Understanding the Customer Journey: step-by-step guide

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Shopping is one of the things users do the most while online. If you have an e-commerce website, you must ensure that your customers have a positive and complete experience during the entire period of interaction with your brand. A better understanding and maximization of your Customer’s Journey will allow you to improve that experience.

What is the Customer Journey Map?

The Customer Journey refers to the sequence of experiences and interactions that a user has with a brand or an online store, from the moment (s)he becomes aware of its existence, until the moment (s)he completes a purchase.

If a loyalty relationship is established between the brand and the customer, this journey continues even after the first purchase.

Why is Customer Journey Mapping important?

Visitors and customers of your store form opinions about your services and products based on their experience and interactions with your website.

If you look at these interactions as a journey, and divided it into several stages or phases, it becomes easier to identify what can be improved in each one of them. It’s like always being one step ahead, building a strategic approach and thus guessing customer expectations. This is crucial to optimizing the customer experience, allowing you to allocate more time and effort to its improvement and optimization.

Stages/Phases of the Buyers's Journey

There are several different definitions and opinions about the number of stages of a Customer Journey. In this article, we’ll try to separate and detail each of these stages as much as possible, so that it becomes easier to identify them and work on their optimization. For this reason, we present the 5 stages of the Client’s Journey.

1. Awareness

It occurs when customers discover your brand and your products. This discovery may or may not be intentional. It is considered intentional when it’s the customer itself who searches.  And it’s unintentional when it happens through outbound efforts on behalf of the brand, for example through advertisements on social media or search engines.

Your goals at this first stage of the Journey should be:

  • To provide relevant and accurate information to potential customers
  • To answer questions
  • To show credibility and knowledge
  • To earn the trust of these prospects
  • To arouse interest

2. Consideration

At this stage, the user sees your product or services as useful to satisfy the need (s)he identified. That is, (s)he begins to consider your product as a potential solution to their problems.

The goals in the consideration stage must be:

  • To present your products as a solution
  • To explain its advantages and justify the prices (price/quality ratio)
  • To keep the consumer’s interest, identifying ways to reduce the Bounce Rate
  • To help customers find what they’re looking for

3. Acquisition or Conversion

It occurs when you receive the first order from a customer. This stage can represent the first step towards building a long-lasting relationship with the customer. For this reason, you should pay attention to some important factors such as ease of product selection, clean transactions, good customer service, and access to clear and detailed information about fees, deliveries, and returns.

In addition, you might want to establish goals for this stage:

  • Ensure good customer service
  • Provide the information the customer needs right away.
  • Ship orders as soon as possible
  • Obtain customer contact details such as email

4. Retention

This is the stage where you either manage to retain customers or end up losing them. It’s the right time to nurture your relationship with them, keep them close and make sure they remember you – you can, for example, invest in retargeting ads.

At this stage you should:

  • Ensure that customers stay engaged with the brand
  • Try to gather feedback
  • Make relevant offers – such as sendng an exclusive discount to a customer you want to regain back to your store
  • Make the customer feel that they are part of your brand’s community – encourage them to get involved in your social networks, subscribe to your newsletter and share your blog articles
  • Inform customers when there are news in the store
  • Encourage them to purchase again

5. Advocacy

This is the final stage of the Customer Journey. Your overall goal should be to get all or most of your customers to this stage. If this is not happening, it could mean that you have processes that need to be optimized in the customer retention stage. (Learn more about customer retention in this article)

This is the stage when customers become ambassadors for your brand, are involved in social media, speak highly of your brand on other review sites, and recommend your products to acquaintances. To keep these customers loyal and satisfied, you must:

  • Involve them in product development
  • Reward loyalty – for example, through exclusive coupons or discounts
  • Get recommendations and boost Word Of Mouth
  • Use and share User Generated Content – the content shared organically by these customers about your brand

The quality and optimization of each of these stages determine whether or not potential and current customers will progress to the next phase, depending on their experience in each of them. In other words, as all stages of the Customer Journey are interdependent, it is important that you pay attention to each one of them.

Build your Customer Journey map in 10 steps

The Buyer’s Journey Map is a visual representation of all the possible interactions that the customer can have with your store.  It includes all the instances in which these interactions can occur – experiences from the very beginning to the end, that finish in a purchase or at the advocacy stage, and/or simply unique interactions where a customer makes a purchase but does not evolve in the sales funnel.

These maps allow you to clarify, develop and improve your Customers’ Journey and all the experiences and interactions they have with your brand. In addition to being able to have a clearer view of each stage of the journey, you also have access to an overview, which allows you to send the right content, through the right channels, to the right target audience.

Mapping an optimized Customer Journey increases conversions, revenues, and long-term loyalty.

5 steps customer journey
Customer Journey 5 steps

We explain then, 10 steps how you should proceed:

1. Build consumer personas/profiles

The data you have about customers should be the basis of your map. In its elaboration, you should take into account the different customer segments of your business – it is important that you do not ignore the differences between the segments and you also shouldn’t forget to include personas or profiles that represent them all (or the most relevant ones).

