How to Map and Improve the Ecommerce Customer Journey


October 8, 2020

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When it comes to increasing conversions and reaching more customers online, are you at a loss for finding the right fix?

Today, there are numerous ways that buyers can find your brand. At the same time, there’s no shortage of competitors or distractions pulling visitors away from your business; it can be difficult to understand when, where or why a potential sale gets lost.

Luckily, there’s a way to understand exactly how your customers experience your brand: the ecommerce customer journey. By studying the path customers take to find your brand, you can better understand where they fall off track. 

Read on to learn proven tips and tricks for understanding your customer's journey, both before and after making a purchase. As you’ll see, there isn't a clear line from discovery to conversion. However, with the right tools in your back pocket, you can take the steps you need to earn more leads and generate more purchases.

What Is the Ecommerce Customer Journey?

The customer journey map is a visual representation of any interactions your customers have with your brand. Consider all touchpoints like social media, email communications, chats or others. You’ll want to understand how many times your customers see your business and which tools draw them to your website or product listing, even before they make a transaction.

This process of stepping into your customers’ shoes and thinking about what they like or dislike will save you time and money in the long run. For example, if your target audience doesn't exist on specific markets like Facebook or Instagram, why waste resources advertising or cross-selling on those channels? Beyond this, there are a number of other ways that a journey map can benefit your business.

Why Is Customer Journey Mapping Important?

A useful customer journey map will help you to:

  • Optimize the onboarding process for new customers
  • Track your customer experiences and understand where buyers run into issues
  • Understand which customers convert and which move on
  • Monitor your prospects as they navigate through the sales funnel
  • Create a strategic order to their journey

The ultimate goal is to understand the ecommerce buyer personas that exist today, find your target audience and learn how to make your advertising and multichannel strategies more effective. Don't be afraid to hone in on various personas and try different outreach methods to find your perfect fit!

The 4 Main Stages of the Ecommerce Customer Journey

As with any excellent business strategy, the customer journey is best tackled in stages. Breaking things down into workable chunks makes the process of updating your ecommerce strategy less overwhelming and easier to tackle. This stages-based ecommerce planning strategy will ease the process. In the following sections, we’ll explore how it can specifically help to improve your brand’s website.

four stages of the ecommerce customer journey

1. The "Reach" Stage

At this stage, your consumers are just getting to know your business. They may have found your website on Google or stumbled across your Instagram ad for the first time. In either case, your business has just overcome its first hurdle and successfully put itself on your consumers’ map.

Keep in mind that if your site traffic is poor or failing to grow, that might be a sign that your brand is struggling to even get to this point. In that instance, you’ll want to try implementing the below steps. 

  • Promote your site on social media
  • Utilize SEO strategies
  • Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
  • Publish regular content focused on attracting customers
  • Consider cross-selling your products on third-party channels, like Amazon or Walmart Marketplace, where an audience already exists
  • Test various ad platforms
  • Incentivize existing customers to spread the word about your brand

2. The "Engagement" Stage

This is the point when your consumers are interacting with your brand. They may not have transacted yet, but they’re at least aware of your brand and are able to associate certain products and benefits with it.

You know you’re struggling with this stage if you’re experiencing high bounce rates, visitors who aren't navigating or spending much time on your site, fewer people "adding to cart" or complaints of slow load times. To overcome these issues, you can focus on:

  • Increasing page loading speeds
  • Review your site layout to encourage exploration
  • Creating eye-catching content to generate leads
  • Utilizing AI chatbots to start conversations
  • Offering extra information to encourage them to buy
  • Retargeting visitors on social media or other third-party channels

3. The "Conversion" Stage

Alas, this is when your contacts finally convert into customers. You’ve built enough confidence around your brand to earn their business, and can (hopefully) look forward to a second, third or fourth purchase.

If you've been experiencing lower conversion rates, increased abandoned shopping carts, or lower average order values, you're experiencing issues in the conversion stage.

