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Ecommerce Growth

The Founder's Guide to Customer Journey Map (eCommerce)

The Founder's Guide to Customer Journey Map (eCommerce)

Owing to the pandemic, the way we make purchases has changed forever. With everything moving to digital platforms, it only makes sense that convenience is becoming more prominent for consumers with over 75% of them making purchases online at least once a month. But what came in as an opportunity for businesses to meet their consumers where they are the most active is now a big hurdle in understanding customers. 

Majority of online shoppers tend to explore the options available to them before making a purchase. This essentially means they may not choose to make a purchase from an online store on their first visit and the business will need to reach out to them across multiple touchpoints to stay on top of their minds, and drive them back to the site. 

By multiple touchpoints, here’s what we mean - landing pages, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, live chat, search remarketing, retargeting ads and similar. 

Not one, but multiple strategies get kicked in to re-engage this buyer. 

So how do you know which channel played a key role at what stage of this buyer’s journey? 

This is where a customer journey map comes in. 

In this post, we'll be covering:

What is a customer journey map? 

A customer journey map (or the process of mapping) refers to the visualization of how a set of people from your target audience interact with your website. It helps you analyze your customers’ experience, identify where they tend to drop off and what stages of their interaction can turn into opportunities for improvement in business planning, growth strategizing, optimizing processes and so much more. 

From an eCommerce perspective, a customer journey map is a diagram that illustrates the steps an online shopper takes towards making a purchase from the site - this includes both on-site and off-site channels. 

Now there are four major types of journey maps that a business can design: 

  • Current state: Helps you make incremental improvements by understanding how consumers are interacting with your brand as of today. 
  • Future state: This map helps you uncover insights and actionables that help you identify how consumers ‘will’ interact with your business once the changes go live. 
  • A day in the life: Charts your customer’s day in a holistic way; this may or may not include your brand, products or services and is handy when researching unmet consumer needs. 
  • Service blueprint: Simplified diagram to understand existing customer relationships and how every tool, technology, strategy and channel adds value to it. 

But isn’t it meant for SaaS businesses? 

Customer journey mapping has been around for a while now. 

Businesses in the SaaS industry have been using this technique of visualization to not just acquire users, but also guide them towards taking actions that lead to adoption, engagement, advocacy, expansion and meeting other business goals. 

But if you take a look at the key milestones that a SaaS business tracks with a customer journey map, you will find an increasing amount of similarity to how online shoppers go from discovery to actually making a purchase from your site. 

Why is a customer journey map important for eCommerce? 

Here’s taking a look at some of the reasons why customer journey mapping is now crucial and its benefits for business growth: 

1. Increasing competition

As per Statista, retail eCommerce sales are projected to increase to USD 4.9 trillion. The numbers also forecast that ecommerce share of total global retail sales will reach 24.5% by 2025. While this states an opportunity for businesses, it also means increased competition across all industries. 

As of today, a typical online shopper has at least ten brands to choose from when making a purchase. The brands that go on to become sticky are those that are able to keep up with the changing market trends, consumer needs and predict preferences. A customer journey map enables it all!  

2. Multi-touch shopping behavior 

As quoted on Internet Retailing, online shoppers interact with brands on over 20 channels before and after making a purchase. This includes both owned and external platforms like social media, search engines, marketplaces and similar. Due to this multi-touch shopping behavior, it is becoming difficult for businesses to streamline their efforts as well as their operations. 

With customer journey maps in place, it becomes possible for businesses to identify key sales channels in addition to the purchase patterns of consumers coming from the same. This helps them plan everything from marketing, advertising to operational functions like inventory, logistics and more.  

3. Increasing customer acquisition costs 

According to ProfitWell, the customer acquisition costs for businesses have been steadily increasing. Most businesses have noticed a 60% increase in CAC over the last couple of years due to the increasing amount of competition and the ever expanding digital landscape they need to keep up with. 

A customer journey map is a great way to attribute which channels add value to the buyer’s journey and how it impacts your revenue. It lets you identify which channels you need to double down on to maximize your ROI. 

4. Decreasing customer retention rates 

Owing to the increasing amount of competition in the space, customer retention and loyalty has been declining. Considering how the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is only 5-20%, there’s a lot that businesses are losing out on. The number one reason being lack of the right data to keep their customers engaged. 

