You may not be familiar with the concept of an ecommerce customer journey, but you’ve definitely been a participant in one.
Being on the consumer side of an ecommerce customer journey feels simple. You see something you like online somewhere, and you decide to purchase it. But the reality is, the average consumer’s movements aren’t straightforward.
Between seeing a product and making a purchase, consumers take various actions, such as arriving on a landing page from different places (e.g. Google, ads, social media, etc.), browsing products, bouncing off product pages, adding items to carts, abandoning carts, making purchases, returning purchases, and so on.
By identifying stages in the customer journey and the actions within each stage, businesses can take steps to convert more browsers into buyers.
In this blog, we will discuss the five stages of the ecommerce customer journey, and the three journeys every ecommerce business should create in Ortto.
Ecommerce customer journey definition
A customer journey is a path of interactions an individual has with your ecommerce brand or product and/or service.
The customer not only buys into the product, they buy into an entire experience with a brand. Therefore, the ecommerce customer journey covers all the touchpoints an individual has with a brand, beginning the moment they first encounter a brand right through to purchase and, eventually, brand advocacy. The customer journey can encompass various communication channels, including email, SMS, ad retargeting, social media, website content and so on.
An ecommerce customer journey has similarities to B2B/SaaS customer journeys – in all instances it's important to ensure messaging is consistent throughout the journey; that the customer’s needs are met, and that they are given a positive customer experience. While customer-centricity lies at the heart of all customer journeys, the differences lie in the types of interactions taking place.
Customer journey marketing is a framework for acquiring, nurturing, and growing customers by automating such interactions. It proactively drives the customer experience using data-driven personalization to convert leads into customers at scale. To learn about the key metrics to to track when determining the health of your ecommerce business, read Ortto’s blog.
Ecommerce customer journey stages
A customer’s actions and sentiment towards a brand can be categorized into one of five key stages: awareness, consideration, conversion, retention, and advocacy.
Let’s look at each in more detail.
The first stage of the ecommerce customer journey is awareness. In this stage, the consumer discovers your brand and your products/services (hence, this stage is also known as the ‘discovery’ stage).
Perhaps the customer has stumbled across your website through an organic Google search (which would indicate a win for your SEO efforts); through social media (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok); through online reviews or word of mouth, or through paid advertising.
As an ecommerce business owner, how a consumer finds your brand, the platform they came from, and the content they saw is valuable information, as it will help you identify which channels, creative, and messaging bring in the highest quality leads.
Consider this stage a two-way learning experience: the consumer is acquainting themselves with your brand and you are understanding their behaviors and interests (the pages they browse, the products they click on, etc.). Perhaps you embed a capture widget into your site asking customers to identify what they’re browsing for, or how they heard about your brand.
Engaging consumers in this stage is about building brand awareness and turning unknown users into known users (if they are not already). You can do this by offering content, ebooks, a newsletter, or a discount in exchange for their email address. Once an unknown user becomes known, you can guide them down the sales funnel using lead nurturing tactics across multiple channels: email, SMS, ad retargeting, and social media.
In the consideration stage, the customer has moved beyond casually browsing your products and/or services. Perhaps they are returning to your website again to revisit product pages or check out shipping and returns information.
Customers in this stage are on the precipice of purchasing, and should be guided there through personalized and targeted marketing. It helps to closely analyze what works in this stage and what doesn’t so that you can move customers to purchase more quickly. Common lead nurturing tactics include:
Email playbooks including abandoned cart flows
Pop-up offers and discounts (e.g. spin the wheel capture widget)
Chatbots to answer questions about shipping, returns, sizing, etc.
Now for the stage every business wants customers to reach: conversion. This is when a prospective customer becomes a paying customer. Check out Ortto’s new conversion destinations feature which enables you to track conversions in your ad platforms.
As exciting as this stage is, don’t rest on your laurels. You’ve talked the talk, but now you need to walk the walk to ensure you deliver on your promises. Everything from the quality of the product(s), order fulfillment, delivery/shipping, through to customer service needs to hit the mark. Failure in any of these areas may risk a customer becoming dissatisfied, meaning you could lose money and your brand reputation could be damaged.
