You’ve got your online store, you’ve got your products so all your customers need to do is follow the yellow brick road which leads them straight to the checkout and job done…simple right? Wrong!

Dorothy’s journey in the Wizard of Oz had a start and a goal at the end (the great Oz in the Emerald City), the road however was not exactly straight forward and she took a few wrong turns – perhaps she would been better off taking a bit of time and planning out her route!

Just like Dorothy, your customers could have several ways to get to where you want them to go. However, unlike the Dorothy you cannot simply let your customers wander around your yellow brick road, hoping to avoid flying monkeys and praying that they somehow end up at the Emerald city!

What you need to do is lead your customers and guide them down the right bit of yellow brick road. Think of a customer journey simply as a set of directions your customer follows in order to get them to where you want them to be or perform an action you want them to do.

Your website should be a bit like SatNav and lead a customer from the start to the end of the journey. This ‘end’ could be ‘hit the buy now button’, ‘pick up the phone’ or simply read this page of information.

Everything on your website is a journey of some description and so must have an end, otherwise it’s not a journey!

As with SatNav you will have interactions that you want customers to make as they progress, but instead of turn left or  turn right, you’ll  have things like ‘select product’, ‘add to basket’ etc.

Your website will potentially have lots of different start points, some leading to the same end point and some leading to a different end point. In addition you also need to think about what happens if a customer decides to take a detour and deviate off the ‘planned’ route.

OK, that’s a lot to take in and it sounds really complicated, but understanding the customer journey (and the overall customer experience) isn’t as tricky as it seems once you give it go.

So how do you start off ‘planning’ a journey? As mentioned before think of it as SatNav, and start simple.

You want your customer to go from A to B.  So you need to decide where your customer would start, then identify what the end (the goal) should be.

Once you’ve decided that, look at the steps your customer would need to take in order to get from A to B. These steps should include any interactions (remember the ‘turn left’ or ‘turn right’) your customer would do as part of that specific journey.

Here’s an example of a possible customer journey. For the purpose of the example, let’s set a scenario: Our customer is Mrs C and she has decided she wants to buy a blue giraffe for her daughter.

So here could be the high level steps for her journey:

  1. Mrs C Navigates to bluegiraffes.com (start point)
  2. From the menu Mrs C selects blue giraffes for sale
  3. Website displays all the blue giraffes currently for sale, providing the option to filter by size and price
  4. Mrs C filters the blue giraffes (interaction) and looks at the information available for each one.
  5. Mrs C selects the one she thinks her daughter will like and adds this to the shopping basket (interaction)
  6. Mrs C then hits checkout (interaction)
  7. Mrs C is prompted to login, sign-up or checkout as a guest (interaction)
  8. Mrs C selects to checkout as a guest and is prompted to enter delivery details (interaction)
  9. Mrs C is then prompted for payment.
  10. Mrs C selects an appropriate payment method (interaction) and is connected to the payment provider.
  11. The payment provide takes payment and the sale is completed (end point)
  12. Mrs C is prompted with a confirmation screen

The above is a really simplistic view but hopefully gives you an idea of the approach.

Journeys will vary; some may have a few steps whereas others could have several dozen. The key is to always start simple and build out.

There are loads of tools out there that will create customer journey maps for you such as TandemSeven, TouchPoint Map and Squiz but I’ve always found the simplest approach is usually best …. Old skool pen, paper and shed loads of post-it notes!

Write each step on a post-it note and stick it on a wall. Look at the way it flows and swap about, add remove or change as necessary….. Keep going until your happy then …… Stand in your customers shoes and ask yourself the question: ‘Would my customer be happy?’ Chances are you’ll still change a few things. If you’re still not sure, get other people to run through the journey, do they get it?

Planning out a customer online journey is an essential way for your business to visualise what a customers’ experience would be through their eyes. It allows you to really understand how your customers see things at various places in their online journey.

Planning can also help identify where things may be going wrong (a ‘pain point’) or where the journey may be impeded (a ‘blockage point’).

Once these have been identified, you can then look at fixing them.

Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes can help you ensure that your business goals are aligned to the needs of your customers.  A well planned customer journey can also give an insight into the time it takes a customer to complete certain actions, or to identify the best point at which to request a particular action.

A well planned customer journey should be able to convey the story on its own. It should be a visual representation of the online experience and most of all should be easily understandable.

Planning your customer journeys is a great way of making things a much more pleasurable experience, leading to happy customers, more sales and not a flying monkey in sight!

Author: Terry Kiermasz. Terry is a highly experienced Contract Digital Project Manager over in Corporate Land. With over 30 years dealing with massively expensive projects he understands the need to plan. He has been known to make a mean chocolate cake and the odd cuppa.