A customer journey map shines light on when, where and how your customers choose to interact with your business. This helps you identify the key channels that can be leveraged to keep them engaged, driving higher retention rates.  

5. Need for hyper personalization 

Various studies have found the consumers seek personalization from the brands they interact with. In fact, 71% feel frustrated when a shopping experience is impersonal and does not take into account their needs or preferences. 

While most businesses have a target audience and ideal customer persona defined, understanding each consumer can be difficult. With a customer journey map, you can unlock more insights into the different segments that allows you to define characteristics of smaller groups of people, bringing you closer to knowing them on an individual level. This helps with hyper personalization across all efforts. 

6. Fast-moving consumer market 

As per McKinsey, consumer needs are changing at a rapid pace. From seasonal trends to how they feel about causes, celebrities they support, influence from friends and family to aspirational purchases, there’s a lot that a business needs to keep up with. 

A customer journey map essentially gives you an insight into these variables, letting you deep dive into understanding as well as predicting when a change may occur based on purchase patterns and interaction data. 

That’s a lot of insights and actionables coming from one marketing tool. So let’s dive deeper into how the customer journey map is able to uncover these insights - by tapping into the key stages of a buyer’s online shopping journey. 

Take home fresh insights- eCommerce marketing strategy: 12 questions founders should ask themselves

The different stages in a customer journey map 

eCommerce Customer Journey Map

A typical online shopper goes through five key stages when making a purchase from a business: 

  • Awareness - This stage typically includes coming across a product through a marketing or advertising campaign, and clicking through the website. 
  • Consideration - At this point, the visitor is on the website and is actively browsing through the products available on the store. 
  • Acquisition - This is where an online shopper takes an action, goes through checkout and makes a purchase from your site.  
  • Service - At this stage in the buyer cycle, you typically see customers seeking post-purchase services and support. This also includes cases of refunds, returns, exchanges and similar. 
  • Loyalty - This stage is when the customer is happy with the purchase made, leaves a positive review for it and is more likely to recommend your store in their network. 

We also refer to this as the eCommerce conversion funnel that starts by reaching out to a target market, introducing the brand and gradually driving them towards making a purchase. While the fundamental approach remains the same, the funnel gives you a visualization to sift through interest to find consumers who will actually make the purchase. 

AIDA Model of Customer Journey

No more broken funnels- Learn to build 5 stages of an ecommerce conversion funnel (+ways to improve each step)

Now setting up a customer journey map is becoming simpler with the help of eCommerce analytics and visualization tools. The ability to integrate multiple marketing and sales channels to an eCommerce platform is further enabling an easy flow of data for businesses. 

But the easy flow also comes with a plethora of data that businesses are not able to leverage. So before we get into creating a customer journey map for your business, let’s talk about some of the most common mistakes brands make after getting to know about the funnel and stages above. 

Customer journey mapping mistakes you need to avoid even before getting started 

The ability to tap into data varies from business to business, and the skills a team has onboarded. But some of the most common customer journey mapping mistakes we see, include: 

1. Not having a clear objective or goal 

Customer journey mapping is often an interesting aspect to business owners and marketers. Most people walk into mapping without an end goal or objective in mind - are you looking at improving your user experience, customer experience or marketing strategy? 

It’s important to note that there is no ‘one’ customer journey map for it all. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself: 

  • What and why do you want to analyze? 
  • What processes do you aim to enhance?
  • Who should own the initiative?
  • What departments to involve?
  • Are there any specific customer segments to look at?
  • How will your company benefit from customer experience improvement?

Note: Ensure you don’t create overlapping or unambiguous goals. Keep them absolutely clear to align all your efforts. 

2. Not doing enough research 

When you don’t do enough research, you end up with a customer journey map that is inconsistent with actual data. It’s important to thoroughly understand the data points you need to cover and where they will come from, to fuel your objective/ goal. Doing things on the fly may increase your spending without getting you insights to get promising results on the investment. 

Here are some ways in which you should be doing your research: 

  • Conduct an internal survey to identify common challenges across departments 
  • Identify how each challenge links to another and the overall impact on the objective 
  • Find industry-related researches and whitepapers relevant to your concern and use case 
  • Conduct interviews and collect customer reviews from different platforms 
  • Pay close attention to what, when, how and why customers interact with your business 
  • Get feedback from consumers who dropped early from the journey 

3. Not having the right perspective 

Another mistake that businesses make even before building a customer journey map is the way they approach it. Walking into building out the map on the basis of what you think a customer’s shopping journey and experience needs to look like, creates a gap in the insights you can derive from it.  