There is some information you can collect from your customers that can help you with this step:

  • What is the problem that motivated them to use/visit your website
  • What other competitor sites they have also visited
  • Why did they choose – or not – to buy your products
  • What did they like about your website
  • What they didn’t like/found frustrating about your website
  • Suggestions about website improvement
  • If their expectations were in line with the experience they had

When creating the personas, you must pay attention to factors such as emotions, desires, and difficulties that the clients have identified during the different stages of the experience.

To make collecting this type of data easier, you can include feedback mechanisms at each stage of the Consumer Journey.

2. Split the Customer Journey into general stages

You can use the stages mentioned above. Whatever structure you choose to shape your map, you should always bear in mind that your goal is to understand the Consumer Experience from beginning to end, that is, from the moment the user identified their problem until the moment they solved it.

3. Set goals for each stage

Establish goals, needs, and desires for each general stage of the Consumer Journey. In this step, you should go back to using the profiles you created in step 1 and set the goals according to the needs that were identified above.

4. Identify the Touchpoints of each stage

You must register all the points where the consumer can interact with your brand. These can occur in different channels, through Outbound Marketing – when consumers are exposed to online and offline advertising and awareness campaigns – and through Inbound Marketing – when they do research, read your brand content, see your posts on the social networks, have contact with customer support, or receive orders.

In this step, you should use analytics to identify the most common touchpoints – it may be helpful to identify unique paths where you place the actions that prospects perform after another specific action – for example, what did prospect X do after opening an email? Or what did prospect Y do after clicking a Facebook ad?

5. Identify the Moments of Truth

Moments of truth happen when a consumer makes an important decision. It is often possible to identify common Moments of Truth in several Customer Journeys: when a potential customer decides to engage with a brand for the first time, when they decide to buy an item, when they use a product and form an overall opinion of the brand and service, and when (s)he decides to re-engage with the brand and buy again.

It is important that you include these moments in your map, as they show you when potential customers are stepping into the various experiences of the Journey.

6. Identify Drop-off Points and Points at which there are objectives completion

First, it’s important to know at which stages or at which touchpoints customers tend to give up and end their journey so that you can optimize them.

Then, you should also understand which contact points make them want to continue throughout the Journey.

7. Gather more feedback

Although you have already collected feedback in the first step, it can be very useful to do it again after you start mapping your Customer Journey, as in this step you should be more aware of the data you may be missing. That way, you’ll get a more complete map.

8. Identify areas for improvement

In this step, you must identify and rank the most problematic areas of your map by importance and make them a priority in terms of improvement.

9. Make comparisons

Try to interpret and compare maps of competitors. Try to understand how your competitors’ Customer Journey is related to yours and make sure you keep updated with what they are doing.

10. Pay attention to new ideas

This tool is great for generating new ideas – why not test them and even implement them?

How to improve the Customer Experience at each stage of the Journey

The goal here is for you to ensure that each stage of your Customer Journey is optimized so that it goes to the next stage. For that, there are some key factors that you should be aware of to improve your Customers’ Journey as a whole:

Check the quality of your website – it should load quickly, be adapted to all types of devices, and have a good navigation performance, ie it should be divided into sections and subsections and have a search bar.

Remember, guide users with a simple Call To Action.

In addition, there are some things you can optimize or apply in each stage:

  • In order for potential customers to have a positive experience in the Awareness stage and move on to the next stage, create relevant content and ensure your brand is active on social media, leveraging engagement. (We recommend the following article: ABC of Content Marketing)
  • To optimize the Consideration stage, try to include detailed information about your products, high-quality photographs/images that show every detail (you can even include a 360º viewing on the website), and provide a chatbot so that the potential customer does not have any doubts.
  • In the Acquisition stage, pay attention to the number of abandoned carts and canceled orders. (Learn how to recover abandoned carts in this article) If these factors have a significant number, use email and chatbots to communicate directly with the customer.
  • To leverage the Retention Stage and ensure that your customers become advocates for your brand, follow their buying habits, and don’t forget to send them the appropriate content. For example, if you find that a certain customer has not placed an order for some time, send them a reactivation email.

    Want to sell more with email marketing? Read these 4 tips that don’t fail

  • So that clients remain loyal and get through the advocacy stage, makes them feel special. You can send exclusive discounts, personal referral codes, organize VIP events and create relevant posts on social media to encourage engagement and sharing.

In order to improve the customer experience with your brand, you must act based on metrics – to know which metrics to track, continue reading this article.

4 important metrics

By analyzing these 4 metrics, you will be able to identify what you are doing well and what you should improve:

  1. Number of visitors – You must control how many visitors your website has and how they got there. This data will tell you if you should, for example, invest in ads, on social media or improve your website keywords.
  2. Abandon or Bounce Rate – You should pay attention to this rate and check on which pages present the highest number of website abandonment. With this data, you can understand if there are products that customers find more interesting than others and if there are pages on your website that need changes and optimization.
  3. Conversions – In e-commerce, conversions are usually represented by purchases.
  4. Average orders per customer – with this data, you’ll be able to communicate the right content to the right customer, understand who your loyal customers are, and nurture those relationships.

Your e-commerce website must be optimized focused on your customers. By learning more about their experiences, behaviors, and needs throughout the Journey, you can guarantee them a simpler and clearer path, increasing your store’s success and customer satisfaction.