The eCommerce customer journey does not start when somebody arrives at your website and does not end when they buy your products or services.

In fact, the start of that journey can happen long before they ever visit your site and can continue through the delivery and returns process, and into subsequent orders from the same customer.

To maximise your sales, revenues and profits, it’s important to maximise the customer journey at every stage, from positive brand perception and awareness to simple returns policies and aftersales support.

Here are some of the key stages in the customer journey and how to maximise your performance at each step along the way.

Landmark levels along the customer journey

Broadly speaking, the customer journey can be broken down into five landmark levels or significant stages:

  1. Brand or product awareness and arrival on your website
  2. Browsing your eCommerce site and choosing to purchase
  3. Checkout, delivery and immediate problems (e.g. broken/wrong item/wrong size)
  4. Aftersales service and support (e.g. returns, replacement, refunds)
  5. Customer loyalty, user reviews, newsletter signups and reorders

At each of these stages, there are many ways to interact with the customer, from your initial marketing efforts, SEO, PPC ads and newsletter, through to your website or app, eCommerce platform, delivery fulfilment and the ways you keep in touch after checkout.

Not all interactions may begin positively – you could receive a customer complaint or a negative review on social media – but by responding constructively, you can often resolve a negative situation, retain the customer, and even gain a new brand ambassador.

Optimise omnichannel eCommerce

Of course, the customer journey is not limited only to online interactions, so make sure you maintain the same high standards across all the different channels you use.

This includes departments whose main area of expertise is not customer service, such as accounts and legal, as well as delivery companies who represent you in-person when transporting goods to the customer’s address.

As your operations become more complex, it becomes more difficult to track performance across all your different channels, and especially to understand how those channels interact with one another.

A customer journey map is a good way to make sense of the end-to-end process, by breaking down customer interactions into time frames based on the landmark stages listed above, or sensible equivalents for your business.

Set goals and reports

For each step in your customer cycle, set goals for your business, and understand the customer’s goals too, for example:

Stage Customer Goal Business Goal
Marketing Find products and stay informed Mailing list opt-in and social media follows
Conversion Buy useful and beautiful products and services Maximise order size and complete checkout
Aftersales Troubleshoot problems and buy add-ons/accessories Maximise positive reviews and follow-up sales

Your customer journey map can be much more complex than this, and not every customer will interact with every stage.

For example, some customers might arrive directly at your website after hearing about you through positive word of mouth, instead of finding you on a search engine or social media.

Equally, in most cases, you might hope that a customer does not need aftersales support due to a product fault or other problem, but might choose to buy accessories and add-ons for a product they enjoy.

Review your customer map

Ecommerce lends itself to tracking performance via analytics and sales reports, and this means you have a continual stream of data you can use to review your customer map and make any appropriate changes.

For example, you might find customers usually shop your website by category, rather than by specific brand names.

Or you might discover that your biggest orders come from customers ordering bundles and accessories, rather than several non-related products.

This kind of information can be crucial as you seek to produce marketing materials that cater to customers’ needs and wants, and create product pages that make the best use of upsell opportunities to increase basket sizes.

Mapping the customer journey to your eCommerce site

Website analytics can provide not only aggregate data but also individual data about customer behaviour.

Use this to your advantage, e.g. by looking at specific landing pages to see what percentage of customers who arrive via that page go on to make a purchase – and how much they spend on average.

Look for pages with high bounce rates, high exit rates, or where customers spend a long time without buying anything and consider whether you could do anything to improve the content on those pages.

Optimisation is a combination of publishing new content and improving what you already have, and a customer-led approach can be effective even on mature eCommerce sites to identify poorly performing pages and bring them up to standard.

Tap into top conversion paths

As well as spotting content that needs improving, your website analytics data can identify your top conversion paths – reliable routes from landing page through to checkout.

Capitalise on these by publishing new content that offers a similar path to placing an order, or running special offers and discount codes on your social media channels to bring more traffic in via those top-performing landing pages.

Again, optimisation is a combination of multiple factors. You can maximise the customer journey – and increase eCommerce sales – by any of the following methods:

  • Increasing traffic to pages that perform well on conversion rate and basket size.
  • Optimising pages that perform less well to improve their analytics.
  • Creating new pages and categories to tap into new sales opportunities.

Combining good, bad, old and new content in this way covers all the different ways to generate additional sales and revenue, either from your current website traffic or by increasing the number of visitors you receive.

What matters most?

Your customer journey map can help you to learn what matters most in your eCommerce marketing:

  • Positive brand perception for word of mouth referrals.
  • Active and engaging content for social media presence.
  • Optimised keyword bids if you rely heavily on PPC traffic.

By prioritising the most important channels and content, and exploring other opportunities for expansion and sales generation, you can make sure you give your customers what they want from your brand, while maximising revenues at the same time.