Customer Journey Ecommerce

The customer journey: the one thing that fixes everything in ecommerce

Ecommerce is not just buying online. It’s a new way of doing things, of interacting with products and brands.

People don’t buy things now, they buy experiences. Convenience, information, helpful support and post-purchase assistance, the ability to give direct feedback, non-intrusive and value-rich communication, ease of multichannel shopping, meaningful offers are all parts of this experience.

The customer journey is the path, the sequence of experiences your customers get. You can leave things to chances and let the customer journey go its natural course. This doesn’t guarantee significant results.

You can also design the customer journey in such a way to go through all the experiences you want people to have with your brand (while avoiding the unwanted ones) and leading them to desired outcomes like multiple purchases and loyalty.

Designing this customer journey is the most comprehensive optimization you can do to increase conversions, revenue and profit from your online store.

The customer journey today

Buying online is not a straight line. People rarely just decide they need a new T-shirt, go online, click the first shop on the SERP and buy the first T-shirt in it.

With huge choice and digital lives, the buying process is much more complicated.

First, most items are not bought out of a necessity but desire so people like to research, read reviews, compare prices and quality long before they take their pick.

Second, in the past, brands and customers used to interact only in the physical store and probably through a TV/ print ad. Nowadays, the communication happens everywhere, all the time.

Customer Journey Map

The customer journey now has so many steps before and after the purchase, so many touch points that span years.

Consumers expect customer service on Twitter and make orders through Facebook, leave reviews on blogs and want video tutorials. The worst part is that people talk about negative experiences twice as much as positive ones.

How do you navigate all these experiences towards your goals?

You need to be everywhere they are, keep them engaged as they move from medium to medium, and answer their different needs at the various buying cycle stages.

The customer journey should be carefully managed – use the right channels for interaction at each stage, watch the frequency of communication, create meaningful touch points, control the outcome of each step so it leads to the next.

The customer journey stages

It’s useful to break down the customer journey into manageable stages that are easier to evaluate and control. Although there are many interpretations and ways to count them, we’ll sue the following one:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Conversion
  4. Retention
  5. Advocacy

 

1. Awareness

This is when the potential customer learns about your brand for the first time. It can be either intentional as part of research they’re doing or unintentional thanks to your outbound efforts.

Points of interaction:

  • Word of mouth
  • PR features, media coverage
  • Organic search, inbound marketing
  • Search ads
  • Social media

Your goals at this stage:

  • Give info, answer questions, show legitimacy and expertise
  • Gain trust
  • Justify word of mouth
  • Create interest

2. Consideration

Here, the customer has a need and your product can be a potential solution. They know about you and are weighing pros and cons against other offers.

Points of interaction:

  • Social media
  • Retargeting ads
  • Direct site and blog visits
  • Review sites

Your goals at this stage:

  • Present products as a solution
  • Explain advantages and justify price
  • Win customer’s favor
  • Keep interest

3. Conversion

That’s when you get the first order from the customer. The ease of choice and transaction are most important here as well as the customer service and proper information about fees, delivery and returns.

Points of interaction:

  • Own site
  • Social media if selling on there
  • Telephone
  • email

Your goals at this stage:

  • Serve as best as possible
  • Provide timely information
  • Make sure the customer can choose the best option in terms of size or purpose
  • Get the order through
  • Leave door open to more communication (get email)

4. Retention

At this stage of the customer journey, you either keep or lose the customer. It’s the time to nurture them, keep them close, stay on top of mind. That’s probably the stage where you can do the most.

Points of interaction:

  • Social media, community
  • Own site and blog, help pages
  • Email
  • Retargeting ads
  • Review sites

Your goals at this stage:

  • Engage
  • Get feedback and act on it
  • Make relevant offers
  • Make them part of your community
  • Inform about new things
  • Stimulate more purchases

5. Advocacy

You should be working to get to this stage, but not all brands succeed. For most, the customer journey ends after one or a few purchases because they fail at stage 4 – retention. If you do retention right, the most engaged customers will become brand ambassadors.

Points of interaction:

  • Social media, community
  • Own site and blog, referral program page or VIP section
  • Email
  • Chat service

Your goals at this stage:

  • Involve customer in product development
  • Reward for loyalty
  • Get referrals and word of mouth
  • Use user-generated content

 

Each previous stage influences whether a person will move to the next or not depending on the positive or negative experience. They’re all interdependent.

Mapping The Custoemr Journey

Mapping the customer journey

To take back control, you should look at the current customer journey and identify ways to improve it.

The wholesome way to do that is to map out every single touch point throughout the customer journey and how it contributes to the end goal of repeat sales.

Our advice is to get a good tracking tool and track all interactions as follows:

Acquisition Channels and their effect on next behaviors

Where do your customers come from? What channels bring the loyal customers and which ones bring low-quality leads?

These are the channels to focus on for the Awareness and Consideration stages of the customer journey.

First device of contact

On what device does the first interaction happen? Is the experience optimized for it? If it’s unpleasant, chances for going further in the journey are slim.

