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Experience Mapping and you -- a guide, with examples, to building your first experience map

The facts are in: a recent McKinsey report has confirmed the relationship between good design and business value, highlighting one online gaming company who discovered that a small increase in the usability of its home page was followed by a dramatic 25 percent increase in sales.

But how do you build this kind of experience into the nature of your business? It’s all well and good to talk about the importance of the customer journey, but what does it mean when it comes down to it?

For most businesses, the first step in this process is the experience map. In this article, I’ll be telling you more about it, and using a real world example to show you how we do it at Forward Partners.

What is an experience map?

In the simplest terms, an experience map breaks down the end-to-end customer journey and records it in a way that can help your team inform your next decisions.

That means asking questions like:

  • What are the touch points with the brand/ company along the way?

  • What are the pain points and opportunities for improvement?

  • What is the customer thinking, feeling and doing at each step?

The rest of this article will take a live example from our portfolio, and talk through the process we followed.

Experience Mapping for a live startup: RoomLab

Meet RoomLab. RoomLab matches you with your own interior designer, to create your perfect space. With prices from £79, it’s creating a new market of beautiful interior design, for everyone.

The team is currently a small team of less than five people, and in a matter of months, has seen over 100 customers use their service. They wanted to identify areas to improve their offering and find opportunities to make their customers more satisfied. Ultimately, to increase their rate of growth.

The entire “experience map” is a four phase process, which starts with interviews.

Interviews phase

Since this is all about customers, there’s no better place to start.

We kicked things off by calling 10 previous customers and digging in to their experience with RoomLab. In their case, this was a good percentage to cover off most users’ thoughts and feelings.

This means questions like:

  • What was the trigger for redesigning your room?

  • Had you tried to do it yourself or get help from anyone else?

  • How did you find out about RoomLab?

  • What did you like about the offering?

  • Did you have any hesitations or doubts about the service?

  • How long did it take you to decide to buy a design package with RoomLab and what was it that made up your mind?

  • Could you take me through each step of working with your designer and how you felt?

Map Phase

Next came the workshop phase, involving the next closest individuals to the customer experience — the customer success team.

By the nature of its proposition, RoomLab builds close relationships with its customer from day one. This starts with a full consultation call to kick things off, and close communication and guidance throughout.

The customer success team lead these relationships and through every action, are looking for signs to keep the customer satisfied with the service.

In the case of experience mapping, this has been a huge advantage in the process and is an opportunity well worth considering if it matches your business model.

We find this another great opportunity to draw on every startup’s most valuable secret weapon — post-it notes.

First, we break down the steps of the customer journey into smaller “tasks” on each note.

For example, a high-level step might be “consideration” and an associated task might be “reading RoomLab’s online FAQ’s”. We can put this in the context of a larger journey: awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, advocacy.

Now, we can introduce the information from our interviews, to plot what customers were feeling, thinking and doing between each “task”.

Finally, each “task” then receives a rating for customer satisfaction and the its importance in the journey.

In this case, you might want to think about questions more like:

  • What questions do customers ask you at this step?

  • What concerns do they share with you here?

  • What do you do to relieve these concerns and move them to the next step

  • What are you doing (operationally) whilst this is going on?

  • Tell me some anecdotes about recent customers you’ve dealt with

  • How would you rate the average customer satisfaction at this point?

  • How would you rate the importance of this step?

You now have a simple map of the user experience across your product, based on real feedback from your actual customers.

It’s time to draw it all together and use it to decide where and how you can introduce improvements.

Action phase

At the beginning of this phase, you take a target persona: an example customer drawn on your typical demographic and profile.

For this archetypal customer, you want to scan the map and identify areas of the experience that are currently below-satisfactory, and start brainstorming opportunities for improvement.

For example: Customers struggle to articulate their style preferences with their designers. Some ideas we brainstormed for improvement included providing a “Find Your Style” quiz which any visitors to the RoomLab website can use to better define their preferences and discover the name of their prefered interior design style.

This should give you a good list of all possible opportunities to make a difference — but naturally you have to prioritise where to start. This process is a balancing act between the value of that improvement for the customer and the cost and/ or complexity to implement.

Opportunity Mapping Phase

To get this right, we worked with Forward Partners’ Head of Growth to closely define the funnel (think awareness, consideration, purchase) and relevant KPIs (in this case, through Amplitude.)

From there, in a workshop with the whole team, we combined these data points with the experience map and began identifying those key areas to work on:

  1. Worked silently to brainstorm ideas on post-it notes

  2. Partnered up to discuss ideas

  3. Presented ideas back to group

  4. Draw a horizontal line reparenting value (low value to the left, high value to the right) and we stuck the post-it notes along it

  5. Draw a vertical line representing cost to implement (low cost at the bottom, hight cost at the top) and moved the post-it notes up or down to show how costly it was

The result was a simple matrix.

By scoring and prioritising in this way, you organically create a feature roadmap that can be split between immediate (e.g. low cost, high impact), near-term, mid-term and long-term changes.

From there, we leapt in and designed and tested the first changes to the website (using InVision and Landing Pages to quickly build and learn), testing it with customers and looking for signs of improvement on our objective: increased growth, satisfaction and loyalty.

Next steps with experience maps

Once you have your experience map, there’s really no going back. You’re moving from a world of mystery and assumptions, to one now based on customer insights and data.

You will want to repeat this process at regular intervals, to get a snapshot of how the landscape is changing over time and whether your assumptions still stand. It can be valuable to even build this into your action/ planning phase as an evaluation step.

Having completed this process, RoomLab is now in a position to take confident strides in the right direction, and from an informed mindset. We hope this article gives you some basis to start your own journey with similar strength.

To get you started faster, here's a template PDF of the map we use

Fiona MacDougall

UX Lead

Fiona’s love of consumer psychology, behavioural economics, and future technologies led her to the world of user experience design. She helps early stage start-ups to uncover customer insights, explore radical solutions and test ideas.

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