Consumer journey mapping: the complete guide

A consumer’s path to purchase has drastically changed.

Today, we’re using multiple devices to learn, compare, share, consume and make buying decisions, increasingly hitting more varied touchpoints along the way.

Despite the escalated complexity of these touchpoints, consumers are demanding more consistency and personalization from the brands they buy from.

This is what’s putting consumer journey mapping front and centre.

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What does this tell us?

Digital consumers are taking control of their own purchase journey.

Consumers are continually more fragmented across channels, devices and platforms than they’ve ever been. This is making it crucial for brands to be able to see the coherent and viable steps they’re likely to take at each stage.

Instead of discovering brands passively via traditional mediums such as TV ads, consumers are actively using search engines, social media platforms and other online sources to find the brands and products that suit them.

Our research reveals over a quarter of consumers are keen on brands being proactive and teaching them something new, as opposed to simply fulfilling a practical need.

This is forging a new relationship between brand and consumer.

They’re not afraid to speak their minds either; nearly half of all consumers post at least one review of a product or brand online each month. And with 24% discovering brands on review sites, this is a crucial touchpoint for every brand to consider.

1. Why mapping matters

According to Aberdeen Group research, customer journey maps help to generate a 54% greater return on marketing investment.

The use of these by organizations has also been proven to generate 3.5 times greater revenue from customer referrals.

The reasoning behind these figures is simple:

Consumer journey maps provide a detailed overview of the customer experience and what touchpoints matter along every path to purchase.

They ensure the customer is at the forefront of your organization’s mind at all times and aim to nurture long-term relationships between consumer and brand.

While any business can benefit from a large-scale consumer journey map, there’s endless value in creating a number of more granular maps that focus on separate parts of the brand story and micro-audiences.

Above all, a good-quality map will always leverage revealing and reliable audience data to paint a detailed picture of who these consumers are and how they behave - outlining key interactions they have with your brand, and the motivations behind them.

With solid journey maps at hand, brands can create the kind of experience their target consumers expect.

In short, it’s a process that pays. So where do you begin?

Tracking the right footprints

Modern marketers know the value of moving from traditional targeting to a more personalized approach.

Half of online adults are now blocking ads on their mobiles or desktops.

This is just one of many reasons why a one-size-fits-all solution is no longer viable.

In the past, businesses had to rely on basic demographic data that grouped people according to age, gender, household income, location and ethnicity - but this is no longer enough.

Today, using tools like GlobalWebIndex, brands have ready access to truly detailed data that translates an individual consumer’s attitudes and behaviors, interests and perceptions, enabling personalized marketing from end to end.

Data this granular not only provides a more holistic view of your consumers, it also helps to ‘pinpoint the touchpoints’ they hit along your sales funnel, allowing for smarter and more effective targeting.

Using deep insight, you can track the right footprints and be confident that your brand is always in front of the right eyes, in the right location, at the right time.

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2. Getting started

The more you know about your audience, the more accurate your journey maps will be. This process starts with a deep understanding of your target consumers’ behaviors.

By incorporating consumer profiling to create well-rounded personas, you know your maps will be true to life, and you can avoid working on potentially flawed assumptions.

Only with this information at hand can you create a path to purchase to be trusted.

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Consumer profiling

Research by BlueVenn from 2017 reveals four out of five marketers see understanding consumer data as one of their most important considerations today, highlighting data analysis as a “vital” skill for their organization.

This is because brands are increasingly acknowledging the need for more granular consumer insights.

There are endless examples of leading markets putting consumer insight at the forefront of their activity.

Consumer profiling enables you to understand your target audience on a deeper level, using insights to define, segment and profile your consumers in minute detail.

Utilizing this robust data, displaying elements like consumers’ attitudes and behaviors rather than just their demographic information, it’s possible to create a reliable journey map which serves as a stable foundation for a successful marketing strategy and sales funnel.

