Using the Empathy Map Canvas to Analyze and Develop Customer Insights


By Omodiaogbe Samuel

Last Updated: December 10, 2023


Empathy Map is a visual management tool aimed at understanding customer’s feelings, desires, thoughts, and opinions towards a brand. It’s considered as part of the design thinking methodology, that enables you to create a shared understanding of customer functional, psychological and emotional needs. The canvas has 6 blocks comprising the goal (who, and what), see, say, do, hear, and think &feel (pains and gains). By analyzing each of the blocks, you would be able to develop deeper insights on the customers, and therefore come up with solutions that resonates with their expectations. The outcome of the insights could include uncovering unspoken needs, designing products that solve customer problems, improving user experience, crafting effective value proposition, or positioning products or services to win the heart of the customers. In order to create meaningful and quality customer experiences, we need to deeply understand them. More specifically, an empathy map force individuals who are part of innovation or marketing teams to consider customer attitudes towards the product or service and their behavioral response to it. Although empathy mapping is often used at the beginning stages of a project, the practice itself can be used during any stage of the development process. Also, the canvas needs to be constantly updated as the team accumulates more client knowledge. You can also use empathy mapping for competitive analysis to determine the pain points the current solutions doesn’t solve, and what you need do to come up with a better solution that meet the customer’s needs. However, there are several formats of Empathy Mapping. But the Empathy Map Canvas produced by Dave Gray in collaboration with Alex Osterwalder is probably the best one available today. It goes into much richer detail about the customer’s context, experience, influences, and needs.


Step-By-Step Approach to Developing the Empathy Map Canvas

  1. Select your target: Before you begin creating an empathy map, it’s important to consider who your target audience is. In other words, who are the users you are trying to understand? It’s important to narrow down your user type for your empathy map to those that are most impacted
  2. Research and gather data: Empathy Mapping works best if it’s based on the actual thoughts, feelings and perceptions of its subjects. The more research you have and the more extensive it is, the better you’ll be able to hone in on a user’s perspective. Concrete evidence tends to be more useful than presumptions. You can gather research from user interviews, qualitative surveys or use ethnographic method.
  3. Assemble your team: Design is a team sport. When it comes to creating design artifacts like empathy maps, teamwork can provide a lot of benefits. It’s important to include individuals who are involved in the creation of the product, or business. Also, you need to invite people who have direct communication or interaction with your target audience.
  4. Begin creating your empathy map: After gathering your team, you can collectively begin to share ideas, user insight, real data and brainstorm various user personas. Then, begin by drawing your empathy map canvas. Start with the Goal section, by defining Who will be the subject of the empathy map, and What you want them to do. Once you have clarified the goal, work your way clockwise around the canvas: See, Say, Do, Hear, and Think & Feel (Pains and Gains). To make your user persona much more real, you might consider giving them a name and personal details, as that would make it more relatable
  5. Ask questions: Next, spend time asking and answering questions. Here are some questions to consider as they pertain to the various empathy map components:
  • Goal: You need to start with the Goal section at the top of the map, and it comprises the Who and What.
  • Who: Who are you empathizing with? It’s important to narrow down to the personas you want to have a deep understanding of their life context
  • What: What do they want or need to do? Find out the goals they want to attain, and the decisions they need to make to achieve them.
  • See: What does a consumer see? In other words, consider their surrounding environment and how this could influence their thoughts, needs and wants.
  • Say: What does a consumer say about the offering? This section should capture how past and present customers have expressed themselves either during or after direct usage of your product.
  • Do: What does the customer do in the defined situation? This quadrant documents the specific actions that a customer takes when using your product or service
  • Hear: What does a consumer hear?  Consider what is influencing the customer, and also what the customer is hearing from outside sources such as media.
  • Think and Feel: It’s all about the emotional state of the customer. And you need to know what the user might be thinking and feeling while using your product. So, this is sub-divided into pains and gains
  • Pains: What are the customer’s pains? This includes any obstacle that stresses them out or frustrates them.
  • Gains: What are the customer’s gains from your product or business? Consider what this user would need to consider themselves successful as well as how they measure success.
  1. Conclusions: In this final step, you use the insights from the analysis conducted to create a value proposition for the product that you’re developing, or for the situation you’re addressing. Additionally, you can apply empathy mapping to help you to deliver user-centered solutions as part of the first stage in design thinking


                                Components of Empathy Map Canvas

Typically, the empathy map canvas has 6 key categories surrounding the customer – covering Goal (Who and What), Seeing, Saying, Doing, Hearing, and Thinking & Feeling (Pains and Gains). Let’s now take a deep dive into each of them.


