The customer journey is the series of interactions and experiences a customer has with a brand, from the first point of engagement to post-purchase follow-up.
Understanding how to map out your customer journey is important for growing your ecommerce business. Buyers want positive engagement, personalized experiences, and an overall streamlined process to keep them coming back for more.
To help you get started, we’ve created this guide that breaks down exactly what a customer journey is, as well as ways to map out and optimize your own customer journey.
What Is a Customer Journey in Ecommerce?
An ecommerce customer journey refers to the stages a buyer goes through when making a purchase online. It encompasses everything from browsing and researching products to making a purchase, receiving the order, and providing feedback.
The customer journey is often visualized as a map, with unique touchpoints broken down into the stages. In reality, no two buyers will go through the same customer journey, as they’ll hit different touchpoints and have specific product needs. Having a general map, though, can help you plan your marketing and sales techniques, to prepare for all possible scenarios.
Why Is the Customer Journey Important?
The customer journey helps you understand the needs and preferences of your customers, and how they interact with your business. This can ultimately help you increase customer retention and drive sales.
In addition, the customer journey allows you to identify areas within your business that need improvement. These areas are generally where customers stop engaging with the business or express frustration. Conversely, it may also help you understand what’s going well, so you can continue to invest in that area.
Understanding your customer journey also allows you to analyze customer behaviors and insights. From there, you can better target potential and engaged customers across channels, at every stage of the journey.
The 5 Stages of the Customer Journey
The awareness stage is when a customer first discovers your ecommerce site and learns about your business. Generally, they discover your site through ecommerce marketing techniques such as social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), paid advertisements, and more.
At this stage, you need to make a great first impression. You’ll want to educate the customer about your business, build trust, and establish expertise in your industry. The goal is to generate interest and hopefully get them to engage further.
In the consideration stage, the customer moves into a critical position where they weigh the pros and cons of purchasing your products or services. You’ve made a good first impression, but you’ll need to back it up with proof.
Customers may conduct research on your products by looking at your social media pages or customer reviews. They may also seek out competitors to compare offerings.
For you, this is the stage where you’ll need to convince a customer that your site offers exactly what they need. This is often where many customers drop off the journey, as businesses don’t offer enough reasons to stick around. You’ll need to work on selling the customer at this stage, by explaining the benefits of your products and winning their trust.
In the decision stage, the customer decides to purchase from your site. At this stage, the buying and checkout process should be smooth and streamlined for your customer’s benefit. If it’s cumbersome or tedious, the customer may think twice about purchasing from you again.
You’ll want to make sure you answer all potential questions a customer might have by providing easy access to things like shipping information and the return policy. It’s also important to provide email updates like purchase and shipping confirmations to maintain trust.
After a customer has made a purchase, the retention stage is essential for ensuring they return. Because while a single purchase is great, it won’t keep you in business long. Retaining customers is cheaper than acquiring new ones, after all.
To get to the retention stage, you’ll need to convince your customers that your business is ideal for their ongoing needs – one purchase isn’t enough. Keep customers engaged with ongoing emails promoting new products, offering deals and discounts, and asking for feedback on their experience. This is also the stage where you’ll want to push your loyalty program, if you offer one.
The last and hardest-to-reach stage of the customer journey is advocacy. In this stage, customers are not only repeat buyers, but they are also brand advocates. Even with a ton of planning, many customers will never reach this stage, despite being loyal customers.
Being a brand advocate usually entails interacting with your business across social media, sharing product successes, or just leaving a positive review. You can help coax your customers to this stage by reminding them to review your products, interact with your socials, or join an affiliate program.
How to Map Out the Customer Journey
Mapping out a customer journey involves identifying and documenting the different steps and touchpoints that a customer goes through when interacting with your business. Here are some steps to follow when mapping out a customer journey:
Create Buyer Personas
To make a customer journey that truly works, you’ll need to have a clear idea of who your ideal customer is. That’s where a buyer persona comes in. A buyer persona is a detailed profile of a hypothetical customer. You can use existing information about your customers – their age, genders, location, etc, to create a fictionalized version of your ideal buyer.
Depending on your business, you may need to create multiple buyer personas. You can start with the most critical and add more from there. These should be specific, to help you envision how your customers interact with your site. Creating your buyer personas can be a time-consuming task, but is well worth the effort.
Once you’ve made your buyer personas, you should breakdown all the potential touchpoints your hypothetical buyer might interact with. You want to be as detailed and thorough as possible.
Be sure to think through every stage and include everything from social media and website landing pages to retargeting emails and calls with customer support. There is usually a lot of overlap between the touchpoints and the stages, so try to place the touchpoints where you think they most belong.
