Mapping the Customer Journey: The Key to Customer-Centric Marketing

Any marketer can tell you that the work of understanding the customer’s path to purchase has become very complicated. As marketing channels and customer devices have proliferated—not to mention the influence of social media, online reviews, and celebrity endorsements—understanding what makes the customer click “buy” is no simple task.

Joining this rise in complexity has been the emergence of customer journey mapping. So, what is customer journey mapping, and why is it such an important process?

What is Customer Journey Mapping?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of all the points at which the customer interacts with your brand on his or her path to purchase. This map may range from a drawing on a whiteboard, to a slick infographic meant for distributing throughout an organization. The important thing is to understand that this journey is circuitous, and that a brand needs to keep every relevant touchpoint in mind.

Every step on the map is an opportunity: a chance for a brand to show the customer that they know their interests, preferences, and history. By carefully plotting out the customer journey for the brand’s different personas, savvy marketers can make each interaction with the customer a pleasant and relevant one.

Why Customer Journey Mapping Matters

Effective customer journey analysis can greatly benefit an organization at many levels. At an organizational level, understanding the customer journey can better inform organizations when making key business decisions. Defining competitive positioning, allocating marketing budgets, and crafting creative messaging–all can benefit from a thorough understanding of a customer’s journey. Customer journey analysis can also be used to solve already defined marketing issues head on.

For certain owned and operated channels, customer journey mapping is a widely adopted practice. Design consultancies and UX website and app platforms are popular tools used by channel property owners to ensure seamless customer experiences and efficient cost-per-conversions.

5 Steps to a Customer Journey Map

Because customer journey mapping is still a fairly new practice for marketers, there are very few point solution technologies solely focused on organizational-level customer journey analysis. Fortunately, you can get started with a whiteboard, some markers, and data from your owned and operated media, and your partners such as:

  • Analytics and customized dashboard tools
  • First-party data foundations
  • Media attribution solutions
  • Social measurement tools
  • Customer research platforms
  • Path mapping tools

Here is a five-step process to beginning your customer journey analysis efforts:


Decide what part of the customer journey you’d like to examine. Will you focus on one property, such as how a customer navigates your website? Or, would you like to evaluate all aspects of your customer lifecycle? Understanding your scope will help you decide what technologies you will need to leverage. This is when you will want to assign a dedicated project owner and estimate what resources will be needed.


Gather your organization’s customer journey stakeholders (e.g. marketers, webmasters, social management teams, analytics teams) to develop customer personas and create a specific customer journey for each persona.

  • Personas: Grouping customers into crafted personas (or segments) is necessary in building your customer journey analysis solution. Analyzing the journey of five or six customer personas will make insights more tangible and optimizations more obvious.
  • The Map: Your customer journey map at this stage should reflect what your organization would like the customer journey to look like, rather than an accurate representation of customer journey. These customer journey maps will later be compared with those mapped out after data collection and analysis. The purpose of creating two separate maps is to evaluate your organization’s current understanding of the customer journey.

Data Collection

Your quantitative data should come from all of your customer engagement touchpoints: websites, brick-and-mortar stores, mobile apps, advertising units, social media accounts. The challenge here is that this data lives in separate locations, and data points do not share uniform formatting. Advertisers address this challenge directly by employing data foundation solutions, such as Signal’s platform. A data foundation enables advertisers to collect data from any source, merge it, and make that data available for an advertiser to distribute to any destination, in real time.

Thorough customer journey analysis also requires qualitative customer survey data. This survey data will enable you to understand parts of your customers’ journey that lie outside of your visibility. A customer’s research on an independent customer review site or at a competitor’s store can be accounted for by using survey data. Companies like MaritzCX make it easy for advertisers to deploy these surveys across their customers.

Mapping and Analysis

After quantitative and qualitative data has been collected, it can be analyzed with data visualization software so that your team can reconstruct the mapped customer journeys created earlier, by each persona. Be prepared for the data to directly contradict conventional wisdom. Perhaps it will say that your ‘Mother’ persona researches product performance and design more than durability and safety. Or, that your ‘Business Professional’ persona is easily swayed by their friends’ opinions on social media. Uncovering these data-driven insights is the most valuable aspect of customer journey analysis. Keep an open mind and trust your data. And remember that personas evolve and should be revisited regularly.

Generating these insights requires seeing the same customers across different channels. This is incredibly difficult, because customers are typically identified differently in every channel. On websites, they are seen as anonymous cookies, but in-store they are identified with rewards numbers. This is where having a data foundation provides a tremendous benefit. In addition to aggregating data from all customer touchpoints, a data foundation, such as Signal’s platform, can match customers IDs so that your data set can show the same user across channels.

As you begin uncovering these customer journey insights, start brainstorming media, content, and messaging optimization strategies. To prioritize what changes to make first, look for changes that can have positive effects across multiple persona customer journeys.

Optimization and Evaluation

Be sure to document your marketing optimizations so that you can best evaluate their impact on the customer journey. Some examples of customer journey optimizations are:

  1. Configuring advertising creative so it uses sequential messaging
  2. Changing website content and layout to account for the journey
  3. Push messaging that reflects customer focus

At the End of the Rainbow

Mapping the customer journey is invaluable for advertisers. Optimizing the steps along this path provides your customers with the best experience possible, while also making the best use of your marketing dollars. And an effective customer journey begins with a strong data foundation.

Signal’s Fuse Open Data Platform gives marketers the ability to break down data silos by collecting, matching, and making their cross-channel engagement data available for personalized and engaging customer experiences. Signal helps brands ensure that every step of the customer journey is a good one—and that customers get what they’re looking for.

Originally published April 28, 2015

Tomas Rodriguez

Tomas Rodriguez was formerly Product Marketing Manager at Signal.

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