You need to start with the Goal section at the top of the map, and it comprises the Who and What. Who is the subject? What do they want or need to do?

Who: Better, deeper, insightful, and well-rounded understanding of customers should be the priority here. The purpose of researching and modeling customer personas is to help you gain a deeper understanding of the customers and their buying behaviors. To truly know your customers, you need to conduct extensive research on them. That is the only way to prevent you from making false assumptions about them. Therefore, you need to conduct research that entails demographics, psychographics, or firmographic information about them.


Key questions to ask here:

  • Who are we empathizing with?
  • Where do they live?
  • Who do they relate with?
  • Who influences them?
  • Who and what motivates them?
  • What is their aspiration?
  • What is their age, gender, or education?
  • What is their background?

What: You first need to find out what the persona you’re observing is feeling or thinking. The key question is what does the persona think and feel in the given situation. That gives you a good impression about what drives and motivates them. You need to investigate the kinds of problems or frustrations this persona has or will develop in the particular situation. Therefore, write down the problems, worries, fears, and obstacles, confronting the persona. On the other hand, you need to also look at the positive side. Think about what makes them happy. By figuring out the positive part of the customers, you would be able to build on that by offering them what surpass their expectations. You may also want to understand a specific type of buying decision.

Key questions to ask here:

  • What tasks do they want or need to do?
  • What does the persona try to avoid?
  • What do they need to do differently?
  • What emotions play a role in how they act?
  • What is the situation they are in? What is their role in the situation?
  • What tasks do they want or need to do?
  • What do they need to do differently?
  • What decision do they need to make?
  • What are the risks that the person feels confronted by?
  • What does success mean to them?


In this section, you describe what the customer encounters and sees in their daily lives. Daily experience is the central focus point here, and it gives clarity to how the user views your offering and the market you’re active in. Seeing includes everything related to the market, environment, understanding their external stimuli, and how that affects them in decision-making. Therefore, you need to force yourself to step into their world and see what they’re experiencing. This will allow you to get a better idea of not only the type of marketing they are exposed to but also how they’re been influenced by others. Understanding what they see and what attracts them, can give you an idea on how to frame your story to better fit their visual reality.


Key questions to ask here:

  • What are the people around them doing?
  • What information are they exposed to?
  • What impact could the information have on their feelings, ideas, perspectives?
  • Do they see a change or a shift in the industry?
  • What do they see on a typical day?
  • What do they see when they look at the market of possible solution providers?
  • What do they see in their professional environment?
  • What do they see in their immediate environment?
  • What do they see others talking about and doing?
  • What are they reading and watching?
  • What do they see in the marketplace?


Customer opinions are important. In reality, the “say” quadrant contains direct quotes from users that have been documented over time, typically as part of user research studies. This section should capture how past and present customers have expressed themselves either during or after direct usage of your product. It should include whatever users say specifically about your company, the industry or just what they want from what you offer. This can also include things mentioned specifically about your company, about your team, your product or service, whether in an email, over the phone, face to face, or on social media. It is important to follow and find the discrepancies between what users are saying and what they are doing and hearing. You need to use interviews or usability studies for direct quotes that can support what the user is sharing with others about your product/service experiences.


Key questions to ask here:

  • What statements has the user vocalized?
  • What have we heard them say?
  • What do we imagine them saying?
  • What are they saying about the product?
  • What does your customer say to others?
  • What are they actually saying in public about us or to us, and what do we wish they were saying?


The ‘Do’ section relates to the actions a customer takes. This section includes all information about users’ actual behavior, and how they are behaving and why. This allows you to be able to understand if their words match their actions and what really matters to them. Frequently people do one thing and say another, especially if they are not informed accurately about the product or service. Therefore, you need to observe what the customer physically does, and ethnographic research can help in that


Key questions to ask here:

  • What does the customer do on a typical day?
  • What actions does the customer take?
  • What are their purchasing habits?
  • What is their attitude?
  • What might be their actual actions in buying/not buying your product?
  • What behaviors have we observed in them?
  • What do we imagine them doing?
  • What might your customers do in the future?
  • How will their actions affect the product or service that you provide?


