Why read this? : We share how how to create and use an e-Commerce customer journey map. Learn how to identify needs, pain points and touchpoints for online shopping. Follow our case study on pizza deliveries to see how to plan a typical customer journey. Read this to help improve your e-Commerce customer journey.
There’s lot to think about in e-Commerce. It can be hard to keep track of all the jobs to be done.
You need these activities to win and hold on to your customers.
Everything needs to join up. As our D2C dashboard from our setting up an online store guide shows, there’s a lot of separate tasks to integrate.
So, you need tools which help you organise all this work, and bring clarity to your thinking.
One very useful tool for this is the customer journey map, applied to the e-Commerce journey.
It’s a customer experience tool which walks you though what’s needed at each stage of the customer’s journey.
Customer Journey Map
The customer journey map outlines the key stages customers go through. From them being unaware of your brand all the way to becoming loyal customers.
It shares the same thought process as the brand choice funnel. The stages roughly correlate to brand objectives like awareness, consideration and trial.
However, where it differs is it puts the customer needs and pain points front and centre. Plus it also asks you to think about touchpoints. Those are where, when and how you interact with customers.
It leads with the customer rather than the brand.
The means you don’t make the common mistake of over-thinking the brand and under-thinking the customer. This often happens if you use the brand choice funnel as your lead. Brands need awareness, consideration and trial. But customers don’t. They need what your brand can do for them. Your brand has to meet their needs, and fix their pain points.
The customer journey map helps you keep the customer top of mind at each stage of the e-Commerce journey. Doing that means you deliver more relevant solutions for them, and that’s what drives sales.
E-Commerce Customer Journey - case study set-up
To bring this to life, we’ve created a customer journey map for a made-up e-Commerce business.
It’s called the Sydney Pineapple Pizza Company, and is a pizza delivery business in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.
But it’s an interesting category to look at because it can be very competitive.. Finding your competitive advantage is key.
To set the scene, imagine we’ve just run a workshop. We brainstormed some ideas about each customer journey stage. These ideas came from different sources. Insights from our market research. Customer feedback. We also used what we know from areas like behavioural science and design psychology.
We’d then map these ideas to the relevant areas of the customer journey map :-
- pain points.
- online touchpoints.
- offline touchpoints.
Meeting customer needs is a core part of marketing (and e-Commerce). But it’s easy to get distracted by what the brand needs, and overlook what the customer needs. The model stops you doing that.
Informative or entertaining content for example. And for e-Commerce, a way to research products and place and manage orders.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
One common tool used in needs identification and analysis is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s a model which dates back to the 1940s. Opinions are mixed on how useful it is.
On the plus side, the tool’s well-known, and helps make sense of different types of needs. There’s 8 different groups of needs from low level survival needs such as food, air and water, up to more personal growth driven needs like self-actualisation.
However, many argue it doesn’t give a realistic view of how people’s needs actually work. For example, there’s no evidence customer needs start at the lowest level and then work up. And in fact, you can have multiple needs happening at the same time, and higher level needs overruling lower level needs. Think of monks who fast while mediating for example. Or people who plunge into ice baths to improve their endurance and resilience.
Plus, the model itself was only ever a theory and never proven. It was only based on interviews with successful and healthy people for example. So, it’s got a biased view which discounts a wider range of personality and lifestyle types.
What would the customer say?
Maslow’s hierarchy is helpful to prompt your thinking on needs. But you shouldn’t rely on it for evidence of customer needs.
For that, you’ll need market research to ask customers what they need at each stage.
Your e-Commerce customer journey map will be stronger if it’s driven by what customers actually say they need. Use their exact words if you can. These will usually be specific and concrete. That makes your job a lot clearer at each stage.
For example, you might think the need your solving is to help people feel more confident.
But many things can do this. Customers will get more specific and say something like “I need to feel more confident about meeting new people”. That gives you a clearer idea of what you specifically need to do.
This is important because each stage usually has specific and different needs. The need for a piece of information. The need for a service. It’s easier to work out how to meet specific needs rather than how to meet general needs.
Pain points are usually the problem which triggers the need. Hunger is a pain point which drives the need to eat for example.
You include these on the e-Commerce customer journey map because they help explain what’s causing the problem.
Knowing the cause of the customer’s problem helps you generate ideas on how to fix it.
These pain points can be relatively minor.