Your customer has reached the conversion stage, but the work doesn’t stop there. The goal now is to get them to come back again and again. A high customer retention rate (CRR) is a sign that customers have had a positive experience with your brand and that they trust you.
The retention stage looks different for every business. For some businesses, a customer in the retention stage may not be very active, especially if they bought a product that doesn’t require frequent repurchasing (e.g. prescription glasses, motor vehicles, etc.). However, the key is that when that customer does have a need to repurchase a certain product, they will return to your site rather than visiting your competitors. Businesses in this camp may engage customers with cross-sell initiatives to amp up sales and build brand loyalty. (Going back to the glasses example, a brand may promote other eyewear like sunglasses or eyewear accessories.)
What businesses must remember is to not drop the ball on customer service once a customer is in the retention stage, as one bad experience still has the ability to shatter a customer’s brand loyalty.
Now onto every business’s goal stage: advocacy. This stage is hard to achieve, and it’s quite a leap from the retention stage. Your customers may be happy with your brand and your products and have high CLV, but turning them into brand advocates and ambassadors doesn’t happen automatically. In fact, many long-term customers may sit in the retention stage and never make it to the advocacy stage.
Customers in the advocacy stage have a high level of engagement with your brand across multiple public channels, primarly your website and social media channels. They will be advocating for your brand and products on their own platforms and will write reviews on third party websites, and spread the word to their family and friends. Ultimately, they are the ideal customers.
Moving customers from the retention stage to the advocacy stage may involve offering incentives such as discounts – or simply reaching out to them directly – but customers may also become advocates organically after experiencing high quality customer service and satisfaction with their purchases.
Customer journey mapping
An ecommerce customer journey map is a visualization of all the interactions a customer may have with your brand, considering the five key stages. Once you have your map, you can create visual customer journeys in Ortto for each stage to guide prospective customers towards conversion, and customers towards retention and advocacy.
Why is mapping the customer journey important?
There are many reasons why it’s a good idea for ecommerce businesses to map customer journeys. Let's explore.
It gives you more control over the customer journey
When you understand each step, you are able to create campaigns and messages that nudge customers towards the next phase of the journey, to help them become loyal.
It provides a better understanding of the customer
By mapping customers’ key interactions with your brand, you can have a clearer view of their behaviors and interests so you can predict their behavior and preferences. For example, a shoe brand might note that a customer has found their website by searching ‘white running trainers’ into Google, so can confidently assume this is the product they are looking for. The brand can then retarget the customer by showing them items that match their search.
It helps to identify strengths and weaknesses
Having a customer journey map can make it easier for brands to identify what’s working and what isn’t within their marketing efforts. For example, a brand may find that a lot of prospective customers are getting stuck in the consideration stage and aren’t making it to that all-important conversion stage.
This may cause the brand to go back to the drawing board to uncover what these customers need and what they’re not getting. Maybe there’s some unclear messaging on product pages, their CTA button isn’t clear, shipping processes are off-putting, or maybe their competitors are beating them on price. Whatever it is, a journey map can provide clarity.
It enables effective goal-setting
Armed with customer behavioral data and clarity around what processes do and don’t work for your business, you can make your goals more specific and identify what it will take to reach them – i.e. S.M.A.R.T goals. For example, instead of setting a goal like “bring in more customers”, you can say, “improve the website experience to increase conversions by X%”.
It creates a better customer experience
A symptom of mapping the customer journey is that the messaging across all touchpoints is aligned and the customer receives a unified experience. This increases trust.
3 ecommerce customer journeys to create in Ortto
Let’s put theory into practice and look at three real-life journeys every ecommerce business should create.
1. Lead nurture journey
The purpose of a lead nurture journey is to guide prospective customers in the awareness and consideration stages down the funnel to conversion.
A lead nurture journey may utilize several channels such as email, SMS, ad retargeting, social media, and website content, and include personalized prompts informed by the customer’s demographic and behavioral data.
