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Definition: Customer journey

What is a customer journey?

A customer journey refers to the path of interactions an individual has with your brand, produc and/or services. It describes both direct interactions such as contacting a customer service team, to indirect interactions such as hearing about a brand at an event.

The customer journey can be interpreted as a map of unique interactions that any given customer has with your brand and marketing touchpoints. No one customer journey is the same, and it’s the path each person takes via your website, customer service team and various other brand channels that enable marketers to adapt their marketing strategy accordingly to each customer.

As such, marketers often guide customers to take a customer journey that they think will lead to the best outcome/service for both the brand and customer—for example offering targeted ads and personalized content to boost brand awareness.

Every stage of your customer journey should further familiarize your brand with a customer and leave a lasting impression. This can only be done successfully if you deliver brand consistency at all times. So, the language you use on your website must reflect the way your sales reps speak to customers; the imagery you use on your promotional material should be consistent with your website graphics, and so forth.

Want to make sure your digital assets are always on-brand? Check out our resource on Brand Guidelines for Dummies.

Why is mapping the customer journey important?

Understanding the customer journey is hugely valuable for brands. It gives you an in-depth understanding of both potential and engaged customers, enabling you to deliver targeted communications based on buyer behaviors and preferences. This ultimately helps you convert more leads and increase overall customer satisfaction, forming an integral part of your customer loyalty and retention strategy.

Customer journey mapping is a common strategy used to better understand the customer journey, providing a visual representation of the total sum of experiences any given customer has with a brand. This helps to better inform your marketing strategy and personalization efforts, giving you a clearer understanding of who your customers are, and how you can serve them best.

How do you create a customer journey map?

Like your customers and wider digital ecosystem, the customer journey is constantly evolving. Once you’ve mapped out your customer journey, it should be revisited on a regular basis to make sure it’s still relevant and up-to-date. Your website analytics, social media engagement metrics, customer feedback, and other marketing automation tools can help with this.

Decide on your objectives
Like all marketing activities, it’s vital you start with a clear idea of your objectives. Ask yourself what you want to achieve and why. Which customer journeys are you mapping and will the approaches differ? What will you do with the information once you have it?

Consider your customer personas
If you haven’t already, now is the time to create customer personas, i.e. semi-fictionalized descriptions of your typical user or customer. Think about the different characteristics of your buyers and what leads them to you. Where and how they find you, what captures their interest, which content encourages them to find out more, and why.

Think about the entire customer experience they have with your brand and why it works (and doesn’t). You can use the marketing data mentioned above, or you can also get anecdotal insights by speaking directly to customers.

List all the touchpoints in your customer journey
Make a list of all the touchpoints, both direct and indirect, your customers have with your brand. They might not follow what you think is a linear or expected order, so use your personas to explore the different routes to make sure you cover everything.

Consider the more obvious touchpoints such as contacting your customer service department or opening an email, but don’t forget the less immediately tangible ones such as third-party review sites or brand mentions in an industry publication. When you’re considering each touchpoint, think about the different opportunities within them. Contacting customer service, for example, could involve interacting with a chatbot, an email chain, or speaking to an agent on the phone.

Map your customer personas to different touchpoints
This is perhaps the most tricky part. Focus on one persona at a time, guiding your customer through every potential touchpoint in their customer journey, taking time to imagine and empathize with every emotion, challenge, obstacle, action, or behavior they may experience. Put yourself in their shoes: try walking through their day as if you were them; from the morning where they realize they need XX product to solve XX problem, to the evening when they’ve done all their research, checked the review sites, watched the how-to videos, spoke to a sales rep, and finally made the desired choice.

Discover how DAM can help you deliver digital experiences that keep customers coming back for more with our DAM for DX guide.