What do you think first when you’re thinking about the customer journey?
Your first thought might be that the journey consists of the steps the customer takes to enter your online store. That is correct but it is good to remember that the journey continues until the customer purchases a product or service and even after that. So yes, an online store is an important part of the customer journey. Please note that if you also sell your products in retail or a brick-and-mortar store analyzing your customer journey can be more tricky than in a D2C online store if you don’t use a solution like Shopify POS.
What is a customer journey?
In general, the customer journey includes six stages. Yet depending on the industry, product, or customer’s preferences there can be slight differences. First, the customer becomes aware of their need, desire, or problem they want to solve and starts to look for a solution and learn about the options available. This stage is called the awareness stage. The second stage, the consideration stage, consists of comparing the features, pricing, and benefits of similar products and deciding which products are the best. Next in the decision stage, the customer makes the final decision but might still evaluate factors such as shipping options and return policies.
After the decision stage comes the purchase stage and this is when the purchase happens from the chosen brand. As I mentioned before this is not where the customer journey ends even though the brand now has achieved the goal of selling the product. In the post-purchase stage, the customer evaluates whether the product meets up with their expectations or not. This stage can include engagement with the brand such as using the product and the experience during it, contacting customer support, social media interaction, or post-purchase surveys. The final stage is called loyalty and advocacy and usually includes repeat purchases and word-of-mouth.
Why is it important to understand the customer journey? It helps your business identify pain points, optimize touchpoints, and deliver a seamless and satisfying customer experience. Also, marketing, sales, and customer support will benefit from knowing the customer journey since they now acknowledge what happens in every step of the journey and can target their action accordingly. This can help grow customer satisfaction and loyalty.
E-commerce customer journey
The customer journey in digital commerce follows the same structure presented above. Still, some factors are different and important to recognize in each stage. Firstly, in the awareness stage, the customer can gather information about your brand from several sources such as search engines, social media, online ads, and word-of-mouth. In addition, customers can become aware of the products when they scroll through the online store. A new and relevant product might pop up while browsing a category or in the featured items or personalized recommendations. In the consideration stage, customers research the products thoroughly. This means that they read the product reviews, and check the product descriptions, images, and videos. Therefore all of them must be executed well. The information helps the customer to compare different options.
The decision stage can be shown in the online store when a customer adds products to their shopping cart and proceeds further along the ordering process. We can analyze the behavior of the customer with add-to card rate and abandoned cart rate. That can help us to figure out important details of their journey. The online store is important for the decision stage because it can make it faster and easier by offering detailed information about availability, delivery options, and payment options and enhancing trust with visible customer service. In the purchase stage, the purchases can be completed while they are in the comfort of their own home or pass the time somewhere else. In addition to online shopping not being tied to time or place promotions or other incentives can speed up the buying. Great examples of that are discounts and promotions that can be a part of a loyalty program or email campaign that encourages customers to make purchases.
After the purchase, tracking the order and getting updates on the delivery status helps with a positive experience. Customer support is also vital in this stage since customers can address concerns, seek assistance or process returns with its help. Lastly, satisfied customers are more likely to return and purchase with the same online store again and promote brand loyalty. Of course, word-of-mouth is significant in the eCommerce field as well. Brands can also benefit from this kind of user-generated content (UGC) and show their happy customers’s social media posts on their sites. Many online stores also provide a “share with a friend” feature that usually gives a discount or money with loyalty points for both the customer and their friends.
The overall usability of the online store is crucial to the customer experience. All these small details and every touchpoint help to make the whole experience successful. Note that things like slow loading, struggle to find information, disorganized structure, and if what they are looking for is behind too many clicks, etc. can affect the customers' experience negatively. When the store is well-optimized it can have a significant impact on conversion rates, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty and therefore a vital part of the business’s digital strategy.
To sum up, you could say that the online store plays a key role in the customer journey. The customer journey is this broad concept that starts when the customer identifies the need or desire (your marketing can spark it!) and lasts through the whole decision-making process to after the purchase. It is essential to optimize your online store to fit your customer’s journeys so that the customer journey can be completed. If you need help with anything related to customer journeys whether it's more focused on marketing or the online store of your D2C business we are happy to help!