Digital marketing is taking on a new form. Gone are the days where we as marketers use the spray and pray method of advertising. Everything is about personalization, honing in on a pinpoint precise target and speaking to that customer as if they were the only one that mattered.

Digital marketing is transforming into customer journey management. The customer journey is the collection of experiences, emotions, feelings, frustrations, and obstacles your customer goes through during the path to purchase.

While there are different kinds of customers and businesses, the customer journey adapts to each and maintains a critical role in marketing strategy when you want to be customer-centric. Building a strategy based on your customer journey is essential to making sure your ecommerce store is as profitable as it absolutely can be.

The 4 Main Stages of the Customer Journey Map

A customer discovers a brand on Facebook, goes to their site, clicks on the first product, and purchases immediately; a lovely, linear customer journey from start to finish.

That scenario almost never happens. In fact, instead of thinking of the customer journey as a straight line, you should think of it more as a game of Pong (or one of those Family Circus cartoon strips).

There's nothing linear about it.

According to our statistics here at Divvit, a customer goes through an average of 5.5 touchpoints with a brand before purchasing. What you’re actually seeing is how many times a customer interacts with a brand as they move along the sales funnel.

When creating a customer journey map, there are four main stages to consider:

- Discovery

- Selection/Comparison

- Decision/Checkout

- Return

These four stages of the customer journey are always present in some form, depending on your business model. While it is possible to talk about off-screen exposure to your brand as a touchpoint (think TV, billboards, etc), we’re going to focus on what we can track.

Let’s dive a bit further into detail:

The Discovery Phase: Often Including the First Experience a Customer has with your Brand

The first time a customer has a touch point with your brand, it’s likely on a third party channel, like social media, on-site advertising, etc. They might not even click through on your site.

It’s not you, it’s them.

In a world where we have an attention span that’s getting shorter and shorter, where multitasking is prevalent, and where customers are being bombarded with ads on a constant basis, it’s easy for your message to slip through the cracks.

But maybe the second time your brand passes in front of their eyes, they’ll pay more attention. Maybe the context will be better, as in a friend of theirs recommended you. Or maybe the product suggestion is more relevant to what they’re looking for.

Regardless, the first touch point we can track is the initial click through or engagement on a social media post.

This engagement may or may not include a click through to your site. Keep in mind that social media is important for your branding. A customer uses social media to suss out exactly who you are and what you do. From there, they may decide to continue to your site.

This is what a typical customer journey actually looks like.

Discovery also happens on your site. This is the point where a customer might scan through a few products and look at reviews about you and your brand (reviews based on products usually come later, but it could happen here as the customer is trying to discern whether or not it’s worth it to order from you).

What the customer is looking for:

Your products: whether they look to be quality, or what your general prices areYour returns and refunds policy: How easy is it to purchase from you? Will they lose their money if they aren’t satisfied with the products? In fact, 67% of customers check the returns page before buying a product.Your vetting and trustmarks: Have other companies vouched for you?Your security & payments: Is your site under https? Do you offer secure payments?

Once the Discovery Phase is complete, the customer feels they have enough information on your brand and your ecommerce store to purchase from you.

Or not.

The Selection/Comparison Phase: Where the Customer does their Research

After the discovery phase, when the customer is interested in your store, begins the the selection and comparison phase.

This is usually the moment when a customer thinks you’re trustworthy enough to consider purchasing from, they start looking through your products. Unless of course, it was some stellar marketing of one product in particular that brought them there in the first place. In which case, there isn’t much selection to do!

However, a customer will likely look for reviews on that product to get a better idea as to if it’s right for them. Keep in mind that ecommerce stores lack the tangible look and feel of brick and mortar stores. A customer needs as much information as possible to make an informed decision.

What the customer is looking for:

Product photos: How well do they represent the product?Customer Reviews: How did others like the product? Is there someone in the reviews with whom I identify?Product videos and demonstrations: What does the product look like in real life? How does it move and interact with me/the environment around it?Product description: How does the copy describe the product? Are the dimensions listed/is there a size chart? What materials is it made out of?Potential competitors: Does another site have this cheaper/better/with quicker delivery?Returns and refunds: Yes, again. Customers who don’t look at it during discovery will definitely check it out during selection/comparison.

As a general rule, the higher the price of the product, the longer a customer will take in the decision making process. This makes sense if you think about it, if you’re going to spend more, you’re less likely to be impulsive.

Keep your pricing strategy in mind when mapping your customer journey.

