How to map and study Customer Journey?

Customer Journey Mapping

Generating and visualising the map is one thing, capturing data and understanding to generate it is another thing. I’ve done Customer Journey mapping and analysis since 2004 and learned a lot about the differences in methodology and their value. I’d like to share some of my experiences here.

The first thing to start with is to consider how you approach this task. I’ve learned that when the designer him self engage in customer journey mapping and research, the time spend in studying is actually effective planning time. Outsourcing this work to a researcher makes everything much harder. When you as a designer and planner are responsible for planning, you have a completely different idea about what to study and pay attention to instead of researcher.

I’ve learned that starting the work with qualitative interview really help in understanding what it is you need to pay attention to. In the qualitative interviews I have used methodology that has a name in Psychology: “Interpretative phenomenological Analysis”. See more from Psychology – magazine This approach thoroughly study customer’s lived experiences from their perspective. The point in this is, that you need to understand the whole big picture with different touch points, different brands and their content, value proposition and services. You need to see from the customers eyes and experience the market in full. Once you have studied 6-8 people like this, you will be ready to write quantitative study for those customers who have recently done the process or are currently in it. Here’s one sample story about buying a GPS navigator and about conflicting interests along the Customer Journey

How to divide the study in phases?

Customer Journey

Majority of the potential innovation driving information is easy to access in case you have a customer register. Considering other journeys apart from buying customer journey, each journey should be separately studied and measured post delivery. I normally study acquisition journey as one study from brand-as-a-platform to Choosing and buying and also ask about post-purchase satisfaction. Using is another study or it can be combined with re-consideration phase, whether people leave or re-buy. Loyalty as such is very much tied to using phase or experiencing the service, which is why combining the latter two would also be a good idea. Always study both won and lost customers. Especially the customers who were lost have a lot to give. By combining different customer groups you will have a better understanding how the market actually works.

If you don’t have a database in use, you can recruit respondents from a panel source with this brief. Depending on the business and brand, the company’s reach in the market place differ very much. If it is possible to find out the number of new deals customers are doing annually, it’s easy to calculate how many did ask for a proposal from you. Closed deals are calculated as conversion from proposals. There’s also hidden movement in companies data they are not aware of. For example customers that are members of your loyalty program also buy from your competitors. Every now and then it’s healthy to ask from current members what they have recently purchased in order to find out how to best approach them and minimize loss of sales and risk of losing members to your competitors. Recently lost customers got initiated for some reason too. How did that happen and why did they not continue their relationship with your brand.

Along with studying customers afterwards, it is very eye-opening to follow what they are doing and to interview them right after they have made their choice. This is different from mystery shopping, because the emphasis is on the customer, not on the store personnel.

The third important source of information apart from customers is your internal organisation working in customer interfaces like helpdesk, customer service, maintenance and sales. They know what questions are frequently asked, what challenges (product failure, need for advice, compatibility issues etc.) are causing most of the costs for the organisation. They are also excellent advisors when considering options how to solve these challenges.

Marketing research often looks into the future perspective and ask about awareness, top-of-mind, preference and shortlist of potential brands. These are all good measures and valuable, but intentional – and could easily lead you to a wrong direction unless you have other KPI’s (key performance indicators) and tools to complement them. The challenge about researching future is that people are quite bad at acting according to their own intentions. Habits, convenience and instincts drive behaviour to unexpected directions that are difficult to predict by research. These studies also often miss a major point. They ask customers which brand they prefer and make them choose one, and consequently fail to recognize the fact that people might have only brand options and not a specific preferred brand.

Example: In case 76% of the customers have a pool of options but they don’t have a specific preferred brand, it means that most of the market is floating. People only have options and consider brands as equally good. When the time comes the best or first/nearest/most conveniently available deal will win regardless the brand as long as the brand is within the pool of options.

When a customer initiates conscious consideration and buying, he’s often active. He’s making searches online, reading ads, discussing about his interest with friends and family, reading product reviews, asking questions from professionals and stores, visiting several websites and outlets, asking opinions and advice. Majority of this behaviour can be analyzed online or with research.

