The Digital Customer Journey: Understanding and Mapping Your Customer Online

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Before any brand can create effective marketing campaigns, determine paid media spend, or develop a robust content plan, understanding and mapping the digital customer is critical.

From awareness to advocacy, the digital customer journey helps a brand:

  • Understand what a customer wants
  • Understand when they want to be connected
  • Understand how they want to be interacted with and where
  • Understand how they feel about specific interactions
  • Predict what future behaviors customers may take
  • Identify and activate customers to become advocates

Creating a Seamless Journey Flow

Before we dive into how to understand and map a customer journey, it’s important to emphasize why doing so is so critical.

Today’s consumers, especially Millennials and Generation Z, who have some of the lowest brand loyalty numbers. Only 37% of Generation Z for example rated in the loyalist category Forbes recently found. This is a nearly 20% drop compared to Baby Boomers (56% are loyalists). Many are also digital natives. While Boomers are tech savvy, and Millennials are digital natives, Gen Z was born with tech and grew up with it every day since infancy.

That means, your brand and customer experience must be exceptionally smooth, easy, quick, and effortless. [Salesforce Research found that of 15,600 global customers, 80% “consider the experience a company provides to be as important as its products and services.”) of Unfortunately, that also means that if you don’t properly understand customer behavior at each touchpoint, you may likely lose them if they’re a younger generation.

On that note, let’s look at how to create a customer journey map and what do with it after.

Mapping Your Customer Journey Made Easy

The customer journey map stages

There are five core stages to consider in every customer journey map, and a few in-between ones we personally consider key

  • Stage 1: Awareness
    • Search + Discover
  • Stage 2: Consideration
  • Stage 3: Purchase
  • Stage 4: Experience
    • Support
  • Stage 5: Loyalty

Stages 1 and 2 are the most critical for growth.

Stage 1 is where people can first discover or learn about your product (the in-between stage Search + Discover includes them taking the time to learn more and explore what you offer).

Stage 2 is the time in which a customer likes their first touches with your brand and begins to think about your product and service. They’ll visit your site, engage with social a bit, maybe read a blog or two.

Stages 3-5 are most important for retention, brand loyalty, and advocacy.

Stage 3 is the point at which a customer has decided they like what you offer (the experience + the product) and have decided to make a commitment. Their core customer experience here needs to be easy, quick, and have no hiccups that could leave them abandoning a cart (because your Captcha featured made them take too many quizzes or your coupon codes failed.).

Stage 4 is all about the continued interactions post-purchase. How fast will the order be fulfilled? Will the customer be sent timely updates and have options for receiving real-time notifications? The format of these often are follow-up emails, chatbot and assisted chat tools, social media content, or SMS messaging. Support  here is the in-between, and this is all about exceptional customer service (both AI and real person).

Stage 5 is where you work on nurturing the relationship with the customer. Things like coupons, loyalty reward programs, and engaging social media content that encourages them to reconnect with the brand, get interested in other products, or use their recent purchase more. In this stage, it’s time to build loyalty and create positive emotional associations.

Creating Your Unique Customer Journey Map

Bad news first – you can’t control a customer completely. Each unique customer may make different choices and have varying timelines. A customer journey map is more of a guiding framework that supports omnichannel behaviors and provides interactions at every possible touchpoint to help push the customer further down the funnel.


Below are the key steps to take to create your own customer journey map.

  1. Build it based on your sale funnel (this help define how many touch points to have, and the interaction flows that exist)
  2. Identify the different touch points you have and evaluate their purpose and successfulness. Think like the customer and ask if you’d enjoy this experience, recommend the product, find the information you need? If the answer is ever “No” some pieces may be missing in your map that need to be added.
  3. Customize your unique touch points to personally match your brand, product/service, and customers. (Your social media channels, sales team, how the purchase process works, your unique rewards program, all of those are brand specific. Add and secure them into the customer journey map to leverage them effectively).
  4. Build out customer personas to help track and adjust content and strategies to specific groups of customers. Personas include age, gender, socioeconomic background, lifestyle interests, digital behaviors, core products, etc.
  5. Consider a customer journey mapping software with artificial intelligence (AI). If you’re still feeling like weak links exist, today AI-powered tools exist that can pinpoint where customers may be falling through the cracks or lack support. For brands with a high volume or customers, this is a good idea when trying to effectively manage a large customer base and maintain personalization.

What to Do with Your Customer Journey Map

Now that you have your customer’s step-by-step journey mapped out and have identified the key behaviors and touch points, you can use this data to create better experiences that lead to higher conversion rates, more leads, increased engagement, and better customer retention.

Some actions to take to help improve marketing efforts following a customer journey mapping include the following.

  1. Decide which existing marketing tactics should we optimize, reduce, eliminate, or increase
  2. Evaluate which marketing channels are being used properly, and from those that are in effective, decide how to approach them differently or remove them altogether.
  3. Determine where creative, messaging, or content format changes are necessary.
  4. Understand where other tactics may be more effective than others at the upper-funnel, mid- or lower-funnel journey stages, and adjust your campaign approach accordingly.
  5. Adjust existing automated follow-ups for lead flow campaigns to better match the behaviors, wants, desires, and feelings of your customers.

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