As an e-commerce store owner or marketer, you have a million things on your plate, and you know that trying to juggle everything means that some things slip through the cracks.
But when it comes to driving traffic and converting customers – and ultimately making loads of sales– taking time to map your customer journey can pay big dividends.
In this article well take you through step-by-step on how to create a customer journey map, and give you a framework to measure where your customers are on their journey with your store.
What is a customer journey map?
One of the world’s greatest social media marketing thought leaders, Lilach Bullock, summed it the importance of understanding your customer and their journey perfectly.
“Understanding the buyer journey is the key to becoming a great digital seller,” Lilach explains. “The better you understand your customers, the better you can reach out to them with personalized messages they can relate to.”
Just like a customer visiting a brick and mortar store who takes a very literal journey to a shopping destination, browses options, and makes a purchase, e-commerce customers also take their own path to making a purchasing decision. How long this journey takes and the touch points along the way will vary, but every purchase, no matter how small, can be mapped.
The customer journey map begins with a customer’s first recognition of a need for your product and goes right through to their purchase, including all touchpoints they have with your brand.
Why make a customer journey map?
I know what you’re thinking; this sounds like A LOT of work! And it is, but it’s time well spent.
Imagine a world where all of your customer’s questions are answered before they think of them. Or knowing how many prospective customers you have and how close they are to a purchase. Imagine being able to help move customers closer towards a purchase through the use of automation. Imagine knowing your probable return on investment for marketing campaigns before you launch them.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well grab your whiteboard and some pens and let’s map your customer journey!
Creating your customer journey map
And no, I’m not joking. The absolute best way to start your journey map is to use a whiteboard or pens and paper and simply brainstorm. Or even better, download our handy template!
To start your map, divide it into four sections; awareness, consideration, decision, and purchase. These will be distinct phases which show how close your prospect is to becoming a customer.
Stage 1 – Awareness
The awareness stage is a customer’s first recognition of their problem they need to solve through a purchase.
Within this stage you will need to identify:
- – The problem(s) the customer is trying to solve
- – How your product is the solution
- – How customers become aware of your solution
What problem the customer is trying to solve may be simple, or quite complex. A product can also be the solution to more than one problem, so try to list as many as you can.
For example, a high-quality pen may be purchased to add to a collection, as a gift, or by a customer who requires it for their work. All three are distinct problems which require very different messaging.
This brings us to how your product is the solution. Staying with the pen example, your product might be limited edition and highly collectible, it is stylish and presented in a beautiful box making it perfect as a gift, and may have a new style of tip which is highly sort after by graphic designers.
Three very different solutions to three very different problems; but all solved by a single product.
Now we go back into the shoes of the customer. They are aware of their problem, how do they begin finding a solution? And more specifically, how do they become aware of your solution?
Write down all the different ways a customer can find you. This can include search, advertising (be sure to include all different types), social media, product reviews, word of mouth, and blog articles. Knowing where and how a buyer becomes aware of your solution is vital for the next stage.
Stage 2 – Consideration
In the consideration stage, the customer is researching the available alternatives to find the best solution to their problem. In general, the higher the value of the purchase, the more time they will spend in the consideration stage and the more research they will conduct. Think about how much time you spent purchasing your last home or car compared to when you last bought chewing gum.
In this stage you will need to map:
- – What criteria they assess alternatives on
- – How long this consideration will be and whether it is tied to the calendar or events
- – What content you have to help them with this assessment.
Unfortunately, there is no golden rule on the criteria alternatives are assessed on as this will vary wildly from product to product. If possible, it is also a good idea to rank the importance of the different criteria, so that you can prioritize messaging to appeal to your product attributes customers find most important.
Regardless of your product knowledge, it is worth taking the time to seek out research reports. These reports can bring a fresh perspective, and also measure the importance of different criteria against each other.
Some examples of basic criteria include:
- – Price
- – Shipping cost
- – Delivery time
- – Colours available
- – Quality
- – Warranty
But remember, your product will have much more specific attributes it is assessed on.
Again, this will differ greatly depending on your product, and may not be linear.
It’s important here to also make note of an important calendar dates or event to which your product is tied. You might have a product predominately used in summer like swimwear, or you might sell costumes which spike around Halloween. Products in a fitness niche might also spike in summer months as people try to get their beach body, as well as when people make New Year’s resolutions.