When the customer initiates this journey he’s in charge. At least that’s how he feels. That needs to be taken for granted. He makes decisions. While he’s in charge, he’s being influenced by media, marketing, brands, professionals, sales people,… Eventually the customer is quite likely to buy something he could not have imagined before actually entering the journey. He does the decision eventually but you can influence the choices he makes if you know how to do it. The mapping of the customer journey is composed of he following parts:

1. Touch points: mediums, services, personnel, re-sellers, physical spaces, online. 

Do you have control of the touch point or does a partner manage it? At what point of a customer journey is the customer getting involved with a certain touch point? What can you do in that moment and what are your goals and KPI’s? Can that specific touch point result in to an acquisition or do you need to direct the customer further? What kind of roles a single touch point has and how can you make certain all roles are played out right along the customer journey?

2. Service moments and context

What are the most likely contexts in which the customer engages with the touch point? What is he trying to do? How can you help him achieve that? How is that done? How could it make your product or service look more appealing or at best, a most likely option?

3. Motivation and drivers

Are the customers reaching out for you or is it the other way around? In what kind of mindset does a customer engage with your brand? What could drive him further instead of abandoning your brand? What are the conventions and customs in your business and how could you exceed customer’s expectations by breaking them? Are there other companies that have a similar logic to yours and could you implement their approaches, which already have a proven logic?

4. Decision making process

What is the customer’s decision-making process like? Is he doing it himself or using a consultant or services for comparison? Are there predictable qualities in customer’s selection process that would enhance your capability to adapt your organisation to the customer’s behaviour with right content, value proposition or services? How does the customer move from one stage to the next?

5. Triggers and Moments of truth (initiate/choose/drop/buy/attrition)

Where and at what point are the most important moments of truth defining the majority of your business success? What triggers them to decide or act according to your will? Can you trigger customer behaviour? How can you do that most effectively and which kind of approach result in best outcomes? Why do you win and what do your competitors do better if you lose business to them? How can you outperform your competitors’ actions?

6. Post-purchase satisfaction and recommendations

Would customers buy again if they had a choice? What is your Net Promoter Score Index? What were they satisfied about? Was there dissatisfaction? How can you improve your customer experience in order to earn higher opinion? Do your customers discuss about your product online or face to face? What are they saying? Are they endorsing your brand? Could you use their endorsement for others who are still considering it?

Customer Typologies by behavior

You can easily argue this is not the whole truth. Not all purchases are done like this, consciously working thru a cross-channel decision-making process and eventually buying something. That’s right. And that’s why we needed to create a model for defining critical customer journey models for different kind of purchases. Conscious cross-channel purchase journey is most likely in case of ”3i” purchase. That is High interest, -involvement and/or -investment product or services. However, the buying models and patterns are more complicated than that. Also the behaviour dynamics differ between products, service ranges and between same category brands. You can divide customer behaviour in three major types: Adventurers, Flyers and All-inclusive cruisers

Adventurers: Journey driven people are interested in the products and their qualities. You need to support their needs and change or influence their attitude in order to break in to their awareness. As they search and compare, you need to be able to justify to them why your solution would suit them and guide them to decide and purchase your product/service. These people really consider their user experience and share recommendations in case your performance is beyond expectations. Supporting their needs helps you to perform better with other people representing different behaviour type.

Flyers: Destination driven people also need to be influenced at “need and attitude” -level in order to create better awareness of your offering and it’s qualities. However, this is more about leveraging past reviews and feedback from journey driven people. Destination driven people are more likely to be influenced by e.g. Magazine reviews of your product or other independent sources of information. With such support you can just concentrate on tactical advertising in order to encourage decision and purchase making. Destination driven people are interested in the user experience and reviewing their own experience to others.

All inclusive cruisers: Public opinion driven people accept your offering when it’s widely used and they are completely certain that choosing your offering has no risk what so ever. It’s all about tactical advertising and encouraging purchase. They are not likely to share their opinion to others or recommend your products or services.

The share of each of the previous groups vary by product category and brand. The rules of engagement apply and they must be considered in the mapping too. These laws apply like gravity and this means  that same tools and methods in marketing certainly don’t apply to every case in the same way. Here is the rules of engagement map: a) Level of 3i and b) who’s the active party.