Many factors play into issues here, but the most common fixes are:

  • Making the shopping experience more enticing
  • Offering better pricing or discount strategies
  • Simplifying the checkout process
  • Providing accurate shipping costs
  • Finding ways to save your customers time

4. The "Nurturing" Stage

Now, you’re looking to turn first-time customers into repeat or lifetime customers. After all, it’s much easier to keep a customer than it is to acquire one, so it’s paramount that you keep the relationship going strong.

Do you feel like your customers never seem to return to you for future business? Are you getting several "guest" checkouts, low customer satisfaction or little-to-no referrals? If you fail to nurture relationships with your customers after converting, you're probably struggling in this stage.

Encourage your customers to come back by:

  • Staying in contact with them via emails, social and other channels
  • Offering a loyalty program and asking them to register with you
  • Raising your average order value through kits, bundles or other incentives
  • Interacting with unsatisfied customers and solving their issues
  • Offering benefits for referrals

5 Key Steps for Improving the Customer Journey

The customer journey map gives you a starting point for understanding what needs improving and how in the customer experience. As you’re going through this exercise, remember to pay attention to these five things. 

1. Identify Your Customer

When you start building out your customer's ecommerce journey, create a unique customer persona so that you know who you're speaking to and can cater all of your campaigns to that targeted audience. Study trends and monitor your bounce rates to make sure the audiences you're reaching are genuinely interested in what you have to offer.

2. Break Down Your Customer Journey Map Into Stages

Think of the stages previously mentioned as the skeletal system of your customer journey map. When you consider all the stages your customers go through when they visit your site or product listing, you'll be able to visualize their interactions better and understand how they may react along the way. Find ways to mitigate potential confusion or frustration, with the goal of making every customer’s time with you enjoyable.

3. Create Actionable Touchpoints

Now that you've built out stages in your journey map, establish what actions you expect your customers to take. Pay special attention to how customers will interact with your content. 

For instance, if you’re looking to improve your site, ask yourself, are you serving too many useless pop-ups? Is it too hard for customers to keep track of what pages they've already viewed? What can you do to keep them engaged on your site longer and follow through on their purchase?

4.  Check Site Performance

When it comes to your site, you’ll want to make sure that the back end is just as optimized as the front end. Consider, are your visitors reporting issues like slow-loading pages, confusing site structure, low-resolution imagery or other common problems? Address these issues quickly and keep your site up to date with the latest algorithm changes on Google. Create a site that’s in a position to rank highly on search engines and can deliver a smooth customer experience 24/7. 

5. Be Proactive With Your Customer Engagement

Ecommerce businesses often lose out on customer interactions because the personalities are hidden behind a screen, but you can still create a relationship with your customers. One of the quickest ways to lose a customer is by failing to answer their questions or help them out when they're in need.

Customer service is just as crucial in ecommerce as it is with brick-and-mortar businesses. Addressing issues as they arise and letting your customers know you care will make them much more likely to choose you.

In Summary

The best way to start improving your ecommerce customer journey is by taking some time to create a baseline for what your buyers are currently experiencing. Which of your digital efforts or marketing campaigns are driving the most traffic? How do conversions look in comparison to that traffic, and at one point do buyers either drop off or complete their purchases?

Next, identify which customers you want to continue to reach and nurture these relationships. As you dig into your audience, create a persona based on their demographics, lifestyles and shopping behaviors that can guide your messaging or marketing efforts. 

Finally, work through your website (and other ecommerce properties) with a fine-toothed comb to make sure everything functions as expected. Look at your site or listings as a customer would see it, and correct any issues that interrupt their experience. Also, monitor for algorithm updates to ensure that there aren't any new factors that could affect your ranking. 

With the right strategy in place, your ecommerce properties can function effectively again! And most importantly, you can keep your customers happy and your brand top-of-mind. 

Need Help with Multichannel?

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