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The Path to Purchase – How to Map the E-commerce Customer Journey

Customer Journey e-commerce

Every process consists of steps. A honeymoon trip, production of a movie, or even taking a shower in the morning – it all has structure. Buying is also a process – it may look simple, but in fact, it’s often very complicated. If you understand the journey your customers have to take to buy your products, you can plan every part of it, thus strengthening your relationship with customers and achieving more conversions. How can you do it?

Although it seems that economics and the entire sales process are based solely on calculating profits and losses, it’s well known that it’s not a science, strictly speaking, and is rather a mix of mathematics, psychology, sociology, and many other fields. Of course, we buy with money, but this is only the last step – above all, we are driven by emotions when interacting with a given brand or store, so the customer path to purchasing requires analysis and attention.

The importance of the emotional aspect is openly emphasized by the representatives of show business, but every modern entrepreneur is aware of the importance of non-financial aspects of sales. The customer should not only buy something but also feel good about it.

Even the process of purchasing screws, pens, or a phone case can be a carefully planned operation, after which the customer will leave satisfied and return to your store. It’s not about manipulating clients and persuading them to make bad shopping decisions, but creating a long-term relationship based on trust and mutual respect.

E-commerce generates huge amounts of data. We can track every user’s movement on our website and on social media – thanks to cookies and advanced profiling.

This is whye-commerce is increasingly reliant on analytics. While intuition is still a very important element in business, it cannot compete with terabytes of detailed data on user behavior and profiles. Thanks to these huge analytical capabilities you know it all: the customers’ expectations, how they interact with the brand, how they browse the website and make a purchase, and whether they are satisfied with the experience. You can design every element of this relationship and adjust it to user expectations.

The Customer’s Journey to Purchasing 

Google Analytics is the key to analyzing your website and customer path.

Behavior Flow is a function that deserves special attention. It can group content and individual pages and associate it with user behavior, generating detailed reports. You can also find reports that identify multi-channel funnels and top conversion funnels.

HotJar can also help by tracking cursor movement, it shows which website elements work well and which should be improved.

Customer Journey and Customer Experience

The customer journey can be divided into stages, characterized by a different degree of relationship with the client, requiring slightly different solutions and tools. We’ve selected a few that have proven their effectiveness from the multitude of available methods. It’s not everything, but constitutes a solid foundation.

stages of customer journey to purchase – suggestions

Awareness

The first moment when the customer’s journey is revealed. The potential customer is considering purchasing a new service or product. Often, he/she doesn’t yet have specific needs and is looking in general for Christmas gifts or Black Friday promotions, and enters a general phrase in the search engine. Now, the magic begins (or rather – advanced marketing tools step in). They will allow you to make friends with the client and gain mutual benefits.

The first step for a brand should be saying “I am here”. At this stage, several solutions may be crucial:

  • A text ad on the Google Search Network – the world’s most popular ad format. The system displays sponsored links matching the phrase entered by the user in the search results (link to a specific guide from Search Ads on the Verseo website)
  • SEO – thanks to proper positioning, your website will be higher in the search results for a specific phrase, and thus will generate more visits and – probably – transactions.
  • Advertising in social media – social media has become one of the foundations of internet marketing. On Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, users provide systems – and therefore advertisers – with hundreds of information about their interests, behaviors, and opinions. Thanks to this, it is possible to highlight the presence of your brand among people who may be potentially interested in it.
  • Google Display Network – a system that allows you to display ads directly on specific pages. To use GDN, the advertiser must use data about the user’s interests and on this basis target the user with ads.
  • YouTube Ads, e.g. bumper – short advertising formats displayed on YouTube. In building brand recognition, the so-called bumpers, lasting a maximum of 6 seconds are a good idea.
  • Blog – at the stage of creating brand awareness, it is a useful tool. A blog entry, e.g. with propositions of gifts for a given occasion, may signal the customer a need for a purchase that he/ she is not yet aware of.

If the actions were effective, your brand managed to gain the attention of a potential customer. This means that the tools you used did their job. You have attracted someone’s attention – not just anyone’s, but the person who by clicking showed interest in your products.

This is a good start, but it does not guarantee success. Time for stage two of the journey.

Consideration

The customers already know you exist. Now, it’s time to convince them that your offer will be the best choice. Let’s face it – your brand probably isn’t the only one they are considering.

At this stage, two aspects will be crucial – appropriate content and UX.

  • Well-matched content on the category or product page – an attractive and substantive description, photos, promotional materials, video presentation, etc. will make the client consider your offer.
  • UX will make sure that the layout of the content and the navigation on the website are friendly so that the “pros and cons” analysis is favorable, and the process of adding a product to the cart and then finalizing the order is convenient and fast.

