A user or customer journey, sometimes visualized as a journey map, is the path a person follows as they discover a product, service, or brand, learn about it, consider spending money on it, and then make a decision to purchase—or not. Not every user journey ends in a conversion, but it is typically the goal.
Creating a customer journey map can help drive sales, because when you better understand your user's journey, you can provide the information or encouragement they need to commit and become a customer.
Let's look at a couple of examples of user journeys.
User Journey Example: Under-caffeinated Chuck
Chuck is downtown and he wants a cup of coffee. His journey might look something like this:
- Chuck feels drowsy on the way to work and realizes that he wants coffee. He is in a downtown area and has several choices.
- He looks around and sees a local cafe with organic fairtrade coffee, a cheap coffee chain that also offers donuts, and another internationally franchised cafe known for their sustainably grown coffee.
- He considers distance from his current location, expected prep time, his budget, and his values—he appreciates both sustainable agriculture and supporting local businesses.
- He knows that 2 or the 3 options offer coffee that match his ethics about food, and although the franchised cafe with sustainable coffee is slightly closer, he prefers going to the local cafe where he can also do more to boost his city’s economy. The local cafe is also typically faster because it’s less crowded.
- He chooses the local cafe with sustainably sourced coffee.
This is a straightforward example of a user journey. A more in-depth example might include asking an employee for information or, if the journey is entirely online, searching for information, looking up reviews, comparing the competition, and considering the cost.
How to create an accurate user journey
To map an accurate customer journey, you need to know your customers and how they discover your brand. To create customer profiles, begin by learning about the demographics of customers who already shop with your brand. This profile is an outline of your target customer’s interests, pain points, income level, age range, location, and more. The entry point is where they become aware of your brand. In the 2 examples above, both had street-level entry points, but other entry points include online searches, word-of-mouth recommendations, as well as social media, television, and print ads.
Consider all the entry points that might lead customers to your brand. Then generate user journeys from those points using your customer profiles to target similar audiences. After that, you'll need to refine your journey maps to turn shoppers into buyers.
Your goal is to guide your potential customers along their journey as much as possible. This will also help you reduce or eliminate barriers to conversion like by answering questions, making the right offers, and providing clarity when it’s needed.
The stages of the user journey
Each user journey is unique. But no matter what customer profile you're dealing with, or what their point of entry is, the structure of all customer journeys has stages in common:
Your goal at each of the first 3 phases of the journey is to improve the chances of purchase and retention. Every point on the journey has a connection to every other point, especially when the goal is to motivate and maintain customer loyalty and drive customers through retention and back through the whole process again.
In the awareness phase, the user learns about or is reminded of your product or service, usually as a response to something they need or desire. The awareness phase can follow a previous purchase, which means that the retention phase was a success, leading them around to begin the cycle again.
Here, the user looks at the virtues and the flaws of your brand and any other brands also up for consideration. This is when pricing, value, customer service, branding, communication, and other factors come into play.
At this point, the user has looked at the relevant differences among the available options. If there's any information about your product or service that the customer hasn't been able to find at this point, it could mean losing the sale.
Here, the user either makes a purchase or doesn't. But this isn't the end of the journey—keep in mind that they may be buying from you because another brand is not available to serve their needs at the moment. This is your chance to curry favor with such customers: Your e-commerce platform should be easy to navigate, your customer service should be on point, and any discounts you may have on offer should be extended.
Now that a customer has purchased from you, you want to retain their loyalty. It's a good idea to check in with them after their purchase: Ask for feedback, tell them about complementary products or updates to your services, and try to discover ways to increase their satisfaction in the future. When they reenter the awareness phase, you want positive interactions and friendly and complete customer service to follow them into the next round of consideration.
How to improve a user’s journey
The key to getting the most out of the user's journey is to know your customer as well as possible. This is why a customer profile and all the possible entry points into the journey are important to understand as you define your customer journey. You want an extensive, complete, and accurate profile of the various kinds of people who shop for the products or services you offer.
You need to consider possible entry points into the user's journey. Here’s an example: A woman named Carla is in search of new headphones. She knows that she could travel to her local mall to search for just the right pair, and then she wouldn’t have to wait for them to be delivered. But she also knows that by shopping online, she can more easily compare more options. In this example, a business that sells headphones would need to consider all of the paths that Carla may take to find their products. She could visit a store where they are sold, she might search online, or she might find the right pair through an ad on social media or an email promotion.
The customer profile, the entry point into their journey, and what you have on your shelves (whether brick-and-mortar or online) should all flow together to make a coherent experience for each potential customer.
Build user journey maps
A user journey can be mapped with flow charts or diagrams that take the needs, wants, and habits from a given customer profile and trace a journey from entry point and awareness to retention and back through again. Ideally, you want a journey map for each user starting at each possible point of entry. You're going to need several versions of each user journey map, with different paths based on entry point, previous purchases, email engagement, and so on.
Your goal is to be able to anticipate and answer questions a customer might have before they move on to make a purchase. After they've made a purchase, you want to make sure that the retention phase directs them back to the beginning of the journey. It's all about communication—you need to keep in touch to let them know how you can meet their needs, promote new products or services you have on offer, and get them hooked via rewards and discounts.
That's where Mailchimp'sCustomer Journey Builder comes in. Mailchimp is an all-in-one marketing and e-commerce platform, allowing you to send marketing emails, newsletters, product and service updates, and everything else you need to keep your customers engaged and satisfied. With Mailchimp, you can also create your business website, employing best practices that will help you turn potential customers into brand-loyal repeat customers. Remember, the customer journey doesn't have to end with the purchase, and Mailchimp is here to make sure it doesn't.