Experience vs. Touchpoint Journey Mapping: What’s the Difference?


Share on LinkedIn

Source: Shutterstock

I had a recent experience with a prospective client. They are a large global (bricks and mortar to digital) retailer who told me that they needed to map their “end-to-end customer journey”. They said they wanted a “deep understanding of the emotional experience” and “how they could improve this journey for existing customers and prospects”, (maybe I should have picked up we were talking different languages when they mentioned prospects).

We spent a lot of time discussing what the project should entail including: leveraging existing customer insight, involving stakeholders and customers, and essentially establishing a baseline of their current customer experience reality i.e. the gap between what is important to their customers and how well they deliver against that importance. The end result being aimed for was a really clear picture of where they needed to focus and deploy their resources to improve the customer experience journey and delivery better customer outcomes (at that point in time).

In the end, this particular organisation decided to go down a route of ‘touchpoint mapping” through “attribution modelling”. At this point, I realised that we had been talking different languages. Our views of mapping the customer journey were not aligned. Their “exam question” was actually “how can we map how customers engage with us so that we can make our marketing efforts more effective and efficient (i.e. convert more sales and acquire more customers)”.

Journey mapping and touchpoint mapping are confusingly similar – but different

Both approaches have a valid place in customer experience management, but these discussions made me realise that it would be useful to lay out the 8 differences that I see between experience journey mapping and touchpoint mapping established from my experience over many years and added to by this latest project.


Experience journey mapping

touchpoint mapping


Details the customer’s view of the journey to their personal outcome or goal, taking every factor into account that can impact their experience

Details the individual interactions or ‘touches” that a customer has as it engages with your organisation and defines how marketing efforts influence the customer


Life cycle – maps out the total visualisation of the bigger picture or the complete, end to end relationship experience between brand and customer

Buying cycle – maps the detailed, granular pathway to purchase and adoption through the stages of the marketing funnel


Needs & expectation – understands rational and emotional needs, what customers value most along the life cycle or their experience journey and where they experience most pain or frustrations

Behaviour – understands what customers do (most often), where and how they engage with you


Online & offline – given customers don’t ‘think” in terms of channels, maps these needs & expectations across all channels and touchpoints (and how practically customers navigate them)

Mainly digital – tends to map primarily digital interactions as this is where data and tracking is most readily available. One of the hardest aspects about attribution models is syncing online efforts with offline efforts


Complete journey context – includes the entire journey and their steps customers go through to achieve their outcome whether your company are present or not (but could add value in the future)

Only includes what you control (or is in your internal process) – doesn’t involve steps or interactions that don’t involve you


Seeks to identify “moments of truth” or key moments along the journey where you can make a material difference for the customer i.e. significantly improve the chances of them achieving their outcome or make the experience better

Seeks to isolate the key points that help convert customers along the journey


Measures how well you deliver against customer needs

Measures the performance of marketing channels and efforts


Owned by leadership and used across the business

Owned and used primarily by marketing

touchpoint mapping works alongside experience journey mapping

It is hard to get the most value out of touchpoint mapping without having first done journey mapping. Journey mapping establishes what customers” outcomes are, what their emotional and rational needs are, which interactions they value most (and which they don’t) and where you can improve. Experience journey mapping also helps identify likely future value and improvements to help shape design thinking.

Conducting touchpoint mapping can help you establish how you can execute what you are “doing to the customer” more effectively but not how you can help deliver success for the customer i.e. in helping them achieve their goal or outcome. Journey mapping, in short, gives the context to touchpoint mapping and modelling.

One of the ways that businesses (marketers) map and measure the buying journey touchpoints is through attribution modelling.

What is it?

Attribution is the process of identifying a set of events or engagements that result in customers behaving in a particular manner. These events are “mapped out ” in the touchpoint mapping and then assigned a value according to the impact that they have on successful customers and successful journeys. Attribution aggregates these touchpoint “journeys” to find common pathways.

Attribution modelling helps you track customers across devices and channels and leverage historical customer and operations data to provide context and identify complex patterns in customers behaviour throughout their purchase experience with the product or service.

What can it inform?

Attribution modelling identifies pathways and touchpoints that lead to successful sales, optimising marketing programmes and campaigns. Attribution techniques can help companies analyse their customer touchpoints and reveal patterns in buyer behaviour enabling them to deliver a better purchase experience. 

When is it best used?

  • to turn an understanding of customer touchpoints and journey pathways into actionable marketing and sales processes
  • to personalise the “journey” for each customer type or prospect seamlessly
  • to tailor and target the right marketing content to the right customers
  • to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing and highlight development areas
  • to proactively manage the customer journey delivered that is within your control

What insights are you likely to get?

  • a better understanding of how prospects develop a relationship with your brand
  • which paths customers are taking before converting
  • which marketing channels lead to customer conversion and the effect of initiatives on the conversion process in every step of the journey
  • common customer groupings based on behaviour and pathways
  • most promising customers
  • potential areas of friction e.g. where users are “dropping off” and there is churn

Better customer-led decision-making

One final thing to remember is that although the mapping of both the experience journey and touchpoints will give you a window on your customers’ interaction and your relationship with them at a point in time, they are not permanent pictures. They need to be tracked, regularly re-evaluated and updated; but what they both do, is give you and your wider organisation a means to make better decisions that should ultimately benefit the customer as well as improve conversion and reduce customer churn.

Both practices are part of the customer experience armoury and their use comes down to experience. They both provide you with in-depth insight and data to structure your proposition, activities and interactions with customers; unlock efficiencies to drive continuous performance improvement; and empower the organisation to deliver better customer experiences daily. Once you are aligned and more in sync with the customer, you are more likely to see a ‘smiling Company, Happy Customers”.


  1. Amanda, this is very well done. My business partner, the late Ron Zemke, and I pioneered customer journey mapping in the early 1980s. (see The Service Edge as well as Service Magic which we co-authored). At that time it was called “Cycle of Service” with customer moments of truth identified (each encounter a customer had with an organization in pursuit of their service goal). We expanded the concept (in a process called Moment of Truth Impact Assessment) which determined the customer’s expectations for a particular moment of truth as well as actions customers identified would enhance or detract from that moment (essentially, instructions for improvement). Working with a large hotel company, we added the valence or power a particular moment of truth had on the customer’s overall assessment of their hotel experience. For example, we learned that 75% of a customer’s evaluation of a hotel was what happened at the front desk during check-in. We also learned that many moments of truth did not involve people but rather things like signage.

    The most important point we learned in those early days of customer journey mapping was the fact that it is the customer’s journey. Only the customer can describe and assess their journey. They must verify the accuracy of all journey maps. People within an organization know too much and are blind to details only the customer can see and experience. When we presented our very first attempt to map customers’ experiences with a phone outage for a major telephone company, senior leaders were stunned at what they learned that they did not know. And, it explained the intense anger call center operators were getting from customers with an outage. As one executive said, “No wonder the customer is furious when they call in, just look what we put them through just to reach an operator.”

    Keep up the great work you are doing on this important area.

  2. Thanks for clearly showing the differences between experience journey mapping and touchpoint mapping.

    Regarding behavior, or customer activities, I think a systematic framework to represent activities would be needed. That is, such a representation (of course, a computer-based representation) would serve as the schema where customer activities are designed including rich descriptions of various context information such as goal, relevant structure, physical and psychological contexts. This would give a basis for what kinds of customer experience data are to be needed and gathered. This will also play a key role in assessing customer experiences.

    Experience journey map would be hierarchical so that at some detail level these ‘context-based activities models’ are utilized.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here