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Talk to customers better with a user journey map

PostsDesign & UX
Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

May 15, 2024

From the second a customer sets eyes on a brand, they begin what’s known as a ‘user journey’. It might not be a particularly long journey, or one with a happy end — but whether they buy, pass, cheer, or complain after that initial ‘hello’, it’s a journey nonetheless. 

In the world of product management, knowing the journey your users go on when they interact with your brand gives you the competitive advantage. Why? Because knowing where your potential customers are, what they’re doing, and how they’re feeling means you can tailor your touchpoints to mirror their state of mind and intent. 

It’s the difference between someone with a microphone yelling their offering in a stranger’s face and an empathetic salesperson who’s done their research sitting down with a customer to hear about their needs and then offering a tailored solution to match their goals. Who do you think will have more success? 

Let’s dive into the world of user journey maps. 


What is a journey map?

A journey map (aka a ‘user journey map’ or ‘customer journey map’), is a visual representation of the steps a customer takes while engaging with a company. That could be buying a product, visiting a site, liking a TikTok post — anything. 

As with all journeys, there is an endpoint (usually a sale, but not always), that is reached via a series of steps. Both of these are called ‘conversions’, and they fall into two distinct categories:

  • Macroconversions are the primary goals of your website or app. It’s usually a sale, but it could also be a donation, signing up, contacting the sales team, getting a quote, and so on. 
  • Microconversions are small, positive interactions that lead towards a macroconversion. Or not. 

Ultimately, a user journey map gives you insight into your customers’ movements as they move from one stage to another. 

As you can probably imagine, this isn’t a straightforward path — users abandon carts, shop around, sign up before making a purchase, and so on — and that’s fine. This is what the journey map is all about. Showing businesses where their touchpoints are, plus how smooth the journey is as a whole.

The key stages of the user journey

Typically, it’s split up into several key stages that represent different points of interaction or decision-making. While not every user journey will be the same, here’s a breakdown of the main stages. 

1. Awareness

Maybe it was a banner ad, word of mouth, or a photo on social media, or stumbling onto your website — at some point, the prospective user has noticed you. This is where it all begins. The focus here is on first impressions and sparking interest.

2. Consideration

At this stage, potential customers are aware of your brand and start considering it as an option. They compare your offerings with competitors, which usually involves reading reviews and delving deeper into your story to understand what you offer. Content that educates and informs tends to be influential here, along with genuine testimonials. 

3. Acquisition

This is when you achieve your conversion. The customer has decided to purchase or engage with your product or service. Your focus here is on making the buying process as smooth as possible so you don’t lose customers due to frustrations or complications.

4. Service

We’ve all experienced a bad company that’s overzealous when it comes to getting you on board but totally disinterested once they’ve got your cash. This is what you want to avoid. Once your customer has made a purchase, it’s your job to give them the support they need post-sale. This stage is about keeping satisfaction high and helping with any issues.

5. Loyalty

If customers are happy with their purchase and the support you offer, they move into the loyalty zone. Loyal customers are often repeat shoppers — which means you don’t need to spend as much on new customer acquisition. Loyalty programs and ongoing engagement are important strategies here. 

6. Advocacy

Want to keep marketing costs even lower? Turn loyal customers into brand advocates. These folks don’t just repurchase — they actively promote your brand through word of mouth, social media, and other channels. It’s a powerful form of marketing as it is driven by genuine customer satisfaction and trust. Allowing for reviews on your site is a great way to provide a platform for your happy shoppers to preach your offering from the rooftops.

User journey examples

Let’s take a look at how various user journeys play out in the real world with some fictional examples. 


Example 1: Jane, the online shopper

Let’s take a look at your average online retailer. This journey map starts from the moment a potential customer first hears about the brand and extends right the way through to the post-purchase experience.

1. Awareness

Jane, our fictional customer, discovers the online store through a social media ad featuring a summer sale. She clicks through because the ad captures her interest with the kind of dress she’s been looking for, coupled with a promising discount.

2. Consideration

Intrigued by the offerings, Jane browses through various product categories. She reads product descriptions, checks customer reviews, and compares items with her other online go-tos. The website offers helpful filters and comparison tools that aid her decision-making process.

3. Decision

After narrowing down her choices, Jane adds a summer dress to her cart. She proceeds to checkout, where the process is streamlined — no unnecessary steps or information required, just simple fields for payment and delivery.