But in general, you will want to know:
- – How long customers will be considering alternatives
- – If you’ll have time to nurture them, or if it’s an instant purchase
- – What times of year your sales peak, and what is the consideration around those times
Content to help with assessment
Your list of assessment criteria and time will give you exactly the information your prospects are looking for, at the time they need it. Now it’s time to see if you help prospects with the criteria, and find where you can improve.
Below is an example of an assessment of a pen used in our previous example. As you can see, we audit the criteria against our current content and identify potential improvements. The importance of the criteria also gives us a handy priority list for content creation.
Criteria Importance Current content Potential content Price Low – Price listed on product page
– Price listed on display ads
– Price comparison box listed in blog article
Well covered Exclusivity High – Number available listed on product page – Exclusive nature to be added to display ads
– Blog article about exclusive collectible pens
– Email added to nurture linking to blog post
Quality Very high – Quality mentioned on product page
– Customer reviews listed on product page
– Creation of testimonials from influencers
– Product comparison blog post with competitors
– Added to display add messaging
Presentation box Medium – Box picture available on product page – Unboxing video to be added to product page and YouTube channel
Stage 3 – Decision
Your prospective customer has made a decision to buy, now you need to convince them that you are the best solution.
It’s here in the decision stage that you and your business are the important factors. The final decision here comes down to how and why you best meet their needs, and whether they can trust you to deliver.
While we talked a lot about product attributes in the consideration stage, here we want to highlight everything that supports the product. These can be signs of trust as well as special bonuses and add-ons.
Signs of trust
- – Warrantees
- – Return policy
- – Terms of service
- – Secure website and checkout
- – Testimonials
- – Fast/guaranteed delivery
- – Free shipping
- – Discounts or coupons
- – Referral program
- – Loyalty program
- – Product bundles
This list is by no means exhaustive, but are all indicators to a prospect that your store is trustworthy and a preferred option. When completing your mapping, list all decision-making factors you currently provide, along with where they are featured on your website.
Feature Type Located Warranty Sign of trust Product page, shopping cart Terms of service Sign of trust Footer Free delivery Product add-on In FAQs
Often, you may find that with some tweaking you’ll be able to better highlight these features and make the decision even easier for your prospects.
But remember! Not all criteria are suitable for all products. So, don’t go adding things like free shipping or extensive warrantees if it’s not practical to do so.
Stage 4 – Purchase
Congratulations! Your prospect has chosen your store and is ready to become a customer.
But don’t get too excited just yet, because they still have to make it through the purchasing process. And if you need any more proof that you haven’t landed the sale, just think about how many abandoned carts your store has, or how many times you’ve walked away from an online purchase at the last minute.
Like the decision stage, here it’s important to look at all the reasons why a prospect won’t complete their purchase. And I’ve got bad news for you, there are A LOT of reasons they won’t.
Again, the best course of action at this stage is to simply list and rate your store’s current performance against the criteria. While it’s great to pass with flying colors, you’d be surprised at the to-do list this can help generate.
- – Is your site easy to navigate?
- – Is it easy to add products to the shopping cart?
- – Is it easy to find the checkout?
- – Is live chat available for final questions?
- – Is it easy to find contact details for questions?
- – Does the site load within 4 seconds?
- – Is the checkout intuitive?
- – Are there minimal steps in the checkout?
- – Are the payment options easy and accessible to most customers?
- – Are there payment surcharges?
- – Do you ask for excess customer information?
- – Do you offer discounts at the checkout?
- – Do you recommend related products at the checkout?
- – Do you follow up abandoned carts with an email?
- – Do you offer discounts to abandoned carts?
- – Do you retarget abandoned carts with display advertising?
- – Do you email a purchase confirmation?
- – Is it easy to get support after your purchase?
- – Can customers track their order?
- – Do you add customers to an email list?
- – Do you offer discounts to repeat customers?
Remember! Customer journeys are rarely linear, so the more you can guide and encourage them to make a purchase the better. Just because they don’t make a purchase the first time, doesn’t mean they’re lost forever!
Stage 5 – Developing your action plan
While completing your customer journey map you’ll inevitably uncover areas to improve your store. This doesn’t mean your current store is bad, just that with some tweaks you can increase your traffic and conversions.
However, it’s also a good idea here to be realistic with the improvements you can make. If you have a list as long as your arm of things to complete, you’re likely to get overwhelmed and not do any of them, no matter how good an idea you think they are.
