No e-commerce business can be successful without an emphasis on customer experience. In modern-day retail and commerce, the customer is at the center of all good business. And what do modern customers want? Convenience? Quality? Affordable quantity?
The answer might depend on your product and the audience you target. Whatever your thoughts, one thing that 90% of customers find appealing is personalization. To offer it to them, you need to understand your customer and the process they embark on before, during and after they spend their money or time on your platform.
This is the customer journey and here’s why it is important and how you can use it to improve your e-commerce conversions.
What is the consumer journey?
The customer journey is the collection of steps it takes for a buyer to complete a transaction or purchase, or complete a goal they might want to fulfill with your e-commerce platform.
A customer journey may consist of the following steps: the moment they decide to buy, the research they conduct, price comparisons and so forth. The different steps are often described as customer or sales touchpoints; connectivity points between your business and the customer.
Touchpoints include various channels, sub-experiences and platforms that guide the customer through their journey. If you think about it as you might imagine a stone path, one rock alone is merely that, yet all together they form a path.
When you step onto one rock and stay on it, you’ve only touched that one so you don’t move forward. However, if you step onto the next one – the next touchpoint – then you begin a journey down the stone path.
Keeping this metaphor in mind, some of these rocks may belong to your business, but others may be external sources like search engines such as Google. This makes the e-commerce customers’ journey something that your company doesn’t have complete control over as it is a combination of internal and external touchpoints.
However, your business can understand where users connect with your business channels through customer journey maps.
What is consumer journey mapping?
A customer journey map is a graphical or visual representation of the possible steps and experiences that a customer goes through to attain something or meet a goal with your business.
Initially, this can take the form of spreadsheets that highlight key customer steps and motivations, and notes about the business’ customer relations. You can transform this data into visual or diagram form, much like you would transfer textual information onto a mindmap.
Why make customer journey maps?
Gaining an understanding of your consumers’ ups and downs in the experiences you offer helps you improve your touchpoints and make your customer processes more efficient. The map illustrates this visually and enables you to see and address any obstacles your consumers face in reaching their goals.
Through mapping, you can divide the customer journey into phases or steps, linking each touchpoint with a goal in the customer’s journey.
In doing this, you can better understand the needs of the customer and improve your customer service provision. Important things like your fulfillment strategy can benefit from learning what best serves your audiences.
Consumer journey mapping also helps you better understand your individual customer base and how you can better target them in your marketing strategies. This allows you to optimize and target your marketing and cut down on ineffective outbound techniques. For example, your customers may respond better to direct communication like email newsletters or individualized approaches like sales calls.
Overall, mapping enhances your understanding of and focus on your customer.
Not only does this have an impact on your customer relationship, but it also impacts your product and service design. If you note a low demand or response to a particular product through a map, you can decrease that item’s order quantity from the supplier to avoid dead stock.
Of course, direct enhancements to your customer relationship will also lead to better customer metrics in areas like your customer retention and conversion rate.
How to utilize consumer journey mapping to boost e-commerce conversions
Learning how to create a customer journey is a whole different story. What we want to explore here is what this technique can do for your e-commerce business’s success.
Define your customer profiles
To begin your consumer journey mapping you have to create clear profiles or personas that reflect your customers. These profiles will be representations, fictitious models that embody the fundamental characteristics of your target buyer. These may be generalized but they help you get a sense of your customer, how they think, and more – without needing guesswork.
One way to do this is through customer segmentation through which you can divide your audience into numerous ‘unique’ profiles.
These make your research and customer mapping efforts more accurate. It may seem like a paradox but by diversifying and creating multiple, nuanced profiles you move one step closer to creating more personalized experiences.
Base your customer personas on in-depth research, using polls and surveys, for example. Look at your customers’ ages, geographies, races and other demographics. Data gained via customer research combined with basic demographics can guide you on customer preferences, expectations, goals, priorities and more.
The more nuanced the profiles, the better and more targeted the experiences you create will be.
Map customer journeys on different channels
Customer journeys are a visualization of your audience’s interactions with your brand. While there are touchpoints you might not have control over on this journey, there are others that you do have.
For example, some of your customers come to your e-commerce store through your social media pages. This makes it important for you to map out and understand how customers engage with you on your different digital platforms.
Doing this will help you realize which platforms drive traffic to your point-of-sale and which ones actually drive conversions. It can also highlight to you which techniques work best for you online – helping you make informed decisions like whether to focus on SMO or SEO for growth.
Knowing this, you can direct more resources towards those things and maximize your efforts and funds.
Create a website customer journey
Websites sit at the core of an e-commerce business’ omnichannel network. Thus, understanding how visitors experience and engage your website is vital. This includes learning how they get to the site, how they learn about it and all of the before-they-reach-the-website kind of stuff.
After that, you need to consider the during-engagement data as well as the post-purchase engagement data. To do this accurately, you need to identify where your customer journeys often end, how they get to that point, and why exactly their journey ends there. Conversion funnels are fantastic tools to uncover this data easily.
You can also gain insight into activities you may not have deemed significant like interacting with or contacting customers after the sale. You don’t want one-time sales as you need to think about future conversion possibilities.
Of course, customer journeys aren’t homogenous and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Your business’ method can also be unique but a good place to start is to tackle the website at different stages like delivery and shipping or product returns.
By dealing with each section one-by-one, you’re sure to address any issues completely. Ensure that you match any changes you implement to the customer satisfaction levels with that step, making value-laden adjustments that improve your customers’ website experience.
Restructure and revise
Having identified the needs of your customers as well as the issues present in the customer journey, you can optimize each touchpoint in your customers’ journey. Restructure your website, channels and marketing approaches accordingly.
This is not something to be done once, however, as customer expectations and needs are constantly changing. Thus, you need to revise your customer profiles and maps regularly to offer your buyers the best, evolved digital journey.
Customers drive and feed your business. Understanding and keeping them satisfied can be the difference between succeeding and breaking even and failing to make the profits you need. When you fail to put your customer first and meet their needs and desires, you sacrifice their satisfaction.
In a retail industry in which customers demand personal experience, getting their needs right matters.
Customer mapping allows you to put yourself into your customers’ shoes so that you can iron out any issues in the experience you offer them. With it, you can improve your marketing, customer service provision, products, and product packaging, customer channels and much more.
You develop a targeted customer approach and hone in on the right audience for your business. You also make their journey with you easy, enjoyable and exceptional so they want to invest in you every time.
Xioayun TU, Brightpearl
Xiao is the Global Head of Lead Generation at Brightpearl, a leading retail operations and ecommerce marketing automation. She is passionate about setting up innovative strategies to grow sales pipelines using data-driven decisions. She has written for sites like HubSpot. Here is her LinkedIn.