A Beginners Guide To The E-Commerce Customer Journey

A Beginners Guide To The E-Commerce Customer Journey
Oh yeah! Someone just stumbled onto your website after a google search. You sell the product they want. Get ready to hear the cha-ching of money hitting you bank account….
… any moment now …
… oh they’ve left? But I thought they wanted that product?
We’ve all had this happen. Frustrating isn’t it! In fact, if you’ve got a pretty standard conversion rate (read more about conversion rates here) about 98% of visitors to your online store won’t buy anything.
Urgh that sucks – why are they looking at my site then?!
Well it’s all part of the customer journey. You can read all about the mythical customer transformation from window shopper to fanatic multi-purchaser below.

How Many Times Does Your Business Need To Say "Hello"?

Did you know that it takes a customer multiple “touches” to become a paying customer? A “touch” is old school marketing talk for “seeing you all over the place, and getting to know your business better”.
It makes sense right… a person needs to get to know you, your trust-worthiness and your products before they are ready to hand over their hard earned moola.
Building a rapport with potential customers takes time – how many times a customer needs make contact with your brand is up for debate. A lot of people say seven times and for the sake of not spending the rest of this article discussing numbers, I’ll stick with that. Of course, every customer is different.

What Is A Customer Journey?

Basically, the customer journey is the steps a customer takes from the moment they become aware of your businesses existence, to purchasing from you, and onwards to becoming a loyal brand advocate.
A Beginners Guide To The E-Commerce Customer Journey

How Many Steps Are There?

Depending on your business model and the level of customer journey complexity, anywhere from three to a million.

I personally like a five step approach, although I’m not sure why.

Hey ho, lets dive into them…

Step One: Awareness

This is the stage a future customer discovers you for the first time.

Perhaps a friends tells them to check out your store, or your facebook advert catches their attention. They could have searched on google and your website popped up… really there are sooooo many ways a customer can discover you.
As a side note, diving deeper into the ways your customers have found your online store can help you spend your time and money on your best marketing channels. I’ll dive deeper into that another time though.
In this stage in the journey, the potential customer is aware they have a need or want. During the research process they’ve discovered your business/product MIGHT be able to help.
This stage is REALLY important because it’s the FIRST IMPRESSION.
You’ve got milliseconds to make that customer feel enough trust to be comfortable getting to know your brand better. This is where website design & speed, and great product photos are key – the better they are, the more chance you have of building rapport with this potential new customer.
It’s during this stage of the customer journey you want to deliver information that show’s you understand the problem or preference your visitor has and that you know how or what will fix it.
It’s all about delivering expert information and amazing resources that’ll show your expertise, helping build trust.
Joe wants to buy new bed sheets but he doesn’t have a clue about thread count.
Joe googles “which thread count is best” and your website pops up (you sell bed sheets obvs).
On your online store’s blog, Joe finds a really amazing post discussing everything he needs to know about thread count. He appreciates your expertise and now knows what he’s looking for.
He’s not sure on colour yet, so he leaves your website for the time being.
Yes, he didn’t buy that time… but now he knows you exist AND that your an expert in the product.
Joe is ready to move onto step 2 of the customer journey.

Step Two: Consideration

In this stage your potential customer has narrowed down their search. They have a clearer idea of what they want and the top options in terms of where to purchase – your online store or one of your competitors.
Now, you’ve already helped them out by providing valuable information and expertise so you have a head start.
But, there are lots of other things for your potential customer to consider such as price, business reputation and product reviews. The potential customer is judging your store against all the other options available.
This is where you have to be clear about what you can offer the customer. 
  • Are your products a better quality?
  • Are your products priced fairly?
  • Do they know (and care) that your an independent business?
  • Will they get more value by shopping with you – better returns policy, personalisations, free gift wrapping etc?
  • Do you have more good honest reviews than your competitors?
  • Can they easily ask you questions either via social media or your customer service channels?
In this stage you are alleviating all of the possible worries a customer might have about purchasing through your online store.
Joe decides he wants grey bed sheets.
While he was making up his mind he saw your facebook advert a couple of times and heard from a friend who’d shopped with you that they’d been happy with your service.
He does another online search and is presented with hundreds of sheet options including the grey ones you sell.
One of you competitors sells similar sheets at a cheaper price. But, the reviews show many previous customers have been disappointed by the quality of their products.
Another competitor has a bigger selection of grey sheets but they are a big faceless business and Joe prefers to support independent businesses.
He returns to your site as he feels you know what your talking about. He trusts your expertise, and after checking the reviews and price he’s feeling good about buying from you.

