How To Better Understand the Customer Online Journey

customer online journey

Did you know that more than 85 percent of customers research a product online before they buy? In fact, research is often the first step in the customer online journey.

The rise of online shopping has created new avenues for customers to interact with brands and products. As a result, it’s also changed the customer journey. The simple model of customer buying decisions still forms the core of most journeys, but there are now more steps and more ways to reach a decision.

The end result is that it can be more difficult than ever to understand the customer journey and then to guide customers. This guide takes a look at how you can understand your customers and the online journeys they’re taking.

Use Data to Identify Customer Personas

The first step to understanding customer journeys is to understand who your customers are. Who buys your product, why do they buy it, and where do they come from?

You can usually identify a few core “types” of customers. A typical customer for your business may be a young woman. She spends a lot of time on Instagram and YouTube, which is where she’s most likely to hear about your product.

She may follow beauty bloggers or watch make-up tutorials. She probably does online research as well, and she listens to social media influencers. Her biggest pain point is price.

With a good understanding of this “customer persona,” you can think about the typical journey. Where will this person hear about your product? What’s the best way to reach them and build brand awareness?

Then you’ll need to think about the steps they would take to reach a buying decision. For this customer persona, you might identify:

  • Online research, including reviews from trusted beauty bloggers
  • Reading some blogs and comparison shopping
  • Looking for deals to save on price

Once you have this understanding, it’s easier to map out the journey. You can do this for other customer personas as well.

Mapping the Customer Online Journey

Your next step here is likely to visualize the online shopping customer journey. One popular tool for that is online customer journey mapping.

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You can find many tools to help you do this. The very best are powered by AI. They’ll use data from your previous customers to help you map out the typical journey for your customer personas.

A tool like this can also predict a journey for an individual customer. From there, you can see which steps customers will take, as well as where they are in the journey.

The customer journey online map provides a visual, which makes it easier to see exactly how your customers move through their purchase decisions.

Identify Touchpoints

As the modern customer journey has become more complex, with more steps added to it, it’s become more important to identify what are known as touchpoints.

Touchpoints are any point in the journey where a customer comes into contact with your brand. This could be seeing an ad on social media, or it could be calling customer service to return a product.

Keep in mind that you want customers to become repeat buyers, so their journey doesn’t end with making a purchase. That means there are more touchpoints once someone has bought from you.

Identify What Customers Need at Each Step

Once you have a map, you can start identifying customer needs at each stage of the journey. Someone who is just starting out on their journey likely needs to become aware of your product.

They also need information about what it is or what it does. For the typical customer persona above, that might include seeing a favorite beauty blogger talk about the product.

A different customer may have already identified a problem they have. They start their journey by seeking products that can solve that problem. They’re more likely to head to a search engine and look for information about types of products.

A helpful blog or video might identify the kinds of products they can use to address their problem. For example, the “young woman” persona might want to know the best ways to deal with acne. Once they’re aware of product types that help, they’ll seek out specific information about the “best” products.

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By the time the customer gets to the end of their journey and they’re ready to make a purchase, they need help overcoming the price. At this stage, offering them a discount, a coupon, or a free gift could speak to their need.

Develop Supports for Customers

Once you have your map and you’ve identified customer needs, it’s time to develop supports. You can start designing ad campaigns to entice buyers at the end of their journey to complete a transaction.

You might also partner with an influencer to offer a coupon code. They can also support people in earlier stages of the journey by providing reviews and other information.

Map each asset you plan to create onto the customer journey. That way, you’ll be able to identify how you’ll meet each customer need.

Be Prepared for a Change in Direction

It’s important to understand that the customer journey to online purchase is not always straightforward. Even with your map, you may not be able to anticipate when the customer will move to each stage.

The modern customer might even move backward through the journey map. They may move from brand awareness to being ready to purchase almost instantly. Then they might step back and decide to do more research.

Mapping your marketing and sales assets to the journey will help you in these situations. When a customer leaps forward or steps back, you can be ready with the right materials to support their needs in that moment.

Having a clear picture of your touchpoints is also important here. It can show you where the customer has moved to and how you’re interacting with them.

If a customer moves back to the research phase, you may want to offer them more information rather than a discount.

Understand Your Business’s Journey to Success

Understanding the customer online journey can be difficult. A good understanding of your customers and their needs, as well as the right software, can make mapping the journey easier.

Wondering what else you can do to grow your sales and your business? We have plenty of great advice in the archives. Discover more insightful articles and get ideas to keep your business growing forward!

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