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Optimise the digital customer journey in your online shop

Dive into the stages of the customer journey

The customer journey is a vital concept to be aware of if you run an online shop or another business online. The customer journey begins the moment a potential customer realises that they need a product and continues all the way until a purchase is completed and even after the product is being used. By ensuring a good customer journey, you can increase your chances of conversion and gain loyal customers.

In this article, we delve into the stages of the customer journey, mapping the customer journey, and look at concrete examples. You also get a couple of tips that can help you improve and maintain the customer journey in your online shop.

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What is a customer journey?

The customer journey consists of a series of steps that begin already when a potential customer discovers a product or service. The journey continues until the purchase is completed, and in many cases also includes the time after the customer has started using the product or service. A good customer journey often results in loyal customers and increased brand trust. Therefore, it is crucial that you understand every touch point in the journey, i.e. every single point where your company is in contact with the customer.

Where does the customer journey begin?

The customer journey typically begins with a potential customer having a desire or a problem that needs to be solved. The customer is therefore looking for a solution to the problem or a product that meets their needs. The desire may arise because the customer sees an advertisement with fantastic USPs (unique selling points), hears about a product on Instagram or because a good friend recommends a product. Naturally, the need to hunt for a product can also arise if, for instance, Charlie’s running shoes break and he starts looking for a new pair. In other words, there does not need to be an ad or recommendation involved, although many times this is the case.

B2B and B2C customer journeys – is there a difference?

If you run a B2B business, it is crucial that you consider that the B2B customer journey differs significantly from the B2C customer journey in many ways. The path from need to completed purchase is, for example, often shorter for a B2C customer than it is for a B2B customer. This is because a company has several stakeholders and several things to decide on before making a purchase. In essence, optimising the customer journey is about understanding your customers. Therefore, you should tailor your customer journey to your customers’ unique needs and requirements. We take a closer look at how you do this in the sections below.

Stages of the customer journey

The customer journey is usually divided into a number of different stages. In the list below, we show you 5 distinct stages and explain what the individual stages entail.

1. Awareness

In the awareness stage, your target group has only just discovered your brand and all the exciting products you offer. If, for example, a potential customer searches for a nutcracker on Google, the customer journey begins with you when the user discovers that you have a selection of different nutcrackers in your online shop.

In this stage, the user still needs information, and possibly reads more about your company online, e.g. on social media, on blogs, or ask their friends if they have tried your products.

This part of the customer journey is therefore not the right time for conversion. Instead, you should ensure that the customer has access to good and sufficient information about your company and your products. You can, among other things, achieve this by writing detailed product descriptions and blog posts, optimising SEO on your website, and using your social media channels diligently. Your goal is to give the user the feeling that your company and your products or services live up to their expectations.

2. Consideration 

At the consideration stage, potential customers begin to consider whether your brand has the solution to their problem. Here, many users compare different products and companies to find the best choice. At this stage, your job is to show users why your products or services are better than the alternatives. For example, if you offer online yoga, you should make sure to emphasise the benefits of being able to participate from home, rather than having to rush off to a physical yoga studio. All stages of the customer journey are important, but the consideration phase is particularly important because you have a fantastic opportunity to showcase the best qualities of your products and solutions. 

3. Purchase 

Customers in the purchase stage, also called the decision stage, are ready to make a purchase. However, this does not mean that they complete the purchase with you. If you have not captured their interest and trust in the earlier phases, you risk that the potential customer chooses your competitor instead of you. It’s all about convincing and making it easy for the customer to understand exactly why your products are the best choice. Make sure your product categories are logical and your prices are clear. You can also use retargeting to prevent customers from forgetting about you if they get distracted while visiting your website.

4. Retention 

Hooray! The customer has completed the purchase with your company. However, the customer journey is not over yet. It is now that you must work to retain your customer and prevent churn.

Loyal, returning customers are gold for your business, and it’s therefore worth trying to make first-time customers want to shop with you again. It is also typically cheaper to retain existing customers than to acquire new ones. This means that a good retention strategy can help you reduce your marketing spending.

But how do you best retain customers? Of course, it depends entirely on your target group and your concept, but examples of effective strategies include e-mail marketing, exclusive campaigns, discount codes, and ongoing communication with the customer across various platforms.

5. Advocacy 

At this stage, the best possible scenario is that the customer has received your products and is so satisfied with them that they want to share the joy with friends and family, or on social media. If that happens, that’s great news for your business. Not just because the customer is then more likely to become a loyal, returning customer, but also because social proof is a particularly valuable and effective form of marketing.

Here we can return to the first and second stages, where the customer journey begins. At this point in their journey, your potential customers are still gathering information about the product or service they need. If these potential customers can see that you already have a lot of satisfied customers, the chances that they will continue the customer journey with you improve significantly. It’s a win-win situation for both you and the customers — the customers get quality products, and your company gets good publicity.

To ensure that your loyal customers remain loyal, you can, for example, offer them bonus programs and special VIP offers, and make sure to maintain and nurture the customer relationship.

Mapping the customer journey

Mapping the customer journey requires that you understand your target group, their needs, and their expectations. You must also be prepared for the fact that these needs and expectations are not static. Rather, they are influenced by market fluctuations and trends. Thus, the customer journey can change over time, which may mean that your strategies must also be adapted.

