Customer journey mapping: A how-to for SBOs

    Customer journey mapping: A how-to for SBOs

    Did you know that satisfied buyers may spend nearly 20% more than customers with a less-satisfactory experience? Great customer service is essential ...

    Did you know that satisfied buyers may spend nearly 20% more than customers with a less-satisfactory experience? Great customer service is essential for small businesses, attracting new visitors and making clients happy to come back.

    How can you improve the shopping experience for your customers? Creating a customer journey map is an excellent way to discover what your clients want most and how to provide the right solutions effectively.

    Whether you’re planning your next marketing campaign or looking for ways to expand your business’s reputation, mapping the user journey helps you organize data simply and powerfully. VistaCreate gives you access to professional customer journey map templates and amazing creative assets that are a breeze to customize.

    What is a customer journey map?

    In simple terms, the customer journey is the road that connects potential customers with your business. It’s the process that converts an individual who has never purchased your products into a buyer — and with any luck, into a loyal, long-term customer.

    Customer journey maps — also known as buyer journey maps or customer journey models — show your company’s client journey in detail. 

    Mapping can help you visualize and analyze each stage of the customer experience. It allows you to see the full opportunities your business has at its fingertips.  

    Some diagrams are laid out like a flowchart, with branching arrows showing the various ways your clients interact with your business. Others are arranged like spreadsheets, with columns containing statistics, observations, and recommendations.

    The important thing is to choose a customer journey map layout that clearly communicates the key data to your team. That way, you can have more productive discussions and finetune the user experience.

    3 main phases of the customer experience

    Before getting into the details of every stage in the buyer journey, it’s helpful to see the overall picture. You can divide a customer journey map into three main sections: before the purchase, during the purchase, and after the purchase — customer acquisition, conversion, and client retention

    These are overall categories, and each one has several smaller steps.

    Customer journeys service goals and marketing methods often vary considerably depending on whether a person is in the pre- or post-sale phase of the journey. If you want to provide the best experience possible, you need to adapt the approach your business takes for each category.

    Your goals with the customer journey map

    Just as there are many steps to gaining more customers, you can also set many goals. Your overall objective is to build a strong customer base of loyal clients that keep coming back, but it’s helpful to set smaller objectives along the road:

    • Attract a higher volume of potential clients to your business
    • Increase the amount of time people spend shopping
    • Narrow your focus to customer groups that provide the most value
    • Choose marketing avenues that deliver results
    • Improve the quality of customer service that your team provides
    • Make your customers happier
    • Strengthen the loyalty of your clients
    • Boost your company’s reputation online and offline

    What do user journey map terms mean?

    Before getting into how to create a customer journey map, it’s necessary to understand the terms related to this process:


    Touchpoints are the times when a customer or potential customer interacts with your business. They involve every event when a person comes into contact with your brand in some way. Common touchpoints include seeing online ads, reading blog articles, hearing about your company on social media, signing up for a free trial, or filling out a survey.

    Target customers

    Also known as the target market or target audience, this group of customers is the most likely to purchase your products or services. When you know the interests, wants, and needs of your target customers, it’s easier to design marketing that captures attention and motivates them effectively. It’s possible to have more than one target market for a product.

    Buyer personas

    These are fictional characters that represent part of your target market. Creating a buyer persona helps you analyze the habits, thoughts, and feelings of groups of customers. This persona needs to be based on solid market research to build effective customer journey mapping.


    This stands for user experience. It includes every part of the experience someone has with your brand, whether they are browsing your website, visiting your store, or calling your customer service department.

    For example, you can implement a UCaaS system that combines multiple communication channels into one interface, preventing miscommunications that negatively impact customer experience.


    Also known as the user interface, UI relates to the design and layout of software, web pages, apps, and other technology. For example, by improving the mobile UI for your website, you can offer a better user experience when someone visits it via smartphone or tablet.

    Branding or brand identity

    A branding strategy helps you appeal to your customers with more than your products. Branding includes your business’s personality, core values, and interests, in addition to graphic elements such as colors and logos. Crafting a good brand identity helps clients get a positive view of your business before they even purchase anything.

