mapping the customer journey in ecommerce

The Importance of Mapping the Customer Journey in Ecommerce

Whether you’re welcoming an influx of new customers from Black Friday and Cyber Monday or planning for growth next quarter, it’s always a good time to assess how new customers fit into your ecommerce brand’s overall marketing goals.

Because every one of your customers is unique, it’s difficult to adjust your marketing outreach to each of their individual needs. But you can design an all-encompassing customer journey map for your buyers using individual campaigns to lead them down the path to purchasing—and ultimately to customer loyalty.

The trick is to set up enough structure within each campaign so that your new customers keep progressing through the lifecycle, while also being cautious not to flood them with too many messages. Easier said than done, right?

mapping the customer journey in ecommerce

By mapping out the eight parts of the customer lifecycle (five for pre-purchase, three for post-purchase), you can engage personally with each buyer using the right message at the right time. We’ll go into how you should market to them at each stage, from the initial touchpoint to the umpteenth purchase.

Pre-purchase engagements

1. Awareness

From the moment a potential customer first interacts with your brand, they’ve entered this first stage of the customer journey. Whether they’ve come across one of your tweets or are just leisurely browsing your ecommerce website, shoppers should have a basic understanding of what you do and sell at this point.

The question is: How are you portraying your brand image? Is it obvious what your product is and does? Does your message stand out in a noisy ecommerce market? Making a strong first impression is the best way to coax passive browsers into actually looking at one of your products.

mapping the customer journey in ecommerce

Based solely on their Instagram account, Away makes it easy to tell who they are as an ecommerce brand. Beyond that, they convey a brand image that’s as sleek and modern as their popular line of luggage. If you stumbled across their account, chances are you’d know pretty quickly whether or not you’d want to look further into their products.

2. Interest

Woohoo! Your buyer-to-be has indicated interest in your product by interacting with your brand on some level. This means they’ve moved onto the next step and are that much closer to making a purchase.

How you define “interest” is entirely up to you based on your marketing goals and your brand’s strengths. If social media is a big outreach tool for you, maybe it looks like a follow on Instagram. Perhaps it’s an email newsletter signup or even a “like” on a YouTube video.

mapping the customer journey in ecommerce

Regardless of the different channels you prioritize, letting people opt into the cadence they prefer to hear from you (do they want to subscribe to all of your marketing emails, or just to your newsletter?) will help contribute to a positive customer experience leading up to their first purchase. Also, it’s a good idea to keep your marketing at this stage lightweight and entertaining. After all, buyers are still just getting to know your brand.

3. Consideration

If your customers take their first real steps toward brand engagement in the “interest” stage, it’s the “consideration” stage that proves they’re super engaged. Often, this will manifest in a buyer viewing a product page more than once, which you can see within your B2C CRM. This will tip you off that they’re seriously considering buying it. Hang tight—they’re so close to becoming a customer!

mapping the customer journey in ecommerce

At this point, it’s a great opportunity to try out a browse abandonment campaign or retargeting campaign (more on both of those later). Marketing a bit more aggressively to your audience will hopefully drive them to the next stage in the ecommerce customer journey.

4. Intent

Intent is a clear signal that someone is about to buy. When shoppers put one of your products in their shopping carts, they move into this category. From there, it’s time to spring into action and trigger a targeted campaign that ensures you don’t miss out on an engaged customer.

This is where cart abandonment campaigns first come into play. Although you can run them in practically any stage of the customer journey moving forward, they can be especially effective in converting the initial sale.

mapping the customer journey in ecommerce

Here’s an example we received from Black Diamond just a few hours after leaving an item in our cart. Notice how they play up the fear of missing out? A convincing cart abandonment email does just that, all with the hopes of getting shoppers to return their carts and complete that purchase after all.

5. No purchase

If a customer-to-be somehow decides not to buy (although we’re crossing our fingers that that’s not the case), all hope is not lost. You can still incentivize purchases through upselling and cross-selling campaigns, or take advantage of social media ads if retargeting is a part of your marketing strategy.

There is also another opportunity to use real-time browse abandonment campaigns like Williams-Sonoma does here with their “Recently Viewed” tab. A customer’s browsing session is a great opportunity to reach out with a notification, whether that’s in the form of a dynamic sidebar, a web push message, or some other pop-up. At the end of the day, no one knows better than you which different channels matter most to your target buyer personas.

mapping the customer journey in ecommerce

Post-purchase engagements

6. One purchase

Now that all of your marketing efforts have paid off, put on a party hat and celebrate your hard-earned victory—you’ve officially acquired a new customer!

But as always in ecommerce marketing, there’s still work to be done. Once you’ve acquired them, your next goal is to grow their customer lifetime value (CLTV).

Learn more about CLTV

Think about your target customer. What steps can you take to further engage them and earn a second purchase? This might come in the form of a loyalty program, which you can encourage them to join to purchase additional, related products.

For instance, as a HotelTonight customer, I get tailored recommendations based on where I’m about to travel. No matter where I’m heading, they’re always one step ahead of me, offering suggestions that fit my criteria based on past purchases. Not only that, but their recommendations also show how I stand to benefit as a member of their rewards program (again, more on that later).

mapping the customer journey in ecommerce

7. Repeat

Whew, you’ve jumped over the hurdle of getting your new customer to make a repeat purchase. Clearly, they’re a big fan of your brand and product if they’re already showing signs of customer loyalty.

That’s why now might be a good time to ask them to write a review. Not only does this help to build your brand’s social proof (which potential customers love seeing when they’re in the consideration stage), but it also gives you a chance to offer an incentive as a reward. A free gift, a shout-out on social media, a discount code… any of these could encourage your repeat customers to become three-or-four-time buyers.

mapping the customer journey in ecommerce

Yet again, HotelTonight provides a great example of how to make this low-pressure ask in a post-purchase email.

8. Loyal

Here at Zaius, we define loyal customers as those who’ve made three or more purchases; it’s a simple way to qualify your best—and often highest-paying—customers.

Whether or not you stick to this definition, there’s no denying that loyal customers are the lifeblood of your brand. It’s pretty hard to sustain your ecommerce business on single-purchase customers alone, especially if those purchases are heavily discounted.

Which is why we recommend offering discounts only when your customers have moved into the final stage of the ecommerce customer journey. It’s a nice way to say “thanks” for reaching this milestone.

Plus, you can use dynamic content to personalize their shopping experience even more. Whenever I get an email from Sephora, I can immediately tell that they know me. OK, they might not know what I ate for breakfast or where I’m heading on my next vacation. But as it relates to their brand, they know what I like to buy based on my previous purchases. Because of that, they make sure to include products that I’m really into, along with special offers that coincide with how many points I have as a member of their Beauty Insider program. How’s that for loyalty perks?

mapping the customer journey in ecommerce

There you have it! The entire ecommerce customer lifecycle in eight steps. We won’t pretend this is easy to do, but it is vital to your brand’s success. When you’re using the same cadence for every shopper who comes in contact with your brand, it makes it that much easier to measure how effective your marketing is and continue to improve.

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