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The importance of a customer journey map in e-commerce

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Though e-commerce in Sri Lanka is a relatively new sector, it has gained traction over the past year. In an article from the Lanka Monthly Digest (LMD), it says that 60 to 70% of Sri Lankan households outside the Western Province are able to complete one e-commerce transaction or online payment. The pandemic solidified the e-commerce trend and fast-tracked its growth. While e-commerce is gaining momentum in the country, business owners should create a solid and positive customer experience. That way, they will stay ahead of their competitors and gain more leads and recognition from their target market. But how do e-commerce businesses create a solid customer experience from start to end? This is where customer journey mapping can be beneficial.

Why is customer journey mapping essential?

Customer journey mapping in e-commerce allows businesses to step into their customers' shoes. Businesses can identify key customer touchpoints and learn how to improve their customer service by visualising the entire customer journey, from initial awareness to interactions after the purchase. This understanding is crucial for developing strategies that relate to your target audience and create a better purchasing experience. Overall, this leads to increased customer loyalty and higher conversion rates. 

Stages of the customer journey

Understanding the different stages of the customer journey throughout the funnel is the first step towards effective mapping and an overall positive experience. Whether your company deals with business-to-customer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B), the customer journey encompasses:

Stage 1: Awareness

The first step of the customer journey is where potential customers first encounter your brand or product through marketing. The impression your brand makes at this point is crucial. It sets the tone for the customer's entire journey. One of the best marketing practices to increase awareness for your e-commerce business is by getting to know your target market. By knowing who you are selling your products to, you can devise marketing strategies that can help make your content engaging, informative, and relevant to capture their interest. 

It’s also important to find the right marketing channel to promote awareness, whether it’s through social media or paid ads. Determine the best channel that would allow you to reach your target audience effectively.

Stage 2: Consideration

At this stage of the customer journey, your customers are comparing your products with your competitors’ products. They are looking for information that helps them make an informed choice. For your e-commerce business, your website and online reviews are crucial aspects of your customer’s decision. 

a. Website

On your website, there must be an informative description of your product, from the features and benefits to the scope of the product. According to Google Consumer Insights, 85% of shoppers say product information and pictures are important to them when deciding which brand or retailer to purchase from. Therefore, you need to make sure that you have a clear picture of your product and all the necessary information, such as features, size, and variations, among others, present and visible on your website.

b. Customer reviews

Additionally, gathering reviews of your product can also help boost a customer’s trust in your product. When people leave reviews about their experience with your brand and product, it gives other interested consumers a glimpse into what to expect from your product. According to a consumer survey by BrightLocal, 49% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family members. Through this research, they also found that 60% of consumers feel that the number of reviews is also a factor in their decision to purchase a product. As such, when your customers purchase your product, come up with ways to encourage them to leave reviews. For example, you can provide incentives, like discount vouchers or points.

Stage 3: Purchase

The purchase stage is a critical moment in the customer journey, where the efficiency and user-friendliness of the process can significantly impact the customer's decision to complete the transaction. A seamless purchasing process is essential for converting interest into sales. Here’s what you should consider during the purchasing stage:

a. Website or online selling platform

The website or online platform is a big factor in the purchasing stage of the customer journey. When selling your items on your website or an independent e-commerce platform, it has to be intuitively designed. That way, customers can easily navigate and find what they are looking for without confusion or frustration. Proper management and maintenance of the website or platform is also a must to prevent downtimes or potential transaction issues. If you’re planning to sell your products to an e-commerce platform, it’s also important to choose an e-commerce platform they are more likely to use. Learn more about how Sri Lankan SMEs can benefit from e-commerce platforms. 

b. Clear and transparent pricing

Clear and transparent pricing is also crucial. Customers should be able to see the cost of their items, along with any additional charges, such as shipping or taxes, without having to search extensively.

c. Easy and secure checkout process

Another vital aspect of this stage is a secure and straightforward checkout process. Implementing a variety of payment options to cater to different customer preferences can be beneficial, whether it’s cash on delivery or mobile wallets like eZ Cash. 

Additionally, reassuring customers of the security measures in place to protect their personal and financial information can increase their confidence in completing the purchase. You can do this by implementing Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates, which encrypt data transferred between the user’s browser and website. Another way to ensure your customers' protection is by providing data privacy policies or finding an online platform that has one.

d. Customer transaction support

Providing support during this stage is also crucial in facilitating a smooth transaction. This can be achieved through features like live chat, which offers immediate assistance, or easy access to help resources such as Frequently Asked Questions or a customer service contact. This support can be particularly important for resolving any last-minute doubts or questions, thus preventing cart abandonment and enhancing the overall experience. 

e. Customer-friendly return policy

It can be unavoidable that mistakes or accidents may occur during the online selling process, from missing items to undetected damaged goods. As such, it’s important to establish a customer-friendly return policy beforehand. Having an understandable and easy return policy can help increase the confidence your potential customers have when buying from your e-commerce business. In fact, research by Shippo found that 44% of customers swap retailers if they are unhappy with the return policy. Therefore, when creating a return policy for your customers, you must define and make clear the following:

  • Scope of what items can be returned and under what conditions
  • The timeframe of return and the reason behind the set timeframe
  • The process of how to return the damaged or compromised goods

Stage 4: Retention

The focus for consumer retention is maintaining and strengthening the relationship with the customers after their initial purchase. The retention phase of the customer journey is crucial for fostering loyalty and encouraging repeat business, which is often more cost-effective than acquiring new customers. 

