Understanding Online Customer Journeys 

October 17, 2017

If your customers access your brand online rather than in a shop, gathering data on their journeys is even easier than for primarily offline businesses. Websites offer a wealth of data just waiting to be tapped; data that can provide vital intelligence for maximising your sales, especially when put into context with additional consumer research.

Let's look at how to put that data to work across the different phrases of an online customer journey.

Phase one - Discovery/Entry

Think of your website like a house with a number of different paths leading up to it. The first step in understanding online customer journeys is knowing how they access your house - which path do they approach on?

You can use Google Analytics to view which channels drive most traffic, as well as where people land on your site after taking these routes.

Meanwhile you can use tools like SimilarWeb to see which channels are driving traffic to your competitors. If your competitor is receiving much higher levels of search traffic than you are, for example, what are they doing differently? And how can you become more relevant in the eyes of search engines?

One way to find out is to ask consumers how they would search for your particular product or service. Allow a free text response so they can put it exactly in their own words. With this insight you can optimise your website copy, landing pages and PPC/Adwords campaigns to align with what customers are searching for.

It’s worth noting that data from Google Analytics and tools like SimilarWeb won’t always show the full journey taken, but often focus on the ‘last click’ - the last place they were before landing on your site.

However these journeys can be complex, and potentially last longer than a 30-day tracking cookie can follow, meaning you won’t always have 100% accurate data.

Therefore we recommend you complement your aggregated digital data with direct consumer intelligence by asking them about all the sources of information they tend to review before purchasing a product online. This will help give you a more rounded and complete view of phase one of the online customer journey.

Phase two - Consideration

consideration.jpgWhen a customer lands on your site (remember this might not be on the homepage), they will very quickly make a decision if they want to stay and look around. Looking at data like bounce rate, pages per visit and average visit duration will help you understand how you’re performing.

To improve these statistics, however, it’s necessary to learn more about the different types of shoppers visiting your website. These are called “personas” and you can build them by surveying real consumers.

A great way to do this would be to look at Google Analytics > Demographics > Overview and look at the age, gender and other demographic details of your website audience (possibly look only at those who’ve completed a set goal, such as purchasing something or creating an account).

You can then use this demographic information to focus your consumer research only on those high value consumer segments that you want to attract more of. If you're using Attest, we make it incredibly easy to fine tune your target audience from over 70 million consumers across up to 80 countries, down to the exact type of consumer you want to learn more about.

Focusing only on those visitors that have shown promise based on your digital data, you can then learn more about their motivations, what their needs are and the information or encouragement they require to convert them into customers. You can ask questions like:

When shopping for clothes online, what concerns you most? Please rank the following:

  • Affordability
  • Product range
  • Latest styles/fashionable
  • Quality of product
  • Security of site
  • Speed of delivery
  • Ease of returns

You can further segment these responses by age, gender, location, income bracket, employment and relationship status and much more. From this, you can build a picture of the key motivations for each shopper group, from cash-strapped students to working mothers.

And with this knowledge you can tailor your messaging and provide the right content to build confidence and ensure further engagement.  

Phase three - Checkout

basket.jpgWhen a customer puts an item in a shopping cart you can still be a long way from completing a sale. Cart abandonment is a major problem for online retailers.

Baymard Institute looked at 37 separate studies on cart abandonment and found that 69% is the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate, with $260 billion worth of lost orders which are recoverable solely through a better checkout flow & design.

You can check out your own cart abandonment rate in Google Analytics. To reduce this figure, you need to understand the various reasons why customers do not complete purchases.

You might ask consumers to tell you in their own words the biggest sticking points or things that put them off when purchasing from websites like yours or present them with multiple choice if you think you have a good idea of those factors already.

As well as the potential to lose customers, on the flip side, checkout also represents an opportunity to increase basket size. You can do this by strategically promoting other complementary products.

You can interrogate your sales data to see what items people often buy together, and ask consumers to tell you what products they’d most likely be interested in purchasing at checkout.

Phase four - Post-purchase

As with considered purchases, the customer journey continues long after they’ve made a purchase, in the form of the customer support you provide and the onwards communications you send. To make sure you get it right, you can poll consumers as to their preferences with questions such as:

How often should an XYZ brand email you about offers after you’ve purchased something from them?

  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Fortnightly
  • Monthly
  • Quartlerly
  • Yearly
  • Neve

Which channels do you prefer for customer support? (Choose all that apply.)

  • Email
  • Live chat
  • Phone
  • Chat bot
  • SMS
  • Social media

You can combine this feedback with data such as email unsubscribes to smooth out all the touchpoints on a consumer’s digital journey.

Don’t forget to also regularly check your Net-Promoter-Score (NPS) - discussed in more detail in our full 'Practical Guide to Customer Journeys' - to see how likely your customers are to stay loyal to your brand post-purchase, and how likely they are to promote it.

If your customers are promoters and spread the word online, then you’ve got a good chance of generating viral growth, which is essentially free customer acquisition!

In conclusion

Ecommerce businesses have a wealth of data at their fingertips that can help them to figure out what their customer journeys look like, and how best to meet their needs at each stage of the funnel.

However that digital-only data is often incomplete, occasionally even inaccurate, and generally lacks the depth to explain 'why' consumers behave in a certain way...it can only show you what they're doing.

To augment this data then, we suggest you utilise a platform like Attest to provide you the rich, qualitivative insights to take your customer journey mapping - and success - to the next level.

Download our 54-page Practical Guide to Customer Journeys now for even more actionable advice that will help you get ahead of your competition, win more customers, maximise your brand’s market share and grow revenues.

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