9min read

Understanding the Digital Customer Journey

When a customer browses an e-commerce website, they’ll pass through various phases of the digital customer journey and encounter multiple touchpoints.

Curating a unique experience is vital to ensure your customer’s needs are met during the entire user journey.

For this, you’ll need to become familiar with the digital customer journey specifics, the five phases customers pass through, and how to optimize the digital customer journey to deliver the best user experience.

Let’s start by defining the purchasing journey.

Related: Check out our customer journey infographic to optimize every step of your digital customer journey

What is the digital customer journey?

The digital customer journey consists of the steps a consumer takes on the way to a desired action, such as a purchase.

It involves all the touchpoints that the customer might encounter along the way from the moment they have an interest in the purchase, to initial contact with a product or brand and the remaining steps that lead up to the purchase.

When the sale is complete, the journey does not stop there. The journey continues after the sale by implementing customer loyalty strategies to encourage repeat purchases.

These “touchpoints” or points of contact with a brand or product are important because most customers will be exposed to a brand or product multiple times before making a purchase decision. Touchpoints include both physical and digital advertisements, online forums and word-of-mouth recommendations, which means that each customer’s journey has a unique duration and path.

To get the most out of your customer’s journey, it’s important to consider the unique situation of each customer to adapt to their needs.

Adapting to the needs of each customer

As you’re planning your digital customer journey, you need to account for the different needs and expectations of each customer.

Customer needs and expectations can vary widely based on their intentions and where they are in the customer journey. In the same way, their behavior will differ during each phase in terms of how they search and what information they’re looking for.

It is important to be able to adapt to the needs of each customer when they enter your online store, regardless of where they are in the customer journey.

The purpose of the digital customer journey

The digital customer journey is a tool for guiding your online customers to make a desired action. By having a thorough understanding of your customer’s needs, desires and typical behavior, you can offer them a smooth shopping experience, specifically catered to them.

Despite the array of customer journey models available, which represent various approaches and implement numerous phases, they all start with a common factor: customer awareness.

In order to sell a product, a customer must first be aware of its existence and be interested enough to seek further information. Most purchases are not made spontaneously, but rather after consideration and research.

The customer journey model should take this into account and guide the customer toward a conversion, which might be in the form of a purchase, a newsletter subscription, or a digital download.

Digital customer journey phases

Each phase of the digital customer journey plays an important role in the conversion of a customer.

The number of phases within a customer journey varies depending on the model you follow. In the example below, we will be focusing on one key model: the customer-centric model.

Most models, including the customer-centric model, consist of a minimum of five phases. However, these phases can also be divided into smaller actions depending on how detailed you want to be.

When thinking of different phases of the customer journey, visualization is an important step to take prior to its implementation. Building a template for a visual representation will help you truly understand and see where your customers go, how they get there, and when they pause their journey.

A customer-centric model

In order to have a customer-centric approach, you must first understand customer needs at each phase of the shopping experience and tailor that need to each customer.

This customer journey model consists of five phases and, while it is based on brick-and-mortar retail processes, the customer needs are transferable to the online space.

The five phases: research, selection, buying intentloyalty, and confidence correspond with customer needs: orientation, recommendation, inspiration, entertainment and connection.

customer journey phases

These requirements must be addressed in addition to their digital needs when building out the customer journey.

Phase 1: Research

To draw in visitors to the first stage, you have to have a unique value proposition to differentiate your brand from the rest. The role in this phase is to persuade the visitor to begin their journey with you and nurture them with educational information to feed their interest and answer their questions.

During this phase of the customer journey, the customer is already aware and interested in a particular product. Typically, they’re arriving at the online store with the intention of finding a product that matches their desires.

As an e-commerce brand, your role is to reassure the customer of the suitability of your product, your trustworthiness and your site security.

At this point in their journey, the customer requires orientation within the online store.

By implementing intelligent search, logical categories, facet navigation and personalized results, you can facilitate the research process for your customers and help them to find a corresponding product faster.

The easier it is for your customers to navigate your online store, the lower your bounce rate will be and the greater the chance of your customers converting.

Having an intelligent search algorithm built into your website is very important to appeal to customer needs. AI search algorithms should be able to properly interpret what users are searching for at all times, even when a visitor makes a typo. Searching frustration can be easily avoided on e-commerce websites with the help of an intelligent, optimization platform designed specifically with this in mind.

