Understanding the Buyer Journey: Six Tips Every Motivated eCommerce Brand Needs for Success
by Ruthie Carey
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As a result of the wealth of information made accessible by the digital age, today’s generation of buyers is more informed than any that came before them.
Because of this dynamic, the balance of power has shifted from the brand to the consumer in most situations. This means that, in the current paradigm, working to understand the buyer journey is more important than ever before.
By taking the time to understand the buyer journey, the problems that consumers experience along the way and the factors that shape their decision-making process, retailers can better reach consumers and position their products as the ideal solution at the right juncture.
As a means of helping merchants achieve this aim, today, we will explain the customer journey, the main stages which comprise the process, as well as how to use this understanding to create a practical map for generating awareness, clicks and conversions.
“The buyer’s journey describes… a process to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and decide to purchase a new product or service.”
For retailers, this means getting in front of consumers at such a time and place that a person will be convinced to buy from their brand.
When discussing how to understand the buyer journey and its basis, this process is typically broken down into three distinct stages:
However, this is the customer journey at its most base. Given that this piece aims to explain the customer journey a bit more thoroughly, we will be looking at a slightly more in-depth version of this process.
That said, the stages of the buyer’s journey include:
In this first stage, consumers become aware that they have a problem that requires resolution. In search of a solution, they begin their search.
Generally speaking, this is where many companies invest the majority of their marketing energy, as the only limitation forreaching potential new customers is the size of the market.
At this point in the buyer’s journey, consumers are likely to be seeking informational resources to better understand their problem. This means that searchers will likely be using general search terms.
In the beginning stages, merchants will want to focus exclusively oneCommerce buyer education as positioning the brand as a valuable informational resource.
At this point in the process, the consumer has a general understanding of their problem and has become interested in finding a solution to what ails them.
During this stage, searchers are likely to become aware of various trends, brands and products that could potentially alleviate their issue.
For merchants, this is the point in which their unique value proposition comes into play, showing how the company can tackle a consumer’s problem in an exceptional manner.
However, this is not the time to begin comparing the company’s solution with that of other brands. Instead, it is merely to nudge the potential customer toward the next phase of the funnel.
At this point in the buyer’s journey, the consumer is aware of their problem, as well as several different products or brands that can solve their issue. For the future buyer, this is the stage wherein they will compare and contrast their options to arrive at a purchasing decision.
Now is when retailers can begin guiding consumers toward content that juxtaposes the brand’s offerings with that of their rivals, highlighting the ways in which the company’s solution is superior to other options on the market.
However, during this stage of the customer journey, consumers will also be seeking out advice from friends and family and reviews from existing customers. Therefore, it is imperative that retailers understandhow to garner eCommerce reviews and showcase them on their websites.
It is important to understand that what all of the consumer’s research boils down to in this stage is a trust-building activity. They are looking for all sorts of evidence for trusting one brand or product over another.
As far as retailers are concerned,earning a customer’s trust is equivalent to reducing the lack of familiarity with the brand. This can be achieved in a multitude of ways, including (but not limited to):
Customer reviews and testimonials
Excellent customer service options
Professional on-site experience
At this stage, the consumer has decided on the product they wish to purchase and proceed to place an order.
It is critical that merchants ensure that nothing stands in the way of them earning a sale once this decision has been made.
This means that retailers should verify that their site hasan optimized checkout process, offers guest checkout options, features various payment options and the like.
Keep in mind that just because a consumer has decided to buy from a particular brand that the deal isn’t sealed until the order has been placed. The fact of the matter is that, according toabandoned cart data from the Baymard Institute, a whopping 73 percent of would-be buyers will end up ditching their cart due to one of two reasons:
Extra fees (shipping, tax, etc.) are too high
Forced account creation
By removing these potential barriers to purchase, sellers can help to lock in a higher percentage of sales.
5. Post-Purchase Engagement
For most merchants looking to understand the buyer journey, the process ends with a sale.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The fact of the matter is that the post-sale relationship is even more important than gaining that initial purchase, as this is how retailers willoptimize customer lifetime values.
Moreover, even though a shopper has made a purchase from the brand, they still hold the power to influence future customers. This means that retailers should absolutely havea post-purchase marketing plan in place.
