How do you like your Customer Journey Maps?

Firstly, what is a Customer Journey Map (CJM)? Simply speaking (if it is possible in this case) it is an example of a customer behavior using your system.

How CJM is structured?

To be honest, I couldn’t find any standardized approach to the topic. The common practice is to deconstruct the whole journey into steps and firstly concentrate on a user motivation to perform a certain task, then on a applied system reaction.

Here is an example how a one step could look like for a journey of finding a certain mobile phone in the telco portal:

  1. Motivation:
    1. I want to easily find a specific device on the product list.
  2. System reaction:
    1. The product refinement/filter is presented to the user
    2. The products that user may like (based on the profile data) are graphically highlighted on the list (colour, size, shape etc.)

Let’s get back to the greater picture. How can we classify CJMs? I could think of a few ways. This time, I will concentrate on a channel classification.

  1. Single Channel CJMs: They explain a single scenario of user behavior on a certain platform (i.e. desktop WWW or Tablet WWW or mobile WWW or POS)
    Example: Tom is planning to go on vacations. While browsing the offers in Google SERPs, he comes across the certain website. He clicks the link and offers list appears. Then he selects a particular offer based on his preferences (described in Tom’s persona) and goes to the checkout process
    Single channel CJM
  2. Multi Channel CJMs: They explain a single user behavior scenario on different platforms but having exactly the same steps.
    Example: So this is like having Single Channel CJMs placed in parallel to each other sharing steps and user motivations
    Multi channel CJM
  3. Omni Channel CJMs: In this case the user is travelling through different platforms to achieve their goal.
    Example: Tom is travelling by bus. While looking at the window, he sees a billboard advertising a bank account. He considers it attractive, so he grabs his phone and searches for a bank website. He finds the account page and reads its details. He might even apply for an account, but a form is heavy so he leaves a lead. When he comes home in the evening, he gets email notification from a bank and resumes the form fulfillment on a tablet while watching TV.
    As you can see a user is jumping from one platform (mobile) to another (tablet) and from a crowded environment (a bus) into a cozy, safe surroundings (user’s flat).
    Omni channel CJM

How to construct optimal CJM?

I would start with a Single Channel CJM, then add subsequent Single CJMs so I will obtain a Multi Channel CJM. What’s next? I would think of touch points between channels and then based on them I would construct Omni Channel CJM. It might be time consuming, but gives you a logical work scheme. If you try to do this the other way round, you might be stuck or try to fill the gaps in some channels with irrelevant or absurd steps :)

Where is a starting point?

This is crucial for the future CJMs steps. Usually what I hear when discussing this topic is not user need but business need and this is a BAD approach. Let’s have an e-commerce sector CJM. Mainly at this point I hear: “A user wants to buy a photo camera for his wife“. I can’t imagine a guy waking up in the morning with this idea without having any earlier thoughts. Let’s move a little to the past. Why does he want to buy this specific device? Well… Because his wife has a birthday and she makes photos only with her phone. Ok. So the CJM should start with: “A user wants to buy a birthday present for his wife” or even “A Google Calendar shows a reminder: Your wife’s birthday is in one week“. Do you feel the difference?

If we started with “A user wants to buy…” approach we would end up designing ONLY interactions at the products list (i.e. filters, product placement, product sorting etc.), products specifics and product page from the technical perspective.

In our case we are mainly concentrated on the need so we might end up constructing the whole birthday package up-selling other products, special occasional package style, fast delivery etc. That gives the greater picture.

When to use this technique?

From my experience it is the best solution at the early project stage when business assumptions and the whole vision is rather fluid. Then you can influence the stakeholders to think outside the box. The other case is when you are constructing content, then you know how to build the coherent message to the end-users.

When is it not enough?

When you want to test your approach. Imagine you have a testing session with a respondent and want to test their behavior in a certain subject or area (i.e. the e-commerce exploration and check-out process). How can you do that based on one CJM? The typical session would be like this:

  1. UX Researcher: You want to buy your wife a present. What do you do? Do you go to Google and type in “Birthday presents”?
  2. A respondent: No

What then?

We assume a one single possible path for a user and every person is different. So you need to compose a set of CJMs for a examined area and give a respondent a choice. The best is to give them three options to answer. Every time a person is answering they make progress within the examined CJM or fall into another one from a set you defined. So now you can really test something :)

When is it more than enough?

This tool is now widely spread and combined with Agile user stories, but I might say it is not a good approach to mix those two. A user story is a decomposition of higher requirement concerning usually one system functionality while CJM is concentrating on a greater picture. The user story comes from business side while CJM arrives from end-user/client side. In some cases a user story might be just a single step of CJM but in the other it might be a few steps but within the same functionality. The mapping onto the other might be risky and give false results.


I highly recommend this technique while thinking of building the processes in the system. When you are having workshops with people from big organizations, working in separate departments, you might get amazing and interesting results which will include views from vastly differing angles.

On the other hand don’t use this technique at all costs, while getting into details, use user stories or simple diagrams. You’ll get your results in faster, better and more efficient manner.