AB Tasty is the best-in-class experience optimization platform to help you convert more customers by leveraging intelligent search and recommendations to create a richer digital experience – fast. From experimentation to personalization, this solution can help you achieve the perfect digital experience with ease.

Phase 2: Selection

As the customer progresses to the next phase of their journey, they require more in-depth product information, reviews, comparisons and recommendations to be able to make their decision.

Their attention will be drawn to the product detail page, where all product information should be clearly displayed alongside elements that reinforce your trustworthiness and security. At this point, an online assistant can give vital advice to your customers regarding their product selection, to make sure their needs are met.

By accompanying your customers during the selection phase, you can reduce your rate of product returns and increase customer satisfaction.

Phase 3: Buying intent

With the information, advice and comparisons gathered during phase three, the customer is now ready to make a purchase decision. This is the perfect time to inspire them with personalized product recommendations, which take into consideration prior user behavior and preferences.

There are systems available that make recommendations based on a customer’s chosen article, to offer added value to the customer and give you an opportunity to cross-sell products. This method can be implemented at different touchpoints, to increase overall shopping cart spending and provide an optimal experience to the customer.

When the customer proceeds with their order, it’s important that the process is as smooth as possible, to prevent them from abandoning their cart during the final stages.

Phase 4: Loyalty

Now that a purchase has been made, the customer moves on to the customer loyalty phase of the journey. An important part of an e-commerce business is ensuring customer retention, which can be achieved by providing entertainment.

One way to fulfill their need for entertainment and their desire for seamless, customized browsing is to offer a personalized, interactive shopping experience. This will help to build an emotional bond with your customer and encourage their loyalty to the brand to decrease the potential of churn.

By filtering the articles on display based on the preferences of each customer, they are only exposed to relevant products, saving them time and making the experience more enjoyable, resulting in an increase of repeat purchases.

Phase 5: Connection

Once you have gained customer loyalty, it’s time to solidify the trust between your brand and your customer, through communication.

To build an maintain a connection with your customers, you can offer them news-worthy content, special deals and product recommendations based on their purchase history. These customers already know and trust your brand. Connecting with them will likely increase the traffic to your online store and repeated business.

To build and maintain a connection with your customers, you can offer them personalized email newsletters offering special deals and product recommendations based on their purchase history, which will likely increase the traffic to your online store and repeat business.

The ultimate goals at this stage are to build loyalty, increase customer retention rates, and decrease churn.

Mapping your customer journey

Customer journey mapping enables you to recognize and optimize the various touchpoints which occur during the customer journey.

By leveraging your knowledge about your customer you can ensure a positive experience at every touchpoint they have with the brand, in order to build trust, connection and a willingness to buy.

Using personalization to enhance your customer journey

With the vast array of products and brands to choose from, customer loyalty has become more important than ever. By focusing on personalizing the digital customer journey, you can reduce the chances of your customer abandoning their purchase or opting for another brand.

An individualized customer journey is beneficial for the following reasons:

  • Option overload: As online brands fight for the attention of consumers, it’s important to set your brand apart from the rest, with a customer journey that is tailored to their needs.
  • Analysis paralysis: With a plethora of information now readily available to customers who are researching and comparing potential purchases, your digital customer journey can help to deliver the information they need with ease and offer them the best shopping experience, thereby tipping the scale in your favor.
  • Lack of loyalty: The ease with which a customer can change service providers has increased the pressure and importance of meeting their needs during the entirety of the digital customer journey. Every interaction matters.

Offering a personalized experience elevates the customer journey and helps to ensure customer satisfaction. By leveraging the power of personalization, you can adapt the individual phases of the customer journey to each customer’s needs for an optimal e-commerce experience.

Personalization is the key to customer satisfaction

There is no way to deny the intense competition in the e-commerce space. Attracting and retaining customers is more difficult now than it has ever been. To advance ahead of the competition, you must understand customer needs and personalize each user journey with the help of a customer journey model.

By personalizing each experience your customers have with your brand, you can be sure to give your customers an optimal shopping experience, guarantee customer satisfaction and encourage customer loyalty.

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