For example, for our pizza deliveries, customers might say, I need to find the right information on your product page.
But in some cases, they can be major issues.
Let’s say it’s an important medicine coming from an online pharmacy for example e.g. if this product doesn’t arrive in time, my life could be at risk. That would be a major pain point.
“Touchpoint” is a marketing jargon word which covers any interaction between the customer and the brand. It’s where, when and how they “touch” each other.
Most customer journey maps (including this e-Commerce one) identify online and offline touchpoints separately.
This makes them easier to organise. Digital marketing activities naturally sit together. And similarly, traditional marketing activities also naturally sit together.
Offline touchpoints are usually activities you can physically touch.
Outdoor and print advertising for example. Posters and leaflets. Specific real-life interactions you have with a customer which don’t happen online.
Again, specific and short is key here.
You note which ones you’ll use at each stage of the customer journey.
This helps you look at touchpoints across the whole journey, and how they need to work together.
E-Commerce customer journey map - case study
Pizza delivery is a relatively low involvement / low informational need purchase. (see our sales copy article for more on these terms).
Customer decisions and actions at each stage are likely to be fast and not take much thought.
However, when doing an e-Commerce customer journey map, it’s usually worth imagining your fussiest, most questioning customer is the one who’s journey you’re looking at.
That way you capture every possible need, pain point and touchpoint.
You can always cut or merge areas later when you move to execution. That’s better than starting too high level and potentially missing out on an important customer insight.
For this case study, we’ve also made some assumptions about the business and its customers :-
E-Commerce customer journey - Spark my interest
The first job in the e-Commerce customer journey is to spark their interest.
We want to grab the customer’s attention. If they don’t know who we are, they can’t buy from us.
There’s 2 objectives here.
First is to reach them. To get our name and message in front of interested customers. And then, for that message to be persuasive enough so customers want to find out more.
The customer need here is very basic. We want to reach them when they’re hungry and most likely to order takeaway food. As you can see, we’ve broken down this need into 3 parts. To eat. To eat now. And to eat tasty food. Hungry is the key pain point. But we’ve also added that they’re too lazy (or tired) to cook. And they haven’t been to the supermarket so can’t cook dinner themselves.
In this case, reach will be driven by media, led by digital media – banner adverts and boosted social media posts. Digital would lead here because we can use it to target the right customer groups. We can control who sees the adverts, and when and where they see them. Digital also means we can include a direct call to action link to take customers directly to the website.
We’d also look at how we could use public relations to get mentions of our business into relevant online publications. Local listing sites and food / entertainment related sites for example.
Plus, we’d also use more traditional media channels to raise awareness. Flyers and brochures dropped into letterboxes for example. And making sure the signage on the store and delivery vans also grabbed attention.
We’d develop an advertising message based on our positioning. It would highlight our benefit and point of difference. We’d test these with market research and then use the results to brief an agency to create the advertising message.
The aim of that message would be to make customers want to find out more.
E-Commerce customer journey - Find out more
Having sparked the customer’s initial interest, we now need to fuel the flames of their desire.
This stage is about answering questions from interested customers. You listen to their questions are make the answers easy to find. It’s usually about telling them who you are, what you do, and how you can help them.
Search usually takes the lead on this stage. It’s how you find out more about most things. In this case, that’d mean paid and organic search.
We’d focus on keywords which make ordering our pizzas sound easy and enticing. We’d also highlight the website on our offline touchpoints. Though we’d also include other contact methods (e.g. a phone number) as some customers prefer direct contact.
We’d also research what questions customers are most likely to have about our offer. For this case study, we’ve assumed their key questions are :-
- is it food I’ll like?
- will they deliver to my address?
- is it affordable?
These questions would then shape the content on our landing page. We’d lead with our competitive advantage so customers know why they should choose us over other food delivery options. Then, we’d make sure we used images and copy to make our products look and sound appealing. And we’d make sure answers to key questions like delivery coverage and delivery cost was easy to find.
E-Commerce customer journey - Persuade me
When customers reach the next stage of the e-Commerce customer journey, they’re almost but not quite on the point of buying.
The goal here is to nudge those who have doubts over the line into buying.
But there are other subtler, longer-lasting ways to persuade customers to buy. For example, many businesses use social proof to do this.
This is when you show that other customers have tried and enjoyed the product. You highlight positive reviews and testimonials. These reassure new customers. If others have tried it and rated it positively, there’s less risk I’ll not like it. (see Robert Cialdini’s book Influence for more on social proof).