How to develop your action plan:
- Review your customer journey map and highlight – literally if you can – areas for improvement
- Create a table with three columns; short term, medium term, long term
- In short term, list three quick improvements you can make within the next week. These can be as simple as adding buttons, lines of text, or pages to menu items
- In medium term, list three actions you would like to take in the next month along with completion deadlines. These should be projects that take an hour or more.
- In long term, list three actions you would like to take in the next six months along with completion deadlines. These will be projects that will take a long time, or, are lower priority. These can also be perfect for outsourcing, or if you need to conduct extensive research before completing
- Schedule a day in your calendar in six-months’ time to review your customer journey map, update it with your improvements, and create your next action list.
Measuring customers on their journey
Not only does your customer journey map provide you with a list of actionable improvements, it also gives you a framework to assess where prospective customers are in their buying journey with you. And depending on the software you have available, you may even be able to judge this down to an individual level.
The key to understanding where a customer is on their journey is measuring their engagement. In general, the more engaged a customer is, the more likely they will be to make an initial purchase, and come back again and again.
However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that post reach and raw website traffic are signs of customers moving through their journey. Engagement is when a prospect actively and voluntarily takes and action. If they email your customer service that’s a sign of engagement, if they scroll past your post in their Facebook feed, not so much.
Types of engagement
The types of engagement you will want to measure depends on your product, and the type of customer you have.
If you have a high-value or B2B product, prospects will spend a lot of time moving towards their purchase and have many signs of engagement. On the other hand, for some smaller purchases, something as simple as a social media follow can be a strong indicator of purchase intent.
Key signs of buyer engagement
- – Returning to your website
- – Visiting landing pages
- – Referencing your products or content in their own posts
- – Sending emails or messages to your store
- – Calling customer service
- – Following on social media
- – Engagement on social media
- – Signing up to email list
- – Downloading white paper
- – Clicking an email
- – Opening an email
- – Writing a comment on your blog
- – Attending a webinar
- – Attending a trade show or event
- – Spending a long time on a page
- – Downloading an app
Tracking buyer engagement
As you can see from the examples above, different types of engagement require varying degrees of effort on the part of the prospect and should be weighted accordingly. The weighting will also be considerably different depending on your product and its cost.
For example, attending a webinar or event should be considered a much higher sign of engagement than opening an email.
There are several ways in which you can track user engagement using apps you might already own:
- – Marketing automation platforms – like Marketo – offer heat scoring which allows you to assign numerical scores to actions, which is then attributed to your prospect. This lets you see how engaged individuals are, as well as how many customers are at each stage of the journey.
- – Google Analytics allows you to set conversion goals which track the number of prospects to complete actions. Here you can measure metrics like time on page, pages visited, repeat visits, downloads, and visiting specific pages.
- – Social media platforms like Hootsuite and Facebook Insights will provide you with details on the number of people to complete actions on your social media platforms, as well as track whether these engagements are trending upwards.
But never forget to engage the right audience! Don’t get bogged down in vanity metrics, you want to spend your resources on potential customers.
Download your free customer journey map
If you would like some help creating your own customer journey map, download your free PDF template. Simply print it out, fill in the blanks, stick your action list on the wall, and watch your conversions skyrocket!
Starting a digital analytics journey can be exciting and intimidating for businesses of all sizes. With literally thousands of apps available to crunch numbers and seemingly endless spreadsheets of data to analyse, it can be difficult to know where to even start.
But few know better than analytics guru Stéphane Hamel how to set up a data roadmap. As one of the most influential thought leaders in the industry, we recently asked him how anyone can take the first step toward data-driven success.
Stéphane has helped many businesses begin their analytics journey but stresses the importance of being realistic with expectations and planning.
“Of course, when we envision a new project, we dream of the best, idealistic scenario where we will achieve a 360-degree view of our customers, merge all data sources, have supper fancy dashboards, sprinkle some machine learning and artificial intelligence on it and achieve new heights.
“Sounds unreal? It is, of course. I have seen and witnessed my fair share of managers and analysts who were sold a dream that didn’t materialize – leading to wasted time, money, and high churn amongst highly sought for data-savvy people.”
Know your starting point
Perhaps the most important jumping off point with a new digital analytics strategy is understanding your current position. This not only lets you understand your internal capabilities but also identify areas for improvement.