    Pain points

    Pain points are obstacles, problems, or negative experiences that your target customers face on their user journey. Sometimes these problems relate to client needs that aren’t being met. Other times, pain points are caused by outside factors, such as rising costs in the entire industry. Some pain points are constant and practically inevitable, such as the dislike customers have for waiting.

    Key performance indicators

    Performance indicators help you define success for goals related to marketing, sales, and customer journey maps. Some common KPIs include customer acquisition cost and lifetime value of customers. These show you how much money you’re spending on marketing versus how much your average customers spend on your products. 

    Conversion rate is important, too; it tells you how many website visitors are taking the action you want, such as filling out a contact form or purchasing a product.

    Online content

    Digital content is information presented online in an attractive format for your customers. It includes articles, guides, videos, and much more. Blogs, social media posts, infographics, and product reviews are common types of digital media. 

    Considering how many people these days interact with brands online, even if they also shop in a physical store, you need high-quality content to create a positive customer journey.

    What does an example of the user journey look like?

    It’s easier to understand these marketing concepts by looking at the customer journey map of an imaginary client from start to finish. In this example, “Sam” needs to find a plumber.

    Pre-sale or client acquisition phase

    Sam starts his journey after buying a new home. A few weeks after unpacking, he notices the drains are running slow. This leads him to search the internet for local plumbers.

    Sam checks several websites of local plumbers. He looks at the services offered and reviews from past clients. He even calls a few plumbers to get a feel for their personalities. This is all part of the pre-sale stage.

    Sale or conversion phase

    Finally, Sam makes a choice and schedules the appointment with XYZ Plumbing. The plumbing team arrives, performs necessary repairs, and makes sure everything is working correctly. The work quality and friendliness of XYZ Plumbing impress Sam. He makes a mental note to use this business again in the future.

    Post-sale or retention phase

    Before leaving, the plumber makes recommendations for preventative maintenance, pointing out the benefits for Sam’s family. Sam agrees to purchase an annual service plan. The plumbing business continues providing high-quality service along with a work guarantee. Sam recommends XYZ Plumbing to other family members.

    What are the stages of the customer journey map for small business owners?

    Every customer journey map has different touchpoints, but the process generally follows the same stages. These eight stages represent the natural progression from a non-customer to a recurring client.

    1. Discovery

    Target customers have a problem or need. They search for a solution, which is how they come into contact with your business. Their first contact with your business may be a blog article, landing page, Google Maps search, or recommendation from a family member.

    2. Evaluation

    Customers form a first impression of your business. They check out your products or services briefly, mainly to see if you offer the solutions they need. They also evaluate your overall brand and team, trying to decide if you’re trustworthy.

    3. Comparison

    Potential clients compare your services or products with other options. They’re closer to making a purchase, but they still need more convincing. They check factors such as price, quality, durability, style, additional features, etc. This is the phase where people take vehicles for a test drive or try on clothes at the store.

    4. Purchasing

    Potential customers become your clients. Convinced that you offer the best option, they hand you their credit card, click “Pay Now” or sign a service agreement.

    5. Receipt

    At this stage of the customer journey map, new customers receive their purchases or get their services. They sign for the delivery, drive their new car home or approve the new electrical wiring. 

    They now own the item or have received the scheduled service. Good delivery matters for customer satisfaction, so you shouldn’t overlook this touchpoint.

    6. Product use

    Clients interact with your product or enjoy the results of your services. In the short term, this could mean eating a delicious meal at your restaurant. With long-term services, it can include families watching beautiful sunsets for ages on the deck you built.

    7. Loyalty

    Satisfied clients align themselves with your brand. They trust you and prefer your products and services. They support you, and you have the opportunity to reinforce this positive relationship through loyalty programs.

    8. Brand promotion

    Loyal customers start to promote your solutions to other people. They leave excellent reviews online, interact with your company on social media and recommend your products to family members who have a need.

    What type of buyer journey map templates can you use?

    You can save a lot of time by choosing a customer journey map template and adapting it to your needs. There are several types of journey models that you can choose from, offering different perspectives of client data. Discover great business templates for mapping your clients’ habits.

