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The ultimate guide to ecommerce customer journey mapping

Nov 22, 2022 - Jenny Reese
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Because customers can find an ecommerce business anywhere on the internet, it can be challenging for brands to figure out how to get people to buy your products online. This often leads people to focus on the wrong channels to bring in customers.

Knowing how to map your ecommerce customer journey, on the other hand, helps you understand how people interact with your different touch points—so you can build a loyal customer base. Keep reading to learn how and why to map an ecommerce customer journey.

What is an ecommerce customer journey?

Your ecommerce customer journey describes the steps a customer follows when interacting with your brand's touchpoints, from the point they find out about you until the moment they become a customer. This journey could end when they make a purchase, or it could extend as they review and recommend your products … and possibly even become regular customers for years thereafter.

Mapping out your customer journey experience helps brands improve all these (and other) touchpoints so that you can increase the number of prospects you convert. It also may expose touchpoints that you hadn't considered and can help you find new opportunities for growth.

The ecommerce customer journey vs. traditional customer journey

In traditional businesses, the customer journey aims to bring people to brick-and-mortar stores. As a result, your touchpoints try to interest people who are able and willing to come to the store (typically, those in your area). However, since ecommerce stores are online, anyone on the internet could become a customer. As a result, your customer journey map ecommerce innovations can accommodate a much wider audience.

This distinction creates a few key differences between the two journeys, like:

  • Marketing channels: Traditional stores often use more traditional channels to advertise, like television, radio, newspapers and magazines. Meanwhile, customer journey ecommerce mapping reaches a wider range of channels like online search engines, social media and review sites.
  • Payment channels: On the traditional customer journey, purchases take place only in a physical store. The customer journey in ecommerce, in contrast, has many touchpoints where someone could buy a product, such as the ecommerce storefront or a social media platform.
  • Communications: Ecommerce customers have access to two-way communication with brands, which isn't as easily available to prospects for traditional businesses. This means online customers can get deeper insight into your industry, brand or products. Reviews, ratings and FAQs also give them more information about what they're buying.

The 5 stages of the ecommerce customer journey

The customer journey includes five stages, depending on how the customer is interacting with your brand. At each stage, your touchpoints aim to accomplish a different goal that helps turn someone into a repeat customer.

Awareness stage

At this stage, the prospective customer may not yet realize they have a need for your products. Though they're not actively looking for something, they are receptive to your advertisements. This is the point where they discover your brand.

Touchpoints include places where they can acquaint themselves with your brand. These can include:

  • Your social media pages
  • Paid advertisements
  • Online reviews
  • Blog posts that show people they have a need for your product

If you want to evaluate the effectiveness of your touchpoints at the awareness stage, look at how successfully they turn unknown users into known users. For instance, they may sign up for your email list in exchange for free downloadable content or a discount. Once they become a known user, it's easier to guide them down your sales funnel and convince them to make other purchases.

Consideration stage

Now, the customer's interest has taken them beyond casually browsing your products. They may revisit product pages or check out your shipping and returns information. Here, they're close to making a purchase, and your touchpoints could convince them to take the plunge.

The touchpoints at the consideration stage aim to nurture interested leads. These may include:

  • Blog posts that address the buyer's top concerns and pain points
  • Specific product pages
  • Email marketing
  • Digital nurturing content like white papers and demonstration videos

Because leads have more interest in your products at this stage, your touchpoints should aim to establish your brand as trustworthy. That way, they aren't just buying a popular product — they are supporting a brand they trust. Your content should confidently offer the benefits of your products without misinterpreting or obscuring the facts.

To encourage them to move to the next stage, you could also include discount codes with the touchpoints at this stage.

Acquisition stage

This is where the customer makes a purchasing decision. At this stage, the customer adds the product to their cart to pay for it — this may seem like a success, but the cart abandonment rate in America is 68.7%.

Effective touchpoints in this stage, like your purchasing channels and customer support services, aim to reduce your cart abandonment rate and increase conversions. Other touchpoints include places online where customers may go if they're having second thoughts about a purchase, like review sites.

Some ways you can achieve sales at this stage include:

  • Simplifying the purchasing process: A process that has a lot of friction discourages a customer from making a purchase, so try to minimize the number of steps in this process.
  • Automating reminders to check out: Sometimes, a customer simply gets distracted while checking out and forgets to do it. Sending an automated reminder that they still need to check out helps you convert these people.
  • Providing multiple payment options: Letting customers pay in the way that makes them feel most comfortable — like a credit card or mobile wallet — removes a concern that could make persuade them to abandon their cart.

Service stage

This is the after-sales stage. Here, you help the customer when they decide to exchange, return, or get help with a product. This is as important a stage for customer satisfaction as the acquisition stage because customers want to feel like you value them, not just their money.

Your touchpoints for this stage are the customer service channels that a buyer may contact you through. Though you can manage them with automated services, you should try to include human interaction in case customers have issues with these channels. Otherwise, they may be confused about your return policy or installation manual.

