Linking the Customer Journey to your Business Model Canvas


Sometimes it can be difficult to specify the channels and customer relationships building blocks of the business model canvas. When you get stuck there, it can help to look at the customer journey for new ideas and clarity. There is a link between the business model canvas and the customer journey.

don’t build your business model inside-out

Especially when you’re working on a business idea from within an existing business or business model it can be tempting to think inside-out, with potentially disastrous results. The customer journey is a tool that helps you step into the shoes of the customer to prevent just that.

Customer Journey Canvas
Customer Journey Canvas with touch points for your customer

To build your customer journey start by imagining what the life of the customer is like. What is the problem the customer is trying to solve? How are they solving it today? What are they happy or frustrated about? Mapping this out will give you a number of (hypothetical) touch points to validate in the real world. These touch points are moments in the customer’s life where they are experiencing a problem, taking action, or planning their next steps. Going out of the building or doing a customer safari will tell you if the touch points you mapped are the ones that actually show up in your customer’s experience.

The link to the business model canvas: Channels

In the business model canvas, the building block ‘channels’ describes the ways your customers learn about your product or service, and how they receive their product or service. Usually, we will find ‘website’ or ‘advertising’ here, and those definitely could work – but then they have to also show up in your customer journey!

If you want to use a website as a channel, you better understand how and why customers visit that website first. How are you going to make sure that they do? What ideas and tricks do you have to influence their behaviour? Besides, looking at the customer journey, there may be smarter, less obvious ways to reach your customers. Looking through the customer journey in this way will help you better understand your channels.

The customer journey is a great way to map out the process where your customers become aware of the problem, look for a solution (hopefully yours!), and finally, make a purchase.

wait, there is more: customer relationships

Finally, looking at the customer relationships, the customer journey can help you as well.  When you understand the problem your customer has very well (and that means, understanding it in the terms in which the customer experiences it) it is possible to build a relationship around that – and that relationship also needs touch points.

When and where are you going to communicate with your customer? When and where can you grow the relationship?

It is more important to fall in love with the problem than with the solution.

Too often, businesses assume that in order for them to communicate to (not ‘with’!) their customers, they can freely add new touch points in the customer’s life: emails, notifications, and phone calls. Often those extra touch points are scheduled at times when the customer is definitely not in the mood or in the opportunity to do anything with them.

But, it doesn’t have to be like that. What if you would be able to take touch points that the customer already is used to and cares about and trigger communication at that moment? What if you can identify down time or idle time and use that to ask for feedback? What if you can tell when the customer is delighted and interact at that time? Going over your customer journey with that in mind can certainly give you better ideas for the way in which your business creates and maintains relationships with your customer.

The way in which Nespresso built a very successful business model, without (initially) bringing their product to supermarkets, was for a very large part supported by the relationship they have with their customer – and the relationship their customer has with coffee. They removed a (very obvious) touch point in supermarkets, where the mood and reference frame of the customer may be unsuitable for them to decide to buy much more expensive coffee, and replaced it by another, more personal touchpoint, where the customer feels special.

Ideas like the one Nespresso came up with are much easier to find if you start looking at the relationship from the customer’s perspective, while staring at the ‘customer relationships’ building block of the business model canvas will probably make you come up with more pedestrian solutions.

Keep track of your customer journey, it will keep bringing value

Building and maintaining an accurate customer journey (backed up by real world evidence) is a vital tool to find new possibilities in your business model – not only in terms of ideas but also in terms of quality of execution.

Keeping track of the behaviours customers actually follow will keep informing your business model!

By Erik van der Pluijm - Designer

Erik is founder and creative director at Thirty-X. He is passionate about visual thinking and making complex things simple. He mixes design, code and strategy, using his experience from art and design, artificial intelligence, computer games, and the startup scene.