    Goals of Innovation Mind Map Design Template

    User experience maps

    This type of customer journey map template focuses completely on the experience of customers with your brand. They present the different steps as someone interacts with your company and show what the user’s level of satisfaction is at each point. They make it easy to measure both positive and negative impressions as target customers move toward the goal.

    Here are a few examples of impressions that may be mentioned:

    • Enjoys the initial experience thanks to […]
    • Feels overwhelmed by […]
    • Gets nervous because of […]
    • Finds […] interesting
    • Reaches peak excitement
    • Starts to get impatient because of […]
    • Loves […]

    These maps don’t always follow a timeline. They help you pinpoint areas where your clients may start to lose enthusiasm so you can find ways to improve the flow of the experience. For example, no one likes waiting for their order to arrive, but it’s possible to lessen the frustration by providing shipping updates for your customers.

    Tips for Increasing Productivity Mind Map Design Template

    Current state journey maps

    This type of customer journey map is one of the most common. It offers a good overview of large parts of the user journey. In each section, you can note the client’s actions, motivations, objectives, and expectations. There’s also room to highlight your business’s opportunities and ideas for taking advantage of them.

    As a customer journey map example, the streaming provider Netflix may create a map to identify ways to convince Disney+ subscribers to switch to Netflix. Using collected data, the company can determine which situations make potential clients most inclined to shop around and how to leverage those opportunities to gently nudge shoppers toward Netflix, such as by offering free trials at specific times of the year.

    Corporate Principles List Mind Map Design Template

    Service blueprints

    A service blueprint journey map is very similar to a current state map, but it adds the perspective of the company at the same time as the client. In other words, it reveals what tasks your employees perform as people interact with your brand.

    In a customer journey map for a construction company, the comparison phase may include homeowners calling different contractors to evaluate prices. A service blueprint would additionally show how your employees generally respond to this type of call. For website visits, the blueprint would show what resources you currently have in place to provide the desired experience.

    The great thing about this type of map is that it helps you see practical ways to deliver better customer service. If you notice areas where you’re failing to meet the needs of potential clients, you can take specific steps to help your team improve, such as by preparing your employees to answer common questions more persuasively.

    Scheme of Goal Decomposition Mind Map Design Template

    Future state maps

    This kind of user journey map is similar to brainstorming, but it offers a more structured layout. Future state maps have pros and cons. They can be helpful in the following situations:

    • Setting long-term company goals to work toward
    • Implementing a completely new feature or service
    • Imagining how customers may respond to changes
    • Estimating the ROI of marketing or technology
    • Predicting trends to take advantage of in the coming years

    Unfortunately, there are several limitations with a future state customer journey map. No predictive statistics, even ones from expert analysts or AI, are 100% accurate. Plus, gathering sufficient data for reliable estimations can be expensive. It’s better to use this kind of diagram as a rough outline, not a roadmap.

    Tips for Business Storytelling Mind Map Design Template

    Day-in-the-life customer journey mapping options

    Sometimes, it helps you to know what your target customers are doing throughout the day, not just when they interact with your business. A day-in-the-life map lays out the behaviors of different client groups, as well as the challenges they face, their priorities, and their emotions.

    Understanding a customer’s normal daily activities can help you pinpoint the best times of day to market your products. For example, if you own a restaurant and use pay-per-click ads to attract searches for “best restaurants near me,” you would probably get the most bang for your buck by advertising when you know your main customers are getting hungry.

    A customer journey map can also help you discover areas and methods to encourage more contact with your brand. If your potential clients are working moms who have to pick up groceries on the way home, you may sell more products by offering curbside pickup or free delivery.

    Delivery and Logistics services information Mind Map Design Template

    Customer empathy maps

    The experience that customers have with your products often varies significantly depending on their personalities, ages, lifestyles, and circumstances. A new laptop may fill one person with joy and excitement but cause another customer to feel nervous or overwhelmed.

