Customer journey mapping: Unlock business opportunities by understanding customer behavior

Director of Digital Strategy

Have you ever wondered why thruways are littered with fast-food chains? The answer lies in understanding customers’ behavior and their decision-making process during quick stops on their journey. When we take an exit ramp on the thruway, there are typically two top actions—continuing to our destination or stopping for gas, food, and bathroom breaks.

Fast-food retailers position themselves at these exits because they want to be there when customers are ready to decide. By being in proximity, they compete for customers’ choices. They are putting themselves in this direct competition by understanding customer behavior.

Today, with business conducted both digitally and physically, understanding customer behavior is crucial. This is where customer journey mapping comes into play.

“Journeys are thus becoming central to the customer’s experience of a brand—and as important as the products themselves in providing competitive advantage.”

David C. Edelman & Marc Singer, Harvard Business Review

What is a customer journey?

A customer journey is the complete set of experiences and interactions a customer undergoes with a brand, from initial awareness to retention. It encompasses every touchpoint, emotion, and decision that shapes the relationship between the customer and the company.

Imagine a construction company seeking new equipment. The journey starts with the awareness stage, where the company identifies a need for more efficient machinery to enhance productivity. This could be triggered by attending a trade show or finding an online advertisement.

Next, the engagement stage involves researching various suppliers, comparing features, prices, and after-sales support. The construction company may seek recommendations from industry peers or conduct in-depth product demos. Once it has selected a supplier, it enters the acquisition stage, negotiating terms, signing contracts, and finalizing the purchase.

After the equipment is acquired, the retention phase begins. The construction company assesses how well the equipment integrates into its operations, the level of customer support provided by the supplier, and whether the product meets its expectations.

Understanding the customer journey allows businesses to tailor their marketing, sales, and support efforts to meet the specific needs and pain points of their clients, thereby fostering long-term partnerships and success.

Stages of the Customer Journey

The customer journey map can be split into at least four phases:

  1. Awareness
  2. Engagement
  3. Acquisition
  4. Retention

These phases can vary based on your business model and industry.

AwarenessHow recognized is your brand in the market?

The awareness stage is the initial phase where potential customers become aware of a brand, product, or service. During this stage, individuals recognize a problem or a need they have and start seeking information and solutions. They may encounter the brand through marketing efforts like advertisements, social media, content marketing, or word-of-mouth recommendations.

Engagement How does your audience engage with your brand?

The engagement stage is where potential customers, having become aware of a brand or product, actively interact and engage with it. During this phase, individuals seek more in-depth information, explore features, and consider how the offering addresses their specific needs. Businesses focus on nurturing these prospects through personalized content, engaging communication, and interactive experiences.

AcquisitionHow much does it cost to acquire a new customer?

The acquisition stage is where potential customers transition into paying customers by making a purchase decision. After becoming aware of the brand and engaging with it, individuals decide to acquire the product or service that meets their needs. Businesses play a crucial role at this stage by providing a seamless and efficient buying experience, ensuring smooth transactions, and offering any necessary support or assistance.

This stage marks the moment when prospects convert into customers, and successful execution here leads to customer satisfaction and the potential for repeat business and referrals.

RetentionHow happy are your existing customers?

The retention stage of the customer journey focuses on maintaining and strengthening the relationship with existing customers to ensure their continued loyalty and satisfaction. At this phase, businesses employ various strategies like personalized communication, ongoing support, and customer feedback loops to address any concerns or issues promptly. By exceeding customer expectations and demonstrating ongoing value, companies aim to prevent churn and retain customers over the long term.

A successful retention stage not only secures customer loyalty but also opens opportunities for upselling, cross-selling, and turning satisfied customers into brand advocates, leading to sustained business growth.

Benefits of customer journey mapping

Customer journey mapping is a powerful tool that offers numerous benefits in understanding and improving the overall customer experience:

  • Enhanced Customer Understanding
    It provides a holistic view of customer interactions, pain points, and preferences, enabling businesses to empathize with their customers’ needs.
  • Identify Gaps and Opportunities
    Journey maps reveal areas where customers face challenges or opportunities for improvement, helping companies optimize touchpoints.
  • Customer-Centricity
    By visualizing the journey from the customer’s perspective, organizations can align processes and strategies to meet customer expectations.
  • Increased Customer Loyalty
    Addressing pain points and delivering positive experiences fosters customer loyalty and drives retention.
  • Cross-Departmental Collaboration
    Journey mapping encourages collaboration among teams to work collectively in enhancing the customer experience.
  • Informed Decision-Making
    Data-driven insights from journey maps aid in making informed decisions about products and services.
  • Better Customer Communication
    Understanding touchpoints allows businesses to communicate more effectively and personalize interactions.
  • Competitive Advantage
    Delivering a seamless journey sets companies apart, attracting new customers and staying ahead of competitors.

Parts of a Customer Journey Map

When building a customer journey map there are 10 key parts to be aware of.