The Checkout/Decision Phase: Where a Customer Decides to take the Leap, or Not

So you’ve convinced the customer to trust your brand, your store, and purchase your product. Here, the customer is less in comparison, and more into customization. They decide at this point what color/size that they want and if they want anything else.

Here the customer is looking for:

Customization: What size do I want? Does it come in other colors? Are there personalization options? Which model is best for me?Accessories: What would go well with this?Free shipping/discounts: What do I need to do to get free shipping? Is this worth the shipping cost?Checkout: Do I have to create an account? How can I pay? How long will delivery take?

This is a make or break phase in the customer journey. If you’ve convinced them to purchase, you need to make sure that there isn’t a single obstacle in their paths.

While product recommendations are a great idea during this phase, as the customer will be concerned with reaching thresholds for discounts or free shipping, product recommendations have no place in checkout.

You want a checkout that’s not only free of obstacles, but also free of distractions. Otherwise, you could end up in a bounced cart.

The Return Phase: Will the customer come back to you?

Assuming that everything went well, the customer has made their purchase and was happy with the products they received.

Sometimes, they might not know that they need to come back- that’s what you’re here for! Call the customer back with announcements of new arrivals, incentives to leave reviews for your products, or special sales or events that you’re holding.

What the customer is looking for:

New products: Is there anything new? Is what I thought about purchasing still available?New sales: Are there any discounted items I might like?

At this point, the customer is re-entering the discovery phase where the customer journey repeats itself.

While this is a typical customer journey map, understand that this might look different based on your customers and your products. There is not equal time spent in each phase, and sometimes you might have a relatively short customer journey depending on the kind of customer that you have.

6 Questions to ask yourself about your Customers:

Before you start thinking about how your customer journey map would appear, ask yourself important questions about your customers, your products, and your brand.

1. Why is your customer looking for your product?

What is the basic need that your product fills for the customer? This might seem like a really basic idea, but you need to know why someone would be interested in purchasing from you. When you understand the basic need that you’re fulfilling, you can create your entire marketing persona and campaign around that need.

2. How did they discover your product/brand?

How did your customer first come to know you? Where did they come from, and what in your marketing message or visuals spoke to them? Knowing what works for your customers is central to moving forward with mapping your customer journey.

3. How did they research your product and what criteria influenced their decision?

Did your customer look to reviews on your site? Did they turn back to Google for more answers? Did they look at your competitors? Knowing what your customers want to know and what information they’re looking for can help you centralize all of this information on your site.

4. Why did they ultimately choose you?

This is maybe the most important question to ask. Are your prices lower than your competitors? Do you have a rewards program that makes it more advantageous to shop with you? Do you offer free shipping? Do you offer something a little extra special?

This can also be called your Point of Differentiation. The differentiation factor is what sets you apart from every other online seller out there. Without one, no customer has any reason to choose you in particular.

5. What was their overall experience with your store and brand?

Was it positive or negative? Was your UX negative, but the end product positive? Is this enough to make your customers come back to your store?

Think about this from A to Z. When they first landed on your page, what’s their first impression? Did they have a hard time navigating and finding what they wanted? Was checkout simple and did you have the payment method they were most comfortable with? Did they receive their product in a timely fashion and how was the unboxing experience?

6. What can be improved to make the customer journey smoother?

Watch replays of your customer interactions on your site. Ask your customers for feedback to get their opinions of how everything goes throughout the process. Or ask someone you know to navigate through a purchase and vocalize everything they are doing as they do it. What ultimately prevents a customer from continuing on to the next stage in the customer journey?

Understand where friction might be and do what you can to smooth it out.

When you ask yourself these questions, you may not have all the answers right away. But this means that you need to find the answers to those questions to truly create a strategy centered on your customer’s journey.

No two customer journey maps will look the same. What’s most important is that it’s true to your customers and your brand. Customer journey mapping helps you put yourself into your customer’s shoes and understand the best and worst parts of shopping on your online store.

What are your best tips for creating a perfect customer journey map?

Whitney Blankenship

Content Marketing Manager
Whitney Blankenship is Content Marketing Manager at Divvit. When she’s not creating awesome content, she’s reading up on the latest in Social, Digital, and Ecommerce trends. She’s also the fastest Googler in the West!
Whitney Blankenship is Content Marketing Manager at Divvit. When she’s not creating awesome content, she’s reading up on the latest in Social, Digital, and Ecommerce trends. She’s also the fastest Googler in the West!