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Why mapping the customer journey is so important for improving CX
Today’s savvy, well-informed buyers want an excellent customer experience (CX) every single time they interact with your product and brand.
Creating a customer journey map (CJM) helps you deeply understand every aspect of your users’ experience to help you act on your insights to boost conversions, customer satisfaction and retention—and keep up with your competitors.
Last updated12 Jul 2022
Our comprehensive guide of the ten most important benefits of customer journey mapping will talk you through why mapping the buyer journey is so crucial, who should map out the customer journey, and which challenges to look out for.
Want to understand how customers really interact with your site?
Hotjar’s PX insights tools let you experience the customer journey through their eyes.
10 reasons you need to map your customer journey
A customer journey map is a visual representation of how your customers interact with your brand, website, and product across different stages—from external touchpoints like social media, ads, and events, to internal touchpoints like website landing pages, CTAs, signup forms, and onboarding processes.
To understand your users’ experiences, desires, and pain points, do customer journey map research by gathering qualitative and quantitative data from customer interviews, surveys, and product experience (PX) insights tools. A data-informed customer journey map helps you understand your users' jobs to be done as they engage with your site or product—and what they’re thinking and feeling as they navigate.
Let’s take a look at how customer journey mapping can benefit your company—and your customers.
1. Walk in your customers’ shoes
Collecting real-world insights helps you dig deep into how customers interact with your brand, which makes it easier to empathize with their experience. A strong customer journey mapping process lets you challenge your assumptions—you’ll see customers don’t always act or think how you expect.
Understanding where users struggle to complete actions, get frustrated, or drop off helps you prioritize website and product improvements to give them a smoother experience. Maybe that’s changing the position of CTAs, or adapting your navigation architecture so important information is easy to find.
If you build a culture of putting yourself in your customers’ shoes, all stakeholders can see your brand from the customer perspective (outside-in) as well as the business perspective (inside-out).
A customer journey map enables you to observe sales experiences from the customer's perspective rather than the sales perspective. You can see why they chose your product or a different brand and understand their point of view more effectively.
Pro tip: Hotjar Session Recordings let you see exactly how customers navigate your site. Understand which areas they gravitate to, which they avoid, and where they get blocked or drop off.
Hotjar Session Recordings show you how users experience your page to improve low-performing touchpoints
2. Identify unmet user needs
A strong understanding of customer needs across different interactions lets you identify gaps in the journey and offer additional touchpoints or improve existing ones, which means no more guesswork.
Mapping out how customers navigate your site or app lets you pinpoint blockers, where they’re trying to engage but can’t, or where completing an action takes too much effort.
Increase your awareness of customer needs to minimize frustrations by providing the right information and features at specific stages for a better user experience (UX). For example, if you see customers struggling with onboarding touchpoints, you can deliver an explanatory video or pop-up tooltip exactly when they need it. Or if they’re caught in an endless help-page loop, you can update your pages to provide the most relevant information at key points in the website journey.
Pro tip: use Hotjar's Observe tools to see where user needs aren’t being met. Heatmaps show you whether key information, CTAs, and contact forms are optimally positioned so visitors can find them at the right point in their customer journey. If not, you can easily modify your layout for a better experience.
Heatmaps show you an intuitive aggregated view of which parts of your site are attracting attention and which aren’t to help you make changes that improve UX
3. Understand complex journeys across several customer touchpoints
The average customer uses multiple channels to research and interact with brands. This creates highly complex, non-linear journeys with several customer touchpoints.
Touchpoints also vary by customer: maybe Gen Zers typically come to your website from social media and seek out video content, while Gen Xers might be more likely to arrive directly from Google searches and want written content and comparison charts before they buy.
For B2B businesses, multiple decision-makers are also often involved—and they all have different ways of conducting research and choosing a solution.
This complexity makes creating an excellent customer experience across the board difficult.
Customer journey mapping visualizes all these different experiences in one place—showing you exactly what customers are thinking, feeling, and doing at each stage so you can provide the right information at the right time, in the right place, and through the right channel.
4. Visualize emotions, not just actions
Buyer journeys are often emotional, but it’s hard to turn feelings into concrete data, and it’s even harder to imagine what your customers will actually feel when designing your product and site.
A well-researched customer journey map helps you visualize what customers are thinking, feeling, and doing: the key to understanding their deepest needs and providing a better service. Gathering insights on customer emotions—and acting on them—helps customers feel you ‘get’ them and builds brand trust.
Pro tip: Hotjar Session Recordings go beyond tracking basic user behavior analytics to show you where users are ‘rage-clicking’ or u-turning because they’re not getting the response they expect when they click on site elements. You can even filter to see specific recordings of customers who told you they were dissatisfied/satisfied.
Hotjar's Ask tools—Surveys and Feedback widgets—also let you gather feedback on what customers are feeling as they take certain actions.
Hotjar’s tool stack gives you insights and user feedback ‘in the wild’
5. Create personalized experiences
Personalization is key to great customer experience, even with self-serve products, because customers value brands that understand their unique needs.
Mapping lets you dig deeper into user intent and interactions, allowing you to create personalized experiences across all touchpoints.
Create targeted landing pages with use cases for different customer segments
Show relevant social media ads to potential customers browsing online
Provide personalized support over multiple channels
Improve onboarding by tailoring the process to each customer
Customize the post-onboarding experience so users can adapt your product to their exact needs, boosting adoption
6. Align cross-functional stakeholders
Mapping the customer journey works best with perspectives from UX, marketing, product, sales, customer service and success, shipping, management, and other teams. This can mean getting different roles physically in a room together, or collecting their feedback to understand how they interact with your customer. These diverse insights help speed up the process of solving customer journey issues—so users see improvements faster.