Make It Visual
A customer journey map is a visual tool, so this is the step where it’s important to put pen to paper (or mouse to screen). Create a visual representation of the customer journey, such as a flowchart or diagram, to show the different stages and touchpoints.
You want your map to be simple and easy to read, with the information distilled down into the most basic form. The map helps you and your staff understand the goals and the overarching journey. You can use it to create sales and marketing strategies that best target your ideal customers.
Test and Validate
Once you have a journey map set up, it’s essential to analyze and validate your findings. You may find that certain aspects that look good on paper, don’t work well in practice. Or you may come across touchpoints you hadn’t considered before. You can use metrics like conversion rates, customer acquisition costs, or customer lifetime value to validate your map.
It's important to remember that customer journey maps are not static. They are dynamic and need to be regularly reviewed and updated based on your customers' feedback, market changes and your business objectives.
5 Ways to Optimize the Customer Journey
1. Personalize the Journey
You can increase customer satisfaction by personalizing the shopping experience to address your customers’ specific needs and wants.
Using customer data – including transaction history, interactions with social media, and website analytics – you can tailor a customer’s journey to be unique. With this information, you can create personalized communications, offers, and discounts for your customers.
For instance, you could target ads to customers in the awareness stage that address their pain points. You can also use this in other stages, like sending a birthday discount to existing customers to help boost them into the retention or even advocacy stage.
Just be sure you’re abiding by government regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when collecting customer data.
2. Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly
With many people shopping online across multiple devices, it’s crucial that your ecommerce site is mobile-friendly. Your site should be as responsive and easy to navigate on a phone as it is on a computer. If not, you may lose out on a key customer base in the awareness and consideration stages.
To ensure your site is functional and responsive, test it across all devices and browsers. You should be thorough in the testing process, checking that all pages load properly and quickly. Also confirm that the most important buttons like “checkout” and “add to cart,” are easily visible.
3. Improve Your Checkout Process
Customers in the decision stage should be easily able to finalize their purchase without any friction. By switching to Pay.com, you’ll be able to streamline your checkout process to enhance the customer experience. With options for no-code solutions or developer-based API integrations, you can create a branded checkout page to build trust in your business.
While the checkout page should look branded and be responsive, it’s also important to make sure it’s secure. Pay.com has Level 1 PCI DSS compliance to ensure the protection of private information for every transaction. Customers will feel good knowing their information is safe and secure.
4. Enhance Your Customer Support
Excellent customer support is a key factor in customer retention and advocacy. Customers should be able to reach your business through multiple means in a timely, efficient manner. Expanding your support channels is a great way to optimize the customer journey overall.
For instance, tech-savvy customers may want to reach out through social media or interact with chatbots, while other customers may prefer phone or email.
Additionally, consider setting up an FAQ or automated question responses to help streamline common issues. This includes things like return and exchange policies, shipping rates, privacy policies, and more.
5. Get Feedback from Existing Customers
Asking existing customers about their experience is one of the best ways to optimize your customer journey. Feedback allows you to understand where along the journey is most frustrating or unengaging for buyers and find solutions to fix it.
It is often hard to get customers to provide feedback, though. Asking people to “leave a review” usually doesn’t work well. Instead, you can create customer satisfaction surveys to send to existing customers to better understand their experience. These are short and snappy, but provide crucial information to how your business is functioning.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to incentivize feedback. You can offer prizes, discounts, extra loyalty points, or free gifts with their next purchase, in exchange for taking a survey or giving feedback. This boosts the amount of responses you should get, which in turn makes it easy to see the big picture.
What’s the Best Way for an Ecommerce Business to Accept Payments?
Pay.com is the best way for an ecommerce business to accept payments. Offering a variety of different payment methods, Pay.com makes it easy to choose the options that make the most sense for you. This includes debit and credit cards, digital wallets, and more!
The signup process is simple and straightforward, making the switch easy and quick. As a Pay.com customer, you can choose between our no-code solutions and advanced APIs for your checkout process, depending on your experience level.
Through the user-friendly Pay Dashboard, you’ll gain access to detailed transaction reporting. You can use this information to better understand your customers and their needs, which in turn, can help you optimize their customer journey.
Pay.com operates on a transparent, flat-rate fee structure that makes upgrading your payment services provider affordable. Get started with Pay.com now!
The Bottom Line
The customer journey is a crucial aspect of strategizing and growing your ecommerce business. By understanding the stages and how they apply to your unique customers, you’ll be better prepared to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations.
Find ways to optimize your customers’ experience at every stage of the journey. This means simplifying the processes, ensuring your site is responsive and easy to navigate, and personalizing the journey.