How to Streamline Your eCommerce Customer Journey to Maximize Profitability
Is your eCommerce customer journey streamlined for maximum profitability? Chances are, it’s not!
Even the slightest tweak to your customer experience and journey can boost conversions, drive revenue, and ultimately, improve profitability. And with competition on the rise, every online store manager should be constantly improving and optimizing their customer journey strategy in order to compete.
The bottom line is that your streamlining work is never over. There is always room to improve your consumer journey — you just have to know where to look. This is where we come in.
This post will show you how to streamline your eCommerce customer journey to peak performance by giving you all the advanced tips and tools you need to ensure your eCommerce brand stays competitive. Below is a breakdown of exactly what we cover.
Let’s jump in.
What Is an Optimized eCommerce Customer Journey?
As you probably know, an eCommerce customer journey includes every single step that each of your customers will make from the time they discover your brand (awareness) to when they purchase a product (conversion).
For the most part, when it comes to eCommerce, these steps will happen across various online channels or digital touchpoints.
An optimized eCommerce customer journey is one where each of these touchpoints work seamlessly together to guide a prospective customer smoothly through various stages in a buying journey.
The goal here is to not only ensure the journey results in a sale but to make the customer experience as pleasant as possible for the shopper. This results in improved long-term retention and loyalty while also keeping costs down.
In other words: building long-term profits and revenue. The trick is ensuring the journey optimized to peak performance to continuously meet your most important KPIs.
Why an Optimized eCommerce Journey Is Vital for Long-Term Profitability
To achieve long-term profitability, your eCommerce journey and how it’s optimized is vital. And with growing online shopping competition, the margins for long-term potential are getting smaller and smaller.
This means each and every data point or metric in your customer journey analytics will play a role, and every tweak you can make to provide a more personalized shopping experience — focusing on customer service throughout the journey — is critical.
Let’s look at some statistics that back this up:
- According to research done by thinkJar CEO Esteban Kolsky, converting an existing customer costs a brand 7X less than it does to acquire a new one
- As many as 89% of businesses expect competition with similar brands based on customer service — above all other factors — according to a Gartner Survey
- According to research done by Dimensional, over half of the shoppers surveyed admit they make additional, unplanned purchases from a brand based on the customer service experience
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Investing big in minor tweaks has a lot of eCommerce business benefits.
Customer Journey Optimization Benefits
A well-built eCommerce customer journey that is continuously tweaked to peak performance will:
- Enable you to collect additional analytics, which you can use to better predict customer behavior and improve customer engagement throughout — which in turn results in more conversion
- Create a seamless experience and unified journey view that boosts overall branding and equity
- Harness the power of an advanced online merchandising strategy to use your journey to boost long-term growth and profitability
B2C vs. B2B Customer Journey
B2C (business to customer) and B2B (business to business) customer journeys differ in length and complexity, depending on the product. While B2C customers are often more driven to engage with your brand through emotion, B2B buyers will require more information before making a purchase.
This means that a B2B consumer journey is likely to have a longer sales cycle, requiring more time at each stage for customer interaction. Additionally, B2B buyers will more likely have higher expectations that will need to be met to build long-term customer loyalty.
Ultimately, when optimizing your buyer journey, you will need a different approach, depending on if you’re a B2B or B2C eCommerce brand, to how you handle the following:
- Customer feedback
- Partnership building
- Customer service and communication
The Key Stages of a Streamlined eCommerce Customer Journey
What are the critical stages of an eCommerce buyer's journey? They are five key phases of a well-performing customer journey. These include:
These stages are essential phases that a potential shopper will likely pass through, from eCommerce brand discovery to loyal customer — each playing a vital role in your buyer journey.
Let’s quickly recap each.
1. Awareness Stage
The first phase of an eCommerce journey is the awareness stage. During this stage, a prospective customer discovers/becomes aware of your brand and products through one or a combination of marketing channels, including:
- PPC search campaigns
- Social media marketing
- Radio, TV, and video streaming ads
- Online marketplaces
- Word-of-mouth marketing
- Press releases and sponsorships
The aim of this stage is to not only introduce your eCommerce brand to new audiences but elicit customer interaction — ultimately, moving prospective customers closer to buying.