Consumer profiling can be applied to your strategy in the following ways:

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Every brand needs to know who its target consumers are, and what they need.

Creating pen portraits of your target personas, based on their attitudes, behaviors, perceptions and opinions, allows you to get into their heads, visualizing their journeys and mapping them effectively.

The five stages of creating a consumer portrait:

  • Find out what their interests are.
    Determining their interests provides insights into the influencers, the messaging and the tactics that will work for them.
  • Know where they’re spending their time.
    Identifying where they hang out helps you understand the platforms and channels they use the most, allowing you to focus your time, effort and budget where it matters.
  • Understand their perceptions
    Uncovering how they feel and think about everything from brands and products, to life and lifestyles, allows you to quantify their perceptions.
  • Put yourself in their shoes.
    By creating ‘day in the life’ collateral based on insight derived from a mix of qualitative and quantitative research, you can build the radical empathy needed to make lasting connections.
  • Identify the opportunities.
    Identifying the most important touchpoints and opportunities for engagement that could guide your strategy in the right direction is essential.


Getting it right

Creative communications agency, Southpaw, uses GlobalWebIndex to steer its marketing in the most consumer- centric direction, using deep insight to paint a precise, detailed, holistic picture of their target audiences.

“We recently advised a client on which platform to sell their product through, based on the information we found,” says Tom Primrose, Planner at Southpaw.

“We identified three key audiences, which I plugged into GlobalWebIndex to create personas for, and ran these against a number of queries.”

“What I could see was that they were all over-indexing by 60% or more for Instagram as their preferred social platform, so it was concrete evidence for me to recommend this as a must-have channel for them.

"They’re now investing more of their marketing spend in this channel than any other."

Using a consumer portrait built on reliable data, Tom was able to confidently steer his client in the right direction, giving them a clear, visualized view of their customers’ journey.

Journey mapping

There’s no one ‘right way’ to create a consumer journey map. This means you have to find the approach that works for your business.

A great journey map makes use of both statistical and anecdotal evidence to determine what needs, questions and requirements your consumers have throughout their interactions with your brand.

Some things to be considered when creating consumer journey maps are:

  • They can look however you want them to.
    There’s no right or wrong - whatever makes sense for your business is what works. It may be easier to begin with a simple spreadsheet approach and, once you have buy-in and see the maps working, move toward more user-friendly, visual maps.

  • Know what kind of maps you need.
    There are many different variations of the traditional consumer journey map that all have different goals. Decide what path you’re tracing, be it a linear path to purchase, an emotional map or a ‘day in the life’, and stay focused on it.

  • You will most likely need more than one.
    One map per target persona is ideal, but multiple maps may be needed to account for the many touchpoints hit across every journey. You may also want to create a larger-scale map that gives you a general overview of a common path from brand discovery through to purchase.

  • Map the journey to your sales funnel.
    One essential step lies in matching the stages of the various consumer journeys with the stages of your sales funnel, identifying alongside this the optimum content, tactics and channels for each phase.

  • Never assume you know what your consumers are doing or why; insights exist for good reason.
    Without hearing it from them, you can never be sure of people’s actions or intentions. The path to purchase that makes sense for you may not be the common path consumers actually take.

  • Collaborate with all relevant parts of the business to ensure a united approach and universal buy-in.
    Without engagement across the board from start to finish, there are no guarantees that the completed maps will be put to good use.

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What should a journey map look like?

Consumer journey maps can take on many forms, and the shape you choose not only depends on who your target customers are, but what your business needs, and how it works.

The shift from linear to non-linear is one that has been widely covered as the path to purchase becomes a lot more real-time and accelerated in today’s on-demand economy. This further highlights the need for a seamless, multi-channel approach across everything you do.

Whichever shape yours takes, make sure it directly reflects the consumer it’s representing.

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Not sure where to begin? With GlobalWebIndex you can get all the granular consumer data you need to create a solid foundation for your consumer journey maps.

