Understanding customer journey maps – A guide to the process

June 15, 2022 Marketing Advice

The customer journey

Understanding the customer journey map

10 steps that explain the process of mapping the customer journey.


As the world becomes more and more digital, the customer journey has undoubtedly become more complex. Customers now have a multitude of different touchpoints to interact with businesses, so it is imperative to understand how your business can add value at every stage of this journey to give the best experience and drive profitable interactions. This is a core piece of strategy work that we undertake at Polything.

According to 2020 global research from Salesforce,

  • 80% of customers now consider their experience with a company to be as important as its products.
  • 69% of Gen X customers prioritise convenience over brand loyalty
  • 91% of customers agree that a positive customer experience makes them more likely to purchase again.

So it is clear that the task of mapping your customer journey is critical to reaching profitable customers, satisfying their needs, and generating sales. In this article, you’ll learn about the different types of customer needs and how to map them to the customer journey, and why the process is so powerful.

What is a customer journey?

The customer journey is the path that a customer takes to complete a task or complete a job. Unlike paths in the physical world, the customer journey is not linear, and customers can bounce between channels and stages. It typically includes the steps they take, the obstacles they face, the decisions they make, and the channels they use along the way. Customer journey mapping is the process of understanding, documenting, and analysing the steps your customers take to achieve their goals.

There are three different types of customer journeys:

  • The Basic Customer Journey
  • The Complex Customer Journey
  • The Transactional Customer Journey

The Basic Customer Journey is the journey that the majority of customers take. It is the simplest and most common type of customer journey. The Complex Customer Journey is the journey that a minority of customers take. It is more complex because the customer has to overcome more obstacles or make more decisions. The Transactional Customer Journey is the journey a customer takes when making a purchase.

But as channels have proliferated and customers’ needs have evolved into a complex system of interactions, it is best to consider these types of journeys as archetypes, rather than true to life.

What are the stages of the journey?

There are many ways of defining this, and we have developed our own methodology for customer journey mapping designed for direct-to-consumer brands. However, it is generally accepted that there are four main stages of mapping:

  • The Awareness stage is the stage where the customer becomes aware of the problem they need to solve or the opportunity they need to take advantage of.
  • The Consideration stage is the stage where the customer starts researching solutions to their problem or opportunity.
  • The Purchase stage is the stage where the customer buys the product or service.
  • The Loyalty stage is the stage where the customer becomes a repeat customer or a brand advocate.

A quick Google search will reveal thousands of styles of different customer journey mapping stages and templates, but if you are just starting HubSpot has 7 simple user journey map templates that you can download for free to get started. user

Start with the customer and their needs

Before starting to understand the journey itself, it is really important to immerse yourself in the world of your customers and view your product or service through their lens. The first thing to look at when doing this, is their needs and motivations, as this is what drives consumer behaviour. Here are some types of needs to consider:

  • Functional Needs are the needs that the customer has to solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity.
  • Social Needs are the needs that the customer has to interact with other people.
  • Emotional Needs are the needs that the customer has to feel a certain way.
  • Experiential Needs are the needs that the customer has to have a certain experience.

It is essential to understand these needs as they related to different customers or personas before embarking on a customer journey mapping exercise.

How to map the customer journey

Here are the 10 main steps that we undertake as part of a customer journey mapping project:

  1. Define your goals
  2. Start with personas and jobs
  3. List all current touchpoints
  4. Define the customer journey
  5. Review your journeys and critique them
  6. Highlight areas where too much resource is committed
  7. Highlight areas where value can be added
  8. Create a current state map
  9. Create a future state map
  10. Use and review maps regularly

1. Define your goals

The first step is to define your goals and examine them. What do you want to achieve with the customer journey map? What business problem are you hoping to solve? Is this the right approach for that problem?

There are many other strategic frameworks out there, and maybe they are more practical for solving your current issues. Before moving on to the next step it is also useful to consider who you want to take on the journey, which stakeholders will give the greatest insight, and which will lead the project towards actionable change.

2. Start with personas and jobs

The second step is to refer back to the customer research that you have undertaken earlier. At this point for each customer type or persona, you should have a list of the types of needs they have as well as the jobs or goals they are trying to achieve. Also, consider the pain points that they will reach certain parts of the consumer journey.

It is worthwhile at this stage to think about whether your business is satisfying the wrong needs or even whether the job your service or product solves is even relevant at all. Quite often at this stage, it will highlight areas of your product roadmap that are out of sync with your customers.

Next, consider the stages they will go through when trying to solve their problem or achieve their goal.

Ask your team:

  • What is the most important job this persona is looking for help with?
  • Are all the steps needed?
  • Could your business disrupt these steps to provide a better service?
  • Are we speaking to this persona at the right time, through the right channels?

It can be helpful at this stage to create a persona template that you can use to map out the different characteristics of your persona. HubSpot also has a useful tool for creating personas.

3. List all current touchpoints

The third step is to list out all the current touchpoints that the customer has with your brand. This includes both digital and physical touchpoints.

What is a customer journey touchpoint?

A touchpoint is any interaction the customer has with your brand. This could be the first time they see an advert, the moment they land on your website, the point of sale, or even a post-purchase follow-up call or email. It is important to consider all the touchpoints in the journey as this will help you understand how customers interact with your brand and where the biggest opportunities or pain points are.

