eCommerce Basics: The Customer Journey Map


Customer Journey Mapping or CJM allows online retailers to anticipate and meet their customers’ expectations and behaviors, which has an impact on conversions and ROI. 

A typical first step in the CJM exercise consists of developing personas.

These are categorizations about the kinds of people who interact with the brand. The lines can be drawn around age, gender, location, occupation – or any other identity marker that makes sense for grouping the people that are buying your product.

Another way to group your personas is around actionable insights that drive purchasing decisions. For example, you might create a persona for people who are highly influenced to purchase based on coupons or who have similar practices of comparing products before buying.

The goal is to physically draw out all of the different interactions or touchpoints that a customer has with your brand. From a targeted ad on a social media network, to browsing on the company’s website, to reading a product review – what is the step-by-step path from product discovery/awareness to purchase?

You have your personas, now you start your map

Nathan Fabro, UX Expert at Absolunet, states that CJM is in essence an act of empathy. “With this in-depth exercise, you get to really sink into the mindset of a persona to analyze what a client is thinking and feeling during the journey.” CJM asks you to walk a mile in your customer’s shoes.

When conducting CJM workshops, you trace out a typical path from awareness to conversion (cash in the bank). Some basic elements that can be drawn out fall into the categories of “do, think, and feel”:

  • Do = What are the different actions a customer is taking? At what point are they hitting those touchpoints?
  • Think = What are they thinking as they accomplish those actions?
  • Feel = How is the customer feeling as they move along the path?

In the mapping process, you can identify “
pain-points” – stumbling blocks for the consumer.

Say your website doesn’t include prices in an upfront and clear way, that is an invitation for the user to navigate away. Perhaps your app doesn’t give you real-time inventory checkers so your client drives to a store, expecting to find a product only to hear that it isn’t currently in stock. The perception of your brand suffers.

*Actionable insight: Pain-points are an opportunity. First, as an opportunity to identify what is going wrong and then to rectify it with a creative solution.

Your client feels overwhelmed, say, with your virtually unlimited bicycle selection? (Assuming you’re a bike retailer) Why not develop a “talk to an expert” functionality to get advice on which mountain bike will perfectly fit their needs? This is an example of where customer journey and omnichannel meet to create a seamless buying experience.

In the end, cohesive and coherent interactions are what lead to conversion. Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s Senior Vice President of Ads and Commerce writes, “In fact, 69% of online consumers agree that the quality, timing or relevance of a company’s message influence their perception of a brand.”

Having said that, interactions aren’t the only thing that matters. Operational efficiency – being able to quickly get your item to a customer – might be way more important than the path that led them to purchase. You see, this isn’t just the path to purchase; it’s the customer journey – they care more about the product than they do about you – sorry, it sucks to read that, we know – and their post-purchase experience is a part of their journey.

Key Takeaways:

  • Empathy is important. Putting yourself in the clients’ shoes allows you to fully grasp their experience and needs, making your brand the go-to.
  • You have more control than you think. A cohesive, on-brand experience comes from well thought-out interactions. This, by the way, is the best way to fight eCommerce giants.
  • Close the loop. The customer experience doesn’t begin or end on your site, store or digital property – it has to include satisfaction after the sale (with the product AND the people they bought it from). The journey is the relationship, not the date.