The only way to tackle customer journey mapping with the right perspective is to: 

  • Create a detailed target market definition
  • Segment your target market based on common variables  
  • Identify your ideal customer persona across all segments 
  • Identify their key milestones in a buyer journey 

4. Poorly developed persona 

As mentioned in the mistake above, a lot about not having the right perspective boils down to the personas you have in place. Typically, eCommerce businesses create generic personas to be able to target a wider audience. This hampers their understanding of consumers and what can motivate them to make purchases. 

Here are a few key aspects to cover in your customer personas: 

  • Identify customer demographics 
  • Consider persona expectations 
  • Products and services they make use of 
  • Take note of their goals, challenges, purchase behavior and similar attributes 
  • Their purchase preferences and motivations 

Note: If you’re just getting started with developing customer personas, you can use existing templates to create a base

5. Not covering the entire funnel 

Every online shopper goes through the five stages we mentioned above. But most businesses create a customer journey map that tracks interaction from the point of awareness to purchase only. They do not take into account the post-purchase stage which can make or break repeat sales in the coming period of time. 

Here’s a simple way to ensure you don’t skip on any crucial stage of the customer’s journey with your business: 

  • Understand the eCommerce conversion funnel in totality 
  • Identify the key stages of interaction in the funnel and how you handle them 
  • Make sure your customer journey map is able to highlight each of these stages 
  • Frequently audit and optimize to ensure you’re covering all ground 

6. Not segmenting your map 

Most businesses create a standardized version of a customer journey map for all its buyers. This gives you low to no insights on individual customer segments, leading to optimization strategies that only address one. 

Now customer journey maps are tedious to create and derive actionables from. If you’re low on resources, we recommend starting with customer segments that hold the highest value for your business. This should be both in terms of the number of sales you get from this segment and the overall contribution to the revenue. 

With the mistakes known, you know how to lay the right foundation for your eCommerce customer journey map. So let’s get into how to create a foolproof map for your business. 

Steps to foolproofing your customer journey map (what you’re doing vs what you should be doing) 

While there is no ‘one’ way of creating a customer journey map, we do recommend following a few key steps to ensure you don’t make any of the mistakes above. 

1. Define your buyer persona 

What you’re doing: Many times, eCommerce businesses take into account general demographics of their target market. They believe in reaching out to many and then eventually narrowing down their audience to find their ideal customers. 

What you should be doing: Spend some more time to define your target audience. Instead of going after many, create segments from the general demographic based on more concrete parameters like purchase powers, previous purchases and what motivates them to buy online. The idea is to create narrower targeting out of the audience, so that you can map them better. 

2. Understand your buyer’s goals 

What you’re doing: It’s obvious to assume that all online shoppers have the same goal - to make a purchase for a current need they have. That’s not true as consumers also actively pursue interests from seasonal trends and recommendations, doing research for weeks at length. 

What you should be doing: Once you have the personas ready, dig deeper to understand what consumers want to achieve at each stage of the funnel. For example, researching options, comparing prices to ensure they get the best deals, seeking reviews for reassurance or resources to see how products work in real life. Take micro-conversions into account; they’re as important as the ultimate goal - purchase; this could be in the form of a live chat request, subscription to your newsletter, follow on social media and similar. 

3. Map out buyer touch points 

What you’re doing: A very regular approach to mapping out touchpoints is to see the channels you have activated to engage customers and potential buyers. This means you start taking into account your online and offline channels/ platforms, trying to evaluate how buyers move through them to reach your website and eventually convert. 

What you should be doing: Instead of trying to look at every touchpoint in silos, see how they come together to create an entire shopping experience for your target audience. Categorize your touchpoints in before, during and after purchase journeys; this lets you see how they impact conversions at each stage and how to optimize them better. For example, a live chat may come in handy before, during and after, which makes it a high value touchpoint that needs priority optimization. 

