Customer Journey Mapping Both Online and Offline: an IKEA Case Study

15 min read

Dmytro Trotsko
14 Nov 2019
Maze as a metaphor to customer journey mapping

he other week, one of our clients was talking about his recent move to a new house and how he was super excited to pay his local IKEA store a visit. Like a true pavlovian response, our mouths started watering as we conjured up mental images of meatballs and lingonberry juice.

But IKEA is known for way more than their friendly priced food. Most people seem to absolutely love the store, but it’s almost paradoxical in how they also lovingly mention their frustration at how much time and money they end up spending on their “IKEA runs”. 

This got us thinking about the customer experience in these stores. In a world where we’re told to simplify our digital customer journeys from point A to point B so that everyone can get what they want as quickly as possible, how has IKEA found so much success in their meandering store layouts?

If you haven’t yet seen one of their layouts, take a look at this map.

Physical customer journey mapping of IKEA's customers.

Not your typical point A to point B trip, right? There’s a good reason for that.

A lay of the land

In case you haven’t yet had the pleasure to pay IKEA a visit, let’s try to paint a picture of what the experience looks like, using our imaginary friend (customer persona) named Sally.

Upon entering the store, Sally is greeted by the store staff and provided with a signature blue shopping bag. Then off she goes on her journey. 

We’re pretty sure that Sally has one or two things in mind that she needs to buy. However, before actually getting to buy anything, she has to go through multiple showrooms. These showrooms serve as a physical catalog of furniture that can later be picked up. After finding her way through the maze of showrooms, possibly a quick cafe stop (yum, meatballs), and endless buckets of “on-sale” stuff, Sally can finally get to the warehouse section to pick up the furniture she wanted. “Finally!” she thinks…with a big bag full of things she maybe doesn’t actually need in hand. An hour ago she had just wanted a desk. 

What happened to Sally is an extremely typical situation for anyone who has ever shopped in IKEA. The store has been intentionally laid out in a way to have Sally see the store in its entirety before she’s able to leave. It exposes Sally to more goods and subsequently more temptations. Just like a kid in a candy store.

So what can we, digital product lovers and founders, learn from IKEA? – Customer journeys matter. Let’s break down why that is.

Customer Journeys 101

Unlike the sales funnel analysis (which we’ve written about in our last walkthrough), customer journey mapping is not linear. Let’s imagine a scenario to illustrate what we mean. 

Sally is a well-informed customer. She did a lot of research before going to IKEA, even asking her friends and family for advice. She may have even chosen a specific desk she wanted. But Pete (another hypothetical buyer), on the other hand, is not like that. He just went to IKEA to get a desk and grabbed the first one he saw. 

In terms of funnel analysis, Pete and Sally arrive to the IKEA store at a similar point in their readiness to buy something. However, customer journey mapping digs deeper into the intricacies of the buyers’ behavior within the funnel, including the context, emotions, goals and other aspects of their behaviors and surroundings. That’s the key reason why customer journey maps (CJMs) are valuable to lay out.

What is a customer journey map?

Customer journey mapping example done by Cieden
Here’s a customer journey map we created for one of our clients. The purpose of it was to help them redesign their website. We used a tool called UXpressia to create this journey.

A customer journey map is a visualization of the series of steps a customer must take to interact with a product in relation to things like their thoughts, emotions, goals, and motives. So, for Sally with IKEA, these steps could look something like:


  • sees a big billboard advertising furniture at IKEA; 
  • realizes she needs a new desk;
  • drives to the closest IKEA store;
  • walks into the store and picks ups the shopping bag;
  • leaves the store;
  • uses this piece of furniture every day

These bullet points are called touchpoints, i.e. every interaction between Sally and anything that’s related to IKEA’s brand. 

Despite the usefulness of the customer journey mapping, it is – by definition – a generalization. As with any generalization, there is a certain degree of inaccuracy, but this does not outweigh the value that customer journey maps bring to the table. 

Why bother creating a customer journey map?

Shortlisting the touchpoints is helpful whether or not you have a digital or physical product already created, or are planning to develop one.

Why create a customer journey map? The reasons can be split into two groups. Pre- and after launch.

If you wonder what we mean by “how people actually use your product” take a look at this picture.

The difference between what you want your users to do and what they actually do.
Source: Fred Steube’s twitter (@Steube)

See? Make sure you know your customers’ shortcuts 🙂

Before we dive into how customer journeys can be mapped, let’s take a look at what a bad customer journey might look like.

Pre-Purchase Purchase Post Purchase
Touchpoints Sally sees an offline ad. Sally goes to an IKEA store, talks to a consultant and makes the purchase. The piece of furniture has turned out to be a great purchase. Sally’s been using the furniture for a few months and loves it.
Goals Sally needs a piece of furniture. Sally wants to buy a desk. Sally wants to pay for a piece of furniture.
Very few points
Not digging deep enough into why she might need new furniture. What life events precede wanting new furniture?
Why does she need a desk? What kind of desk might a user want? Why?
The customer journey is split into sections that are too broad
Not descriptive enough to be valuable.
Why does she need a desk? What kind of desk might a user want? Why?

An equally poor blunder is to create a customer journey and then leave it forgotten and abandoned on your Google Drive or network folder. Just like all your business activities, this map has a purpose. Depending on that purpose, you should customize your CJM and then put it into action.

How do I create a customer journey?

