Rethinking the Customer Journey: How Ecommerce Companies Can Take Control of the Full Customer Experience

Rethinking the Customer Journey: How Ecommerce Companies Can Take Control of the Full Customer Experience

Rethinking the Customer Journey: How Ecommerce Companies Can Take Control of the Full Customer Experience

The way we think about marketing, sales, and service is changing.

In fact, things have already changed.

For most online businesses–and especially ecommerce companies–the path to purchase is not linear. Very few customers land on your homepage, click onto your product page, click buy, and check out, all in one fell swoop.

Most purchases come from the result of numerous touch points through several channels and over the span of days, weeks, months, or even years. Research from Google indicates that an estimated 85% of shoppers begin the purchasing process on a different device than the one they ultimate use to make the purchase.

This represents a pretty large shift in the more traditional way that we’ve been told to think about the buying process or lifecycle. And this kind of change means that marketers and business owners need to adjust to a new reality.

Here’s how we’re taught that customers flow through the different stages of buying:

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But this is probably a more accurate picture of the customer’s progression toward making a purchase:

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If you run an ecommerce business, you probably know this well. Customers will pop in on Facebook, like your posts in Instagram, sign up for a newsletter, then follow you on Twitter. Then, 10 days later, they add a product to their cart but abandon it. Three days (and probably some nudging) after that, they finally cross the finish line and make the purchase.

Each customer journey is different–and they’re only similar in their unpredictability. Many people often ask what is a customer journey and why is it so important?

What we consider discrete “stages” are really anything but that. And there are no rules as to which channel a customer may or may not interact with your brand through at even given moment.

Tools like Google Analytics are getting better at helping us to track and map these kinds of complex customer journeys, but many ecommerce businesses still struggle to understand, internalize, and act on this shifting behavior.

In order to be able to deliver a better overall customer experience, we need to think of it as just that–an experience. One that is shaped by a multitude of cross-channel interactions over the course of time. Not a singular journey that has a specific starting point and end destination.

Beginning with customer acquisition

While the customer journey may not be linear, it can still be helpful to map it out as a progression.

There are many ways to map out the customer journey and identify customer experience gaps or problems. But, one that stands out as being especially effective (but also relatively simple to use) is one that originally came from a site called

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Source: Republished by

Not only does the process take into account different stages in the buying process, but it also helps us to think about a range of different elements that give us a rich picture of the overall customer experience. It considers what actions the user may be taking or which channels they may be interacting through, but it also considers their thoughts and feelings–critical to hitting the right tone and messaging.

To build your own customer journey map like this:

  1. Map out and define the key “stages” for your customer, from initial awareness/discovery through to purchase (or onto referral/re-purchase)
  2. For each stage, begin by identifying the key channels and/or touch points that are correlated with that specific part of the buying process
  3. Think about what behavior is best representative of that particular stage–is it a linear progression from one channel to another? Is it a cycle of engagement/re-engagement? What triggers the move to the next step?
  4. Move into thinking and feeling. Consider and analyze your customer’s state of mind at each stage and as they interact through different channels. Are they feeling excited about making a purchase? Or are they overwhelmed by a gauntlet of options?
  5. Find the gaps. Which parts don’t quite make sense? Where are there inconsistencies? At which points in the process is the customer falling off, getting confused, or becoming frustrated? These are all opportunities.

This framework can provide a nice picture of your relationship with the customer. Even if it may be simplified into a linear format, it still provides a deep level of insight about your customer’s experience, where problems may exist, and gives you direction for how to shape the customer experience. There are many ways to shape your customers’ experience with your business, for example using something like automated text messages: automated text messaging for business allows you to keep your customers informed about any changes or updates with your business.

Moving to Customer Experience

Customer experience (CX) is a way of thinking about the customer journey in a nonlinear way. Rather than expecting each customer to progress through some predefined set of steps in exactly the right way, CX is about thinking holistically about the culmination of each individual touchpoint and how that all adds up.

So, to begin to understand and manage the customer experience at this level, we begin with the theoretical customer journey that we laid out before.

Then, at each stage, we need to overlay the key components that comprise the overall customer experience. An infographic published by Solvvy breaks down the customer experience into 5 key building blocks:

  1. Perception
  2. Interaction
  3. Friction
  4. Resolution
  5. Communication

Ecommerce customer journey


Within each stage and for each relevant touchpoint, you want to carefully consider how each of these elements of CX is being managed (or not managed).

Ask specific questions, like:

  • What is the perception like for customers in the discovery phase who are interacting with us through Facebook for the first time? Do we seem friendly? Cheap? Smart? Cool?
  • Which points of friction exist for customers who are engaged with our brand when they receive an email promotion? Is there a seamless process to move from that email through to a purchase?
  • If customers have an issue with their order, what does the resolution process feel like? How long does it take for us to respond? Are we ensuring that the customers feel good about the interaction or are they still angry, even if we offer a refund or exchange?

Consider this as an auditing process. It may require you to really deconstruct the various facets of your business and carefully step through each individual interaction.

But, customer experience is a paramount concern. Especially with millions of buying options so easily acceptable, a poor experience can quickly lead to lost customers and revenue.

With the increasing complexity of the buyer’s journey and the omnichannel (and omnidevice) world we live in today, this is no longer just a luxury for major online retailers. Every ecommerce company should be considering how they can better plan and control the customer experience from start to finish–and back to start again.

Challenge yourself to understand the intimate details of your business operations.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and see what it’s like to buy from your company.

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Tyler Hakes
Tyler Hakes is strategy director at <a href="">Optimist</a>, a full-service content marketing agency that helps startups, SaaS, nonprofits, and agencies grow through strategic content and SEO.