The individual enters their email address into a form or capture widget on the site, such as a promotional pop-up (e.g. “Sign up to our newsletter for 10% off your first order!”)
The individual completes a lead generation form on Google or Facebook ads
You can also put your leads into an audience to be retargeted with ads on Facebook, Google, or Twitter to reach high-quality prospects who are more likely to convert.
Ortto users can build lead nurture journeys in Ortto. Below, see what an email lead nurture journey could look like:
An individual comes across your brand (perhaps via an organic Google search or via an ad) and provides their email address to receive a discount code (and by doing so, opts in to your newsletter)
Straight away, they are sent a Welcome Email with a unique discount code to use on their first purchase, as well as information outlining what they can expect to see in the newsletter
If they clicked on the email and perhaps browsed some product pages on your site but didn’t make a purchase, they are sent another email based on the product types they looked at
If they clicked on the email but took no further action, they are sent another email a week later about current promotions on offer or content about seasonal trends
Keep sending emails at a regular cadence to entice the customer to shop
By sending leads communications based on their behavior and engagement, you will have better conversion success.
2. Abandoned cart recovery journey
Customers abandon carts all the time – you’ve probably done it yourself. In fact, it’s been found that the average cart abandon rate is a whopping 81.08%.
There are multiple reasons this happens: perhaps the customer got distracted and forgot to complete their purchase; maybe they wanted to find out the overall cost including shipping before making a decision, or maybe the customer simply planned to check-out later.
Whatever the reason, you can re-engage the customer and prompt them to complete their purchase using a customer journey.
Soon after, they are sent an email reminding them about the items in their cart and encouraging them to check-out
If they clicked on the email within two hours but took no further action, they are sent a second reminder email a day later. If they didn’t click on the first reminder email within two hours, they are sent an SMS reminder (if they are opted into SMS communications)
If no action is taken, a final email reminder (or SMS reminder, if the customer is opted-in) is sent with a discount code to use upon purchase
This journey offers the customer multiple opportunities to complete their purchase and adds an incentive as a last resort.
3. NPS survey
It’s important to collect customer feedback throughout the customer lifecycle – not just at the conversion stage once the customer has received their purchase, but also during the awareness and consideration stages. Remember: all feedback is good feedback.
Ecommerce businesses can use the NPS survey to measure customer sentiment and identify areas needing improvement. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a popular customer feedback mechanism. It asks the question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our company/product to a friend or colleague?” The scoring is split across three segments: promoters (scoring 9-10), passives (7-8), and detractors (0-6).
NPS surveys can be embedded into landing pages as capture widgets, or sent via email or SMS.
Ortto users can create NPS journeys to tag promoters, passives and detractors and send them on relevant customer journeys based on their responses. For example, you may send detractors on a re-engagement journey to ask for more detailed feedback so you can help solve their issues. Or, you may celebrate promoters to maintain their brand advocacy.
Below is what an NPS survey journey may look like in Ortto.
When a customer hits a certain criteria (e.g. they have made a purchase or received their order) they are shown an in-app notification or sent an email or SMS that prompts them to complete a NPS survey
If they score between 0-6, they are tagged as a detractor which will automatically send them an email or SMS asking them to elaborate on their feedback. This could also alert the customer support team that there is a new NPS rating, who could then follow up with them to find out what more they can do to improve the customer’s experience. Alternatively, if a customer is tagged as a promoter, they would be automatically entered into a journey where they are asked to leave a review on Google or on a third party review site. If the customer is tagged as a passive, you could end their journey there, or reach out with a standardized customer survey to find out what you could do to turn them into a promoter.
If the detractor doesn’t click on the follow-up email, send them another email with a promotional offer/discount if they provide more feedback.
Below, see how businesses use email and SMS to gather customer feedback.
Identifying which customer journey stage customers are at will provide you with the understanding you need to engage them and guide them to conversion. There are many effective customer journeys that ecommerce businesses should create. Try for yourself by signing up to Ortto for free.