Step Three: Acquisition

Whoop whoop! You have a new customer.
They made the decision to purchase from you above your competitor… let’s not make them regret it!
This is where your checkout process needs to be smooth and distraction free. Your customer has their credit card at the ready and as long as there’s nothing that’ll turn them off, you’ll soon have a fresh new sale on your dashboard.
Okay – that is worth a happy dance!

Step Four: Service

Getting that customer took some serious effort and time didn’t it.
Probably best not to disappoint them. This stage of the customer journey is all about confirming to the customer that they made the right decision.
Have you ever bought something, and even though you spent AGES deliberating and researching, once you actually spent the money you felt creeping doubt enter your soul?  Also known as buyer’s remorse, this is where the customer starts to wonder if they really did make the right choice.
Here is where you want to alleviate your new customers worries, providing them with all the reassurance they need.
This starts from having an order confirmation email whizz straight to their inbox after the purchase, and carries on through the delivery process.
Providing shipping updates is a great way to keep customers minds at rest while their order is enroute.
And it doesn’t stop there. A few days after the customer receives the item it’s always good to drop them another email to confirm everything arrived ok and they are happy with their purchase. This is a really proactive way to head off any possible issues and the customer with appreciate your dedication to amazing service.
Joe ordered from you, but having never bought from you before starts to wonder if your actually a massive bedsheet scam artist!
Thankfully he then see’s a receipt email in his inbox confirming all his purchase and delivery address details, alongside your contact details if he needs to get in touch about anything.
He then receives email updates showing that the delivery company now has his order and a way to track it’s progress.
Joe feels relieved.
Joe unexpectedly goes out of town and the delivery driver drops his parcel to a neighbour. Joe has other things on his mind when he returns and he forgets about his parcel.
Your email asking if everything arrived ok turns up soon after, and Joe remembers he should have received his order by now. He hits reply to let you know he doesn’t have his package yet.
You then double check with the delivery driver to confirm where it was left, and pass the information on to Joe.
Joe is thankful for your help, and is pleasantly surprised by the handwritten thankyou note he finds in his package. The sheets are perfect and that night Joe sleeps really well.

Step Five: Loyalty

Oh step five is my favourite 🙂

This is where that first-time customer starts to come back time and time again because they know you’re a really great business!
From that first time they shopped on your store, and you met and exceeded all their expectations. You’ve kept in contact and been right there whenever they need your products and services.
Because they are your ideal customer, it’s like all the email newsletters you send are written just for them (more on defining your ideal customer here). They appreciate being told about the limited edition items before anyone else, and your tone of voice speaks to them directly. You have nurtured your relationship and when it comes time for them to shop again they have no doubts about purchasing through your online store.
They even begin to recommend your products to friends and family, and share images of your products in use on their social accounts.
Oh yeah, you just bagged yourself a brand advocate! 
Time for more happy dancing 🙂
You can encourage customers to become brand advocates by pro-actively asking them for their reviews. Let them know just how important it is when they recommend you to others (and how much you love them for doing it), and don’t be shy about asking for photos showing your products in their home.
When customers become brand advocates they feel part of your company, and your success becomes something they can be proud of.
I would love to hear about how you’ve taken potential customers on a journey through your business, all the way to them becoming brand advocates. Share your stories in the comments below.
Chat soon
Elizabeth Drew

Elizabeth Drew

Elizabeth Drew is a British e-commerce entrepreneur and coach. She is the owner of online scented candle retailer Osmology and is passionate about helping women realise their online business goals.

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Elizabeth Drew

Elizabeth Drew

Elizabeth Drew is a British e-commerce entrepreneur and coach. She is the owner of online scented candle retailer Osmology and is passionate about helping women realise their online business goals.

Recent Posts

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