2. Consideration Stage
The second phase of an eCommerce journey is the consideration stage. Here buyers are aware of your brand (or product) but now require a little more information to boost further customer interaction.
The aim during the consideration stage is to use various tools and channels to show how your brand or product can solve a potential customer’s problem or answer their desires. These include:
- Visual merchandising
- Email campaigns
- eCommerce blog
- Remarketing ads
- Content marketing
- Customer service and support
3. Purchase Stage
The third phase of an eCommerce journey is the purchase stage. Also often referred to as the conversion stage, the goal here is to push already-educated potential customers over the finish line. Ideally, when optimizing this stage of your buyer journey, you should be tweaking some of the following:
- Email marketing
- Shopping cart and checkout page
- Online store functionality and navigation
- Customer service and support
- Promotions and sales
- Online merchandising
The aim for this stage is to convert potential customers, and this happens mostly through strategic remarketing campaigns and with your on-store shopping experience and marketing. In fact, online merchandising and promotion will play a key role in the success of this eCommerce journey stage.
4. Retention Stage
The fourth phase of an eCommerce journey is the customer retention (or post-purchase) stage. Also sometimes known as the service stage, here eCommerce brands should be investing big in upgrading customer service. This includes optimizing:
- Logistics and customer service
- Community options
- Customer surveys and reviews
- Advanced retention strategies
- Repurchase campaigns and notifications
The aim of this stage is to ensure the any purchase goes according to expectations while simultaneously engaging with customers to boost satisfaction and entice them to shop again. In fact, customer retention is one of the most important retail KPIs to track.
The fifth and final phase of an eCommerce journey is the loyalty stage. Here you want to work on turning repeat shoppers into your most loyal customers and brand advocates.
Optimizing this phase should be focused on creating the most personalized experience you can for your shoppers. The tools and channels often used to do that include:
- Personal milestone email marketing
- Referral programs
- Rewards programs
The aim of this stage is to ensure you build a continuous flow of customers who are loyal to your eCommerce brand, regardless of market fluctuations.
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how you can tweak your buyer journey strategies to boost sales and long-term profitability. In the next section, we will cover the six key steps you should take to do just that.
How to Improve Your eCommerce Customer Journey in 6 Steps
To improve your eCommerce journey, you should:
- Start with a well-optimized eCommerce customer journey map
- Upgrade to advanced merchandising
- Take a deep dive into the right analytics
- Get proactive with your customer support
- Hyper-focus on the right digital touchpoints
- Look to your biggest competitors
Let’s take a closer look at each.
Step #1: Start with a Well-Optimized eCommerce Customer Journey Map
To ensure your buyer journey is easy to manage and optimize, you need to make sure that you have mapped it correctly. This will help you quickly identify problem areas, pinpoint key digital touchpoints, and streamline your customer experience.
Well-optimized eCommerce customer journey mapping enables brands to put themselves into the customer's virtual shoes. Why is this important? It will enable you to better predict the most streamlined journey from point A (brand awareness) to point Z (brand loyalty). The key is creating these maps on sound customer data and ensuring it aligns with the best customer experience.
To do this, you should start by studying your customer behavior and examining all your different segments to track the complete user experience for each segment. You can look at your funnel exploration and path exploration data that you can find in your Shopify Plus reports or Google Analytics.
Other data you could be studying to optimize your journey are onsite surveys, stage heat maps, post-purchase surveys, feedback, and reviews.
Step #2: Upgrade to Advanced Merchandising
Online merchandising is a significant bulk of your eCommerce buyer journey — not only onsite but offsite as well, with regard to your PPC and email campaigns. We know that optimized merchandising ensures that the right customer will see the right product at the right time (in the sales journey), thus boosting conversion chances.