The tools 

Literally grab a piece of paper and a pen. If you prefer digital tools, open an Excel or Miro board. You can go as far as using designer tools like Sketch, Figma or UXPressia. Whatever works best for you!

As you begin to create your first customer journey, it’ll be helpful to think about your Ideal Customer Persona (ICP). Having an ICP is crucial to every business for many different reasons, but when it comes to creating a customer journey map, this knowledge will help you understand a ton of things. 

A good persona profile will tell you how busy your customers are, what their goals and priorities are, what they look for in the products they use, and many other demographics and psychographics. When in doubt, the ICP should always be your guide.

Don’t have an ICP yet? Check out this article to create one, or contact us. We’d be happy to help.

1. Write down the touchpoints

It’s usually advisable to split the touchpoints into logical sections. We can borrow the terminology from funnel analysis; feel free to modify the jargon if necessary, since some customer journeys do not entail buying something. 

Let’s write the sections horizontally.

AwarenessInterest &
Evaluation & PurchaseBrand Evangelism

Great! Now let’s start filling in some touchpoints for Sally and IKEA. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll minimize the number of them.

If you want to see the bigger picture here’s the link to the whole journey.

2. Customer’s goals

Understanding the customer’s goals is the easiest way to tell whether your product’s functionality satisfies them. When thinking of goals, try to dig deep into the actual desires your customers have and the optimal ways to satisfy them.

3. Emotions

Emotions are very often illustrated throughout the process as a squiggly line like this one below. Lines that go up symbolize people’s growing happiness, and lines that go down reflect increasing disappointment and negativity.

Understanding whether your customers are annoyed or enthusiastic is insightful when it comes to analyzing threats and opportunities in the customer journey. For example, when a customer is naturally annoyed, having an upselling pop-up might not the best idea. Conversely, if a customer is cheerful, then it would be great to capitalize on those positive emotions and attempt an upsale.

4. Key performance indicators (KPIs)

KPIs are especially important if you’re looking to improve your business metrics, but methodically tracking them can be difficult. Tracking these indicators is much easier for digital products due to all the analytics software out there, and the reason is simple: you’re able to know exactly how many people clicked on your ad but there’s no way to know how many people have seen your big board. 

KPIs are great for setting internal goals related to customer engagement and sales.

5. Problems

View your product as a solution to your potential customers’ problems. In other words, what other problems do your customers tend to have? How can you help them solve it? Is there enough information on the web or other places about the services you provide or the goods you sell? Do your customers have concerns about the quality of your products? Having a good idea of these types of problems will help you answer these questions and drive your revenue up. 

6. Use your imagination

You can add as many rows as needed to make this customer journey map useful to your business, taking into account as many additional factors as needed. One could consider different demographics and psychographics of your customers, how they find out about your company, if they previous engaging with you online or offline, and what digital devices they use. It’s also worth taking a look at your own processes within the customer journey map, identifying stages that are ripe for optimization? The specifics depend on the kind of business you have, though, and you are the ultimate judge of what’s most relevant.

Bringing the physical world online, and vice versa

All the principles we discuss in this article can and should be applied to software. We used IKEA as an example since their physical journey provides much fodder for discussion. However, we can also explore some digital-first companies and see how their customer journeys also translate into roundabout ways to tempt customers with additional purchases that might satisfy their myriad needs (and whims).

Let’s take Amazon as an example. Unlike IKEA, Amazon provides its customers with an easy and intuitive way to quickly find the main thing they’re looking for, either through the search bar or the product catalog. Customers simply need to type in what they want in the search bar and pick a product. However, in order to expose the shoppers to more “temptations”, there are additional areas of the website, like “compare to similar items”, “customers also search for”, “recommended by Amazon”, and other attention grabbers. 

Example of Amazon suggesting extra items to encourage users to buy more

It’s important to note that customer journey maps don’t only apply to eCommerce or brick-and-mortar stores. They’re useful for any kind of physical or digital product or service. 

Here are a few more examples. 

If you don’t have a paid subscription, Spotify allows up to six skips while you’re listening to music playlists. If you try to skip a song for the seventh time, a “you’ve discovered a premium feature” pop-up appears, subsequently recommending the paid subscription. Allowing six skips helps you see the value in this particular feature, while the pop-up requests you to subscribe in order to have unlimited skips.

Example of Spotify encouraging users to purchase a premium account

Grammarly, a proofreading and spellchecking internet browser extension, also provides a great example of utilizing the right time to upsell. Under the free plan, Grammarly only tells you if you’ve spelled everything correctly. If you also make a stylistic, word-choice or other type of mistake, it simply alerts you and then suggests subscribing to see the details about what’s wrong. 

Example of Grammarly encouraging users to purchase a premium account which is an element of their customer journey mapping


As you can see, customer journey maps are very helpful in laying out your customers’ overall experiences in engaging with your company. Positive experiences yield positive results and growth. Negative experiences often yield negative returns. 

Following the steps we outlined should give you a solid template for creating your own customer journey map. Since you’re the person who knows the ins and outs of your product or services and the customers you like working with, you’re the best person to map everything out. However, if you feel like you could use help from a professional, feel free to drop us a line or subscribe to our newsletter for more tips! 

PS. As a reward for you, our beloved reader, who’s made it to the end, here’s a link to our customer journey template. Feel free to copy and modify for your needs.

by Dmytro Trotsko

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