I love a good quote, and this one from Steve Jobs is currently my favorite piece of advice:
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology- not the other way around.”- Steve Jobs
As Jobs so succinctly points out, technology itself is not the solution – it is a tool. To create an effective digital experience, we have to focus on the user and what he or she expects and needs. Obviously, this can be overwhelming as we start thinking about all the different opportunities a user has to interact with a brand – websites, mobile, email, search, social media, and IRL. To make this challenging task more manageable and to ensure the needs of your users come first, it’s important to take time to understand the customer journey.
A customer journey map (also referred to as an experience map) is a framework that outlines the interactions between a brand and its customers. These documents can range from very basic outlines to extremely detailed documents. They can be beautiful visuals created by talented designers, fully interactive tools, or bare-bones Excel spreadsheets (browse through Google images for a plethora of examples). No matter how the visual aspect of a journey map is executed, there are three main features a thorough journey map should contain – persona(s), touchpoints, and data/research.
Step 1: Personas
Creating a persona is an exercise all on its own, and it should be done as the first step in journey mapping. There are plenty of opinions about the validity of personas, but I feel a solid persona lays the groundwork for an effective journey map. Your personas should tell you about the kind of person interacting with your brand from the most basic demographic information to more abstruse details like motivations, expectations of the brand, and pain points. Of course, it is impossible to cover every aspect of every user, but personas should paint a detailed picture of a typical user to provide context for the journey map.
Step 2: Touchpoints
The second part of the journey map should outline the touchpoints between the brand and the customer. With personas laid out, we can start to define where the brand and user connect. For example, before making any sort of purchase, a customer may perform a search to read reviews of a product, or visit a product’s website, and maybe even go to the store to see the product, and again visit the website– this time on a mobile device. To provide the best experience, the customer should feel continuity and consistency. The brand needs to do its best to create a streamlined experience– both online and offline.
Step 3: Research
The third aspect of a journey map is data, which is not in short supply these days thanks to the web. Data and research should be prevalent in every aspect of this exercise, not siloed into one segment of the project. Website analytics, surveys, interviews, and third-party research can all provide supporting details for personas, as well as perspective on various touchpoints in order to create the most informed guide for your business.
The process of creating a journey map is not a quick one. It takes time to gather data, conduct interviews, and determine the multiple ways a user interacts with the brand. But once this work is done, your team has a solid foundation for moving forward with any digital project. The framework established here allows you to address every project from the user’s perspective, which, as Steve Jobs reminds us, is always the best starting point.