The actual process of mapping the customer journey involves you looking at each individual phase in the customer journey. Identify the key touchpoints and interactions your potential customers have with your business, all the way from the awareness stage to the loyalty stage. These touch points can, among other things, be content on your website, social media, marketing, visits to physical stores, and contact with customer service.

By mapping out all these touchpoints, you can gain an even better understanding of the customer experience and identify opportunities to optimise the entire customer journey and user experience on your website. Below you will find a list of things you should consider when mapping your customer journey.

Customer actions: Find out what actions the customer takes at each stage of the customer journey, such as looking for reviews online or comparing prices of different companies’ products.

Customer goals: Explore customer goals at all stages of the customer journey. In the first stage, the awareness stage, the goal may for example be to gather information, while the goal in the purchase stage may be to find the lowest price.

Customer questions: Find out what questions your potential customers have during the buying journey. In the first stages, examples of questions can be “Which rain boots are best?” and “Which brand makes the best rain boots?”. When you know what questions your potential customers have during the buying journey, you can more easily offer them the content they need. If you have an online shop, the customer’s questions are also an important part of your SEO strategy.

Customer journey examples

Reading about the customer journey can seem somewhat abstract without concrete examples. To give you a more complete understanding of the customer journey, we have put together 2 concrete examples.

The customer journey in an online clothing store

The customer’s goal: Sarah is a young fashionista, looking for a trendy outfit for a big summer party.

Awareness: Sarah sees an ad on Instagram showing a nice dress from an online clothing store. The ad catches her interest, so she clicks on it to read more and see more pictures of the dress.

Consideration: When Sarah visits the shop’s website, she scrolls through the various collections. She also reads reviews from other customers and studies the size guide. She is looking for a dress with a perfect fit.

Purchase: Sarah is impressed by the online shop’s selection and the many positive reviews, and therefore decides to put a dress in the shopping cart. Before completing the payment, she sees a pop-up informing her that she can get a 10% discount on the purchase if she signs up for the store’s newsletter. She does so, after which she completes the purchase.

Retention and advocacy: Sarah has received her package and is very satisfied with the quality and fit of the dress. She shares pictures of herself on social media, tags the clothing store and writes a positive review – sprinkled with lots of heart emojis. Sarah also signs up for the clothing store’s loyalty program.

The customer journey at an online yoga studio

The customer’s goal: Oliver is a busy marketing employee who spends many hours in front of the screen. Therefore, he has decided that it is time to get in shape, both physically and mentally.

Awareness: Oliver sees a sponsored post on Facebook advertising online yoga subscriptions. The company offers personalised training plans and live yoga classes. He becomes interested and clicks on the ad.

Consideration: Oliver visits the yoga studio’s website and explores the various subscriptions. He also watches short video clips showing examples of the yoga classes the studio offers. Subsequently, Oliver reads statements from satisfied customers who have greatly enjoyed the training.

Purchase: The content on the yoga studio’s website convinces Oliver that a subscription to online yoga is probably the right choice for him. At checkout, Oliver is pleasantly surprised when he discovers that he can try out the subscription for free for 3 months before deciding whether it is really for him.

Retention and advocacy: Oliver begins the free trial period. He attends several live yoga classes and feels inspired by the yoga teacher and the other participants. As the trial period is over, Oliver becomes a paying customer. He is also active on several of the yoga studio’s social media channels, where he writes extensively about how online yoga has changed his life.

Small details affect the customer journey

In both above examples of successful customer journeys, it is easy to imagine how the customer journey could have looked different if Sarah or Oliver had not found what they were looking for on the websites they visited.

If, for example, the size guide had not been available on the clothing store’s website, it is possible that Sarah would have sought out a competitor with more complete information about sizes. In Oliver’s example, his purchasing journey could have ended at a different yoga studio if the website he first visited had not had video content showing examples of yoga classes. It illustrates how important it is to map the customer journey and understand all the customer’s touch points, needs, goals, and questions from start to finish.

In the next section, you will get a few tips on how you can improve and maintain your customer journey.

How to improve the customer journey

Improving the customer journey is an ongoing process that requires continuous analysis and optimisation. By using tools such as Google Analytics and marketgoo, you can gain valuable insight into your customers’ actions, traffic sources on your website, conversions, bounce rate and much more. Dive into data and website statistics, monitor the performance of your marketing campaigns, and make changes to improve the user experience of your potential customers. Even small improvements can contribute to a better customer journey and increased conversion.

Maintenance of the customer journey

As we touched on earlier in the article, the customer journey is not static. It is influenced by many varied factors and changes over time. This means that, as far as possible, you should adapt your company to the current customer journey. You do this best by continuously updating your mapping of the customer journey, analysing your competitors’ activities, and adapting, changing, and improving all customer touch points. Actively seeking feedback from customers is also an important part of maintaining the customer journey. No matter how well you think you know your customers, in the end it is the customer’s experience of your company that weighs the most.

Optimising the customer journey is the key to loyal customers

Optimising the digital customer journey is a decisive factor when your goal is to take on the many competing ecommerce companies that also want the biggest and best piece of the conversion pie. Equipped with a good understanding of the stages of the customer journey and well-thought-out strategies based on analysis and data insight, you are already well on your way to increasing your conversion rate and acquiring loyal customers who trust your company.

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