Customer journey rules of engagement

I know doing this kind of mapping sounds like awful lot of work, but I can guarantee that doing it is one of those things you celebrate most later on. Trying to compile data from different sources or doing this with qualitative interviews will deliver 70% right answers and generate innovation too, but doing it this way will give you more insight than you have ever got about your competitors success and failure, understanding the role of different channels and information sources and about market dynamics in general. This approach is a gold mine.

Well, there are a number of ways how to maps and document customer journey. They are all ok, but built for different purposes and they offer different kind of value. One great source of information for visualisation and internal/qualitative process is

What do you think? I’d love to get some comments 🙂


Key questions when stydying Customer Journey

Customer Journey stage 1: Brand as a platform

Customer Journey stage 2: Initiation

Customer Journey stage 3: Choosing and buying – cross-channel influence

also check out how to manage customer interfaces

Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer

Join FutureCMO Movement LinkedIn Group here

Published by Toni Keskinen Catalyst for transformation and Executive-as-a-Service, Author, Speaker and catalyst for change. I do Behavioral Economics and Customer Journey insights driven growth design at strategic and operational levels together with client's employees and operate as a catalyst for corporate transformation.

17 thoughts on “How to map and study Customer Journey?

  1. Brilliant piece. Too often the journey is not mapped nor planned for. This approach has proven very successful in terms of delivering sound operational as well as marketing beat practices.

    1. Thank you 🙂 In my opinion customer journey management offers both food for creativity and marketing as well as a full sustainable management model. Customer Journey Management is about managing organisation from the customers point of view. Without mapping and really understanding customer journey and customer’s view, it is very difficult or impossible to really manage well. Once you do understand the customer journey, other analytics and research will have a much richer story to tell too.

  2. Here’s a question by Dion Gonzales – LinkedIn group • Excellent piece Toni. Have you done any qualitative analysis of consumer’s value to a business based on the channels they use to engage/buy from a business i.e. a consumer who buys on a mobile device likely has a different cost of customer acquisition than a consumer who responds to a traditional form of advertising.

    Here’s my answer:
    Actually we have. When you do map customer journey in full, you will face the fact that the transaction/acquisition channel is only an outcome depending on customer’s preferences, convenience, store proximity and shopping habits. In most CPG acquisition journies customers interact and consume information from different channels, which you need to recognize. When you do the mapping with large enough quantitative sample, you can define the weight of each touchpoint and define what is the cost of that touch point. By doing this you can create an optimal cost-structure and really define where to put your attention, effort and investments. If you red the other artcile about managing customer interfaces , you can see that actually most interfaces and touchpoints are yours and don’t really cost much. By amplifying their effect and conversion you can really generate impressive sales results.

    Naturally competitors are also influencing them. In a couple of cases my clients best salesmen were actually their competitors. When you have your own customer interfaces in order and you respond to customer needs, you create natural trust and flow towards yourself. This is how you can convert people who got activated by your competitor to buy your products.

    We have profiled new customers and recognized differences in behavior, eg. age, education, attitudes, general buying behavior, what they do for living, family status etc. (Fonecta company has attached a segment to each and every person in Finland with the information mentioned. This profiling enable us to recognize differences by product, purchcase channel, profitability level, etc.) However, these differences are case specific in most cases. There are general results too, but in case you would represent a phone manufacturer, the buyer profile will be different by distributor and by purchase channel. Also the channel strategy you deploy will influence profiles – pure-play online retailer will have different profile compared to Cataloguer which take orders online. They also have different cost-structures.

    In one case we had n=6000 (Finland has population of 5,5M) respondents and we researched their total customer journey accross the market, touchpoints and purchase channels by brand. This enabled us to calculate how much each player sold via different channels: who sold most via outbound sales, own retail channel, generic retail channel, online channel and inbound channel. By doing this we could see the differences in customer behavior and recognize sales drivers and optimal channel solutions. You can apply different channel strategies but often one channel more doesn’t cost that much and having more channels should contribute to overall sales. The same apply to your original question – if you calculate customer acquisition cost by channel – you are likely to make false judgement. Unless you analyze the customer’s cross-channel behavior, you can not judge cost by purhcase channel. For example: you might sell very few products online, but after the customer journey mapping you might come to conclusion that 85% of all buyers visited your website and made a decision to buy based on that visit.

    I hope I answered your question 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: