If you need a starting point to optimize the customer experience on your website so you can stand out from your competitors then a website customer journey map could be a good solution.
Just like how unknown geographic locations need to be mapped for people to learn how to best access them, the same thing applies to your website. This is something a customer journey map can solve.
As a UX researcher, customer journey mapping is one of my favorite techniques to learn and visualize the best parts of the customer experience on a website, as well as the areas that require improvement.
This type of visualization can help different professionals who work on a particular experience improve it from both a strategic standpoint, as well as a more tactical one.
Among this group, you’ll find customer success, customer support, marketing, design, and the customer data analytics folks.
Essentially, what it does is help you tell a story in an interesting way. No more long reports that nobody reads. Instead, you’ll get a nice visual that tells the customers’ perspective.
You can use this in a workshop or even multiple workshops to inform your stakeholders about the results, get their feedback, and align on the next steps of improving your website’s customer journey.
This way you’ll be able to know what parts of your website need optimization and think about the best way to do it. Sometimes, the solution will be digital-only. Sometimes, you might even need some human help in the loop, depending on how complicated your customer journey is.
What is the website customer journey?
A website customer journey is a process a customer goes through on a website in order to achieve specific goals. A good example could be an e-commerce website, where a customer searches for a piece of clothing, compares a few, adds some to a shopping cart, then checks out. As you can understand, every customer journey has a few parts, and each part is considered a customer touchpoint.
Some of these touchpoints happen on the website, and some can involve human help using a live chat, and even a phone call if needed. It all comes down to the complexity of the task and, in some cases, what the regulation requires you to do (e.g. the case of banks where you need to perform a customer validation is a good example).
Throughout this interaction with a website called “website customer journey” it’s very likely that a typical customer will go through a few high emotional points, as well as low emotional points that are sometimes called customer pain points.
Some UX researchers only map a certain part of the customer journey (e.g. add to cart and check out, requesting an exchange, etc.) and some researchers go through a comprehensive journey mapping.
The more comprehensive mapping exercises may include anything from becoming aware of the website’s existence (e.g. discovery) to becoming a returning customer and even an advocate, in some cases (customer loyalty).
The decision on what part of the customer journey to map is yours, in accordance with the existing knowledge you have about your website, the customer needs, and the areas of your website you’d like to improve.
Also, it’s important to mention that the terms user journey and customer journey are usually used interchangeably and they usually mean the same thing.
What are the benefits of going through a website customer journey mapping?
Going through the process of a customer journey mapping can have many benefits for your website. Let’s look at a few of them:
Helping you to quickly understand the customer needs and pain points in certain parts of the customer experience
Telling you the story about the customer experience on your website in a format that’s visual and digestible for many stakeholders
Allowing you to quickly spot opportunities for improvement and optimization on your website and spark a discussion with different professionals about what needs to be improved
It can help you see where you need to dig deeper with your analytics team and understand how big some of the pain points mentioned by your clients are through Google Analytics or other analytics tools
To sum it up, going through a customer journey mapping process on your website can increase your understanding of where you should focus your energy to optimize the customer experience on your website and tackle customer pain points.
How to improve the customer journey on your website using customer journey maps – A step-by-step guide
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself “what’s the best way to map the customer journey on my website?”. This is definitely a great question. Here are the steps to take:
Step 1 – Decide on the scope of your customer journey map
What part of your customer journey would you like to map? Is it the full customer journey that goes from becoming aware of your website all the way to being a loyal customer?
Maybe it’s a much shorter part of the customer experience, such as going from product selection to checkout on your e-commerce website.
Step 2 – Decide on the persona you’d like to include in your map
The best results with customer journey mapping are achieved when you narrow them down to one persona. Which persona would you like to focus on with your customer journey map? Recurring frequent shoppers? A potential client? You’ll need to decide.
One thing that can help you with that is your ultimate goal. Is it to increase acquisition? Then choose new customers. Is it to increase engagement and upsell? Then choose existing customers, and narrow down on whom you’d like to increase their engagement/sales.
Step 3 – Understand the customer touchpoints you’d like to investigate
The longer the customer journey, the more touchpoints you’ll have. A customer touchpoint is any interaction a customer has with your website (not only on the website, but it can involve human help as well). In the world of e-commerce “searching for product information” and “checking out” are both good examples
Step 4 – Tap into your existing customer data
After you’ve decided on these three points, your next step would be to start gathering real-world data to understand some of the high and low moments your customer’s experience.
