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Customer journey mapping in e-commerce: a step by step guide

Customer journey mapping
Louise
Written By Louise
On Mar, 3 2020
8 minute read

Customer journey mapping is one of the hottest e-commerce trends of 2020.

But do you know how and why you should map them?

If you've been thinking about creating a customer journey map to improve your customer experience and increase your conversions, you've come to the right place.

This is Carts Guru's ultimate guide to creating a customer journey map.

What we'll cover in this guide:

  • What is a customer journey?
  • Why map your customer journeys?
  • Step 1: Define customer persona(s)
  • Step 2: Analyze your data
  • Step 3: Identify touchpoints
  • Step 4: Create your map
  • Step 5: Using your map
  • Conclusion

Let's get started!

What is a customer journey?

Think about the last thing you bought. It probably wasn't an isolated, random act.

Customer journeys vary in complexity, but anytime you buy something there's a process involved. For example, take buying a new mobile phone.

The journey often begins with a problem - your old phone is broken or out of date. In contrast, it could start with an opportunity, like a tempting advert that sparks your interest in a new phone.

If you are happy with your current brand and stay loyal to them, you base that decision on past experience.

If instead, you switch to a different brand, you will most likely do research online and offline, like reading customer reviews and testimonials, or asking friends and family for advice. You may go back and forth a few times before making your final decision.

After making a purchase, you could feel a range of different emotions - satisfied and pleased with your decision, neutral or regretful. You might act on those emotions by leaving a review, writing on social media or talking to friends and family.

There are hundreds of ways that customers can interact with your brand, across multiple channels. You want to optimize each customer’s experience with your e-commerce store, avoiding obstacles where you risk losing them for good.

Why map your customer journeys?

These days it's not enough for your e-commerce store to sell great products. There's an abundance of choices easily available online, so customers are searching for something more. They want an amazing, memorable experience.

The best way to deliver that is through a highly personalized customer journey. Imagine if you could customize every detail, from the very first time they come across your brand all the way to the day they become a superfan and an advocate.

The better you understand the process each customer goes through when buying your products, the easier it becomes to improve that journey.

A map is a logical way to organize all this complicated data. You can visualize the customer journey and clearly see where any problems lie.

The great thing about e-commerce customer journey maps is that they are constantly evolving. They can be updated, and you can keep refining them as you learn more about your business.

Before you begin, set clear objectives for your customer journey map. Essentially, it should help you do the following:

  • Provide a smooth journey that helps your customer solve problems and achieve goals
  • Remove friction and obstacles in the buying process
  • Make the brand experience enjoyable and recommendable.

Step 1: Define your customer persona(s)

It's impossible to design a map without knowing who it's for. Before you go any further in mapping your e-commerce customer’s journey, make sure you have a clear picture of your target customer.

Defining your customer persona helps you see your customers as real people, so you can get into their shoes and tailor your marketing to speak directly to them.

In order to define your customer persona, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who's buying from you right now? Find out their age, gender, location, occupation, income level, and interests.
  • Who benefits from your product?
  • What are their pain points, goals and dreams?

In addition, try doing some social listening - monitor mentions of your brand or product online, to find out who's engaged.

Your personas shouldn't be vague. Combine common traits into a very specific person with memorable characteristics, even a name. Include any objections they might have.

For example, an e-commerce store selling silver fashion jewelry might have the following customer persona:

Katie, a single 26-year-old female who studied advertising, and works in a marketing company, earning £28,000 a year. She lives with housemates in London and buys clothes from Zara and Cos, often shops on her mobile phone. She enjoys meeting friends for drinks and dinner, yoga and goes on 2 holidays a year. She likes affordable but good quality, unique jewelry. Potential obstacles: high prices and a website that isn't mobile-friendly.

You might want to design a separate map for each persona.

E-commerce buyer persona

Step 2: Analyse your data

Secondly, start digging deep into all the available data you have about customer interactions with your e-commerce website and social media pages.

We recommend using the Google Analytics Behaviour Flow Report. This shows the flow of traffic through your website. You'll find out the most common paths, and which ones result in more sales.

Are people going directly to checkout after viewing a product, or going back to browse more options?

Hotjar is another powerful tool that shows you colorful, visual heat maps of how visitors interact with your site. You can track details like mouse hover, clicks, attention, and scroll.

Heat-mapping software

Are people clicking your banners, and reading your product descriptions? Which elements are most appealing and which are annoying? Heat maps can tell you.

Another key metric is cart abandonment. Find out how many customers make it to check out but leave before completing the purchase. With Carts Guru’s advanced marketing automation software, e-merchants can track cart abandonment and automate emails, SMS and Facebook messages to bring customers back to your store. We offer multi-channel retargeting which helps bring customers back to complete the purchase.

Similarly, you can gather data by just asking your customers. Conduct surveys and encourage customers to write testimonials or reviews. Read through customer queries and analyze their conversations with support services.

