A user journey — also called buyer’s journey, user flow or user experience — is the experience a user has when interacting with your brand.
A user journey map, or user experience map, is the visual representation of this experience.
What is a user journey?
In an ideal world, your prospects would automatically find your website, read your home page and move straight to the CTA to buy your product or service.
But the world we operate in is far from ideal.
Your customer’s journey will not be a straight line from A (problem) to B (your brand as the solution).
A user journey is a visual representation of your customer’s journey throughout their experience with your brand.
This journey starts long before they make a purchase.
The three stages of the buyer’s journey
The three stages of awareness (also called the buyer’s journey or user journey) start with the user first becoming aware of their problem and end with them making a purchase.
The three stages are:
- The awareness stage (at this point, they’re aware that they have a problem)
- The consideration (at this point, they’re aware of the solution to their problem)
- The decision (at this point, they’re aware of who has the solution to their problem)
While your user journey map will be tailored to your specific brand and needs, it should reflect the three stages of awareness.
(You’ll see it at play in the user journey examples below).
User journey examples
Think about your own experience with brands on and offline.
Scenario 1: The shoe purchase
You see your friend wearing a new pair of shoes.
You ask them about the shoes, and your friend raves about how comfortable they are. The conversation changes and the shoes seem to be forgotten. But!
A month later, you’re shopping for shoes and remember the brand, so you go to their store and buy a pair.
After discovering the shoe brand through your friend, you forget about it.
But that referral made such a strong impression that you remember the brand when you’re ready to buy.
The next time you encounter the brand, you move swiftly through all 3 stages, right to the decision.
Your journey was influenced by how you first encountered the brand — through a referral from someone you trust.
Scenario 2: The coaching program purchase
You see a random tweet from a business coach online, but you’re happy in your 9-5. Still, you decide to like the tweet and start following the coach.
A year later, you start thinking about quitting your job to be an entrepreneur.
The same coach tweets about a new accelerator for new entrepreneurs, so you take the leap and sign up.
Your initial interaction is fleeting.
But over time, you become interested through exposure to the coach’s message and eventually make a purchase.
Your repeated online encounters and a change in your needs led to your buying decision.
Again, you move through the stages of awareness relatively quickly here, because you’re already familiar with the coach by the time you’re aware you have a problem.
Scenario 3: The software upgrade
Two weeks into the coaching program, your new business coach shares a project management software she uses to manage clients.
You use her affiliate link to sign up for a free account, and after two months of usage, you upgrade to a paid plan.
In this case, an existing user referral introduces you to the brand.
You discover you need it through repeated exposure to the software (awareness and consideration stage).
Using the software repeatedly and engaging with the company’s onboarding emails influences your decision to move from a free plan to a paid plan.
You decide (decision stage) that it’s the best solution for your project management needs.
Scenario 4: The vacation trip purchase
While planning your next vacation, you see an online ad for discounted Caribbean trips.
You click the link and book your ticket to go to Jamaica.
By the time you encounter the Facebook ad online, you’re already solution aware.
But you’re not yet sure who to choose. You’re already clear you need to book a vacation, and the research helps you decide (in this case, book a trip).
No two user journeys are exactly alike
Each scenario above is a simplified user journey example.
In each example, you’re in a different stage of the user journey, so the way you interact with each brand and move toward a decision is different.
How do you map a user journey?
1. Get to know your user
Before you start mapping a user journey, it’s important to be crystal clear about ‘who’ your ideal user is.
Begin by creating a buyer persona
Knowing your ideal customer will help you map their journey with your brand. And buyer personas are the best way to do this.
Consider things like their hopes, dreams, fears, and the problem they’re trying to solve with your product or service (or your competitor’s).
Aim to limit yourself to one buyer persona per customer segment. This will make it easier for you to create your user journey.
Once you’ve defined your personas, don’t guess who they are.
Surveys and review mining are critical parts of the process.
Conduct user research and use the insightful voice of the customer (VOC) data you collect to shape your personas.
When you’re doing this research, ask open-ended questions and look out for things like:
- Pain points
These research findings will help shape your messaging and give you a clearer picture of how your brand fits into your customer’s story.
In the Tutorial Tuesday video below, Joanna shares a quick way to conduct VOC (voice of customer) research if you’re pressed for time.
2. Identify your business touch points
Touch points are all the possible points where your user can interact with your brand.
This will include:
- Your website
- Your mobile app
- Your local storefront
- Social media (your profiles as well as other mentions of your brand)
- Email marketing
- Review sites like Yelp, Google my Business, G2, and others
Having a clearly defined list of touch points will make mapping the different parts of the user journey easier.
3. List customer actions
Your customer will take several actions in the course of their interaction with your brand.
Listing these will help you as you map out what their path to purchase may look like.
These actions may include:
- Researching their problem on Google (that leads them to your site)
- Reading your blog
- Reading and engaging with your social media posts
- Signing up for your newsletter on your website
- Reading your weekly emails
- Signing up for a demo
- Downloading a free trial
Armed with all this information, you are ready to create your user journey.
A user journey example from DapperApps
Note that there is no one way to map a user journey.
Some brands have a more complex visual approach, while others use a simple table to represent the data.
Your user journey map will depend heavily on your goals, the nature of your business, and prospects.
In the user journey example below, Australian mobile app developer DapperApps uses a table to map their user journey.
The table shows the different stages a prospect goes through before completing a purchase, as well as the questions they ask, and the feelings they grapple with.
The map also includes the DapperApps’ solution to drive the desired outcome — close a sale by moving the prospect further along the journey.
This will influence their messaging.
A final note on user journey maps
Your user journey map is a useful tool that should inform your marketing efforts, including your copy.
The beauty about the research stage of the process is that much of the information you uncover will be helpful at every stage — website copy, emails, social media content, and more.
When you’re ready to turn your research into copy that converts, check out the free Conversion Copywriting 101 course from Copyhackers.