This kind of cross-functional collaboration gets multiple teams on the same page and gives all stakeholders a holistic, coherent view of the customer experience.
Aligning different teams reduces politics and guesswork around what the customer wants and clarifies areas of ownership, accountability, and points of hand-off between teams. This makes it easier to keep tabs on where a customer is in their journey at any one time—and creates a smoother, more coherent interaction with your brand.
Behind every messed-up implementation is a fundamental mis- or non-alignment on customer journey outcomes. Mapping exposes gaps in customer-focused thinking, areas of functional misalignment, and organization change challenges…all of which traditional IT people are poor at, and IT vendors don't care about. The first step in resolution is realization. Mapping brings people together to a point where they understand the challenges.
7. Improve ROI and cost-effectiveness by creating satisfied customers
Between paid ads, marketing, and sales, customer acquisition is costly—so retaining customers is important to help boost your return on investment (ROI).
Customer journey mapping provides you with opportunities to improve onboarding and features adoption, which increases customer satisfaction, loyalty, and product advocacy.
Use PX insights tools like Hotjar Heatmaps to spot technical issues that prevent users from signing up for a trial, or identify points when ecommerce customers abandon their shopping carts, which boosts conversions and revenue generation.
8. Get a competitive edge
Mapping tells you exactly how you can improve your customer experience to make your product stand out from the competition. CJMs also reveal product strategy opportunities to differentiate your brand by identifying new ways to provide customers with additional value.
These product experience and user insights help your brand stay relevant, adapt your product and business model as customer needs change, and gain a competitive edge in a moment where having a great product is no longer enough on its own.
Crucially, mapping helps you identify your ‘halo’ customers—the group that, when you land them, makes everyone else sit up and take notice—as well as influencers and early adopters. That’s the first step in learning how to attract more of them.
More customer success for more customers is the most important outcome of strategy and the ROI from any investment in the business. If you can’t describe how this additional success will happen, or what will bring additional customers, I’d say your strategy is a bit light on specifics, risking its credibility and, ultimately, successful execution. Mapping at the value chain level helps bring coherency to a strategy.
9. Improve marketing and product-led growth
Many companies assume the customer journey starts when someone lands on their website or blog. In reality, it starts way before that—often with the customer searching for solutions or doing research in professional groups or community forums.
Mapping the journey from start to finish helps you get to know your users, be a part of their conversations, and create content for all stages of the buyer journey that help convert visitors into paying customers. This process is particularly valuable for businesses with long, complex buyer journeys and high-value products, like the SaaS or B2B customer journey.
Building a CJM also reduces guesswork and helps you validate ideas—from identifying the right channels, messaging, positioning, and content to building credibility and trust with customers.
Use PX insights tools like Hotjar to see where users get blocked—and use the information you glean to make your product itself more intuitive, user-friendly, and well-positioned for growth. The goal here is to make your product (and the user journey within it) so good that it starts to act as its own marketing channel and practically sells itself, which is every team's dream.
10. Minimize future roadblocks
Customer journey mapping requires some time and effort up front, but it increases efficiency and saves resources later on.
Conduct customer interviews and use PX insights tools to collect qualitative and quantitative data and minimize customer roadblocks further down the line, which ultimately helps reduce assumptions across your team and lets you anticipate challenges so you can prevent them.
Pro tip: use Hotjar's Ask tools—like Surveys and Feedback—to gather quantitative and qualitative insights relevant to specific pages on your site, as users are browsing them. This gives you voice-of-the-customer feedback as to why customers are dropping off in the buyer journey, which elements confuse them or get ignored, and what’s stopping them from continuing or converting.
The Hotjar question bank makes it easy to create drag-and-drop surveys
Who should map the customer journey?
Every company, no matter its size or niche, can benefit from mapping the customer journey. Customer journey mapping is particularly useful for giving startups and SMEs a competitive edge.
Aligning yourself more closely with your customers by getting to know and understand their needs and blockers will allow your company to give customers exactly what they want and differentiate you from the competition.
If you don’t understand how and why your customers are choosing you, it’s going to be extremely difficult to attract and retain more customers.
What are the challenges of customer journey mapping?
Customer journey mapping can be a quick and easy process—take a look at our guide to creating a CJM in 2.5 days—but it comes with some challenges:
You need a strong understanding of all your customer profiles and user groups to avoid leaving anyone out. Don’t rely on assumptions: run customer interviews and collect user feedback to inform your user personas and map.
Multiple teams usually need to be involved, which isn’t always easy to organize: get everyone on the same page and share your product experience insights with Hotjar's Slack integration. To get executive teams on board, prepare a presentation outlining the benefits of customer journey mapping and how their involvement will help.
It can be frustrating if you don’t have the resources and staffing to immediately act on the insights revealed by customer journey mapping. However, a strong customer journey map will help you see what to prioritize, and can even help you get buy-in for more resources to make changes.
It can be hard to collect enough data for a thorough CJM, but using Hotjar's PX insights tools makes customer journey map research easy by helping teams understand the online user journey on a granular level
Customer journey mapping is a continuous process
Mapping the customer journey tells you exactly how users interact with your brand, website, and product at different touchpoints—and what they’re doing, thinking, or feeling at each stage.
Your CJM is a living record. Refer back to it regularly during every stage of your product's design, testing, and launch to make sure you’re delivering what your customers really want and need.
This crucial process will help you understand and improve the customer experience, creating customer delight, and boosting adoption and loyalty.
Want to understand how customers really interact with your site?
Hotjar’s PX insights tools let you experience the customer journey through their eyes.