If you want to improve your service stage touchpoints but aren't sure how to evaluate them, some metrics you can use include:

  • Rate of abandoned calls or hangups
  • Average customer wait times
  • Rate of resolutions in the first call

Loyalty stage

Customers pleased with your service enter the loyalty stage, making them assured revenue sources in the long term and boosting their customer retention rate. This is an invaluable stage because it means you don't need to spend on finding new customers as frequently. Loyal customers may also enter the advocacy stage (which is particularly key to traditional businesses) and become unofficial brand ambassadors, recommending you to new people without any prompting.

The best way to increase customer loyalty is to optimize all the previous stages. Loyal customers will likely interact with most or all of your touchpoints, like your homepage, blog posts and social media activity. They're likely to add comments and share them, but you should also encourage them to take these actions. You could do this by thanking or otherwise engaging with their comments and shared posts, encouraging other loyal customers to engage with your touchpoints more, too.

How to map the ecommerce customer journey

You might think you can make a customer journey map for ecommerce by just listing all the channels that you directly interact with customers on. However, this would lead you to overlook many touchpoints along the way. Here are some tips to fully map out your customer journey.

Start with your customer's perspective and stick to it

To get the customer's perspective, build buyer personas that represent the different groups of people that your products target. These should be specific and detailed, including any problems they may have.

Then, walk through the customer journey of these personas, taking note of the touchpoints they would come across. Remember that you may have to adjust your personas to better represent your customers as you get more business and additional data.

Consider your customer's goals and pain points

When you make your customer personas, that helps you identify the different goals and pain points that your products address. Once you know this information, you can use it to find the touchpoints they may encounter. For instance, if you sell a protein supplement, you may find or add touchpoints to your brand on bodybuilding or weightlifting forums.

Identify the different routes customers take to conversion

Because you can find potential customers anywhere on the internet, people will take many different routes when they are buying your products. You could learn about these customers' routes by placing a survey on a landing page or checkout page asking how they learned about your brand. They may also mention their route in reviews or comments they make.

Analyze your customer touchpoints and interactions

For many of your touchpoints, you should be able to gather data like how someone found that point. For instance, most blog platforms can tell you if a viewer reached a post through an organic search or a social media link. This can shine a light on other touchpoints along the ecommerce journey while also showing the effectiveness of a touchpoint.

Customers' interactions with your touchpoints, like clicking certain links, can also tell you where they'll likely go next.

Visualize your customer journey map

Keeping track of each touchpoint's stage and relationship with other touchpoints can be overwhelming without a better way to visualize it.

Luckily, you can do this by starting with each of your customer personas and mapping out every touchpoint they meet in their journey. It may help to list the goals or pain points each one addresses, as well.

Ideally, once you've mapped out each persona's journey, you should have covered every touchpoint. If not, you can analyze the outliers to figure out how you can adjust them to better fit your customer journey map.

The benefits of ecommerce customer journey mapping

Customer journey mapping ecommerce doesn't just help you visualize your customer interactions. Here are some ways that it helps your business grow. It:

Determines where you're missing the mark with your target audience

Because the process of mapping the customer's journey forces you to look at your brand from their perspective, you can better understand how to meet customer expectations. By tracking interactions with every touchpoint, you can also get a more holistic view of how customers perceive your brand.

Shows you where you're succeeding with your customers

Interactions with your touchpoints indicate where you're succeeding with customers. For instance, having low email open rates from customers in the consideration stage would suggest that you need to bolster your email marketing. Maybe the subjects need to be more interesting, or maybe you're not addressing the right pain points.

You also may find insightful trends across different touchpoints. For instance, people may not share posts addressing a specific need as much as others, which could suggest that either you're not meeting that need adequately or that it may not be as pressing a need as you thought.

Improves future customer experiences and conversion rates

If you don't have a customer journey map, it's easy to see each touchpoint as a disconnected part of your brand. As a result of this incomplete picture, though, fewer people may pass the awareness or consideration stage. On the other hand, as you build and improve on your customer journey map, you can create a stronger, more consistent brand image across all platforms that will improve the user experience and attract the highest-quality leads.

The information you gather as customers proceed through their journey also helps you predict future customer behavior. If a certain touchpoint receives fewer interactions, you can analyze what pain point or need it addresses and figure out how you can modify it to do its job better. Similarly, if one receives more interactions, you can figure out how to change other touchpoints to improve the shopping experience and encourage this user behavior.

Provides information on where and how to expand customer touchpoints

Your customer journey map experience can help you find new online locations that people frequent before reaching your touchpoints. This insight shows you new opportunities to expand your customer touchpoints. Since you know the type of people that the touchpoint they reached was assisting, you can also set up your touchpoint to better fit into that persona's customer journey.

Gain key insights on your ecommerce customer journey

Mapping and tracking the customer journey is tricky. To access end-to-end solutions that give you valuable analytics, including data to improve your customer journey, along with other ways to improve your business, contact and see how we can help you grow.