Customizing the Customer Journey

“My sense is customer journey mapping will become a mandatory tool for digital transformation. Enterprises will begin to do customer journey mapping as the first part of their planning activities.” –Raman Sapra


Whether in Computers in Management or a Marketing Course here at Boston College, many of us have learned about the “Customer Journey Map.” A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customers go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination (HBS). In the past, customer journeys are rendered as linear, static maps that follow the traditional sales funnel of awareness, consideration, research, purchase, and repeat.

In an article from Wharton, professor, Patti Williams, explains that journey maps help companies understand consumer decision-making. Across industries, the value of a customer journey map cannot be disputed. It helps you to identify so much about your brand or company, including possible gaps or weakness. But with our “digital world” today (see my last blog here) this simple, straight forward customer journey ceases to exist!


The problem in today’s society, is that the “touchpoints” a business has with is customers are no longer simple nor easily identifiable. With all of the social media and opportunities for digital or social commerce, the touchpoints with the consumer are endless. The more touchpoints you have the more complicated identifying each consumers journey gets. Discovering where the customer first engages with the brand whether it be through targeted marketing, organic search, social media, online engagement, or ratings and reviews, it becomes hard to control your brand in the eyes of the consumer and even harder to detect when those eyes saw it and what inspired them to engage or not engage. This creates the problem of companies being unable to identify the journey of their consumers.


In our digital world, those overly simple customer journey maps, will likely fall short. In the same article, Jerry Wind, a Wharton professor of marketing, explains just how crucial it is that today’s journey maps must be dynamic. This is achieved through digital. The organization can use the rapidly evolving elements of digital, such as analytics, mobile, social, the cloud and IoT— to enhance the customer experience. These digital tools continue to grow in sophistication and usefulness, enhancing the value of discovered insights into the illusive customer journey of a 2016 consumer.

By transforming consumer journey maps using digital techniques, businesses can now explain is the customer’s expectations, experiences and reflections as it unfolds over the innumerable possible touchpoints with the product or service. Wind points out, “What better time than this digital age to mine that context — it’s available on the cloud, in the devices and all over social media.” Rather that conducting focus groups and surveys to collect insights into the consumer journey, companies have a way to mine those journeys themselves when they exist on digital. It doesn’t end there, when the journey is then taken offline, analytics are used to track consumers’ and trace the physical journey as well. Companies can gather massive amounts of analytics, discover patterns and try to predict the next steps for majority of consumers.

The article goes on to conclude a statement by Raman Sapra, global head of Dell’s digital business services. He states that, in terms of the consumer journey, “The best way to leverage digital is to take a comprehensive rather than a piecemeal approach.” But this is where I disagree…

bigstock-Mobile-Communication-Illustrat-52870291.jpg“Consumers” as a comprehensive, whole group are going to be increasingly harder and harder to predict, as data grows and variations of shopping journeys are recorded, I sense that the patterns among customers will be increasingly difficult to find. “Mapping is very difficult given the heterogeneity of all markets and [also because] the same consumer may have a totally different journey at different times because of different contexts” (Wind). The understanding of consumers and how they make choices is contextual.

With social media, the funnel is not controlled, anyone can enter their journey anywhere, at any time, and conversion does not follow a path, rather occurs at any moments of inspiration or pulse in the journey. Consumers can no longer be divided along demographics, age, and gender, while digital patterns may be similar, many of our virtual behaviors vary drastically. Therefore, as we think towards the future of Customer Journey maps, I think the answers will lie in the small data, and not the collated data of “consumers.” But how you… as an individual… as an independent unit of consumptions for a business… what calls your attention, leads you to research, and then calls you to decide and purchase. If we can pinpoint the Customer Journey Maps down to the level of an individual customers… now that holds a lot of potential.

Think about it : your very own “Customized Customer Journey.”


  1. Nice post! I confess that I’ve learned alot about marketing as a result of teaching this class. YOu might be interested in this article that Danielle Dalton, Prof Akinc, and I did for SMR back in the spring. It gets into some of these issues of how to use SM in the marketing funnel.

    1. Thank you for the article! Exactly what I’m interested and have been studying in terms of analytics and marketing!

  2. Hi! I think you bring up a lot of great points in this bog. With so many different avenues to make a purchase, it can be really hard for companies to capture their customers’ attention and wallets. Lately I’ve noticed some online retailers who try to capture their “abandoners” by sending follow-up emails. I recently received one from Gilt City with the subject line, “Still on your mind? CLINK Fall Cocktail Series” after I had viewed and closed the page for that particular event. This can be a great way to ping someone who is still on the fence about making a digital purchase. Conversely, this sort of behavior would never be acceptable in a physical retail environment. For example: Imagine that you are at the Gap, pick up a sweater, put it down, and walk out of the store without making a purchase. You would never see a Gap employee running out after you saying, “Are you really sure you don’t this sweater?” Companies now have the advantage of using these digital tools or reminders to change the customer experience!

  3. Interesting final argument. But I am not sure if the personalization of the consumer journey would attract or repel the consumer. As we saw in the last class the case of Facebook and P&G working together with the goal of personalizing the advertisements of the brand. But as Stefan said last year P&G started to go back to a more general advertising strategy, due to the fact that it scared the costumer. In a way, the use of data to personalize the marketing strategy can be seen by the consumer as being observed, frustrating the potential purchase of products.

  4. @klm1490 @guivahe I love your comments and essentially I agree! My blog makes the point that targeted marketing is something already in practice by companies as they use it across the field for mostly all consumers. It creeps many of us out and deters us from engaging with the brand, but there are some consumers where … that does work!! These people convert from those targeted adds. So, at the customized/personalized level, ideally businesses would know what, as a consumer, makes you engage! If you are inspired by Instagram ads over Facebook, they would appear on your Instagram feed and not your Facebook. Or let’s say you only convert after searching around the business’s eComm site and engaging longer, any call to action directed towards you would not be about your “abandoned cart or suggested product” but rather the CTA would be to come visit the site and experience it. There are many examples I want to provide about the potential I see, but what I think business can achieve along these customized consumer journeys is to the level of the unconscious… they know what makes YOU specifically tick…
    Cool? YES! Ethical? Now thats another conversation…..

  5. I am in the beginning of Marketing journey, and I have actually never heard of the Customer Journey – how interesting! I agree that there are pros and cons to business moving into the digital realm. I have had multiple experiences just like Katie, including today, where a company sent me an e-mail with a product of theirs I had been viewing asking me if I was still thinking about it. In my mind I said, “Why, yes I am, but you don’t have it in my size!!!!” The struggle is real out here. Back to the point, I think you bring up some great points, particularly the fact that it is increasingly difficult to see where a customer begins and ends their journey. You also can’t tell if the journey started or ended outside of the digital world. How can you tell if a customer did some online browsing, and then went into the store to try it on and buy it? I have a friend who does that. What online behaviors of a customer tell you what kind of customer they are? How do you even answer these questions?!? I don’t know where to start.

    Also, I really like that you have a quote at the beginning of the article. I think that is a great touch.

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