A customer journey map is a deliverable created by UX designers (or with the input of UX designers) as a way of helping businesses better understand their users’ needs. By mapping the user journey of a product or service across all their touchpoints, we can learn not only where our UX is falling short, but how we can optimize these journeys for more conversions (usually by removing friction).
Sometimes, the customers’ journey will go beyond their interactions on your website. For example, when creating a journey map relating to users purchasing items from an online store, one touchpoint might be the call the user makes to customer support when their order arrives with the incorrect item(s). You might consider this unimportant information as a UX designer, but it tells us that our online offering might be seriously lacking.
A customer journey map doesn’t start and end when the user enters and exits your website. Where the user came from tells us about the user intent, and our engagements with users outside the website can tell us about the experiences they’ve had online. In this article, however, we’ll be focusing on the customer journey through our website.
An illustration of a customer journey through a website (source)
Why Customer Journey Maps?
Customer journey maps can be long and complex, or they can be short and simple. This will depend on the nature of the business, although if we want to be converting visitors into customers, removing friction should be a #1 priority, even if the customer journey is somewhat short.
By creating a customer journey map, we’ll be able to visualize these high-friction areas more easily. There’s certainly no “one correct way” to go about doing this, but generally, you should be using your analytics data and insights derived from that data to analyze the customer journeys your users are taking — possibly broken down into different segments depending on the user intents. (Different users will have different user intents, and may possibly encounter entirely different issues as well.)
You can also interview your users or create customer surveys, but analytics is less intrusive (since user behavior is tracked behind-the-scenes with analytics), and getting users to fill out customer surveys is a struggle.
Customer Journey Mapping with Google Analytics
As discussed in Google Analytics: How to Perform User Research, Google Analytics is a fantastic tool for identifying areas of your website that are giving users the most trouble. It doesn’t always state the objective truth (often enough, usability testing can offer more clarity), but it’s a free tool, and for most businesses, it’s a no-brainer. While useful for tracking metrics such as bounce rates and conversions, it’s also useful for user research and customer journey mapping.
With Google Analytics, there are two reports that can grace us with insights about the customer journey, the first being the Users Flow report (which can be found under Audience in the menu on the left-hand side.
Users Flow shows you where your traffic is coming from, broken down by dimension (Country by default), and then shows you what the users’ 1st/2nd/3rd… interactions were after that.
Behavior → Behavior Flow is the 2nd report, and looks very similar to Users Flow, but it allows you to track the flow of users through your website with more granular tracking on individual events and web pages.
You can use this data to kickstart your investigation. If you’ve noticed that users are dropping off on a specific web page, you can then make use of user testing to try to identify why (or even ask users directly with surveys).
Should you make changes to your website later, based on the outcome of your customer journey map, you can then use these Google Analytics reports to compare drop-offs before and after, to measure the effectiveness of those changes.
Segmenting User Groups in Google Analytics
Google Analytics offers excellent segmenting tools as well, enabling you to drill into different contexts — such as mobile vs desktop — or see how different landings affect conversions on an ecommerce website (which can be a low-cost way of using A/B testing to compare solutions).
By clicking the + Add Segment button at the top, the above options are revealed. Many of the ready-made segments are useful (such as mobile traffic), but you can easily create your own by clicking on the + Add Segment button.
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