4. Monitor your behavioral flow 

What you’re doing: A lot many times businesses focus on the behavioral flow of visitors on their website. The resort is a great way to see how visitors move through your website, one interaction at a time. They use this flow report as an insight to see the general pattern visitors have while exploring what the business does, trying to optimize for conversions at each step. 

What you should be doing: Don’t just rely on the behavioral flow; make sure you check your goal/ conversion flow report too - this displays the path your visitors take to complete a goal conversion. Examine how different segments of users - first-time visitors, returning visitors, purchases, loyal customers, etc flow through your website towards taking a desired action. 

This helps you see how traffic navigates through your website, but also adds an additional layer of funnel information. You’re able to visualize how visitors move through the funnel, where they tend to drop off or get confused. 

5. Identify customer pain points 

What you’re doing: Businesses look at drop-offs and their bounce rate as indicators of pain points. They then proceed to implement strategies that are targeted more at converting the traffic, contrary to simplifying the experience of the shopper while browsing through the website. 

What you should be doing: Go beyond the basics and look into website heatmaps to identify dwells - this is where your visitors could be spending a lot of time, without taking any desired action. Use these insights to plug in elements that will nudge this visitor to engage with your website; make sure you reduce the number of steps required to explore or make a purchase to simplify buyer journeys. 

6. Analyze the top conversion path 

What you’re doing: Most businesses will look at the customer journey map from a behavioral standpoint; which essentially translates into identifying or taking note of the top traffic pages. They take that as indication of consumer intent, trying to optimize the web pages for more conversions. 

What you should be doing: Instead of looking at top traffic pages alone, you should also look into the Conversions Path report on tools like Google Analytics. This report gives you an insight into what path users take on different channels to reach the top performing page of your website. This helps you optimize their movement through the funnel better, with an understanding of where they came from and how much they know. 

7. Prioritize and fix roadblocks 

What you’re doing: A very normal approach to using insights from the customer journey map, is to try and address everything. From campaigns to web pages, call to actions, automations and more, businesses start looking at fixes for everything. 

What you should be doing: Take a look at aspects of the customer journey that have the highest impact on your conversions, sales, revenue, customer experience or the overall objective/ goal you’re trying to achieve. Create a prioritized list of things to be done to stay strategic about the optimizations you make and be able to measure the impact of all efforts. 

8. Optimize your funnel 

What you’re doing: Owing to the amount of effort that goes into setting up and then creating a customer journey map, most businesses do not alter or optimize their funnel. They follow a standardized approach, only focusing on what they can improve in the same. 

What you should be doing: Don’t be afraid to alter or mold your funnel to meet consumer needs, demands and expectations. Use the insights from the customer journey map to understand consumer psychology, focusing on optimizing the funnel itself to build stronger relationships from the beginning. 

Seems like a lot of work? It is. 

But considering the benefits it has for your business growth, at any scale, the efforts are worth every dime. To make things simpler, we’ve actually created a customer journey map template for eCommerce businesses - remember, this template can serve as a base framework; but you need to optimize it further based on your objectives and goals. 

Here's something for you: 17 Creative (Yet Economical) Ways To Drive Traffic To Your eCommerce Store

Customer journey mapping template for eCommerce businesses 

The following is a template we have created on the basis of what leading global brands use to understand their target audience, customers and keep their conversion funnel optimized. It covers all the key stages we have discussed above, along with the parameters and variables you need to fill in to get a complete picture.  

Customer Journey Mapping 5A's Model

Got your customer journey map ready? 

Well, we have some parting tips for you to keep customers engaged at every stage of the buyer cycle or what we like to call, the conversion funnel. 

Clever ways to engage shoppers at every stage of the eCommerce conversion funnel 

A customer journey map is an in-depth look at everything your business does to reach its target audience, engage them and convert them into customers. It is a reality check into what works, what adds the most value to your growth and how you can optimize it for more positive results. 

While there’s no one-strategy-fits-all approach, we do have some clever hacks to keep consumers engaged at different stages. 

1. At awareness stage 

Reaching the right target audience and driving them to your website is no longer as easy as posting a deal or discount on the products. Your marketing and ad campaigns need to leverage a multi-channel approach and tap into consumer psychology to hook their attention and engage their interest. 