This part consists of factors or people affecting the decision-making process. It also focuses on how they get their information, the means or channels. People are influenced by what those around them say. Each of us have people in our lives that when they speak, we listen. But they aren’t the only ones who have access to our ears. Everything communicates, including traditional media, social media, internet, billboards, etc. You need to consider all those communication mediums, as well as personal connections with other people (like family and friends) because they have a tremendous impact on how users think about your product. If the customer hears a lot of great things about your product from the people they trust, this will create a positive impression even before they actually start using it.


Key questions to ask here:

  • What do they hear others saying?
  • What do they hear from colleagues?
  • What do they hear second-hand?
  • What does their friends say? Partner? Spouse?
  • Who really influences them and how?
  • Which media channels are influential?
  • What does your customer hear regarding similar products or services?
  • How does what they hear affect their decision-making?
  • Who do they hear from? What media are they influenced by?

Think and Feel

This is all about the emotional state of the customer. It’s subdivided into pains and gains. Pains includes any obstacle that stresses the customers out or frustrates them. While gains are the expected benefits they hope to derive from the products or services. For the pains and gains, you must understand how your user thinks and feels. You will need to cover here the fears, frustrations, worries, happiness, hopes, desires and successes

Pains: Here you need to outline the barriers and frustrations that your customer may come across during their journey. This is the section where you want to find out what their fears, frustrations, and obstacles that they need to overcome. You can then use the information to find out what is stopping them from reaching their goals and desires. Pain causes change. As humans, we can only deal with pain for so long until we start to look for a solution. Identifying, understanding, and empathizing with the customer pain is essential when creating a story that resonates with them. As a result, this is one of the most important sections of the empathy map because it’ll help you present your product or service as a solution to their pains

Key questions to ask here:

  • What are their fears and anxieties?
  • What are their biggest frustrations?
  • What obstacles stand between them and what they need or wants to achieve?
  • What risks might they fear taking?
  • What fears or obstacles are they facing?
  • What pain points might they be experiencing that they hope to overcome?
  • What stresses do they encounter?
  • What risks and threats do they face?
  • What frustrates them on a daily basis, in the home or at work?
  • What obstacles have prevented them from achieving their goals?

Gains: In this section, you can start to identify the things that will make the buyer journey great for your customer. You need to determine what would make the customers consider themselves successful, as well as how they measure success. Remember, success is measured on the customer’s terms, not yours. They have to be convinced that your solution meets their desired expectation. As business owners, it’s not your job to force your solution, but rather expose the pain and offer a solution that meets the customer’s desired expectation. Therefore, by making your product or service an integral part of their success, you can build brand loyalty and inspire your customers to share your company story with the people around them.

Key questions to ask here:

  • What do customers truly want or need to achieve?
  • How do they measure success?
  • What positive emotions and outcomes happen when using your product or service?
  • What are they hoping to get? What does success look like?
  • What is the customer ultimate goal?
  • How do they measure success–what defines “success” for them?
  • Are they happy with your product/service?
  • What long-term goals do they have?
  • What would make them the happiest people in the world?
  • What are their wants, needs, hopes, and dreams?

To practically demonstrate the application of the framework, we now want to apply it to an organization. The case study would enable you to develop a hands-on insight of using the model in making customer-centric strategic decision


Case Study: EasyLoan

EasyLoan is a startup Fintech Company established to provide solution to loan challenges of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria. Commercial banks in Nigeria avoid offering smaller loan to SMEs primarily because of the low profits they can generate, and that is further exacerbated by high processing and recovery costs. In some situations where loans are offered, they come with steep interest rates, a lengthy application process, stringent collateral and guarantor requirements. Additionally, a traditional bank takes weeks or months for loan to be approved, and such loan could come with interest rate as high as 30%, coupled with onerous documentation requirements and hidden charges.  All these challenges make it difficult or practically impossible for SMEs and micro businesses to access loan in the country. It’s worthy to note that SMEs and micro businesses accounts for more than 60% of industries in the country. As a result, without access to loan, their progress is hampered. The only way out for them is to rely on equity from friends and family. Relying solely on organic growth means that they might not be able to scale to their desired level 


