Imagine all of your customers’ touch points all in one place for you to optimize quickly. That’s what every retailer is hoping to create when building a customer journey map.

More and more, these visual tools are becoming completely necessary for marketers and ecommerce managers to navigate an increasingly complex customer experience. With the proliferation of tools and channels at customers’ disposal, understanding their journey and their motivations enables you to design an experience to meet their needs.

Customer journeys today look very different than they did before the rise of mobile apps, context-aware technology and search engines. Before, mapping the customer journey meant seeing a linear progression of steps from initial introduction to product to purchase and re-engagement. Now, with the explosion in digital content and proliferation of channels, customer journeys are no longer linear. Between customer communities, product documentation sites, social media, review sites, and more, there is just too much content to consume before a purchase for a customer to follow a simple linear path.

Enter the customer journey map. It’s a useful tool for marketers and retailers to define these interactions, and identify areas for optimization.

The Science Behind Customer Journey Mapping

Before we get into how to map your customer journey in ecommerce, we first need to understand the science behind the decisions we make as consumers. There are many different psychological studies that have gone into creating customer journey maps, but we’d like to highlight one in particular: the Fogg Behavior Model.

Behavior Scientist BJ Fogg founded the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University and introduced the Fogg Behavior Model in 2007 to explain why humans change their behavior and how to create conditions to influence them to change their behavior.

In a nutshell, the Fogg Behavior Model postulates that Behavior = motivation x ability x trigger. Essentially, when motivation, ability and a trigger occur at the right moment, a change in behavior will occur.

There is a relationship here between the different variables, which can be mapped out in graph form.

You want to keep your consumers in the upper right throughout their journey: high motivation for a task that’s easy to do with the appropriate trigger.

If you are missing any of those elements, which is something a customer journey map can help you uncover, the desired action will not occur. Let’s review the elements of the formula:

  • Motivation: How much does your customer really want to make a purchase? Can you increase that amount? How attached are they with your offerings and brand?These answers explain the motivation of each buyer, and are key  for every stage of the customer journey.
  • Ability: How able are they to complete the purchase? Do they have the money for it? Is the process difficult or requires multiple steps? The more your prospects have to do to complete the desired action, the higher the motivation and trigger needs to be.
  • Trigger: Why do they need to do this now? Anyone who has written email for a limited time only promotion understands this one. Is it enough of a trigger to move them toward purchase? Keep in mind: the trigger has to be appropriate to the behavior and mindset changes along your buyer journey. Your desired behavior may be for the prospect to purchase a 4K TV, but sending them a bunch of coupons for it may not be appropriate if they are at the earlier stages of the journey. Instead, you may want to try to trigger them to read review sites or mark their calendar for an upcoming sale.

For instance, if you are offering a commodity product at a standardized price. There’s not much motivation for your prospect to purchase it, especially from you. However, if you increase their ability by reducing the friction to checkout (e.g. “one-click purchase” option) or if you trigger them at the right moment with the right offer, you will win the customer.

How to Map the Ecommerce Customer Journey

This is a very difficult task, but ultimately rewarding for you to map out your strategy. You will uncover your own “questions to answer” about your personas. In fact, you may end up with more questions than answers at the end of this exercise, and that’s OK as long as you also map out a process to get those answers in tandem.

#1 Identify your key personas.

Use your existing customer data to understand who your different segments of buyers are, what they’re buying, and why. Focus first on what the quantitative research can tell you, from your customer surveys and demographic data to online behavior profiles.

Even your internal site search analytics will provide important clues to what your customers want to find when they land on your website with different products. What questions do they have? What content is most helpful before, during and after a purchase? Internal site search is a gold mine here.

Then, start looking at your qualitative data from customer surveys and representative focus groups. Try to merge your qualitative understanding of your customers with your quantitative. Use these to map out the “motivation” and “ability” in Fogg’s Behavior Model of your existing personas, especially as you start to segment these by stages.

#2 Use your data to define your stages.

Just search for “customer journey map images” and you’ll see a whole slew of different versions of customer journey maps.

Try to build your own with the data you have, using the existing resources and images you find online as inspiration, rather than gospel, for how you are building your own. Most customer journey maps follow a formula like this:

  • Awareness. Your prospect first becomes “aware” of the problem they face and your solution. They may see some tweets, emails or references from friends on the issue.
  • Comparison. Especially for larger purchases, prospects will start to research their purchases. This is where the content they consume will be pulled from many different sources. Expect them to look at your customer community, review sites including video review on YouTube, website, product documentation site, social media channels and more when researching the purchase.
  • Purchase. With the right trigger, they’ll be ready to make the purchase. It’s important to keep in mind that a difficult purchase process often contributes to delay at this stage.
  • Repurchase/engagement. A customer for life is the goal here. You’ll want to make sure that your customers are able to self-serve and find answers quickly and easily, as well as understand adjacent products that may be of interest.

As your map out the stages for key personas, you should also map out their motivations and abilities at each stage, à la the Fogg Behavior Model, and how they align with your current strategy. What are they hoping to achieve? How motivated are they at each stage? What is their ability? What will trigger them? Try to keep these, as much as possible, grounded in the data that you have.

#3 Identify what is preventing or accelerating their move to the next stage.

This is where user experience research, click maps and other design-focused research will come in. Your goal is to identify the triggers that you can tap into and the blockers to remove to move them into the next stage. Here are a few common blockers:

  • “I didn’t find the answers I needed.” Customers today expect the information they need to be right at their fingertips and this is where a powerful site search solution comes in. They are most likely using the search box to find these answers, and a generic search experience without tailored recommendation will be too difficult for them to overcome.
  • The purchase process was long or complicated.” This is where ability and motivation come in; if your customers aren’t motivated enough for your multi-step purchase process, they just won’t move forward to purchase.

You can start to experiment with triggers here to validate your hypotheses. If you’re not sure if it’s a matter of the right content not being delivered at exactly the right time, you can try to trigger your prospects to read content, based on your online behavior data, that led to successful purchases of the same product in the past.

Pro tip: It is better to have no data at all than bad data. If you think your team may be going off assumptions and gut feelings, redirect your project as soon as possible. There’s nothing wrong with “guessing” at your personas, but only if you’re able to check those guesses later with data.

Defining your ecommerce customer journey is a lot of effort, but it’s worth it especially if it exposes areas you may be overlooking as you try to optimize your online store. Now, more than ever, your customers are in control of their own journey.

If one of those areas is site search, check out our guide to optimizing your ecommerce site search solution.

EbookOptimize Your Ecommerce Site Search Solution

About Nep Vijayaraja

As a Product Marketer at Coveo, Nep works with the Intelligent Websites team. With technical and business studies, he gained experiences in Channel Management and Product Marketing working in the high-tech industry. Nep does not use paper and pen.

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