With insights from the customer journey map, look into which channels play a crucial role at the awareness stage. This could be social media or even the search engine! But here are some hacks you should try to get the desired action: 

  • Experiment with different ad formats to explore the impact of visuals on interactiveness 
  • Go beyond demographics; set up targeting based on purchase intent and power, previous purchases 
  • Make your campaigns contextual; replicate the email drip as ad campaigns to walk a consumer through the funnel 
  • Create a clear call to action on your campaigns; and make it extremely simple to engage with 
  • Use social proof; leverage existing product reviews and testimonials to advocate for your brand

2. At consideration stage 

At this point, the buyer is at a stage where they may or may not choose to finally interact with your brand - let alone make a purchase. The only way to keep them engaged here is to fuel their interest with more of what they like. 

Here are some clever ways to keep them hooked to your website: 

  • Display personalized product recommendations strategically - showcase new arrivals on the homepage, but start displaying similar products or complimenting items once you capture the interest of the visitor; keep them browsing with items recommended based on their interactions 
  • Display live sales of the product they are viewing to showcase the demand for it and create a subtle FOMO reaction 
  • Showcase product reviews and ratings - but make sure they’re not just text; make the most of photo and video reviews to offer reassurance 
  • Use dwell time as a trigger to offer shopping assistance via automated live chat; strike a conversation at the right moment 
  • Perfect your product descriptions and visuals - leverage 3D modeling to add depth to your product pages, include FAQs and other details to help equip visitors with all the information they need 
Your one-stop guide for building product pages: Checkout the eCommerce Product Page Guide

3. At acquisition stage  

At this stage, the visitor has products of their interest added to cart and your goal needs to be to move them towards checkout. You want to make sure that the buyer only proceeds forward and doesn’t step back into consideration. 

Here are a few clever ways to keep them engaged at this stage: 

  • Optimize your checkout process for faster conversions 
  • Make sure you offer multiple payment methods (including popular digital wallets) 
  • Set up ‘buy now, pay later’ to remove the last friction between the buyer and the items in the cart 
  • Offer a time-sensitive discount on the cart total (think about the lightning deals offered by Amazon) 
  • Create FOMO on the products in cart with the help of demand indicators (labels like trending, fast-selling, viewed by and so on) 
  • Implement a progress bar to psychologically encourage the visitor to move forward 

4. At service stage  

One of the most important things to ensure post-purchase is to create a seamless experience for the buyers. This includes taking into account different situations like the need for an exchange, return and refund, or simply knowing the order status at any given hour. Here’s what we recommend setting up to keep customers at this stage engaged: 

  • Set up automated order status alerts and the ability to track purchases 
  • Set up an automated sequence to help customers make the most of purchases (sending lookbooks, how-to guides, videos, etc) 
  • Offer a customer portal to easily request refunds, returns, exchanges (instead of the usual approach of contacting support) 
  • Enable multi-channel customer support and service 
  • Leverage AI to enable conversational commerce that keeps customers engaged with recommendations and information to nurture their purchase for a great experience 
You'll love reading: 13 Time-Tested Strategies to Improve Customer Retention in eCommerce

5. At loyalty stage 

This is the point at which your consumers are happy with the interaction they’ve made with your business - this could be a post-purchase experience, or the purchase itself. Now normally, brands try to engage customers with a loyalty program at this stage. But we recommend bringing in a little twist - gamification. 

Gamify your customer loyalty programs to keep the buyer journey exciting. While they’re now aware of what your brand has to offer and the value you bring to them, you still need them to be excited about interacting with you - just like the first time. 

Reward them based on how many interactions they’ve made with you - including purchases, reviews, shares and the smallest of actions. Unlock bigger rewards for higher engagement! 

But at the end of it all, remember to continually monitor the performance of your efforts and how they impact your customer journey map. 

See how each strategy and optimization you set up leads to an interaction from the customer; use data to further optimize your efforts - or even retire those that don’t work. 

Here's more interesting stuff: Build an eCommerce Brand without Splurging: A Founder's Guide

Is the customer journey map really important? 

Consumer expectations and needs are changing by the day. With more competition coming into play, even leading brands need to re-evaluate their strategies to deliver a comprehensive and engaging shopping experience to their buyers.

While there is no dearth of data available to businesses today, a customer journey map offers a strategic approach to aligning that data and understanding consumer expectations better. 

So if you ask us, irrespective of what stage your business is at, a customer journey map is non-negotiable.

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