Behavior on site

How do people browse your site, how often, what channels do they come from every time? Each session is a touch point and a step in the customer journey.

Add to cart and abandoned cart actions

These are one of the essential milestones in the customer journey because they show strong intent – and a break in the journey at the same time, something stops people from buying.

It’s crucial to examine why and how often than happens – to everyone or to specific people, what makes them buy at the end or nothing does?

Returns and canceled orders

Those events also mark problems in the customer journey so they need to be resolved. Learning from them rather than arguing or covering them up will help you smooth out the experience.

Shopping habits

The customer journey hopefully includes repeat purchases. It’s important to know how often your customers shop, for what order values, at what triggers and what are related products according to them.

This will make the Retention and Advocacy stages clear.

Sales Funnels

Your sales funnel is a segment of the customer journey – that with the conversion. Since it’s fundamental for success, tracking where the drop-offs happen and how long it takes to convert can help you push more people from consideration to retention.

Communication preference

For good client relationships and happy buyers, communication is just as vital as the products and service.

If it happens on medium they don’t like or use – only via live chat on the site, for example, the customer journey is not likely to continue for long.

With a tool like Metrilo, you see how often people browse your site, if they open emails and buy through email or remarketing campaigns. All that shows you the best way to reach those people at the time and on the medium most convenient for them.

Pro Advice: Track the behavior of your customers – even before they convert, it’s possible with Metrilo. Use tags and segments to classify behaviors and buying habits, and map out the journeys of different groups.
Customer Journey

How can you enrich the experience at each step of the customer journey?

Ok, you have an idea of the journey your customers take with your brand.

Maybe you lack some steps, maybe you’re fine on others. How to make it full and engaging so people keep interacting with your brand and stay in the loop?

Make sure every step leads to the next. Guide the customer journey carefully and don’t leave it to chances.

That’s also called stimulating micro-conversions.

A micro-conversion is:

  • Awareness stage – reading a PR material, downloading your ebook, starting following you on FB
  • Consideration stage – browsing products, visiting your About us, choosing guide and return policy pages, clicking on an ad
  • Conversion stage – adding products to cart and completing order
  • Retention – giving feedback, browsing again, entering a contest on social media, posting pictures with your product and hashtag
  • Advocacy – referring a friend with a code, sharing your posts, engaging in a discussion about your brand positively, leaving good reviews

So when creating your blog articles, make the value-rich so people come back to read more and move to consideration stage. In featured articles, have your social media pages mentioned to get new followers easily.

More about Inbound marketing for ecommerce here

Make sure you have a convincing About us page; all the help materials people need to choose among your products – size charts, categories by purpose, 360° visualizations, live chat, etc.

Related: How to convert the most hesitant buyers

If there’s a problem at the conversion stage and you get lots of abandoned carts and canceled orders, use personal emails to communicate with the customer directly.

With Metrilo, you can set up automated emails to be sent when someone cancels an order to ask them why.

For retention, you should follow people’s buying habits – your tracking tool should tell you when they browse and shop again so you know when it makes sense to send reactivation emails and when it’s pointless; you’ll know what CLV to expect so you can push it up.

Related: How to do retention in ecommerce effectively?

Also: Free Retention Analysis for your store

To stimulate customer advocacy, make it easy – give them lots to talk about and share with friends like surprise experiences and interesting social media posts, create personal ref codes, hold special promos and events for VIP customers.

The point is to create each asset for each step with only one goal in mind that pushes people to the next. Don’t try to combine different goals in one step – guide people with simple calls to action.

The best customer journey you can create

You realize your customers don’t take identical journeys – some start with a Google search for answers and discover your blog, then turn into FB evangelists for your brand; others read their posts but buy only once and never return.

If you’re to optimize the customer journey you provide, which path to focus on?

We’d say the one that brings the best customers and leads them to the last stage – advocacy.

Your best customers are the most loyal ones, with most purchases, highest CLV and longest lifespan as customers. They most likely do word-of-mouth for you and they’re not likely to switch to another brand.

To get more customers like them, you should replicate their customer journey to lead more people down the same road and stimulate the same levels of loyalty.

Here are the questions to answer in order to map that customer journey:

What channels do they come from? What’s their first interaction with your brand?

What do they look for on your site before buying?

How long does it take to make the first order? What do they buy?

What’s their feedback? How long after do they browse your site again? From what channel do they come for that next visit?

How often do they shop? Do they buy thanks to your emails? What’s their average order value and CLV?

What’s their expected customer lifecycle? How many orders do they make during?

Leading The Customer Journey

This should give you a starting point in optimizing the customer journey for your customers. One thing to remember is that it should make sense to the customer and enrich them, not just focus on pushing sales. The relationship you’re supposedly building is mutually beneficial so don’t worry it’s a waste of time.

Want to track your customer’s journey?
Try Metrilo for free
eCommerce analytics, CRM & email in one

 

About the author

Dimira is the Words Pixie of Metrilo. A daydreamer and a coffee junkie. Can’t live when a comma is misplaced. A dog lover with a geeky sense of humor.

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