One of the strategies that can help in customer retention is the use of follow-up emails. They can be used to thank customers for their purchases, provide valuable information about the product, and keep them informed about new offerings or updates. Personalising these emails can make customers feel valued and more connected to your brand.

Exclusive offers tailored to returning customers can also be highly effective. These might include special discounts, early access to new products, or exclusive content. Such offers not only incentivise repeat purchases but also make customers feel like part of an exclusive club, enhancing their experience and emotional connection to the brand.

Stage 5: Advocacy

This is the final stage of the customer journey, where satisfied customers become the most influential proponents of your brand. Advocacy is more than leaving positive reviews online. It is when customers have established a level of trust that they have become advocates for your product or brand.

In this stage, they are more compelled to share their positive experiences with others, making it a powerful marketing tool, often more effective and authentic than traditional advertising. This stage is crucial because it relies on the genuine satisfaction and goodwill of customers, which can significantly amplify your brand's reach and reputation. For further reading into how you can improve customer satisfaction leading to the advocacy stage, check out our insight into mastering customer satisfaction in e-commerce.

Check out this example of a customer journey map that shows how your customer can potentially interact and experience your brand.

Stage 1: Awareness 

  • Paid ads
  • Search engine
  • Social media
  • Word of mouth

Stage 2: Consideration

  • Website description
  • Online reviews

Stage 3: Purchase

Stage 4: Retention

  • Follow-up e-mails
  • Exclusive deals

Stage 5: Advocacy

Five steps to mapping a customer journey

Mapping the customer journey is a strategic process that helps e-commerce businesses understand and enhance how customers interact with their brands. Below are the expanded steps in this process:

1. Identify your customer personas

To start your customer journey map, you need to know who your customers are by creating a detailed persona. These should include demographic information (age, location, income) and psychographic details (interests, values, lifestyle).

Moreover, you should also identify their goals and understand what drives your customers. What are they looking to achieve when they interact with your brand or purchase your product? This understanding is crucial for tailoring your marketing and product development.

2. List touchpoints

Identify every point of interaction between the customer and your brand. Consider both direct interactions like purchases and customer service contacts and indirect ones like going through a blog post or viewing a social media ad. Moreover, ensure that you consider all channels – online and offline. 

By thoroughly listing and understanding these touchpoints, you get more information about how different aspects of your brand interact with and impact the customer. This comprehensive view is critical for identifying your business's strengths and opportunities for improvement in the customer journey. It helps in ensuring that every interaction a customer has with your brand, whether direct or indirect, online or offline, contributes positively to their overall experience.

3. Analyse the current journey

Examine how customers currently navigate through the buying process. This involves tracking the customer's journey from initial awareness to post-purchase behaviour.

To conduct this customer journey analysis effectively, utilise data from analytics tools, customer feedback, and sales reports. They help you gain a clear picture of the current journey. This analysis is essential for identifying what is working well and where there may be gaps or challenges in the customer experience. By understanding the current journey in depth, you can make informed decisions about where to focus your efforts to improve the customer experience. This ultimately results in driving growth and customer loyalty for your e-commerce business.

4. Identify pain points

Pain points are essentially any issues, obstacles, or areas of friction that negatively affect the customer’s interaction with your brand, potentially leading to dissatisfaction or even loss of business. To identify these pain points, regularly check customer feedback, complaints, and inquiries to identify common issues or areas of friction. This direct feedback from customers is invaluable as it highlights the areas where they are facing difficulties or are not completely satisfied. Therefore, you can gain real, actionable insights into areas of the customer journey that need improvement.

5. Implement improvements

Based on the insights you’ve gained from the customer personas down to the pain points, you can now develop effective strategies to improve the customer journey. These improvements should be targeted and purposeful, aiming to enhance the overall customer experience. For instance, if the analysis reveals that users find the website navigation confusing, a strategy could involve redesigning the website layout for better clarity and ease of use. Similarly, if customers express dissatisfaction with the checkout process, simplifying this process by reducing the number of steps or providing more payment options could be an effective solution.

Additionally, it’s important to recognise that the customer journey is not static; it is ever-evolving. Customer needs and expectations change, new technologies emerge, and market dynamics shift. Therefore, continuous monitoring and iteration are vital components of the process. Regularly updating the customer journey map and strategies based on ongoing data and feedback ensures that the customer experience remains aligned with your current needs and expectations. Learn more about how to grow your e-commerce business in Sri Lanka.

How DHL Express can help improve the customer experience of your e-commerce business

Shipping is a critical component of the e-commerce customer experience. In today's fast-paced market, customers expect quick, reliable, and hassle-free delivery of their purchases. Often, the most challenging part of our transportation process is the last-mile delivery, which is the movement of goods from the transportation hub to their final destination. However, we at DHL Express have come up with effective strategies that make the last-mile process more efficient and customer-friendly, from real-time tracking to flexible delivery options.

By integrating our shipping solutions into your operations, you can expect seamless deliveries, which ultimately helps improve customer satisfaction in the long run. What sets us apart is that we have worked with numerous e-commerce businesses over the years, transporting different kinds of goods safely to various locations all over the world. Therefore, if you want to expand your e-commerce business globally, you can trust DHL Express Sri Lanka for reliable overseas shipping, as we have a presence in more than 55 countries and territories.