4. Service

The retailer sends Jane a confirmation email immediately after purchase, followed by a tracking link once the item is shipped. The communication is clear and keeps her well-informed.

5. Loyalty

After getting her dress, the company invites Jane to join a loyalty program offering points for future discounts. She’s also encouraged to share feedback on her shopping experience.

6. Advocacy

Satisfied with her purchase and the overall experience, Jane leaves a positive review and recommends the store to her friends. She also follows the brand on social media to catch future deals.

Example 2: Alex, the office worker  

Alex is stressed and busy and is seeking a way to relax from work. He doesn’t have time to go to yoga classes. He wants something more seamless and effort-free, so he considers signing up for a meditation app to add some zen to his day. Here’s his journey. 

1. Awareness

Alex hears about a meditation app from a podcast discussing mental health and wellness. The host mentions a free trial, which piques Alex’s interest.

2. Consideration

He downloads the app and starts the free trial. The app offers a variety of guided meditation sessions for sleep, anxiety, and focus. Alex explores the offerings to see what suits him best.

3. Decision

Impressed with the quality of the guided sessions and the app’s user-friendly interface, Alex subscribes to the premium version to access more features.

4. Service

Throughout his subscription, Alex receives personalized session recommendations based on his usage patterns. The app sends gentle reminders and motivational messages to encourage regular practice.

5. Loyalty

As a subscriber, Alex is invited to exclusive webinars and given early access to new features. He regularly uses the app and starts noticing improvements in his sleep and stress levels.

6. Advocacy

Alex writes a detailed review about his positive experience with the app on the app store and shares his progress on social media, tagging the app. He recommends the app to friends looking for similar things. Alex has gone from casual shopper to loyal advocate, all thanks to the app’s great offering and well-tailored user journey.

Are journey maps really worth the effort?

Journey maps are incredibly useful for understanding your customers’ experiences. Here’s why they’re worth it.

  • Know your customers better: These maps give a clear view of the customer journey, making it easier to see where customers are getting stuck or losing interest. This is something that directly translates into revenue.
  • Find and fix problems: Identifying pain points is straightforward with a journey map. Once you know where the issues lie, you can start making targeted improvements to enhance the overall experience.
  • Improve teamwork across your company: When everyone can see the customer journey laid out, it’s easier to align your team’s efforts. This helps ensure that everyone, from marketing to product development, is on the same page.
  • Make more accurate (and profitable) choices: With a good understanding of the customer journey, decisions become more data-driven. Knowing which touchpoints matter most lets you better allocate resources to improve those key moments. 
  • Add empathy to your comms: Data also means you can tailor your communications to match your customer’s mood. Will they be eager to buy, or in the considered and critical research stage? Get under their skin to talk to them in a way that is empathetic to their state of mind.
  • Keep improving: Regular updates to your journey maps can help you stay ahead of the curve, adapting to changes in customer behavior and market conditions quickly.

Journey-map variations

Journey maps come in different shapes and sizes and sometimes get mixed up with similar diagrams. Each type serves a specific purpose, so let’s take a closer look at what those are. 

  • Current state journey maps: These show you the customer journey as it currently stands, including real-time interactions and emotions at various touch points. Use them to spot immediate areas for improvement. 
  • Future state journey maps: Unlike current state maps, these show your ideal future journey. They are strategic, focusing on where you want your customer journey to be (rather than where it is right now).
  • Day-in-the-life maps: These offer a broader view of your customer’s daily activities, not limited to interactions with a specific product or service. They help you get to grips with the customer’s overall lifestyle.
  • Micro-journey maps: These are focused on a specific interaction or short sequence within the larger customer journey. They’re useful for giving you a detailed look at particular aspects of the customer experience.

Journey map vs. user story map

User story maps are used in Agile development. They help developers organize and prioritize user stories (short, simple descriptions of a feature told from the perspective of the user). While journey maps visualize the end-to-end customer experience, user story maps focus on how features and functions will be developed to meet user needs throughout a project lifecycle.

Journey map vs. experience map

Journey maps focus specifically on the interactions between the customer and a company’s product or service, whereas experience maps cover a wider range of interactions. 

These include the customer’s entire ecosystem and multiple touchpoints that may not involve the company directly. Experience maps offer a broader understanding of the user’s overall experiences and context — ideal for when you need a bird’s-eye view.

Journey map vs. service blueprint

While journey maps are focused on the customer’s external experience, service blueprints delve into the internal operations that facilitate these experiences. Use them when you need operational insights and improvements.