A couple of good places to start are your customer service team, as well as the analytics team. These will help you uncover parts of the behavior flow people go through when they go through your website’s customer journey.
The customer service team can provide you with information about whether or not your customers have already mentioned an individual customer touchpoint (or many) and the sentiment around it, negative or positive. It’s a great way to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
The analytics team can give you data about points where you might observe customers dropping off around a given touchpoint. That could hint that there’s a pain point to resolve, and it’s a starting point on where to go and dig deeper with customer feedback from the customer support, as well as using live interviews with customers who correspond to your ideal persona.
That brings us to the next step – getting context around your data points.
Step 5 – Generate new user data to get the maximum context
Data is usually worth nothing without the context around it.
The best way to get this context is to identify the areas where you’ll need context to understand your customer journey, and then conduct live interviews with real customers to get this context. In this case, you can ask your UX researchers (or user researchers) to help you with this task.
Here’s what’s involved in conducting successful live interviews:
Come up with the right questions to ask
Before you interview people you’ll need to create an interview discussion guide. In it, you’ll write down the questions to ask your customers so you can dig deeper into some areas.
A technique that can help you understand what questions you need to ask based on what you already know is KWHL.
As a rule of thumb, start with the broader questions first (e.g. “How do you shop for shoes online?”) and only then zero in on more specific parts of your customer journey (e.g. “How would you consider my website’s ease of check out?” and “How does it compare to other e-commerce websites?”)
Recruit the right participants
Recruit 15-20 participants who fall into the category of your ideal customer persona. You can use user research tools such as Usertesting, UserZoom, Loop11, or Lookback to recruit people and conduct remote interviews to ask about your website.
Conduct the interviews
Make sure you have at least one note-taker with you while you conduct the interviews so you can capture the most important comments and have at least two points of view when you analyze the data. Also, make sure the interviews don’t exceed the one-hour timeframe so your participants don’t get tired and lose interest.
Go through a synthesis process
Synthesize the findings from the interviews by creating an affinity diagram, ideally with the participation of the people who’ve been involved in notetaking.
If you go through this as a group, you’re likely to have a much broader perspective on what you’ve noticed during the interviews and reduce bias.
Step 6 – Create a visual customer journey map
For step three you can use customer journey mapping tools that are specialized for this purpose (e.g. UXPressia) or journey map templates on more generalist platforms that offer digital boards such as Miro and Mural.
Let’s look at a few examples of visual maps:
Think about the complexity of completing a task like filing your own taxes at the end of the year. Some people have really easy cases, and some of us deal with more complicated tax returns. Some might want to go to an accountant, and some might consider the DIY approach.
This is a great example of a map that shows the process of evaluating TurboTax as a product, and then completing the tax filing process. The scope is pretty big here and it needs to capture complex tasks. As you can imagine, there’s a big sense of accomplishment at the end of the process.
You can use this example if your product has some complexity embedded in it that there’s no way around. There are plenty of examples of such customer journeys in the B2B world, and I invite you to read this great article by Morgane Peng about complexity and design.
The example from an Ikea store is interesting. It represents a physical journey in an Ikea store, and the same format is applicable to a website. Moreover, many businesses have hybrid experiences, online and offline, and I think this is the beginning of a good template to use for such cases.
As the world starts reopening and recovering from the impacts of Covid-19, we’re more likely to see more and more hybrid customer journeys that involve physical and digital channels.
Step 7 – Use your visual map to optimize your website customer journey with your stakeholders
Once you finished synthesizing everything and creating the visual customer journey map, you should book a co-creation session with the relevant stakeholders.
This way, you can make sure everyone is informed about potential areas to improve on your website, and you can get the discussion going right away. By doing a co-creation session, you’ll get to start brainstorming solutions that will sometimes require more than one team.
For instance, in a world where physical and digital channels can work more in harmony, you’ll need to involve product designers, service designers, as well as customer success, and marketing people.
It will be interesting for everyone in the room to hear different points of view and align on the next steps in the process. After all, optimizing a website customer journey is a group task.
If you would like to be serious about your customer experience, it is recommended to repeat this process for a few different personas and see how they go through the journey.
Also, try to repeat the process every couple of years, since the situation is always dynamic, and you want to see the impact of your efforts.
So, now that you know that going through a website customer journey mapping exercise can help you optimize your website for both customer satisfaction and conversion optimization, I have a few recommendations on where you can learn more on how to use customer journey mapping.