Additional useful methods:

  • Google Search Network Ads – customer expectations are beginning to crystallize. At this stage, the phrases typed in the search engine become less general, for example, instead of “Christmas gifts”, keywords such as “drone with a camera” or “tricycle” appear. Thanks to Google Search Ads, your offer may appear on the first page of search results even if your page is not well-positioned.
  • PLA (Product Listing Ads) – a solution that requires Google Merchant Center, which enables direct advertising of a specific product with its photo, description, and price. Ads are displayed both on a dedicated Google subpage and in search results.
  • Customer opinions on Google, forums, and social media – finding information about a given company, product quality, and its approach to customers on the Web will take several seconds. Make sure that not only product descriptions are coherent, but also the brand’s attitude and how it deals with controversial situations. The image crisis may delay the development of a brand for years.
  • Landing page – the page that the user goes to directly after clicking the link. It can be a category or product page in the store or any other subpage, but often the name of the landing page functions in the collective consciousness as a subpage created specifically for the promotion and sale of a specific item or service.
  • Blog – a substantive blog will help create your brand’s image of an expert in a given industry, and at the same time it is a great source of organic traffic and sales support. Entries about a given product category give space to present the assortment with all its advantages.
  • Price comparison websites – these convenient aggregators of stores and products allow the user to quickly find similar offers and compare them with each other. Price comparison websites are used by millions of potential customers – make sure your brand is present on such websites.
  • FAQ – after a while, you can identify the issues that are brought up frequently by customers. So you can prepare a list of the most-discussed topics and collect them in one place – thanks to this you will immediately “put your cards on the table” and save your and your client’s time.

Acquisition

Time to achieve conversion!

  • Dynamic remarketing – useful in every step of the sales journey, but it plays the most important role at this stage. Thanks to remarketing in Google Ads and on social media (e.g. on Instagram and Facebook), you will remind clients about your offer. You can also “ask” customers who registered on the website and even added a product to their cart to complete their purchase.
  • YouTube Ads with particular emphasis on YouTube for Action – a special video ad format adapted to increase conversion. It consists of a CTA, a headline, and – after displaying – a special panel encouraging users to click a link.
  • Amazon Ads – ads using the infrastructure of the largest sales platform.
  • Web push – notifications from websites displayed by browsers. Thanks to them, you can remind a potential customer, who is currently browsing other websites about your offer.

In addition to advertising tools, it’s worth paying attention to other functions that are of great importance when converting – for example, the quick payment module, which allows you to complete the transaction almost immediately.

Service

For a lasting relationship between the customer and the brand, it cannot end up simply by “getting rid” of the product. For this reason, you should take care of comprehensive after-sales service.

  • Technical support – few entrepreneurs assume their product may be defective, but it’s always possible. A competent technical support department will provide the customer with assistance, support the brand image, and above all, give the customer the impression of mutual feelings.
  • Friendly warranty process – if the product does not meet the customer’s expectations due to its defects, you must take responsibility for this inconvenience and repair or replace the product. If the customers see that in the event of justified difficulties they can count on your brand, they are more likely to come back for more products.
  • Additional materials, such as a FAQ containing technical issues described in a friendly form. Thanks to them the customer can find an answer to an unclear issue without involving the technical support department.

Loyalty

You have successfully sold the product and met the customer’s expectations. You have built a relationship – now you have to maintain it and make the customer come back to your store when the need arises again.

What will be useful at this stage?

  • Dynamic remarketing – you already know your clients’ profiles and can offer them different products from your assortment. The remarketing potential is huge – thanks to this tool, customers can find your brand again, e.g. when scrolling Instagram or – thanks to the Google Display Network – even while browsing messages on various websites. If the customers are already on your remarketing list, you can send messages to them at any time – for example, when you offer new promotions on Black Friday and the customer has previously purchased products from a given category.
  • Newsletter – email marketing is considered a relic by many people, but it is still an effective and cheap tool for marketers. Thanks to the newsletter, you can send the clients information about new promotions, changes in the offer, or simply remind them that your brand still exists.
  • A loyalty program allows you to “retain” the customer for longer, because – in the most popular form of such a program – the more the customer spends in your store, the greater benefits he/she will gain. These can be discounts on products or prizes.
  • Social media – thanks to social media, you can keep in touch with the customers by providing them with information about products, promotions, and the brand. Although organic reach is in decline, social media, even with a small advertising budget, will allow you to reach current and potential customers.

The Value of Mapping the Customer Journey

Focusing on a holistic analysis of user behavior on the website has nothing but benefits – better understanding of customers’ motivations and their activity. The main advantage of dividing the path into the stages presented above is adapting the entire advertising message (content, format, channel, images) to a given stage, which significantly increases the chance of a conversion. The customer journey is therefore an element of optimizing your activities in all areas – paid advertising, promotion, UX, or even SEO.

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