    That’s where empathy maps come in. They break customer journeys into four sections: thinks, feels, says, and does. The idea is to create a different customer journey map template for each client persona. Here are a few example empathy maps for electric vehicle manufacturers:

    Age 21, college student

    • Thinks: “Protecting the environment matters”
    • Feels: Excited
    • Says: “Electric vehicles are the future of transportation”
    • Does: Compares prices online

    Age 28, office worker

    • Thinks: “Is this the best price?”
    • Feels: Curious
    • Says: “Does the battery last long enough to commute?”
    • Does: Takes weeks to think about the purchase

    Age 27, married couple

    • Thinks: “Does this car have enough space for kids?”
    • Feels: Unsure
    • Says: “Top safety ratings are essential”
    • Does: Asks friends for recommendations and opinions

    Age 67, single retiree

    • Thinks: “Is this salesperson trustworthy?”
    • Feels: Overwhelmed
    • Says: “How comfortable is the interior?”
    • Does: Takes the car for a test drive

    It’s smart to identify and understand how each group of customers reacts to your products or services. It helps you create better experiences tailored to your target audience.

    Tips to How Discover New Theme Mind Map Design Template

    How can you create a consumer journey map for your clients?

    When you understand the stages of the customer journey, you can look beyond what is happening and discover the reasons why it’s happening. Follow these straightforward steps.

    1. Choose the focus of your map

    Your objectives determine what type of customer journey map template is the best fit for your needs. Do you want to focus on the feelings and experiences of clients or mainly analyze data related to conversions? Do you plan to show missed opportunities for sales revenue or highlight areas where your customer service can improve?

    The goals of your customer journey map affect how you organize the information, which touchpoints you include, and what type of statistics you highlight.

    2. Select a target buyer persona

    To create a buyer persona, transform statistics into real impressions. Look at trends from your records for accurate data. 

    For example, “John Miller” could represent seniors who purchase your products. Using averages, give “John” a background, such as age, type of home, past career, interests, family details, and current goals. Determine the types of communication “John” prefers, such as store visits or social media, as well as the type of products he usually purchases from you.

    Your business probably has several groups of target customers, but it’s generally best to focus on just one for each customer journey map. This keeps the information clearer. Knowing your primary audience lets you streamline the buying process for your most important clients.

    3. Gather your information

    Even though buyer personas are fictitious, you should base them on real statistics, such as product history, demographic information, and website metrics. Market research can help you develop a high-value customer experience map. 

    That way, you’re not just guessing about client emotions, purchasing habits, and motivations. Surveys and questionnaires are other great tools for getting information you can trust.

    4. Create a list of touchpoints

    Now that you’ve chosen your buyer persona to focus on, build a list of the times when this group of customers interacts with your business. You can also include touchpoints that your company could take advantage of but isn’t yet. Here are some examples of common touchpoints:

    • Performing an internet search for products or services
    • Reading blog articles on topics of interest
    • Downloading a free infographic from your website
    • Scheduling an appointment
    • Buying a product
    • Taking advantage of a sale
    • Returning items
    • Leaving feedback

    To find this information, analyze business records for ordering trends, check website metrics (page visits, clicks, etc.) and look at overall survey results.

    5. Identify the emotions of your customers

    For a comprehensive customer journey map, you also need to assign client emotions to each of the touchpoints on your chart. Using survey feedback or industry research, try to imagine what’s going through your buyer persona’s mind before, during, and after their experiences with your business.

    If someone’s home is flooding and they’re calling a plumber, it’s not hard to imagine their state of mind at the time. Many times, problems are the touchpoints that motivate clients to look for solutions. Your job is to take advantage of those opportunities.

    6. Write down all of the actions customers take

    Next, create a list of the actions your customers have to take to find the solutions they’re looking for. How many times do they have to click on your website to locate the correct product? How many times do they get redirected before they can speak with the right manager? Sometimes this analysis can reveal that your customers are jumping through too many hoops to make a purchase.

    For instance, imagine how complicated the following road to conversion becomes: email message > blog article > landing page > product page > buy button > product options confirmation > client information field > payment preferences > final confirmation. 

    When you see this process on a customer journey map, it’s easier to find areas to reduce steps and avoid losing purchasing interest.