However, advanced merchandising takes this a step further by not only factoring in behavior and engagement at each stage but ensuring that your merchandising strategies answer retail and marketing KPIs. This means that your retail and logistical KPIs (such as margins, inventory value, days in stock, and reviews — just to name a few) are factored in. This will help prevent dead stock, raise conversion rates, and boost long-term revenue potential overall.
It’s even better if this can be personalized for each of your potential shoppers or existing customers at each stage of the buying journey. You can do this manually or automatically using advanced merchandising tools such as Kimonix.
Step #3: Take a Deep Dive into the Right Analytics
To ensure your customer journey is performing as it should, you want to continuously track and tweak. This means closely monitoring the right consumer journey analytics and reports. Here are some of the most important metrics you should optimize for journey (at each touchpoint at each stage):
- Conversion rates
- Acquisition costs
- Return rates
- AOVs (average order values)
- Retention rates
- Cart abandonment rates
- CLVs (customer lifetime value)
You will want to correlate this store and customer data from Google Analytics or marketing platforms (should they offer advanced reporting) and your Shopify reports and then analyze:
- How customers interact with your eCommerce brand, online store, or marketing asset and what path users are taking to each sale.
Step #4: Get Proactive with Your Customer Support
Customer support and service play a crucial role in every stage of a well-performing buyer journey.
Why? Because the quicker a potential customer can get access to any product information they need, the more streamlined the overall shopper experience, from interest to sale, will be.
Your site UX experience will go a long way to helping you do just that. Therefore, by optimizing and personalizing live chat, making help pages easy to find and navigate, and using CRM SaaS tools or Shopify apps to centralize your customer management you improve your buying journey.
But it goes far beyond your store design.
Personalized merchandising, coupled with well-optimized backend logistics and inventory management, can present exactly what a shopper needs when they need it. This will ensure your service exceeds your customers’ expectations.
The bottom line is this: To establish a positive customer experience, efficient and friendly customer service is vital. Plus, the customer satisfaction that comes from this user experience drives product awareness (new customers) and brand loyalty (existing customers).
Step #5: Hyper-Focus on the Right Digital Touchpoints for Frictionless Marketing
Yes, all customer interactions on a buying journey matter. However, some will be more important than others. To streamline your journey and improve performance, you want to study your data to find the most relevant touchpoints (interaction points) at each stage regarding effectiveness and performance. And then you want to ensure that they flow seamlessly.
More simply put, you want to ensure that no matter what stage a buyer is at or on which channel they are on, the experience is continuous — at every touchpoint. We break this down in full detail in our Most Important Digital Touchpoints for eCommerce Stores and How to Optimize Them post. However, here is a quick summary of these touchpoints that you should be hyper-focused on:
- Onsite merchandising
- PPC campaigns
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing
- Customer service and support
Ultimately, you want to ensure that the shopping experience you create is as holistic as possible. This means building an omnichannel eCommerce buying journey that works as one moving part toward the finish line — checkout.
Step #6: Look to Your Biggest Competitors
Lastly, you will want to look at your competitors if you want to optimize your eCommerce customer journey in order to maximize profitability.
Because a well-conducted competitive analysis will not only point to how or where your competitors better exceed their customers’ expectations, but show you where their gaps are that you can exploit in your own customer journey strategy. Here are just some of the questions you should be asking:
- Are they creating content that speaks directly to your buyer persona?
- How does the marketing flow from awareness to checkout?
- Do they offer a personalized experience, both on and off their store site?
- What promotions are they running?
- How easy is it to find customer service, and how do shoppers engage with it?
Tip: Haven’t done a competitive analysis before? Here is an eCommerce competitor analysis how-to video from Hubspot.
The secret to a well-performing strategy lies in establishing a solid foundation with your eCommerce customer journey mapping and then continuously monitoring essential customer data and online store metrics to tweak these strategies.
In fact, even the most minor tweak can make significant improvements on not only your revenue but your overall business profit. This is because a good buyer journey will drive one-time sales, and boost loyalty and customer retention, while reducing costs.