EasyLoan is Fintech company that is out to make SMEs and micro businesses to have access to loan in cost effective and efficient way. By offering loans online, we tend to save operational costs such as rentals, human resources, and administrative expenses.  And such saving would be transferred to the customers in form of lower interest rates than the commercial banks. Also, being a Fintech company, our operation will be data-driven. In Nigeria, where credit history and other traditional data sources are limited, we will deploy technology to pool and mine unconventional data to create a scoring and evaluation algorithms. Such predictive analytics will help us to create a paradigm shift in risk management. Apart from offering loans, we will equally provide saving services to the customers. Higher saving would enable them to have access to higher loan opportunities. The saving account will be interest bearing, a higher interest rate than what they could receive in the conventional commercial bank. EasyLoan primary goal is to provide its consumers an easy and hassle-free access to loan without paper documentation, collateral or guarantor. With App on their smartphones, they can have access to great services on the go.


For EasyLoan to have insights on the mindset, feeling, and experience of its customers, it has decided to use empathy map canvas to conduct analysis on them.  A customer empathy map canvas is a strategic tool used for collecting data about customers in order to develop a better insight about them. It allows you to condense customer data into a clear, simple chart, visualize their needs, and help you provide solutions that meets their expectations. EasyLoan has realized that if it wants to create a memorable experience for the SMEs, that it needs to dig deeper into who the they are, and what they truly need. That it needs to get into the customers head and consider who they are influenced by, what their pain points are, and what their goals or challenges are. Essentially, the empathy map canvas would allow EasyLoan to sum up the learning from the engagements on the customer research it conducted. The empathy map canvas being a collaborative framework would help the teams at EasyLoan to get the stakeholder involvement in the design and execution of go-to-market strategy.


                                 Empathy Map Canvas of EasyLoan
                                Analysis of the Application to EasyLoan

Goal: On the Goal part of the model that centers on Who and What, the attention is on who we are empathizing with, and what we want them to do. On the Who, our focus is on Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs). But we have criteria of selecting the right SMEs, and they are: registered, good track record, viable business model, and has the ability to scale. Whereas on the What part, we want them to be competitive, scale up, adopt best practices, and be technologically nimble

Seeing: The See section is what our customer sees. The market does not offer much positivity. Rather, what they see is centered on economic instability, lack of infrastructure, poor funding opportunities, and how SMEs are failing because of no support. Those are the challenges our customers are contending with. Therefore, our approach is to change some of those narratives that are within our control

Saying: This section is on what the customer says. What the customer says is derived from the interview section with the customers. As a result, we have direct quotes such as “the stringent conditions of accessing loans in bank is frustrating” “we want low interest rates that will make us to compete favorably” Those and other direct quotes we got from them. Therefore, we need to use the concerns of the customers to design the appropriate value proposition to address the challenges

Doing: We need to be concerned with what the customers actually does. EasyLoan potential customers have to find alternative ways to sustain their business, even though not adequate. For example, they resort to support from friends and family, credit purchase, daily contribution, joining cooperative society, or struggle for government grants. However, for a business that actually need to scale fast, those types of funding do not meet the needs

Hearing: We should be concerned with what the customer hears. EasyLoad potential customer hears of failed financial service providers, scam schemes, and high level of fraudsters in financial services. These results to high level of skepticism in the system. Therefore, the challenge we are confronted with is to change the narrative, by convincing them on how we’re different.

Thinking and Feeling: This part is divided into the pains and gains. We want to know actual pains of the customers, and then come up with solutions to address them. So, some of the pains we have identified centers on inability to access loan, lack of funds to scale, stringent bank loan conditions, and hash business environment. Therefore, the challenge before us is come up with value proposition not only to meet, but to surpass their expectations  