    7. Locate pain points

    This step is about discovering current obstacles that are discouraging your target customers from taking the next step. People don’t just abandon products in their shopping carts for no good reason. A consumer journey map can reveal what’s causing the issue:

    • Unexpected fees
    • High prices
    • Confusing terms
    • Waiting times or lines
    • Lack of product information
    • Bland copy for products
    • Pushy marketing
    • Unprofessional employee responses

    You don’t need to be afraid of discovering the truth. When you identify issues clearly, you can take steps to make things better.

    8. Include key takeaways, opportunities, and observations

    Last but not least, a great customer journey map should include your professional observations, ideas, and recommendations. Sum up the main takeaways from the data. Business meetings are better with this type of practical overview. Team members remember the main points more clearly.

    What are the benefits of mapping user journeys?

    Taking the time to create a marketing customer journey map can have many benefits for your company:

    • Identifying potential problems ahead of time: When you can see the different steps of your customers’ journey clearly and in color, you may notice key areas that are missing. For example, perhaps your team isn’t following up with customers after the sale. No one is probably complaining, but you’re missing opportunities to increase client loyalty.
    • Understanding your clients better: There’s a big difference between reading numbers and viewing the world through the eyes of your average customer. It’s not until you take this journey yourself that you can understand why you’re getting positive feedback in some areas and frustrated clients in others.
    • Increasing customer satisfaction: Every customer journey is a collection of interactions with your business. Improving those interactions is all about making new and past customers happy. When you build the journey around customer service, satisfied customers drive sales growth and revenue.
    • Predicting how your customers will react to changes: Another great way to use customer journey mapping is to make smart decisions for your business operations. By checking your map before modifying “nonessential” services, you make sure you’re not getting rid of something that customers value more than you think.
    • Helping your team work together: Simply talking about sales and marketing topics doesn’t always get the results you want. Team members may be visual thinkers, making clear graphics and flowcharts a huge help for meetings. When everyone understands, not just what to do, but why it’s necessary for customers, it’s easier for different team members to coordinate their efforts.
    • Choosing marketing with a better return on investment: As you identify where you’re getting your most valuable leads from, you may find that you’re wasting a lot of your ad budget on avenues that only deliver minor results. By prioritizing the most important channels in your customer journey map, you can get better ROI and reach potential clients more effectively.
    • Refining your company’s operations: Sometimes, improving the steps in customer journey touchpoints is more about the people working for you. Employees who are happy and inspired because of a good working environment are more likely to leave new clients with a positive impression.

    A common mistake is to see sales figures as the be-all and end-all of customer interactions. This short-sighted focus can lead to problems sooner rather than later. Satisfied customers equal continuing revenue, so you can’t go wrong by focusing on a great client experience.

    Amazing statistics for visual presentations

    As a small business owner, you may wonder if it’s worth the time to refine customer data into graphs or maps. These impressive statistics may change your mind:

    Charts, graphs, and maps make complicated processes easier to follow.

    How can you design a buyer journey map from scratch?

    Using a customer journey map template is easy, but there are times when you want more freedom to design. With a huge library of VistaCreate assets at your fingertips, building a member journey from scratch isn’t difficult. Here are some design elements you may need:

    • Shapes: There’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple. You can illustrate different buyer stages easily with colorful rectangles, squares, and circles.
    • Graphs: Include line graphs to show the progression of the customer journey and positive or negative touchpoints.
    • Charts: Pie charts and gauge charts can help highlight targets or show different ways the buyer persona interacts with your business.
    • Emojis: Use emojis to quickly show customer emotions at different stages for your line graph.
    • Vector art: Customizable vector images add life to numbers and make presentations more engaging. Plus, they can help you explain complicated ideas quickly.
    • Vertical backgrounds: Feel free to use attractive vertical backgrounds to enhance different stages of your customer journey map.
    • Word boxes: Include captions and word boxes to communicate the thoughts and feelings going through the target client’s head.
    • Arrows: The client journey isn’t always linear. Use arrows to show the order of steps or contributing factors when you design customer journey map layouts for business clients.