However you measure your data, look out for patterns. Where are customers dropping off? Which pages are visited most, and in what order? Which pathways lead to the most sales?

Once you know these patterns of behavior you will be more capable of optimizing your e-commerce customer journey.

Use whatever data you currently have, and fill in any gaps with your assumptions. You can update your customer journey as new information comes to light.

Step 3: Identify touchpoints

A touchpoint is any time a customer or prospect comes into contact with your brand.

Make a list of every possible way a customer could come across your brand. Everything from seeing a social media ad to a search result, receiving a retargeting email, leaving a review, calling your customer support.

Brainstorm with your team, and make sure you don't miss any possible interactions. You'll end up with a large list, so divide them into three categories - before, during and after purchase. There will be a lot of crossover between the three categories.

At this stage, you will start seeing things from your customers' point of view.

Next, we're going to get creative and start turning all that data you've collected into a map.


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Step 4: Create your map

We often see e-commerce customer journeys divided into three stages - awareness, consideration, and decision.

However, what about after purchase? You want customers to return to purchase again, leave great reviews, and recommend you to their friends.

For this reason, we recommend dividing your map into five stages:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Purchase
  • Retention
  • Advocacy

You can organize your map however you like, whether it be a spreadsheet or an infographic. All that matters is that it makes sense to everyone.

For each of the five stages, identify the key touchpoints and the customer’s emotions, goals, and needs. You should also establish the brand's goal and actions to take at each stage.

Let's examine each stage of the journey in more detail.

 

E-commerce customer journey

Awareness

In the awareness stage, customers are just finding out who you are.

They may have discovered you passively through an advertisement, social media or blog post, or actively through organic search.

Therefore, at this stage, your goal is educating, answering questions and establishing your expertise.

You need to gain the potential customers trust, generate some interest and convince them to find out more.

Consideration

You've sparked their interest. You know they’re considering your product, but it’s important to remember they may be weighing up different options and looking at competitor's products.

They might do research outside of your customer journey, and look at your social media page and reviews. Maybe you will reach them with a retargeting ad.

Your goal at this stage is to position your product as the perfect solution, explain its advantages, justify your price, keep their interest and win their trust.

Purchase

Once your customer has decided to purchase, your main goal is to remove any friction that might cause them to abandon their cart. Touchpoints at this phase include your website, social media, email or telephone support.

Your goal here is to provide attentive customer service, help them choose the right product, and make sure lines of communication are open through chat or phone.

Make your checkout process quick and simple. If they need to fill in a lot of complicated information they might give up or go elsewhere.

Up to the last minute, you'll want to re-emphasize your value proposition, reinforce their decision, and create a sense of urgency by showing limited availability or special offers.

Retention

Don't forget about your customers after they've made a purchase.

There are many ways you can retain customers, and it goes beyond sending a generic email.

Post-purchase touchpoints may include social media, emails, or external review sites.

Your goal here is to keep customers engaged. Ask for feedback, answer any questions they have, and send personalized offers relevant to their purchase. Make them feel part of your community and inform them about new products.

Advocacy

Most people won't go on to the last stage, but the few that do are high-value customers.

Touchpoints could be social media, community pages, the website or email.

The goal is to treat your biggest fans as VIPs, they are a valuable asset that will recommend your products and bring more awareness to your brand.

Reward their loyalty with exclusive offers, affiliate programs, ask for their feedback or even customer-generated content such as testimonials for your blog.

 

Customer journey ecommerce marketing

Step 5: Using your map

Once you've collected all this data and organized it into a map, it's time to act.

Your e-commerce customer journey map should help you answer the following questions:

  • How do customers discover your product?
  • What research do they do?
  • What "moments of truth" lead to sales or abandonment?
  • Do they consider any of your competitors?
  • Do they have a positive experience on your site?
  • How could you improve the experience?
  • At what stage in the journey are you losing customers?

The map should tell you where you need to invest more time and resources.

For example, if people are leaving your site after waiting too long for a response from customer service, you know you need to improve your support.

If people aren't reading through product descriptions, try simplifying them.

Are people turning away because of unexpected shipping costs? Reduce them, or make them clear upfront.

Don't just focus on the awareness stage. Start at the end of the funnel by nurturing and rewarding your returning customers and advocates. You'll see an impact across the whole journey.

Conclusion

Although it may seem like a long and complicated process, it's worth taking the time to map out your customer journeys.

As a result, you'll be able to streamline your customer journey. You'll learn to empathize with your customers, and adopt a more customer-focused mentality. Furthermore, you'll know where you need to invest the most time and money to get results.

Run tests by tweaking the customer journey, and see what happens.

We hope you now have a clearer understanding of customer journey mapping, and how it can help you deliver a fantastic customer experience, leading to more sales.


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