3. Going deeper

While any business can benefit from a large-scale consumer journey map, there’s endless value in creating a number of more granular maps that focus on separate parts of the brand story and micro-audiences.

A good large-scale map, for example, will help you identify the touchpoints you need to optimize to achieve customer-centric goals across all channels. The more granular ones will go even deeper, determining which touchpoints are crucial and what perceptions your consumers have beyond your brand.

The big touchpoints

Each available touchpoint presents a key opportunity to connect with your consumers, but some are more critical than others.

These ‘big touchpoints’ are moments of engagement when your brand has a real chance to cut through.

For example, customers might find, or interact with, your business through social media, online ads, review sites, blogs... But looking only through the lens of your brand could result in missed opportunities.

By analyzing the touchpoints your consumers center around in their daily lives, complimented with research into their actions, emotions and interests, you can uncover the channels and tactics that are really worth the investment.


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For Joe Portman, Strategist at Analog Folk, in-depth audience data is key to revealing these touchpoints:

“We don’t just use GlobalWebIndex within the strategy team – we could do some research into our consumers and pass that information on to the customer experience team who could create a detailed map plotted around this, outlining their pain points, their key moments of the day, etc.

This is a really great use of the data and shows how audience insights bring value to an entire business, and not just one team.”

Bottomline: If you’re not consistently using data to confirm your beliefs, you can never assume to know what your brand’s big touchpoints are, what part of your business they’re crucial for, or when and why consumers arrive at them.

The feel factor

In order to move away from simply tracing their actions and

to begin understanding why your consumers behave the way they do, you need to identify the emotions that underline their perceptions.

Journey maps may not appear logical at first, with consumers jumping from touchpoint to touchpoint in seemingly random ways; this is where behaviors take a backseat to perceptions.

Despite the importance of knowing what they’re doing, often the most revealing insights are born from knowing why.

Most consumers on a path to purchase journey will weigh up the available options -  which are good, bad, better, or worse. Emotions have a big part to play in this process. So much so, that successful brands are banking on people’s feelings to drive successful campaigns that compel people to buy their products.

When you have consumer insights built on perceptions, attitudes and behaviors, you have the answers you need to make an emotional connection.

With deep survey data, instead of simply tracking consumer behaviors, you’re being told by the consumers themselves what they care about, shaping your strategy to fit.

Infusing your brand with something your consumers have a strong affinity for fosters brand loyalty.

Include ‘the feel factor’ in your consumer journey maps, as well as your wider marketing efforts, and you’ll know you’re presenting your brand in a way your target customers will respond to.

Wondering how to get reliable insights into consumers’ emotions? Use GlobalWebIndex to know that your information is up-to-date and comes from the consumers themselves.

Getting it right

By asking its customers not to buy its products, outdoor clothing retailer, Patagonia, knew exactly what it was doing.

Having uncovered the insight that its customers care deeply about the fact that the clothes they purchase are sustainable and ethically-made, the brand decided to prove its dedication to a similarly ethical cause.

Its first-ever TV commercial had nothing to do with clothing. Instead, it aimed to raise awareness of an important social issue: the protection of America’s public lands.

Using authenticity to tap into a social cause their core audience genuinely cares about, Patagonia continuously resonates as not only a brand to buy clothes from, but one that truly cares for and listens to its consumers.

60.4% of consumers find authenticity most appealing in a brand. 

Patagonia’s powerful marketing strategy is helping to build huge advocacy, as respect for their brand grows.

4. Making it work

The usefulness of consumer journey maps isn’t restricted to the marketing department. These are key tools for your entire business, used to promote consumer-centricity across your organization.

A consumer-centric journey map highlights what touchpoints are most relevant to the different parts of your business, allowing you to tailor them to the people that will be using them consistently.

Once you’ve secured buy-in at the beginning of the process,

you know the people that matter are already on board and are more likely to integrate it in their day-to-day. And while key for determining your strategy, they also have other, less obvious uses that can prove massively rewarding.

