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Your first task of being an entrepreneur is to understand your customers. Not only about who they are, what they need, or what they expect, but also how they think, feel, and behave. It is your job to ensure your users have a pleasant experience with your brand. And to do that, you need to get into their mindsets. Here is a tool just for that – an empathy canvas. 

If you don’t know what an empathy canvas is or how to create one, don’t worry. All you need to know about it is in this article. 

What is an Empathy Canvas?

An empathy canvas is a visual representation that portrays what you know about your customers. It allows you to visually share those insights with your team members and help avoid miscommunication or misunderstanding with customers. You can map out the canvas based on your users’ actions and data. 

At this point, you might be wondering how an empathy map differs from a persona. Indeed, they are both designed to capture the precise image of your clientele. However, a persona uses both quantitative and qualitative data to depict who your target segments are. It usually includes the following elements:

  • A fictional character (name, picture, short biography)
  • Job title and major responsibilities
  • Demographics
  • The goals, tasks and motivations
  • The pain points and needs
  • The persona’s technological or social environment

An empathy canvas, on the other hand, is often created with qualitative data only and aims to explore customers’ emotional world. 

Traditionally, the canvas is divided into four quadrants and a user in the middle. The visual aid provides an accurate depiction of who the customer is with what one says, thinks, does, and feels. You can organise your findings on the users into this simple canvas and aid in decision-making when needed. 

Simply put, a persona focuses on a customer’s demographic and sociographic characteristics, while an empathy canvas focuses on feelings, thoughts, and behaviours.

Now, let’s delve into each quadrant and see how they represent a customer. 

Says

This category comprises direct quotes from consumers. The statements can be a simple question or even a need. And you can gather quotes from interviews, surveys, or comments on social media platforms. 

  • I need something more efficient.
  • Where should I start?
  • I did not expect this.

Thinks

The “thinks” quadrant captures what users are thinking and not expressing outwardly. You need to ask yourself : what is on their mind, and what matters to them? Then answer the questions based on your qualitative research to deduce what your target audiences are thinking.

  • I’m wasting my time here.
  • Am I the only one who doesn’t understand this?
  • Oh, that worked so fast!

Does

This section portrays what customers physically do and how they go about doing it. You predict actions taken by customers and note down the behaviour data in this quadrant of your empathy canvas. 

  • Check the different websites to compare prices
  • Click the refresh buttons 
  • Make decisions

Feels

This part of the canvas addresses consumers’ emotional states. You need to ask yourself: how do the users feel right now? And  what excites or worries them? A clear way to complete this quadrant is by listing the possible emotions followed by a short description. 

  • Overwhelmed: too many categories on the website
  • Impatient: customer service takes too long to respond
  • Excited: new products available

You might generate similar statements in each quadrant or encounter inconsistent behaviours. For instance, seemingly positive actions such as following the brand’s social media account and liking the posts but negative comments or emotions. 

Try not to exclude the data just to have distinguished statements in each category or the result more logical. Instead, use all the information you can find to cover all aspects. Remember, if you struggle to fill in a certain category, it means you have more research to do.

Combining Personas

To have a more comprehensive structure, many people incorporate users’ pains and gains into the canvas. This way, you not only gain insights into their emotional state but also their specific needs and expectations. So you know how to target and eliminate problems and challenges.

Click here to learn more about persona and how to use it to your advantage.

How is an Empathy Canvas Built?

With an empathy canvas, you can organise all information about your target users, and develop deeper insights for your company. Here, you can find out how to develop a valid empathy canvas in five steps. 

Step 1: Set Your Scope and Primary Purpose

Before jumping into the process, you should know why you are creating the empathy canvas. Are you making it for a general comprehension of your existing customers, a visual aid to penetrate a new segment, or a specific task and challenge? Different purposes require different approaches. 

  • Define your goals. Are you trying to align your values with the customers? Do you want your team to make decisions from a customer’s perspective? Or are you trying to understand this client whom you’re having a meeting with on Monday?

If your goal is a collective objective that requires team efforts, make sure every team member is involved in the mapping process. So all members cultivate empathy together. If your goal is for a personal task, make sure to set a scope, so you know what to focus on and not run out of time.

  • Segment your customers. Whom are you targeting? Are you mapping for a specific user or a general user representation? 

Depending on your purpose and the industry you’re in, there can be more than one segment. After all, different groups of people have different mindsets. And remember, if you have multiple personas, they each need an empathy canvas. 

Step 2 : Collect Customer Data

An empathy canvas is based on a series of facts and predictions, so make sure you find a balance. Verified information is the basis of reliable statements that constitute the four quadrants of the empathy canvas. Thus, even your assumptions need to be based on valid data. 

  • Gather existing data. An empathy canvas mainly requires qualitative inputs. You can collect existing data from customer databases, user interviews, surveys, web analytics, or case studies. Based on the available information, your target group can be roughly characterised.
  • Conduct research. If the available resources are not enough to map out the canvas, you need to conduct additional research. Gather as many qualitative inputs as possible, so you have sufficient information to make valid assumptions. 

Step 3: Process the Information

Once you generate enough inputs, you can start organising them and identify what the data might be implying. Then answer the following questions to fill in the four quadrants. 

  • What do your customers think or feel? The findings in these sections can be used to derive what motivates or drives the customer. And give you a deeper insight of your brand perception. 
  • What do your customers say or do? The inputs from these sections allow you to examine your performance. For instance, if a customer leaves a negative comment about your customer service, you know you’ll need to work on it. And if a user keeps clicking the refresh button, perhaps your website is not loading. 
  • What troubles your customers? This segment helps you identify the problems. So you can address specific challenges, threats, or risks that might be affecting your customers.
  • What are your customers aiming for? This section helps you identify the goals or wishes your customers have. So you can make decisions and align your products or services with their desires.

Step 4: Map Out the Canvas

If you are working as a team, you can use a whiteboard, a poster and sticky notes as the medium of creating the empathy canvas. When the data is ready, it is time to write down statements. Use sticky notes for this step. Once the sticky notes are made, you can start sticking them to the corresponding quadrant. 

And if you’re working alone, choose a platform that works for you. Digital ones are recommended, as they require less physical space, can be stored efficiently, and shared easily if needed. Other than the medium, the process is basically the same as doing it in teams. 

Step 5: Revise and Update 

The final step is to polish your empathy canvas. Make sure it has a clear presentation listing the most important statements about your users. You also need to adjust the canvas occasionally, as your customers’ mindsets might change due to external factors.

The finished empathy map will then assist you in decision-making and assess the offerings from the eyes of your customers. It can be an important pillar, especially for start-ups, launching new products or services, and marketing.

Conclusion

An empathy map enriches your understanding of customers’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. We use this tool to cultivate empathy with our audience, just as the name suggests. Now, follow the above-mentioned 5 steps to align yourself with your customers and share the insights with your colleagues!

Empathy Canvas Templates: Mural, Miro, Visual Paradigm, Creately

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Daniel Dippold

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