    What are the differences between a B2B user journey map and a journey guide for consumers?

    The ways your company interacts with end users are often very different from the ways you market products to business owners. Therefore, it’s no surprise defining the customer journey for B2B customers is also different:

    • Purchasing decisions: Consumers usually make decisions on their own. That isn’t the case with business clients, where several managers or entire departments often get involved in purchasing decisions.
    • Consideration: The decision-making process for a consumer journey map tends to be short. In contrast, business clients may take months to weigh the pros and cons, get approval, and agree to make a purchase.
    • Loyalty: One significant plus is that B2B customers often establish long-term business relationships. This can provide much higher total revenue compared to consumers.
    • Lead acquisition: The goal of B2B marketing is often to obtain leads, not make a sale. Many touchpoints revolve around finding and nurturing leads.
    • Lead value: When selling to consumers, the goal is to maximize the number of clients. With the B2B customer journey, the total volume is less important than obtaining high-value leads.
    • Personalization: Taking good care of specific high-value, long-term clients in the B2B market is so important that some small business owners create a personalized customer journey map for individual clients. In other words, you may need to tweak sales, marketing, social media, and customer service interactions in unique ways for each client.
    • Retention: Retaining customers is important for every business, but it’s especially vital for B2B companies. A large portion of your customer touchpoint mapping should focus on post-sale stages. Some businesses even invest in specialized customer relationship management software.
    • Complexity: For example, you may need to list touchpoints for several target personas simultaneously. In a large business, the people using your product and the ones with purchasing authority are usually two different groups, and you may need to market to both.

    These factors mean that B2B customer journey mapping tends to be more complex. You may need to create charts that span multiple pages or break larger stages into smaller groups of touchpoints.

    Fortunately, you don’t need any special design experience to create engaging diagrams when you have fully customizable VistaCreate customer journey map templates and graphic assets by your side.

    How can you improve your UX journey map for online customers?

    For online customers, your website is everything for the user experience. Persuasive web pages are your star sales team and attractive images are your store’s interior design. Following customer journey mapping to create better user experiences online can potentially increase conversion by up to 400% and provide a return on investment of nearly 10,000%! 

    Follow these simple steps to improve your online UX:

    • Capture attention quickly: Keep pages clean with plenty of white space so key points stand out. Choose powerful fonts that speak for themselves.
    • Love bullet points: Avoid walls of text. Use short sentences that are easy to remember.
    • Choose vibrant images: Get visitors engaged with professional images that communicate ideas. Help users visualize your brand and products.
    • Motivate with color: Amazing colors make for positive first impressions. Use bold tones or relaxed hues to create the right mood for your website.
    • Design around feelings: Information is important, but it’s not everything. Use images, colors, and infographics to persuade visitors effectively.
    • Create web pages for mobile first: Many customers shop online from a smartphone or tablet. Prioritize mobile UX design.
    • Make your products easy to locate: Help your clients find exactly what they need ASAP. Use Amazon pages, social media ads, and landing pages with clear call-to-action buttons.

    Before you finish, test-drive the user experience. Follow your online customer journey map yourself. Make sure pages load quickly and the website layout naturally guides you to the products you need.

    How can VistaCreate help you build a customer journey map?

    VistaCreate offers colorful, attention-grabbing creative assets that you can use to spice up business diagrams and digital content. With high-quality templates, HD images, and easy-to-use vector art objects, it’s a snap to create amazing customer journey mapping for your business that looks impressive and professional. 

    Find everything you need for incredible design and marketing projects right away.

    ➡️ How to use VistaCreate: A guide to creating designs in minutes

    ➡️ Everything you can do with the free version of VistaCreate

    ➡️ Why upgrade to VistaCreate Pro? All the features of a paid VistaCreate account

    VistaCreate Team

    Latest news

    Don’t miss out on our top articles

    Subscribe to the VistaCreate blog newsletter and get our top articles in your inbox each month. No spam ;)

    Guest blogging with VistaCreate

    Share your story or article idea with us and thousands of VistaCreate blog readers. Pitch your ideas by filling out a short form.
    Create a design now