Conducting an assessment – like Stéphane’s own Digital Analytics Maturity Model – is the perfect jumping-off point before developing your strategy.
It means you can set the foundations right and have a lot of opportunities ahead.
“Think of it as a SWOT assessment for your own digital analytics capabilities,” explained Stéphane. “At the end of the exercise, what’s most important isn’t the score you will get, but the inclusion of the team right from the start to build a course of action that everyone will be able to embark on, and at the same time, avoid costly mistakes of going in the wrong direction.”
However, it’s important to remember not to get hung-up on any score you receive.
“Finding out you are at a lower maturity level isn’t a problem at all,” stressed Stéphane, “it means you can set the foundations right and have a lot of opportunities ahead.”
Fail to plan, plan to fail
Even the briefest of research into digital analytics will make anyone excited at the prospect of using any number of fancy new tools to track and measure data. But before signing up for a single account, Stéphane recommends putting in the groundwork to establish your strategy and measures of success.
“Tools are great and powerful and can give a sense of quick accomplishment,” said Stéphane, “but, have you thought about your audiences, segments, and personas?”
To begin your strategy, Stéphane recommends:
- Mapping your customer life-cycle, including key online activities at each step
- Defining your business objectives
- Identifying which online activities are the strongest signals of contributing to business objectives
“Then comes the instrumentation – aka tagging,” explained Stéphane. “But even then, don’t try to do it all at once – embrace an agile approach where you will gradually refine and improve the quality and amount of tracking.”
Speaking of tools
The latest Chiefmartec Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2017) includes over 5,000 tools and service providers for digital marketers, with a healthy number devoted entirely to analytics. “I’m very confident your business needs aren’t so exceptional that none of those 5,000+ solutions can answer them,” laughed Stéphane.
“The key is this: start small, be agile, don’t be afraid of experimenting. And don’t forget, errors are part of the learning process too!”
Three free tools Stéphane’s recommended for your analytics:
- Google Analytics – to analyze your website traffic. It’s free, easy to use, enjoys a very strong user community and tons of learning resources, and a rich ecosystem of 3rd party tools.
- MailChimp – to manage email campaigns and marketing automation. Includes integration with e-commerce platforms to help with reporting and automation.
- Google Data Studio – to bring your data together and create all-in-one dashboards.
Reporting and measurement
With a strategy in place, measurements to report against, and the tools to do the job, it’s time to begin analyzing and reporting on your data.
For Stéphane, how often this should happen depends on two elements; your customer lifecycle and your organizational agility.
“If you can’t act on daily data, it might be wiser to think in terms of weeks, or even months,” explained Stéphane. “Rest assured there is no correlation between digital analytics maturity and the size of the organization. A small business is often more agile and isn’t engulfed in internal politics.”
You need to have ownership of the data, at all time, no excuse, never, ever!
The responsibility of reporting and analysis should also be carefully considered. Stéphane recommends ensuring that this job is given to a staff member with knowledge of, and training in analytics, and also encourages engaging external data agencies while building internal capabilities.
“I’m a strong advocate of outsourcing the ramp-up process to an agency or independent consultant who will be willing to share their knowledge with your internal team member whom you would like to become your expert.”
But he also has a word of warning for those outsourcing their analytics.
“Work collaboratively and with open books. And super important – you need to have ownership of the data, at all time, no excuse, never, ever!”
Your digital analytics steps to success
- Be realistic with your expectations
- Map your customer life-cycle, including key online activities at each step
- Define your business objectives
- Identify which online activities are the strongest signals of contributing to business objectives
- Find the best tools for the job, and don’t be afraid to start small
- Identify realistic measurement and reporting periods based on your customer journey and organizational capabilities
- Identify individuals responsible for measurement and reporting, and upskill or outsource if necessary
Understand the fundamentals of digital analytics in this free sample lesson
Join Stéphane for an 8-minute sample lesson, Fundamentals of Digital Analytics. Learn about the different aspects and types of analytics, and how they can be used within your business to measure and improve your success. Simply enter your details to immediately begin the obligation-free lesson.
Quick links for more information and resources
- The Digital Analytics Maturity Model – to assess your current strengths and capabilities
- Radical Analytics Manifesto – a series of articles written by Stéphane around digital analytics
- Advanced Web Analytics Training – learn how to create your own digital analytics strategy with Stéphane
- DaVinci Tools – Google Analytics browser extension created by Stéphane