To do this, you will need to consider the customer journey from the persona’s perspective and understand how they interact with your brand at each stage.

It is helpful just to list every single touchpoint and not examine them at this point, as you will likely find that you have many more touchpoints than you initially thought

4. Define the customer journey

The next step is to define the user journey map for each of your personas. This will involve creating a separate customer journey map for each persona, detailing their individual jobs, needs, and pains, as well as defining the stages they typically go through that leads to a purchase.

Focus on getting a basic Journey down first, before considering optimal or broken journeys.

The easiest way to do this is with sticky notes, or a virtual whiteboard if your team is working remotely.

5. Review your journeys and critique them

Then it is time to review your current state user journey map and critique them through the lens of value. Understand if and where your business currently adds value in the journey.

What does this mean?

Ask your team the following questions:

  • What value are you providing the customer at each stage of the consumer’s journey?
  • How could you improve this?
  • Are there any areas where you are not providing enough value or where the customer may be getting frustrated?
  • How are you addressing their pains?
  • Are there stages that could be removed or simplified?
  • Is there a bigger job you could solve that would create more value?

6. Highlight areas where too much resource is committed

Now that you know what your customers want and the ways they tend to interact with your business, it is time to optimise the customer journey to serve their needs.

This could mean removing lengthy call times or multiple emails back and forth. Or cutting areas from your marketing spend. Identifying these areas can help you to streamline the journey, improve the customer experience, and make your business more profitable.

7. Highlight areas where value can be added

This could be anything from adding a live chat function to your website to providing more helpful information at key points in the journey, or marketing via a channel that has not been used to date. It also might mean creating informative content or building a helpful tool for your customers.

Ultimately, it might involve evolving your product or creating a new one to take advantage of a new opportunity.

8. Create a current state map

The next stage is to create a current state map, or user experience map of how your business services now. Make sure that this is visual and easy to understand so that everyone in your business can refer to it and more importantly use it. This will help you to understand where your consumer journey currently sits at a given point in time.

It is also useful to refer back to this type of map later so that you can chart your business’ progress and development.

9. Create a future state map

The penultimate step is to create a future state map of how it could work by creating more value to customers. This will involve brainstorming new and innovative ways to improve the customer experience and adding value at every stage of the journey. The insights that you have already generated will be useful here.

Once you have a list of potential improvements, get your team to rank them by considering how helpful these are to each persona in achieving their goal, or undertaking their job.

As with the current state map then create a visual map of this journey including only the top five innovations as agreed by the whole team.

10. Make sure these maps are used and reviewed regularly

Finally, make sure that these maps are used and reviewed regularly. They should be living documents that are constantly updated as the customer journey evolves. Reviewing the maps regularly will help you to identify any new opportunities or areas for improvement and highlight new jobs that your company could solve.

Why is it important?

The customer journey is important because it helps you service your existing customers well, and hopefully better than your competitors. It makes organisations focus on the customer’s needs, and develop communication that fits those needs. It also helps you improve the customer’s experience and lifetime value.

Finally, undertaking a customer journey regularly can help you identify potentially gaming-changing new business opportunities. Being more customer-focused has many more benefits besides. If you are interested in learning more feel free to drop us a line.

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What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of the complete end-to-end experience a customer has with a company, product, or service. It depicts the various touchpoints and interactions a customer encounters throughout their journey, from initial awareness to post-purchase support and advocacy. By mapping out this journey, businesses can gain insights into customer behaviour, pain points, and opportunities for improvement.

Why is creating a customer journey map crucial for businesses?

Developing a customer journey map is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it helps companies understand their customers’ perspectives, motivations, and expectations at each stage of their interaction. This understanding enables businesses to identify areas where the customer experience may be lacking or where additional support or resources are needed. Secondly, a well-crafted customer journey map facilitates cross-functional collaboration within an organisation, ensuring that all departments are aligned in delivering a consistent and seamless experience. Additionally, it serves as a powerful tool for identifying opportunities for innovation, streamlining processes, and optimising customer touchpoints.

What are the typical stages included in a customer journey map?

While customer journey maps can vary depending on the industry and specific business, they typically include the following stages: Awareness (initial discovery of the product or service), Consideration (researching and evaluating options), Purchase (the decision-making and transactional phase), Experience (using the product or service), and Loyalty (post-purchase support, advocacy, and potential repurchase). Each stage encompasses various touchpoints, such as website visits, social media interactions, customer service interactions, and product usage experiences.

How can businesses gather data to create an accurate customer journey map?

To create an accurate and insightful customer journey map, businesses should leverage a combination of data sources and research methods. This may include website analytics, customer feedback surveys, social media monitoring, customer interviews, focus groups, and observation of customer interactions. Additionally, businesses can leverage internal data from various departments, such as sales, customer service, and marketing, to gain a comprehensive understanding of customer touchpoints and pain points.

How can a customer journey map be utilised to improve the overall customer experience?

A well-designed customer journey map serves as a powerful tool for improving the overall customer experience in several ways. It enables businesses to identify and address pain points, bottlenecks, or areas of frustration throughout the journey. Additionally, it helps organizations prioritise and allocate resources more effectively by focusing on the touchpoints that have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction. Furthermore, a customer journey map can inform the development of targeted marketing campaigns, personalized experiences, and tailored communications that resonate with customers at specific stages of their journey.