Journey Mapping

Charting the Path to a Frictionless Customer Experience

POVS / 12.21.16

Brand Challenge | Managing Customer Expectations

A major threat to any company is dwelling in assumptions or building business approaches that meet internal agendas but forget to account for the customer experience. This company-centric mentality neglects the interests and the priorities of consumers whose expectations have changed over time. Requirements of a frictionless experience, married with high customer service expectations, are the foundations of building customer advocacy. Challenges for retailers to meet these expectations are real and include:

  • View of the omnichannel shopper: Consumers use multiple channels in their path to purchase. Retailers must unify their data collection online and offline for a comprehensive view of the customer’s shopping journey. Until then, experiences can be disjointed, lack personalization and be less relevant.
  • Reducing friction in shopping: Retailers struggle to remove barriers in the shopping journey. Providing alternative payment options, implementing online order pick-up in-store and just having the right product inventory at the right place and the right time helps customers better navigate the path.
  • Unified infrastructure: Managing sales, inventory and customer visibility across different channels allows merchants to execute omnichannel initiatives more effectively. But it’s no small task – unifying management systems can’t happen overnight.
  • Managing all touchpoints: Managing brand experiences so customers' expectations are met across all channels in the ever-expanding digital age takes careful orchestration.

Brands must take customers’ needs and actions into consideration and anticipate them to provide relevant experiences. Taking a customer-centric approach helps bridge the gap between the brand’s promise and the customers’ expectations to lead a successful digital transformation.

Understanding the customer experience through every touchpoint with the brand is a critical step to transforming the business to better meet customers’ needs and delight their expectations. Once the customer’s engagement with the brand and their actions are understood, their behaviors can be anticipated to create meaningful experiences that drive loyalty. One of the key ways to understand this holistic experience is to create a customer journey map.

"Brands must take customers’ needs and actions into consideration and anticipate them to provide meaningful experiences."


What is a Journey Map

A journey map is an immersive research and discovery document with qualitative and quantitative data that visually tells the story of the customer’s omnichannel experience. It is a living document that encompasses customer’s actions, thoughts, feelings and interactions across all touchpoints and throughout different phases of their relationship with the brand. Journey maps can reveal moments of truth, uncover pain points, gather opportunities and deliver insights for organizations to take action. Journey maps can come in all kinds of iterations, designs, and depths. But there are a few traits that help categorize the types of journey maps and when best to use them.

Types of Journey Maps

  • Assumption-based 
    Journeys based on an internal perspective of the customer, even with tunnel vision, are a valuable tool for getting employees to empathize with customers and highlight spots where additional customer research is needed. This is also a great starting point to validate or poke holes against once the customer’s voice is woven in.
  • Current State 
    Illustrates what your customers do, think and feel as they interact with your business today. Through interviews, surveys, data and observation of customers, existing pain points and opportunities can be identified towards incremental improvements to your customer experience. 
  • Future State 
    These journey maps project what your customers will do, think and feel as they interact with your business in the future and are informed by the customer and future roadmap. They’re best suited for communicating your vision for how new products, services, and experiences will function, but they can also be the beacon the organization works toward.

customer experience points

Why Do You Need a Journey Map?

According to Forrester, digital customer experiences are the top three investments companies make in customer experience: 55% prioritize online experiences; 41% are adding or improving mobile experiences; and 39% are improving cross-channel experiences (Forrester Blog, December 2015). Journey mapping can help ensure these investments are supported by data and actually relieve customer pain points.

Additionally, customer journey maps inform company roadmaps and can influence or direct all internal initiatives that support a better customer experience, such as:


  • Solidify or redefine brand strategy and value proposition
  • Drive messaging strategy
  • Formulate tone and strategy for two-way communication with customer (e.g. community management, social listening)


  • Identifying and prioritizing IT operations, systems, and platform
  • Drive customer service improvements
  • Identify process changes
  • Determine additional support needed


  • Develop a CRM strategy
  • Prioritize budgets
  • Identify new program development and upsell opportunities

Steps to Building a Customer Journey Map

A customer journey map doesn’t have to be overly complicated, but each step is critical in the development process to ensure valuable information can be gleaned. Starting with the customer experience must be the foundation of a brand’s research and the cornerstone of their map. The steps below outline how to get started.

Step 1 - Discover

Begin by understanding every aspect of the business that the customer will engage and interact with the brand.

Discovery Tactics

  1. Interviews with customers
  2. User testing
  3. Interviews with stakeholders
  4. Data gathering
  5. Competitive analysis
  6. In-store shadowing
  7. Customer service shadowing

Step 2 - Architect

Map the learnings, pain points and opportunities across phases that will naturally shake out. Sticky notes and white boards are your friends. A story will evolve which can help guide the visual depiction of the journey.

Architecting Approach

  • Map findings
  • Create phases based on the collective journey
  • Call out pain points
  • Determine opportunities

Step 3 - Design

Make the journey map visual and engaging. Bring the path of the user to life and call out moments of truth using design elements or color to help the reader quickly decipher key areas for deeper understanding. There is no wrong way to design – legibility and comprehension are key.

Design Approach

  • Brainstorm the shape and design to properly visualize the path
  • Find clear ways to communicate actions and feelings across phases
  • Share with internal colleagues for feedback to see what tweaks are needed

Step 4 - Show & Tell

Walk internal stakeholders and executives through the learnings and review uncovered opportunities. Discussions and epiphanies will unfold as the organization begins to see through the lens of the customer.

Step 5 - Move Mountains

Set up additional time to brainstorm solutions that capitalize on these opportunities. Think through the future state of the customer experience and then work to prioritize new initiatives against a realistic timeline. From here, budgets can be aligned and departments united to move the needle.

Journey mapping is an actionable blueprint informing many aspects of your business – it’s worth the investment of time and money. Journey maps can add value beyond crunching behavioral data by giving a wider reach of the customer’s reality than company-centric assumptions. Mapping out experiences across touchpoints reveals the omnichannel relationship customers have with a brand and answers the why that pure data alone can’t touch. The insights gleaned enable the organization to make more informed decisions and solve major challenges prevalent in the post-modern marketing era.

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