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8 best practices to create a successful customer journey map

Customer journey mapping can be a challenge—there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to understanding the customer experience across every single touchpoint.

You need an organized, strategic approach to take the guesswork out of mapping the buyer journey. Apply best practices to ensure your customer journey map helps you better understand your users and what they need.

Last updated

9 Aug 2022

This article outlines eight customer journey mapping best practices to help you optimize every stage of the buyer journey—and start building a brilliant product experience (PX) your users will love.

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8 effective customer journey mapping best practices

Put these eight proven strategies into action to create an amazing buyer journey map that helps you elevate the user experience (UX):

1. Set clear goals

Before taking any action, define what you hope to achieve from your customer journey map. Following specific objectives throughout the process of user journey mapping will ensure your map is aligned with your customer and business goals.

Jamie Irwin, director & search marketing expert at Straight Up Search, emphasizes the importance of goal setting when mapping out the customer journey:

The most important part of the process is to define your goals. Before you begin mapping out your customers' journeys, it's important to know what you're trying to achieve. What are your goals? What are your KPIs? Once you have a clear understanding of your objectives, you can start designing a map that will help you meet them.

Jamie Irwin
Director & Search Marketing Expert at Straight Up Search

To set clear, effective goals, start by asking yourself a few questions:  

  • What do I want to achieve with this customer journey map? Maybe you want to get to know your users better to understand their needs; maybe you want to optimize your website for increased conversions by determining where users drop off in the customer journey.

  • What are my specific KPI goals? Decide on the most important customer journey metrics to monitor based on your overall customer and business goals: this might be customer satisfaction metrics, conversion rates, or engagement statistics, like time on page, the number of click-throughs, or social media shares. Setting specific KPIs will help you keep track of key customer journey touchpoints and determine the success of your efforts once you start using your map to optimize UX.

2. Understand your customers

Because every user is unique, you need to prioritize doing customer journey map research to understand each distinct buyer persona. 

To develop your customer personas, interview different categories of users with a tool like Lookback. Be sure to diversify your interviews by focusing on several different demographics—like age, location, gender, and socioeconomic status. 

Katerina Kondrenko, content marketing manager for the user persona creation tool UXPressia, warns that “fitting your entire audience into one or two personas means merging the needs of different people into a ball of contradictions.” Avoid this pitfall by speaking to a wide range of users and developing as many diverse personas as you need.

Pro tip: use Hotjar's Ask tools to get a better idea of what your users are looking for. Feedback and Survey tools let you hear firsthand how customers are experiencing their journey on your website—giving you valuable insights to improve UX.

Check out Hotjar’s bank of survey templates to get started. 

Learn what your users think of your website and the customer journey by asking the right questions

Learn what your users think of your website and the customer journey by asking the right questions with Hotjar Surveys.

3. Create a different map for each type of buyer

Once you’ve envisioned your main buyer personas, design a unique map for each of them. Different buyers operate in different ways depending on their roles and demographics—if you try to generalize every user persona under one broad customer journey map, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to create an enjoyable product experience for different buyers.

Maybe some Gen Zers find your brand through social media, and value these touchpoints more before and after purchase, while a sub-group of millennial buyers connect more through paid ads and organic search, and want email followup.

On your website, some sub-groups of users may scroll past the paragraphs of text on your homepage and jump immediately to a more engaging element, like a video or gif—while others want to find written content. Use Hotjar Heatmaps to identify the popular and unpopular elements on your pages, then adjust your website to help all users get to wherever they need to go, no matter what their journey looks like.

# A Hotjar Heatmap showing the areas website users engage with most
A Hotjar Heatmap showing the areas website users engage with most

4. Collaborate with stakeholders 

Including a range of perspectives from relevant stakeholders is key to successfully creating any customer journey map. 

Jamie Irwin of Straight Up Search emphasizes the importance of “collaborating with stakeholders across your organization to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to delivering a great customer experience.”

For effective cross-functional collaboration, consult all teams that have insights about customer interactions and touchpoints, from sales and marketing to operations, design, customer service, and devs. 