Another commonly used persuasion tool is scarcity.
Scarcity works on the principle that the less available a product is, the more we want it. We fear missing out on the chance to buy it. It’s what drives limited time offers and online exclusives for example. For our pizza shop, we’d create a compelling offer for new customers.
Get a 20% discount on your first order, until the end of the month for example. That “end of the month” tells them they’ll miss out if they don’t order in time. It’s hard for many to resist this. (see our advanced e-Commerce techniques article for more on scarcity).
For customers who hadn’t yet made it to the website, we’d deliver those same social proof and scarcity messages using posts and paid ads on social media. We could encourage customers to rate and recommend us. For example, we could give them money off their next order for leaving a review.
E-Commerce customer journey - Make it easy to buy
Up to this stage of the e-Commerce customer journey, the focus is on creating experiences which influence customers to choose you.
But once they’ve made that decision, the focus changes to removing barriers to purchase. The buying process needs to be easy. The customer need here is a quick and hassle free buying process.
They accept they need to give a minimum amount of information to make the order happen, but they don’t want to do any more than that.
That minimum information usually covers :-
- what they want to buy.
- where you need to deliver it to.
- their contact and payment details.
You make it easy to find products on your store website. Clearly written category labels and good on-site SEO for example. Easy to navigate product pages and an obvious add to cart call to action. If customers need to customise an order (e.g. choosing the size of the pizza, and adding or removing ingredients), you make it easy to do so.
You make entering delivery, contact and payment details as seamless as you can.
For example, you can ask them to save their details and so they’re auto-filled on future orders. You make the security of your payment system very clear, and makes payment options as flexible as you can.
If delivery time is important (as it is with pizza delivery), you include updates on that as part of the overall experience.
What time it’s expected to arrive for example. How the customer can check / track the delivery. How they can contact the driver if it’s late. These things are the start of what you do to reassure the customer.
E-Commerce customer journey - Reassure me
The customer’s need changes to being kept informed once they’ve placed an order.
So you set up a notification system (by email or SMS) to alert the customer as their order goes through your order to delivery system.
For example, we’ve got your order. We’re making your order. Your order is on its way. It’s nearly there. It’s arrived.
The general rule with notifications is it’s better to over-communicate, than under-communicate.
That stops customers calling up your customer service team to find out what’s going on. You should only need to intervene when there’s an actual problem. In our pizza shop example, notifications would mean we would have far less customer calls asking where their pizza was to deal with.
E-Commerce customer journey - Delight me
The actual delivery of the order into the hands of the customer means we’re almost at the end of the e-Commerce customer journey. The proof is in the pudding (or pizza!) at this point.
The product should arrive with the customer in good condition. No damages. No missing items. Everything they ordered in the way they wanted it.
If something has gone wrong, you need clear customer service processes to deal with issues. Refunds or returns for example.
You should also consider including extras with the delivery to add to the level of “delight”. In the pizza delivery example, that’s be something like free garlic bread when the customer has spent over a certain amount. Even something simple like a thank you note or discount voucher can add to the customer’s delight.
Small unexpected touches like this can make a big difference. Customers remember them because they’re unexpected, and they’re an easy and cheap way to drive repeat sales.
E-Commerce customer journey - Motivate me to share
The e-Commerce customer journey has one final step, even if it feels like it’s over once the customer has the product. That’s how you use the customer’s satisfaction with the order to drive future sales.
You’d also look at activities which drive positive word of mouth. Satisfied customers telling others about their happy experience.
This is often driven via social media. Content which encourages customers to like and follow you. Content which encourages them to make positive comments and post reviews on other sites. Maybe a “refer a friend” offer where gives them a discount if they persuade someone else to order?
This last stage is all about good customer service. You keep existing customers happy so they tell other people how good you are.
Conclusion - e-Commerce customer journey
The customer journey map is a helpful tool in building your e-Commerce customer experience because it gets so specific.
It forces you to think about specific customer needs and pain points and what you need to do to fix them. You define clear touchpoints and identify clear jobs to be done which help customers at each stage.
You get a clear picture of how to link different activities together with clear calls to action. You meet the customer’s needs and pain points at each stage, so their overall journey runs more smoothly. That makes for a better customer experience and happier, more loyal customers.