should also be able to give average figures on the time between each touchpoint. This can help you identify shortcomings and can even help with sales forecasting.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to customer journey mapping, and the requirements often differ from business to business. Generally speaking, a customer journey map comes in the form of a diagram or flowchart, which means there is a wide array of tools you could use. We’ll explore these throughout the article, so you can find the right solution that works for you and your brand.
Generally speaking, you’ll want to include these five stages:
- The buying process
- User actions
- Pain points (or potential pain points)
To gather this information, you’ll need the most accurate customer journey map possible, so you can start to collect data from the following:
Whether you use Google Analytics on your website, Facebook Analytics for your social media or track your customer data elsewhere, analytics are a great place to start. If you have multiple sources of website and marketing tracking, you should be able to piece together the data to work out:
- Your customer demographics, including age, gender, and interests
- Common website journeys
- The best-performing sources of traffic and referrals to your website
- Customer contact volumes
To find out what customers are saying about your brand, look at your customer reviews (especially those on third-party websites) and use social listening tools to track any conversations that involve your brand name. Alternatively, there’s nothing better than feedback ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’. So, feel free to set up short surveys, email follow-ups, or even interviews to better understand the journey that your customers take with you.
As part of your customer journey mapping process, it’s critical to understand who your customers are. Often businesses will have some sort of customer persona or ideal customer in mind, and this is what should be used to better understand this fictional person’s thoughts, feelings, and wants throughout the journey.
To flesh it out, you’ll want to gather data on their:
- Age (range)
This is as a minimum. B2B businesses would benefit from adding additional information to their buyer persona such as job title, responsibilities, and perhaps the amount of budget they control. B2C businesses would want to look at the interests, hobbies, and online behaviour of their ideal customers.
Once this has been firmed up, you can give your persona an image or photo and a name. This helps you to humanise and better empathise with this person and their journey with you. So, as you go through each stage of the journey, you can ask yourself “what information is Jane looking for when she’s typing X into Google?”, “how is Jane feeling when she sees this Facebook advert at 7am before work?” or “how does Jane feel when her product arrives and it’s broken, and what would her preferred way to get in touch with us at this point?”
One of the top mapping tools out there is Smaply. Made with customer journey mapping in mind, they have three tools:
- Journey mapping
- Persona mapping
- Stakeholder mapping
It’s one of the only tools that combines persona mapping with journey mapping, and this helps you to get to grips with the customer journey holistically. Their third tool, the stakeholder mapping tool, takes into account all of the devices, channels, and external stakeholders that may help influence the purchasing decision.
Overall, Smaply is easy to use and gives a true 360° view of the customer journey, the customer themselves, and any stakeholders. You can even try the software for 14 days for free.
The second on our list is Lucidchart, which is another purpose-built customer journey mapping tool. Used by 99% of Fortune 500 companies, you can choose one of their map templates to visualise your data in the way that works best for your business.
One of the reasons Lucidchart is so highly regarded is because of its range of integrations. While some journey mapping tools need you to enter your data manually (which will usually come from a range of sources such as your website, social media, and analytics), Lucidchart integrates and imports this data automatically. They have a wide range of integrations of industry-leading apps such as Google, Salesforce, Slack, AWS, Zapier, and more, making your map not only easier to create but using live data to make it as accurate as possible.
Touchpoint is a programme built by CX experts Stratify designed solely for customer mapping: this includes customer journeys and comprehensive customer personas as well as task and project management. One of the main perks of using Touchpoint is that each ‘touchpoint’ will have images, data, and a storyboard attributed to it. A collaborative tool, you can share your information with colleagues, and they can add notes, edit, and even subscribe to email alerts.
Rather than being a tool made solely for viewing the customer journey, this particular tool also helps you to create reports, analyse, and track progress over time.
If you’re looking for something simple, straightforward, and free to use, Canvanizer might be the ideal choice for you. Think of it as a virtual post-it wall. They have plenty of templates to choose from which can help with customer feedback, SWOT analyses, and even social media strategy planning. However, the two canvases we think are most useful for customer journey mapping are the Empathy Map and the Whiteboard Canvas. The Empathy Map will help you to understand a customer’s pain points, thoughts, feelings, and needs at each stage of the journey, and the Whiteboard Canvas gives you the ultimate freedom to design your map.
While the software is simple in nature, you’re not confined to building your customer journey map with a single design with this software. And there’s plenty of functionality for brainstorming, as well as structuring and sharing ideas.
While not purpose-built for journey mapping, OmniGraffle is a tool that helps create diagrams that explain complicated ideas. While you’ll need to manually add information from your own data sources, OmniGraffle will simplify your customer journey mapping process. You also have the option to communicate on and share your maps with your colleagues.
Created to be used on iOS or Mac, OmniGraffle has many of the much-loved features of popular iPad drawing app, Procreate. This includes gradients, masks, shape recognition, and more – which will turn rough shape sketches into something recognisable!
While perhaps more suitable for smaller businesses with less complex journeys, Microsoft PowerPoint is a universally known tool for you to use. As customer journey maps are almost always presented as flow charts or diagrams, using PowerPoint will help you create these simply. Of course, you can always annotate these diagrams to add more information.
If you’re not sure where to start, simply Google “PowerPoint customer journey map template” for plenty of inspiration and downloadable templates. Of course, if you have Google Workspace, Google Sheets is acceptable too, and there are plenty of applicable templates online for this.
As with the other tools we’ve covered, you’ll want to gather customer data from all available sources to piece this together. The above template is a really great example of how simple the customer journey map can be, and you can split the four phases into common sales funnel headers: Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action.
If you’re entirely new to customer journey mapping, Google Analytics has some information that can get you started. So long as your tracking is installed correctly on your website, Analytics will be able to show you your customer behaviour flow. This explores how the most common journeys people take while they’re on your website. You can also use source/medium reports to understand the ways that customers find your website, and audience insights to get to grips with the demographics of your audience.
Credit: Michael W. Roberts on Medium
Although it’s not the most comprehensive solution available, getting familiar with your Google Analytics and the reports available will give you some initial insights into your customer behaviour and should cover all the basics for smaller businesses.
The final customer journey mapping tool on our list, UXPressia is another purpose-built piece of software. UXPressia uses customer personas and customer journey maps in tandem to create a storyboard with commentary, quotes, problems, and customer experiences at each point in their journey.
While it doesn’t have as many integrations available as a tool like Lucidchart, it does have integration with Google Analytics which is a great starting point. The dashboard for UXPressia is possibly the nicest looking and one of the easiest to understand at a glance (without all the lines and flows) and would be suitable for most SMEs.
To finish, the value that effective customer journey mapping has on your business is clear. By allowing you to maximise every touchpoint that a prospective customer has with you before buying, you’re going to improve conversion volumes and, ultimately, your bottom line. Start with one of the above 8 tools to get started on the right track, and you’ll be on your way to improving your customer journey in no time!
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