Involve high-level decision-makers to get their buy-in on your final customer journey map and any corresponding actions.

Coming up with an actionable plan is only half the battle: you’ll need the approval of high-level management to implement it, and it’s much easier to sell your user mapping initiative at the initial stages than later on by engaging bosses throughout the process.

Katerina Kondrenko
Content Marketing Manager, UXPressia

5. Track every step (including the ones in between) 

When building your map, be thorough: track every single phase a customer moves through in their journey, from the moment they find your product until long after they make their purchase. This could start when they see an ad for your product on search engines, continue to the first time they click on your homepage, extending all the way until after they check out.

Pay attention to touchpoints within customer touchpoints: map out specific touchpoints across your website—for example, from your homepage, landing page, and checkout pages to specific site elements like CTAs, signup forms, and media elements. 

Lisa Schuck, a marketing lead at Airship, reminds us that “aside from defining your touchpoints, you need to track how customers enter and exit each stage of the journey.” 

When you understand how users move between touchpoints, you give buyers the tools they need to move freely through their customer journey, making their experience smoother so they convert more and churn less. Pay attention to entry and exit points for each stage in your map: how do users begin engaging with each touchpoint, and when do they stop?

Pro tip: watch Hotjar Session Recordings and see exactly how potential customers move around key website touchpoints. What steps do they take before buying? Where do users that don’t convert drop off? Use these insights to improve your users’ purchasing experience.

#Watch your users as they navigate on your website during their customer journey to see where they're getting stuck with Hotjar Session Recordings

Hotjar Session Recordings let you see your user's product experience as you watch exactly how they navigate your website to improve the customer journey.

6. Measure the outcome

Monitor the customer journey mapping KPIs you set in step one of this article to measure the overall outcome of your users’ journey and understand how different touchpoints impact your users—and conversions. Measure the following KPIs to see how effective your customer journey is at every stage:

  • Awareness stage: track impressions, reach, SEO ranking, bounce rate, and time on page to check whether customers are understanding the problem you solve and finding your solution.

  • Consideration stage: track clicks, click-through rate (CTR), engagement rate, and cost-per-click (CPC) to see whether customers are strongly considering your product solutions.

  • Decision stage: track conversion rate, sales, and cost-per-conversion (CPC) to analyze how customers make decisions about whether to purchase your product or service.

  • Customer retention: track customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, and customer lifetime value (CLV) to review whether customers are engaging with your product long-term.

  • Customer advocacy: track referrals and Net Promoter Score®(NPS) to evaluate whether users speak about your solution to others.

7. Make it cyclical

Most customer journeys aren’t linear and your customer journey map should reflect this.

If you want high customer lifetime value (CLV) and strong brand advocates, mapping out a cyclical customer journey is essential: the journey doesn’t end when a user gets to know your product and makes a purchase.

Returning customers or long-term subscribers won’t return to the awareness stage, but they might hop between the consideration or decision stage several times as they make new conversion decisions. 

To maximize customer satisfaction, and, in turn, loyalty, you need to understand these different pathways to purchase. 

8. Create a living document

A static customer journey map won’t give you real insights into what your buyers need. Customer journey mapping is an ongoing process: review and update your customer journey map as you add new products and features to your business or change any key touchpoints. 

You should also adjust your customer journey map when there are changes in the market or customer behavior. 

Use Hotjar tools to spot changes in how users interact with your business and inform your living map. For example, if you notice a drop in conversions on your website, use Session Recordings to watch your users navigate and identify what’s going wrong so you can address the issue and update your customer journey map if needed.

Also, get customer feedback with Hotjar's Ask tools like Feedback widgets and Surveys to understand whether your map accurately reflects the experience users are having on your site.

Draw on best practices for a great customer journey map 

Though it requires some time and planning, a well-designed customer journey map helps you understand your buyers' behavior and needs so you can optimize their product experience. 

Implementing user-centric best practices will ensure you map out an effective map and turn curious prospects into happy repeat customers.

Discover how your customers interact with your website

Use Hotjar tools to understand how your customers behave—and why—so you can improve their journey.

FAQs about customer journey mapping best practices