Customer Journey: a definition and more!

by Marcel Nanning | Last Updated: May 27, 2024

The Customer Journey refers to the process that marketers engage with to understand the path a prospect takes before making a purchase decision.

This journey is mapped out using Customer Journey Mapping (CJM), a method that visualizes and improves processes from the customer’s perspective. The customer’s experience and emotions throughout their journey reveal potential shortcomings in marketing strategies. Insights into buying behavior can also help adjust services or product offerings.

In this article, we dive deep into the caverns of the customer journey and provide tips for getting started.

Understanding the Customer Journey

The definition of the customer journey encompasses not just the choice of channels but also the appropriate messaging at each stage that genuinely assists the customer in making decisions. It’s about thinking from the customer’s perspective, not the sales perspective.

The essence of marketing

Tuning into the customer journey is the essence of inbound marketing. By mapping the customer journey and identifying buyer personas, companies can create content calendars to provide relevant content at the right moments in the buying process.

Customer Journey Mapping

Mapping the customer journey for different marketing goals is beneficial. It can also help set objectives based on the Customer Journey. Customer Journey Mapping can lead to surprising insights, sometimes with relatively small investments resulting in significant improvements in customer experience. For instance, understanding how the customer experiences the project phase after becoming a client can highlight discrepancies between promises and actual experiences. Addressing these can turn negative emotions into positive experiences.

Steps to Customer Journey Mapping

  1. Define objectives
    Start with a clear question or objective. For example, when entering a new market, understanding the new target audience can help align marketing activities effectively.

  2. Identify the target audience
    Use a Buyer Persona, a detailed description of a decision-making unit (DMU) member. This includes information about their life, media preferences, responsibilities, challenges, and motivations.

  3. Preliminary research
    Utilize existing data and research. If additional research is needed, it can help determine who within the organization should be involved. Use customer surveys, reviews, and case studies to support the journey mapping process.

  4. Organize a session
    Invite a diverse group of people involved with the customer, and possibly include customers themselves. This provides a comprehensive view of the Customer Journey. Use post-its to map out the questions and emotions of the Buyer Persona at each phase.

  5. Analyze and share insights
    Compile the session results, draw conclusions, and share findings with colleagues to build support for any necessary changes.

  6. Create a content calendar
    Based on the mapping session, develop a content plan with various marketing tools and messages tailored to the key drivers identified for each phase.
Customer Journey Map example

How to create a customer journey map (and what phases are involved)?

When mapping out a customer journey, different phases within this journey can be used as a guide. There are various models, but a common phasing includes orientation, consideration, purchase, usage, and loyalty/retention. We will explore these phases using the example of a company purchasing a CRM package.


The prospect is researching and exploring options. This is a phase where the problem or potential gain is not entirely clear to the prospect. In the example of CRM software:

“We are growing and getting more salespeople, customer data, and sales opportunities. These are now in Excel documents and email systems, causing us to lose data often, making it hard for Sales to hand over work properly, and lacking a clear picture of the sales funnel. Maybe we need CRM software. Let’s investigate that. We form a project group, ask around, search online for CRM solutions for our type of organization, and request information. We also meet with several parties and watch demos. Quotes are made.”

Activities in the Orientation Phase:


In this phase, a comparison is made between different brands.

“A shortlist is compiled, and we now seek to find the differences in more detail. We try to discover which package best fits our situation, considering many factors.”

Activities in the Consideration Phase:

Articles that can help shape the customer experience in the consideration phase:


In the purchase phase of the Customer Journey, negotiations occur, and an agreement is reached.

“We feel the best about party X and start negotiating with them. We want more discount on the purchase price and more support hours in the start-up phase. The party agrees, and a deal is made. The signature is set, and the project starts. An implementation period is set up to deliver the agreed version to our organization and put it into use. This includes a training period so that our employees can work with the CRM package.”

Activities in the Purchase Phase:

Articles that can help provide a customer experience in the purchase phase:


The usage phase is where the customer benefits from the purchase.

“The CRM package is in use, and we regularly receive emails with tips to get more out of the package. There are also regular updates with fun new features. The CRM provider regularly invites us to knowledge sessions so we can get even more out of our sales and marketing department. The package is sometimes a bit slow, and users occasionally complain about bugs. Overall, we are satisfied.”

Activities in the Usage Phase:


The phase where customers can lead to more revenue and new customers.

“We are so satisfied with this CRM package that we participate in a case study where we talk about what it has meant for us and our revenue. We are also adding a new feature so we can send email newsletters from the system.”

Activities in the Loyalty Phase:

Watch here how to create a Customer Journey Map for shaping an ideal Customer Experience. This is a presentation by Megan Grocki from UX Mastery.

Here is an overview of the different stages in a customer journey as you often encounter them in practice.

OrientationProspects are researching and exploring options. They may not yet fully understand their problem or potential gains.
ConsiderationProspects compare different brands and solutions in detail to determine the best fit.
PurchaseNegotiations take place, and agreements are made. The implementation and training phases begin.
UsageThe customer uses the product and receives ongoing support and updates.
Loyalty/RetentionSatisfied customers can lead to additional sales and referrals.

Customer Experience Mapping (Customer journey) example

Customer Journey Mapping or Customer Experience Mapping (which focuses on the emotion/experience of the persona) is a tool for a variety of industries. We discussed above an example of a company looking for a CRM package to take their sales activities to the next level.

Another great example is that of an MRI scanner where the Customer Experience was mapped of children. Based on that data, action was taken and work was done to create a better, more pleasant experience for children undergoing treatment. So a modification was made in the user phase of the product based on what came out of a Customer Experience survey.

This also has positive results on the final treatment, that is; fewer resources such as medication are needed to calm children down, for example.

Customer journey mapping tools

There is a wide range of tools available to map and capture the Customer Journey. More and more Marketing Automation Software and CRM Systems are trying to cater for this. For example, you can capture entire interactions in Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM.

SugarCRM also has capabilities through the SugarCRM Customer Journey Solution. There are also tools that focus purely on Customer Journey Mapping or Customer Experience Mapping.

Some of the tools available include:

Customer Journey benefits

There are a number of reasons to work with a customer journey.

Customer Journey Mapping helps to understand the relevant touchpoints of the target audience.
In addition, this customer journey can be used to devise a strategy to make relevant impact at the different touchpoints.
Another advantage of Customer Journey Mapping is of an internal nature; it is a great tool to involve people within a company in the customer journey and act together in improving the customer experience.

Customer Journey disadvantages

If you use a Customer Journey to improve marketing communications and the customer experience, you may also run into some challenges.

Mapping a complete Customer Journey requires research and time. You don’t just map out a Customer Journey overnight. Getting it right from a strong foundation can be quite an intensive process. Resources go into getting the right data.

A Customer Journey carelessly put together without a data foundation can give a wrong picture which compromises the marketing effect. Pragmatically, one can also choose not to map a complete Customer Journey but focus on a few known touch points and optimise on them.

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