It is critical to wow new customers with elements like:
Automated shipping and delivery notifications
A great unboxing experience
Incentives to make a second purchase
Follow-up emails to ensure customer satisfaction
An ask to share feedback
All of these types of post-purchase components can help to turn new customers into brand devotees.
With that understanding of the buyer journey laid out, let’s go ahead and turn our attention to how to map the customer journey successfully.
Mapping the eCommerce Buyer’s Journey: Six Steps for Success
While the above explanation of the customer journey is all well and good, it is best to have practical, actionable strategies for mapping the journey andreaching consumers effectively.
Some ways in which sellers can achieve this include:
Reach out to real customers to get information from people who are actually interested in certain product offerings and who have interacted with the brand in the past.
Using this approach, sellers can gather many of the details necessary tocreate buyer personas for different types of customers.
2. Choose Customer Personas to Target
After building out a variety of customer personas for the brand, it is necessary to narrow the company’s focus to just one or two of them.
Given that a customer journey map tracks the experience of a customer who is taking a specific path with the company, grouping too many personas into a single map will lead to grave inaccuracies.
For those who are creating their first map, it is best to start with the brand’s most common customer persona and consider the route they are most likely to take when engaging the brand for the first time.
3. Catalog All Touchpoints
Touchpoints are all of the places where consumers can interact with the brand.
Based on the company’s research, list out all of the touchpoints that customers and potential buyers are using.
This is a critical step to understand the buyer journey and map it effectively as it gives merchants insights into the actions customers might perform. Listing the various touchpoints available is a tool that sellers can use to help understand the ease (or not) and objectives of a customer journey.
Check the brand’s Google Analytics account to see where customer traffic is originating. From there, whittle the list down to the most common touchpoints.
4. List Out Current and Needed Resources
Given that a merchant’s map is likely to touch on just about every part of their business, it is essential to take inventory of the resources and materials already possessed and those that are still needed to improve the customer’s journey.
For instance, if a retailer’s map reveals some flaws in the company’s customer service department, thus making it clear that the team does not have the tools necessary to properly follow up with customers after an interaction, then it is wise to invest in the tech needed to enable the team to better manage customer demand.
Alternatively, retailers might find that theircontent marketing strategy lacks critical pieces for educating consumers on the problems, potential solutions or comparison pieces that enlighten searchers on the differences between products offered by various brands.
5. Analyze the Customer Journey Map
With the map all laid out, now comes the most critical step in the entire process: analyzing the results.
At this point, retailers will want to find out things like how many consumers clicked on their website but left before converting and how customers can be better supported along their journey.
By taking the time to analyze the results, retailers can establish where customers’ needs are not being met or where they can be better supported, thereby providing a more valuable experience and turning the company into a go-to resource for finding solutions to their problems.
The fact of the matter is that mapping the customer journey is just a hypothetical exercise until retailers actually test it out and analyze the results.
For each persona targeted, follow the journey they take from start to finish to establish where holes may exist.
6. Adjust as Needed
At this point, sellers should have the information needed to make the appropriate changes to their website or marketing strategy to better suit the needs of consumers.
No matter how small the changes needed, it is critical to make them as they will be effective in helping potential customers in resolving their problem, thereby making the brand more valuable to those shoppers.
Additionally, it is worth noting that a merchant’s customer journey map should be a constant work-in-progress. Reviewing it on (at least) a quarterly basis will enable retailers to better identify potential gaps and opportunities for optimizing the journey further.
In today’s omnichannel eCommerce environment, taking the time to understand the buyer journey is a critical necessity for achieving online success. With more pathways to purchase than ever before, retailers must map out these avenues if they wish to meet consumers with the necessary information to nudge them toward a purchase.
Once retailers fully understand the buyer journey, they are then capable of providing the necessary information and experiences, thus pleasing consumers at each and every turn.
However, even if merchants nail their buyer journey maps, this doesn’t mean that other retailers are not doing the same. At this point, winning a customer comes down to who has the better map, information and customer experience.
A graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South, Ruthie joined Visiture in 2020 with a liberal arts degree steeped in writing, editing, and content marketing. Interests include hiking with her black labrador Derby, spinning front row at CycleBar, and frequenting Cava.
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