How to create a journey map

First, let’s take a look at the key components that will form the backbone of your map. 

  • Personas: It’s tricky to talk to a big faceless mass — but much easier one-on-one, when you can focus on details. A user persona is essentially a fictional representation of your typical customer, and based on real data (demographics, behaviors, goals, etc). Personas help you tailor the journey map to reflect the experiences of entire user segments while staying specific and personal. 
  • Timeline: The timeline is the backbone of the journey map. It outlines the stages or phases that a customer goes through as they interact with your product or service. This could range from initial awareness, to post-purchase reviews.
  • Touchpoints: These are the points of interaction between the customer and the business. Working out your various touch points helps you understand where customers engage with you, whether online or in real life. 
  • Emotions: Charting the customer’s emotions throughout their journey lets you understand their feelings at various stages. This emotional graph helps you locate moments of delight or frustration, guiding improvements to enhance the overall experience.
  • Channels: Knowing which channels these interactions take place is also vital. These can include physical locations, digital platforms, or indirect mediums like social media or advertising.
  • Pain points and opportunities: Finally, identifying both pain points and opportunities within the journey allows businesses to pinpoint areas needing attention and areas where they can further enhance the customer experience.

Now we know the key terms and phrases, let’s look at the journey.

1. Identify the persona

Start by defining the persona at the heart of your journey map. This is more than just a sketch — it’s a rich, detailed profile built from real user research. Go beyond basic demographics to dive into what really makes your users tick: their motivations, the challenges they face, and their everyday behaviors. This in-depth understanding sets the stage for a journey map that truly reflects the customer experience.

2. Set the scene and expectations

Next, pinpoint the specific scenarios where your persona interacts with your service or product. This could range from their initial discovery of your brand to how they handle a service issue. Alongside this, map out what the persona expects at each step of their journey. These will act as benchmarks, helping you determine whether the journey is hitting the mark or needs further tweaks.

3. Break down the journey stages

Each stage should represent a significant part of the experience, from initial contact through various touchpoints to the final outcome. This might include stages like discovery, research, purchase, and post-purchase support.

 4. Analyze actions, thoughts, and emotions

Hold a magnifying glass up to each stage, and document what the persona does (actions), thinks (thought processes), and feels (emotional response). This detailed analysis helps you understand the context and the emotional journey of the customer, which are essential for helping you identify the good and not-so-good moments.

5. Pinpoint improvement opportunities

Throughout the mapping process, use your new insights to identify where you can improve the customer experience. Look for discrepancies between expected and actual experiences, unnecessary complexities, or emotional dips that could be turned into moments of joy.

6. Tailor the approach for different contexts

Consider how the journey might differ across various contexts, such as B2B vs. B2C or luxury vs. everyday purchases. B2B journeys, for example, might involve longer decision processes and multiple stakeholders, requiring a more detailed analysis at each stage to cater to different influencers within the buying process. In contrast, luxury purchases may focus more on emotional engagement and high-touch interactions at each point.

How to improve a user’s journey: Tips to takeaway 

Improving a user’s journey is key to creating a standout user experience (UX). 

Start by really listening to your users through surveys and direct feedback. This insight lets you work out where they’re thrilled and where they’re stumbling, guiding your improvements.

Personalization can transform the UX. Tailoring the experience to fit individual user preferences — from customizing communications to adapting interfaces — makes users feel special and improves engagement.

Simplifying processes is also a big part of the effort. Streamline everything from signing up to checking out to make the user’s path smoother and keep frustrations at bay. And when things do go wrong, good customer support can save the day. Ensuring users can easily get help when they need it, whether through a quick chat with a support bot or a friendly human, keeps the journey on track.

Above all, keep your communication clear. Cut the jargon and make every message straightforward and friendly. Staying up-to-date with tech trends can also give your UX a boost, offering users new and exciting ways to connect with your service.


Diagramming tools were made for user journey mapping

Cacoo was made for product development teams that need to plan, design, and present their user journey.

More than just streamlining the mapping process, diagramming tools boost the accuracy and impact of the maps you create. With template libraries, easy drag-and-drop interfaces, live commenting, and more, Cacoo offers a seamless way to turn that data into a tangible journey. It’s cloud-based, too — so you can create and share with a click. 

No more weird MS formatting, no more muddled version control, no more limited accessibility. It’s the perfect blend of creativity and functionality, helping teams map their user journeys with ease. 

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