  1. Persona: Before creating a journey map, it’s essential to identify and define the different customer personas that represent your target audience. Personas are fictional characters that represent specific groups of customers with similar characteristics, behaviors, and needs. We utilize a technique call MaxDiff to build personas.
  2. Touchpoints: These are the various points of interaction between the customer and the business. Touchpoints can be both online and offline, such as website visits, social media interactions, emails, phone calls, physical store visits, etc. Each touchpoint plays a role in shaping the customer experience.
  3. Emotions: Understanding the customer’s emotions at each touchpoint is important. This involves identifying how customers feel during different stages of their journey, such as excitement, frustration, satisfaction, confusion, etc. Emotions impact how customers perceive their experience and whether they stay loyal to the brand.
  4. Actions/Interactions: This part highlights the specific actions or interactions that customers engage in at each touchpoint. For instance, visiting a website, filling out a form, making a purchase, calling customer support, etc. These actions help determine the overall effectiveness of the journey and reveal potential pain points.
  5. Goals: Customers have specific goals or expectations at each stage of their journey. It could be gathering information, comparing products, seeking customer support, making a purchase, etc. Understanding these goals helps businesses align their efforts to meet customer needs effectively.
  6. Barriers/Pain Points: These are the obstacles or challenges customers face during their journey. Identifying pain points is crucial because they can lead to customer frustration and dissatisfaction.
  7. Opportunities: This section focuses on potential areas for improvement or enhancement in the customer journey. It could be introducing new features, personalized content, smoother processes, or additional support options. Identifying opportunities helps businesses innovate and stay competitive.
  8. Customer Feedback: Customer feedback and reviews provide valuable insights into the customer experience. This could include feedback gathered through surveys, online reviews, social media comments, or customer support interactions. Integrating this data into the journey map helps validate and enrich its accuracy.
  9. Timeline/Phases: The customer journey is divided into different phases or stages.  (Examples of these phases were outlined above.) Creating a timeline helps visualize the flow of the journey and understand the overall customer life cycle.
  10. Metrics and KPIs: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics are essential for evaluating the success of the customer journey. They help measure customer satisfaction, loyalty, conversion rates, customer retention, and other relevant metrics.

Here is a great template from NN/g to help get you started.

Bonus Tips

Diversify data type – interview customers and customer teams.

Customer interviews are essential for a customer journey map because they provide firsthand insights into customer experiences, emotions, and pain points. By engaging with customers, businesses can uncover valuable details that may not be apparent through data analysis alone. These interviews help validate assumptions, identify unmet needs, and understand the context in which customers interact with the brand. The information gathered from interviews enriches the journey map, ensuring it accurately reflects the customer perspective and enabling businesses to make informed decisions to improve the overall customer experience.

Automate customer data collection and visualization.

Automated data collection and visualization add significant value to the customer journey map by providing real-time, accurate, and comprehensive insights into customer interactions. It enables businesses to efficiently gather data from multiple touchpoints, including websites, social media, and customer support systems. By visualizing this data, patterns, trends, and pain points become easily identifiable, aiding in better decision-making and continuous improvement. Automation streamlines the process, saves time, and ensures that the journey map remains up to date, allowing businesses to stay agile and responsive to evolving customer needs.

Adjust your journey map based on your business model.

Customer journeys should be adjusted based on the business model because different business models cater to distinct customer interactions and needs. For example, an e-commerce business will have a unique journey focused on online shopping, while a subscription-based model will emphasize ongoing engagement and retention. Tailoring the journey to align with the business model ensures that touchpoints, interactions, and customer expectations are appropriately addressed.

Creating multiple maps for different journeys.

Creating multiple customer journey maps for one company is beneficial because different customer segments or personas may have unique needs, behaviors, and touchpoints. Each map can focus on a specific customer persona, allowing businesses to tailor experiences for maximum impact. By analyzing diverse journeys, companies can better understand where improvements are needed and implement targeted strategies to enhance satisfaction and loyalty. Multiple journey maps also promote a deeper understanding of the customer base, enabling businesses to address individual pain points effectively.


The core goal of a customer journey is to understand the end-to-end experience a customer has with a business, identifying pain points and opportunities to improve satisfaction. The business value lies in enhancing customer experiences, fostering loyalty, and increasing customer retention. By aligning efforts to meet customer needs and emotions, businesses can drive positive word-of-mouth, gain a competitive edge, and achieve sustainable growth, ultimately leading to higher customer lifetime value and increased profitability.

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Director of Digital Strategy
Aaron loves a good problem. That means he asks questions. And the more questions he asks, the closer he gets to the solution. This makes Aaron happy. And a little sad. Until a freshly shrink-wrapped problem arrives in his lap, and he can start the process over again. Throughout Aaron’s 15-year career, he has gained diverse skills in building digital experiences. His multidisciplinary background, including user experience, design, engineering, and data analysis , enables him to develop solutions that create pleasurable and frictionless experiences for end users who build value for his clients.

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