“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be your company’s customer? How good your experience would be or if you’d recommend your products and services to acquaintances?

Well, you’re not the only one. In fact, it’s a very common practice to map out your customer’s journey with the brand – from first hearing about you, to creating a long-lasting relationship and affinity for the products & services.

In this article, we’re tackling everything related to the customer journey map – what it is, how you create it, how do you know you have the right one and some very useful map examples. After today, you’ll have a completely different perspective of your business – the one of the consumers!

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map (or experience mapping) is the visual representation of all the steps your customer will go through in their relationship with your company. From the moment they decide to interact with the business (they hear an ad on the TV and decide to check out your website, for example), to the moment they stop supporting it or become an advocate – it showcases the customers’ experiences.

This technique is crucial because it highlights the most common customer pain points – the moments, interactions, or methods that might make them want to quit supporting your brand. Knowing your company’s pain points will:

  • Help you devise a plan to get rid of them;
  • Avoid making the same mistakes in the future;
  • Create a more seamless process for both the customers and the employees that interact with them.

Why is a customer journey map important?

A journey map will not only highlight the most common customer pain points but will also:

  • Let you see where, when and how your customer engages with your business – therefore, letting you know where your resources should be invested more often;
  • Attract your attention to certain customer needs in some stages of the buying process;
  • Show you if the customer experience you desire for your clients is actually the real experience they encounter;
  • Identify whether the process of buying from your company is easy, efficient and logical;
  • Shed a light on future development plans needed for the company’s evolution and in order to improve customer experiences.

How to create a customer journey map

Start by creating a buyer persona

We’ve talked about buyer personas in our previous articles. It’s a very important concept to any business since it helps you get into the mind of the consumer more accurately and in great detail, after doing some user research. 

Using your aforementioned buyer persona (which is your target customer), you can then take these fictitious people on their journey with your business – through all customer touchpoints – and see more clearly what works and what doesn’t for this specific customer.

Start the marketing qualitative research process

In an ideal world, marketing research would be an ongoing aspect of any business. Because the world is ever-changing, new customers are coming in every day and anything could go wrong at any second, it’s important to always keep your eyes open to criticism.

However, this is hardly possible, especially for a very active business. Therefore, take advantage of this moment – the one in which you create your customer journey map – and make sure you ask the right questions. Some examples of these are:

  • How, when, and where did you hear about our company?
  • Accessing the website, what are the things that attract your attention? What is something that you don’t like about it?
  • What problems do you have that our products/services may solve for you?
  • How easy is it to find the information you’re looking for on the website?
  • If you’re having difficulty with something, how easy is it to get in contact with our customer service team and solve your issue?
  • How long have you / do you typically spend on our website?
  • Have you ever made a purchase with us? If so, what was your deciding factor?
  • Have you ever interacted with our website with the intent of making a purchase but decided not to? If so, what led you to this decision?
  • What would make the experience better for you?

Determine what your map is going to show you

There are 4 main types of customer journey maps. Each of them has their unique sets of benefits and challenges. Before proceeding, you should choose the right one for the purpose of this exercise.

Current state map

This is the most common and used map out there. It’s the one that should always be available for your team, being constantly updated as changes arise. It maps out the thoughts, actions, emotions, and experiences your audience has by interacting with the business and helps you understand the customer journey.

Day in the life map

This is similar to the buying persona since it highlights the thoughts, actions, emotions, and experiences your clients have in their life, whether or not it includes your company’s products and services. This way, you can better understand the customer, as well as anticipate potential pain points before they’ve even had the chance to meet your company.

Future state map

As the name suggests, this map is going to help you set clear objectives and better understand your vision for the future. It takes current data and aids in identifying customer thoughts, actions, emotions, and experiences in the future. 

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Service blueprint map

This type of map begins with a simplified version of one of the aforementioned maps. After, they add the variables that determine customers to have said experiences. Factors like people, policies, technologies, processes, resources. The service blueprint map’s purpose is to go to the root of the problem, as well as identifying the steps to attain future customer journeys.

In order to check if you’ve chosen the right map, here is a handy guide for you. It divides them into 3 categories, depending on their specific purpose – making the process a breeze for you! We recommend more journey mapping examples later in the article. 

Make an inventory of the current and needed resources

The user journey maps will shed light on every aspect of the business that needs further investment and improvement.  It’s important to have a clear list of what you currently have in your arsenal – workforce, tools, equipment, funds, etc. – and what you will need to solve said issues.

Remember that sometimes the biggest changes come with the smallest efforts. You need not think of solving problems as a massive monetary investment – you may find that a simple training session or some online tools will do the job better than anything.

It’s recommended that you communicate transparently with your employees, also. Only the ones that are directly dealing with the issue can truly understand it, so you may receive some great solution ideas from them as well.

Embark on the journey yourself

The whole experience of mapping the user journey remains completely hypothetical until you test it out yourself. It’s vital to understand customers’ perceptions as well. 

For each of your personas, follow the journey they take through their social media activity, through to reading their emails, through to searching online. You may even ask some of your colleagues/friends/family members to go through it as well – this way you get a broader perspective on the matter.

Analyzing the results and accepting the truth may not be easy for many – but it’s the first step towards getting your business to the next level.

Start improving

Now that you’ve seen clearly where the problems lie, you need to start actually making some changes. Big or small, they are mandatory in order to improve your audience’s experience and keep them interested in your business in the long run. You may want to collaborate with an user experience designer to help you out with the website’s efficiency.

Remember to always refer back to the customer pain points outlined in your map, so you don’t invest resources without a clearly defined purpose. Also, don’t forget to keep your clients engaged and ask for feedback whenever possible.

The customer journey mapping process is a constant effort, so accept the fact that you’ll never “get it right” – you’ll just constantly have to make it a little bit better. Set performance indicators and keep track of your progress.

Customer journey examples and templates

The process of mapping the customer journey may seem complicated and a bit overwhelming – but we assure you that after the first few passes, you’re going to become comfortable with it. To help, here are some customer journey map templates to ease the process and inspire you.

Moreover, if you’re not quite sure how to start the exercise or how it should look like in the end, we’ve found some very interesting examples of customer journey maps that you can have on hand whenever you feel like you need some assistance. You may also use a journey mapping tool of your choice to create effective customer journey maps.

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Having a clearly defined journey for your customers is vital for the wellbeing of your business and your team. Identifying customer pain points, seeing where to allocate resources, and anticipating the worst is key to maintaining a calm demeanor as an entrepreneur.

In today’s article, we tackled journey maps – what they are, how they help, how to create one yourself and where to find some great customer journey mapping examples. Make sure to always keep an open mind to criticism and think rationally about how to best approach your company’s relationship with the stakeholders.