Empathy mapping is often done as part of design thinking and user-centered design processes. They help us to see the world through the eyes of the prospective. By putting ourselves into the shoes of the customers, we would be able to think about their problems and feel their pain, and therefore come up with a solution that address their needs in a more holistic manner. Essentially, what the Empathy Canvas offer EasyLoan is to walk the road of the customers to actually understand their everyday experiences. Without such understanding, it would be difficult for us to meet their real needs. Based on the information gathered on the potential customers, the current offerings of the existing providers, and their actual experience and expectation, we would be able to come up with solution to satisfy them. Indeed, we’re not only looking at meeting their expectations, but to delight them by surpassing their desire. It equally offers us the opportunity to have a deeper insight on the market to know what the current providers offer, and therefore how we could improve on them. It all centers on strategy. The analysis would help us to design the appropriate strategy to create a competitive advantage. Also, it would help us come up with innovative solutions that will differentiate us in the marketplace. As a result, the Empathy Map Canvas is a powerful management tool to make strategic and innovative decisions for superior value creation.

                            The Importance Empathy Mapping

Empathy maps are highly useful whenever your team needs a greater understanding of user needs. When we show empathy to our customers, we understand them from their perspective, and that place us in a position to provide them a better solution. Having empathy allows us to understand what needs our customers have, and therefore come up with a value proposition to meet the needs. Empathy mapping help us to achieve specific outcomes by visualizing what we know about a customer thoughts and feelings. These outcomes include uncovering unspoken needs, designing better user interfaces, designing products that solve customer problems, improving user experience, crafting effective communication, selling goods and services, persuading or developing consensus with others, and so forth.


Essentially, empathy mapping help you sketch out profiles for persona, and distill the knowledge into a single source of truth. An empathy map can help you summarize and analyze qualitative research such as survey responses and interview transcripts. By putting this information on a single page, you can uncover gaps in your knowledge and figure out how to fill them. Empathy map can be applied as a standalone tool for strategic analysis and decision-making. However, it can also be used in conjunction with other set of tools such as the Business Model Canvas, Customer Journey Mapping, or Buyer Persona Canvas, to conduct detailed analysis, and make much more robust strategic and innovative decisions



The Empathy Map is a useful tool for eliciting, capturing, organizing, and understanding the customer worldview. The map is a smart method to get your team to think about how to put the client first. When done correctly, it set off a chain reaction that influences the entire project. Empathic design leads to a greater knowledge of how consumers influence product requirements, which influences product strategy, prototypes, and so leads to a better final result. Also, empathy maps are a great collaborative tool that can serve as a visual reminder of your customer’s mindset as they encounter your product or service, and can help product teams gain a deeper understanding into the various personas and ideal customers that they are trying to attract. Done correctly, it can save a lot of time and gather customer insights that the customers themselves maybe unaware of. These insights are key to the success of any project. One of the biggest benefits of empathy mapping is that it removes any bias from our minds and bring the entire team to a shared understanding of the customer. Because the canvas is used to understand customers and their needs at the deepest possible level, it therefore fosters the realization that you need to use the insights generated to develop products or services that meet or surpass the expectations of the customers.


                                               Key takeaways

  • Empathy Maps are a really useful tool for understanding your customer’s context that goes beyond a standard persona type.
  • They help us think holistically about the customer emotions and contextual sensory information that surround their daily lives.
  • They give us a human-centered perspective to evaluate our customers and help us produce something that will actually serve their needs, physically and emotionally.
  • Empathy Maps are a great start but your knowledge of your customers never stops evolving. You need to continue to develop your empathy maps to reflect new insights
  • Empathy is the single greatest thing we can employ when it comes to innovation and developing solutions to meet the need of real people.
  • It allows you and your teams to think from the point of view of the customer by understanding how and why they make buying decision
  • Empathy map is a quick decision-making tool for all areas such as design, messaging, branding, channel and technology.
  • It’s a memorable visual reference that will encourage user-centered design throughout your whole business.


Omodiaogbe Samuel, MSc. CMC, ChMC, FIMC

Omodiaogbe is a Strategic Management Consultant, and he the Principal Consultant/CEO at Vast Thinking Consults Ltd where he help organizations and business leaders to create superior value. Omodiaogbe holds BSc. and MSc. in Economics. Also, he is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC), a Chartered Management Consultant (ChMC), and a Fellow, Institute of Management Consultants, Nigeria. He is an Instructor on Coursera, where he teaches 25 courses in Strategic Management. Omodiaogbe is one of the world’s leading learners on Coursera and Edx with over 500 Certificates from top-ranked Universities, Business Schools, and Organizations.

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