Identifying the gaps

Journey maps are invaluable for identifying the gaps in your strategy.

Having insight into your core audience shows you where you may be lacking, and what you could be doing better.

Some areas of weakness consumer journey maps can identify are:

  • Devices.
    Knowing what touchpoints consumers tend to hit, and on which devices, ensures you can make the user experience seamless.


  • Social platforms.
    95% of online adults now have an account with at least one social media platform, showing how crucial it is for brands to not only have a well-established social media presence, but also know what platforms their target consumers actually spend their time on.


  • Target audience.
    Insight can help you identify under-targeted consumers that, if targeted properly, would respond well to your brand. Tailored journey maps for these new personas can then inform how you begin marketing to them.


  • Internal departments.
    Are the right people in your business engaging with your target consumers? A journey map will determine whether consumers get what they need when communicating directly with you or your colleagues.

Questions your consumer journey maps should answer:

  • What kind of data do I need?
  • When and where do our target consumers interact with our brand?
  • What do they expect from the brands they buy from?
  • What are the gaps in the marketing strategy?
  • What insights can help us fill these gaps?
  • Are we investing in the right channels?
  • Are we tapping into the right channels?
  • Does our sales funnel align with our consumers’ path to purchase?

Funnel mapping

Sales funnels and consumer journey maps fundamentally go hand- in-hand.

As journey maps outline a target persona’s entire and continuous interaction with your brand, a sales funnel should work alongside it to drive conversions.

While traditionally a sales funnel typically started at the end (purchase), and moved backwards to re-create the path to purchase, consumer journey maps allow you to tailor your sales funnel to your consumers’ actual requirements without any guesswork.

Moving through the various stages of a sales funnel (such as awareness, consideration and purchase), there are numerous big touchpoints that consumer maps built on deep data will uncover and make available to you.

With this information at hand, you can create messaging that is appropriate to each channel you’re leveraging, knowing exactly what role that channel should play in each stage of your marketing and sales funnel.

This means less wasted spend, and more ROI.


“Mapping the consumer journey is a vital step in understanding how people engage with your brand. Using insight garnered from reliable research, brands can prove how well they know their audience.”

Tom Smith, CEO, GlobalWebIndex

Shaping your brand to fit

A well-developed journey map can be used to determine your brand health, enabling you to see where the strengths and weaknesses of your strategy lie.

With this insight at hand, you can shape your brand to fit your consumers, as opposed to the other way around.

This means using your data-driven audience personas and consumer journey maps to align everything from brand positioning and business strategy to customer success and marketing communications.

Start by changing the way you think to make it: consumers first, brand second.


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"You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology - not the other way around."

Steve Jobs, Former CEO & Co-Founder, Apple Inc.


A solid consumer journey map is only as strong as the data it’s built on.

To ensure your strategy is always on target, you need to have a clear and continuously updated overview of your consumer’s behaviors, interests, attitudes and perceptions.

With access to granular data of this kind, you can visualize your audiences and their journeys in minute detail. This is what shapes an effective sales funnel, and ultimately, drives ROI.

Eight steps to the perfect consumer journey map

  1. Gather all the relevant data you need based on your target audience.
  2. Analyze and define your consumers’ behaviors, interests and attitudes.
  3. Identify their key touchpoints (marketing channels, social platforms, devices).
  4. Determine the gaps and deficiencies in your current strategy.
  5. Build a structured and coherent, data-driven journey map.
  6. Get buy-in from key stakeholders across your business.
  7. Incorporate your map in your marketing strategy and align your sales funnel.
  8. Continuously update your insights and optimize your strategy.

About GlobalWebIndex

As home of the world’s largest survey on the digital consumer, with data representing over 2 billion internet users across 45 countries, GlobalWebIndex makes it easy to achieve personalization at scale.