The Ultimate Guide to the Customer Journey: Definition, Stages, Mapping, and an Example

So much has been said about the customer journey. Though, surprisingly, only 36 percent of companies have systems in place to precisely map it, according to a recent study.

In today’s competitive climate, understanding your customers’ pain points and addressing them by creating a seamless customer experience (CX) can go a long way to cultivating brand-loving advocates and extending your company’s customer lifecycle.  

The Customer Journey Defined

The customer journey is defined as the steps, touchpoints or interactions a customer has with your company.   

The Five Stages of a Customer’s Buying Journey

With consumers in the proverbial driver’s seat, it’s up to companies/brands to court them, making the journey from awareness to purchase to advocacy positive and enticing. Let’s take a closer look at the five stages of a typical buying journey.   

        1. Awareness

First, a prospect discovers a need or want and becomes aware of your company through a search engine, word-of-mouth, website, testimonial , or even a social or blog post. Great! Perhaps they received a coupon or company ad in their email inbox or physical mailbox for a product or service they’re considering.  This is the top of the funnel, so casting a wide net is simply the beginning.

2. Evaluate/Deliberate

Your company and maybe even others (who supply similar products or services) have made it to this second stage of the customer journey. At this stage, prospects investigate, do their research and read content (instruction manuals, product descriptions/specs, Q&As, product reviews, etc.)

3. Acquisition

For companies, this may seem like the ultimate goal, but it’s only the beginning.  The next natural step after the sale, is to keep your brand top-of-mind and continue to get them to interact with your company (e.g., to “like” or comment on the company’s social posts/pages, make repeat purchases, etc.)

4. Retention

This is where the real magic (ROI) happens! According to research from Adobe, in the U.S., when it comes to marketing to your existing online customers, 8 percent of  website visitors, who are existing customers, account for 40 percent of revenue annually. That’s fantastic ROI! So, in this hyper-connected and competitive world, it only makes sense to continue courting existing customers.

Providing service after the sale (such as emails or ads offering coupons, discounts or free shipping) can go a long way to turning loyal customers into brand-loving advocates.

5. Advocacy

In an ideal world, your hard-won customer would be more than happy to share what a positive experience they had with your company/brand/product or service, whether it be by word-of-mouth, on a review page or on social media. In fact, a study recently showed that 71% of buyers were more likely to buy after reading a recommendation on social.

Smart companies may also reap benefits by mapping out the customer journey.  So, what’s a customer journey map? It’s merely a roadmap that illustrates the various touch points customers have with a company during their buying journey.

The Benefits of a Customer Journey Map

The main benefit of customer journey mapping is to analyze and immediately remedy any points of frustration that may impede a prospect’s smooth move through the sales funnel.

For instance, prospects check out your company’s website, but don’t move beyond that? Or, let’s say you’re a B2B company and they’re reading your site’s pages, clicking on blogs, and completing form fills for case studies and white papers with very little to any conversions as a result.

In each of these scenarios, analytics can play an essential role in pinpointing exactly where along the sales funnel the process is bottlenecking. From there, appropriate steps (further research) or adjustments (to collateral or the process itself) can be made.  

How to Create a Customer Journey Map

Here are a few key questions to answer before creating a customer journey map.

  • Who exactly are your customers?
    • Here’s a tip: Having buyer personas can help identify and market to your company’s ideal customers with personalized content.
  • Are the company’s processes/roles/responsibilities clearly defined?   
    • Such as, when does the hand-off from Marketing to Sales happen, etc.?
  • How does the company define its success or goals?
    • Do you want to create separate customer journey maps to acquire new customers and/or one for nurturing relationships with the goal of repeat customers?

Once those questions are answered, you can begin working backward to define the steps that a customer would take to create a natural and successful flow through your company’s funnel.

Download Now: The Stirista Customer Journey

The Customer Journey: A Real-World Example

With the customer in control, the customer journey, whether it’s B2B or B2C, can be as straightforward or as complicated as any scenario you can imagine. Using this template, you can create more than one customer journey map (e.g., by personas).


Companies that understand the customer journey and address their customers’ pain points along the way, can help improve their customer experience, with the goal of making the process efficient and easy to navigate. This positive experience can help keep your brand top-of-mind, also impacting future purchasing decisions and extending the customer lifecycle with your company.   

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Customer Identity Resolution: What It Is and Four Benefits To Help Boost Your Next Ad Campaign

About the author

Stirista began as an ambitious project from an apartment in San Francisco. But as office space expanded, so did our client base. After a few short years, we have worked with the largest healthcare insurance provider in the world, the biggest telecommunication company in the US, and some of the most prestigious universities in the country. We are on the preferred vendor list for a handful of Fortune 500 companies, with three of the ten largest companies in the world turning to us for...

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