Why read this? : We share how to create and use an e-Commerce customer journey map. Learn how to identify needs, pain points and touchpoints with our pizza delivery case study. Read this to follow along on an e-Commerce customer journey.
There’s lots to think about in e-Commerce. For a start, there’s building your online store strategy. That means finding insights and deciding on your competitive strategy and positioning (see our D2C experience article for more on this).
Put together a D2C status dashboard (as per our setting up an online store guide), and it’s clear there’s lots to do.
You need all these tasks to work together to win customers. So, you need tools to help you organise your thinking and plan the work. Tools like the customer journey map from customer experience planning.
Customer Journey Map
The customer journey map outlines the stages customers go through. From being unaware of your brand to becoming loyal customers.
It’s a customer-led version of the brand choice funnel. Except rather than brand objectives like awareness, consideration and trial, it puts 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.
This helps you avoid over-thinking the brand and under-thinking the customer.
Customers don’t need awareness, consideration and trial. They need what your brand can do for them. Your brand has to meet their needs, and fix their pain points using relevant touchpoints. You add details from each of these areas as you work through each stage of the customer’s journey.
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 manage orders.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
One common tool used in needs analysis is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It 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. Monks who fast while mediating, for example. People plunging into ice baths to improve their endurance and resilience.
Plus, the model itself was only ever a theory. It’s never been proven. And, it was only based on interviews with successful and healthy people. So, it’s got a biased view which ignores a wider range of personality and lifestyle types.
What would the customer say?
Maslow’s hierarchy is helpful as a prompt to think about needs. But don’t rely on it as evidence of customer needs.
For that, you need market research. You have to ask customers what they need at each stage.
Your e-Commerce customer journey map is stronger when based on what customers say they actually need. Use their exact words if you can.
For example, you might think the need you’re solving is to help people feel more confident.
But many things can do this. Customers are usually more specific. They’ll say something like “I need to feel more confident about meeting new people”. That helps focus what you need to do to meet their need.
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 plan for meeting specific needs than for meeting more general ones.
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 helps you generate better 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 - case study set-up
With those in mind, let’s now introduce our (made-up) e-Commerce business, whose customer journey we’re going to map.
It’s called the Sydney Pineapple Pizza Company, a pizza delivery business in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.
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 it’s the journey of your fussiest customer. The one with the most questions. That way you capture every possible need, pain point and touchpoint. You can always cut or merge areas later. That’s better than starting too high level and missing an important customer insight.
E-Commerce customer journey - getting started
To set the scene, imagine we’ve just started as the manager and we’ve run a workshop. We brainstormed ideas about the customer journey. Those 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.
From that, we can assume :-
Let’s look at how we’d map these ideas i.e. needs, pain points, online and offline touchpoints to the relevant areas of the customer journey.
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 for them to 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 food shopping 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 leads 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 the website.
We’d also look at how we use PR 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.
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 and 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 leads this stage. It’s how customers 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 were 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.
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 in buying. (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. This can be hard to resist. (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 purchase.
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.
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 easy 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 help 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 have to intervene when there’s an actual problem. In our pizza shop example, notifications would mean we’d have to deal with less customer calls asking where their pizza was.
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.
Products should arrive with the customer in good condition. No damages. No missing items. Everything they ordered in the way they wanted it.
If something’s 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’d 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 delight.
Small unexpected touches like this can make a big difference. Customers remember them because they’re unexpected. 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 which 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 others 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 how to fix them. You define clear touchpoints and identify clear jobs to be done to help customers at each stage.
It gives you 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.