Understanding your customers is absolutely critical to running a successful ecommerce brand. Without the up-front work to map your customer journey, you won’t be able to effectively reach your customers. Let’s break down some basics on the customer journey, how to create a journey map, and how you can leverage insights from that work to increase your revenue, average order value, and retention. 

What is the customer journey?

A customer journey encompasses the entire set of interactions that a customer has with your brand during the process of buying a product. These interactions exist within a structure called the conversion funnel, which describes the steps a consumer takes from first discovering a product, to making a purchase, to becoming a long-term advocate and brand fan. 

The stages of the customer journey 

No matter how differentiated your customer journey is from other ecommerce brands, it is likely that your customer journey map will fit within five general stages. 

The five stages of the customer journey
  1. Awareness

The awareness stage of the customer journey can be described as the general research stage. During this stage, the customer is looking for the right solution to their needs. During this stage, customers are searching for keywords and reading high-level content online. For brands, it is important to simply be discoverable during this stage so as to be considered among the customer’s options during the next stage of their journey.

  1. Consideration

The consideration stage is the point where consumers construct their list of options. Customers will research specific brands and compare value propositions and pricing to narrow their focus. At this stage, the customer will visit your brand’s website and social channels to discover what you can offer them if they decide to make a purchase. For brands, this stage requires attention to positioning against your customer’s alternatives, and optimization of the user experience so as to leave a positive impression on your potential customer. 

  1. Conversion

Conversion is the critical stage of the customer journey. During this stage, customers will make a decision to convert, or make a purchase. To reach conversion, it is important for brands to gain the trust of their customer — trust that the brand will deliver the needed product on time, as described. Brands must use their channels to build trust and incentivize conversion through thoughtful calls-to-action. It’s also crucial for brands to offer high-quality fulfillment and customer service support, because a returned item is not a successful conversion.

  1. Retention

The retention stage of the customer journey comes post-purchase. At this point, your customer has already spent their money on their product, but needs to be convinced to become a loyal customer over time. Customer retention is all about relationship management. At this stage, your brand must keep customers happy by offering new products, engaging content, and excellent service.

  1. Advocacy

Reaching the advocacy stage of the customer journey should be the ultimate goal of every consumer brand. At this stage, the customer is a brand fan, engaging with the brand across channels, actively planning new purchases, and recommending the brand to their community. For brands, this word-of-mouth advertising is incredibly powerful, and it is important to keep brand fans engaged and loyal so they can continue to advocate for the brand. 

How to create a customer journey map 

Customer journey mapping is the process of mapping out each and every interaction a customer has with your brand as they progress through the five stages of the customer journey. These interactions, called touchpoints, can take many forms: site visits, ad placements, emails, store visits, reading reviews, and engaging on social media are all touchpoints. 

What you need to create a customer journey map

Despite the broad nature of a touchpoint, creating a customer journey map can actually be a creative process. To get started, gather a team of colleagues who have an understanding of the customer — roles like customer service, implementation, and sales are particularly important voices to have during the mapping process. You can choose to create your journey map digitally, but sometimes old-fashioned pen and paper (or sticky notes!) are an effective way to get brainstorming about your customer journey. 

Use data to fine-tune your customer journey map

As a first step, have your team brainstorm and record each and every touchpoint that your customer may have with your brand, in order. Once you have your hypothesized version of the customer journey map laid out, it is important to gather data to support your claims. Customer interviews, site interaction data, and surveys are great tools to confirm whether the assumptions you make in your customer journey map are correct. 

Iteration is key

A customer journey map is not static. It’s important to remember that customer behaviors can be influenced by changes big and small. Be sure to set aside time to make a periodic review of your customer journey map and refresh your customer insights. 

How to use your customer journey map to grow revenue, AOV, and increase retention 

Your customer journey map is a wonderful tool to identify opportunities to improve your customer touchpoints at every stage of your customer journey. Think carefully about your current customer journey map, and understand where you may not be providing the right information or tools to your customer for them to make a purchase, or the right support for them to become a brand advocate. Here are a few of our favorite strategies to improve your customer journey, and your bottom line: 

  • Improving customer awareness

At the awareness stage, you have to ensure your customers can find your brand when they are looking for a solution to their needs. Reaching your customers this early in the funnel has to be extremely broad. If your journey map reveals that you aren’t getting in front of your customers at this stage, consider investing in informational content, PR, and keyword search terms to improve your brand awareness. 

  • Improving the consideration stage

At the consideration stage, customers want to learn more about your brand and decide whether they can trust your products. We recommend a/b testing homepage content, clearly communicating your brand values and benefits, and creating a delightful brand across your site and other marketing channels like social media. At this stage, your product assortment is incredibly important: consider using a tool like Canal to add more products that your customers will love to your site. By offering more products, you may be better able to meet your customer’s needs.

  • Improving the conversion stage

If your journey map research identifies that you aren’t converting customers, it’s time to take a close look at your user experience, checkout flows, reviews, and CTA language. You can use tools like cross-sells, upsells, and incentives like reward programs to push your customer toward converting successfully, boosting your conversion rate, and growing your revenue. 

  • Improving the retention stage

Is your repeat purchase rate low? Improve your customer retention by offering more products your customers are interested in (Canal can help!), creating a wonderful customer experience through high-quality fulfillment and customer service, and re-engaging your customers with sales, advertising, and content. Product bundling, reward programs, and brand partnerships can be effective tactics to bring your customers back for more purchases, increasing your customer lifetime value!

  • Improving the advocacy stage

To turn repeat customers into advocates, create incentives for spreading the word about your brand. Micro-influencer programs, referral rewards, and engaging social media content can encourage word-of-mouth sharing and generate valuable UGC (user-generated content) that effectively brings new consumers to the awareness stage of your customer journey. You can also leverage tactics like product drops and pop-up shops to build brand hype and encourage advocacy from your customers.

A customer journey map is an essential tool for understanding your brand’s strengths and weaknesses at every stage of the customer journey. If you’ve identified opportunities for your brand to improve conversion and retention, Canal can help. Learn more.