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Create an e-commerce customer journey map with a free tool

March 4, 2021

Customer journey mapping in e-commerce is a diagram that illustrates the steps your customers go through in engaging with your online business. It starts when they first become aware of your products, to completing a purchase. It can extend to after-purchase care.

Buying and selling products on the internet is as popular as ever. There are many small and medium sized businesses entering online shopping space thanks to popular e-commerce sites like Shopify or BigCommerce. If they want to build up their market share and not lose out, they need to ensure smooth customer experience.

It all boils down to one thing—

Mapping e-commerce customer journey.

It lets you understand customer's complex interactions with your brand and meet their needs.

This article covers the following topics:

  1. Why journey mapping for our e-commerce is important?
  2. Creating an e-commerce journey map with examples
  3. Online shopping challenges and how to solve them
  4. Bonus: e-commerce journey template

Why is journey mapping in e-commerce important?

Designing a customer journey map in e-commerce is key to:

  • Understand customer interactions across different touchpoints (ads, newsletter, T&Cs, customer support, and many more)
  • Identify customer's pain points
  • Improve satisfaction scores and increase the number of returnig customers
  • Improve existing operations based on concrete data
  • Identify potential new target groups
  • Strategize how to reach customers in the future

Sounds good?

Let's see where to start!

How to create an e-commerce customer journey map?

At Smaply, we know the ropes of making customer journey map. So even if you have never done this before, we'll guide you through the process. You can even use Smaply's free customer journey mapping software with our tips and tricks to speed the process up.

1. Empathize with customer personas

There is no customer journey map without a customer. So you have to think about who our customer is—or should be to understand their needs and expectations.

The first step is to create a persona that represents this target group in a customer-centric way. Defining a persona in e-commerce can help you answer some important questions:

  • What does the user need/want?
  • What channels and devices does the persona use in order to research products?
  • How price-sensitive is the user?
  • What are their concrete expectations about their online shopping experience?
  • What products does the persona value?

By answering these questions, you can get a better understanding of your target group. The questions above are just examples. You could also include country specific questions or cultural differences. Just think about which information might be helpful for their e-commerce journey.

Check out the example profile of a persona in a customer journey map for an online shop.

Illustration of the persona Carl, an actor who enjoys sustainable shopping end fashion.
An example of a persona in an e-commerce customer journey map.

Keep in mind that when you run an online shop, you should also examine potential customers or leads.

2. Define the scope of the e-commerce journey map

When creating a journey map, you can choose between various scales and scopes.

When you start out, we recommend that you use a high-level journey map to visualize the whole experience the user has with your brand. From finding to your e-commerce site, searching for the right product, the check-out process, and up until the product delivery.

Then, you can create a more detailed map to dive deeper into a specific step. For example, you might want to focus on the product search on your website through different category pages or the check-out funnel.

Many e-commerce shops lose customers during the check-out process. It might be useful to investigate this step. Is the process intuitive? Or is it confusing for customers?

3. Analyze experiences, step by step, stage by stage

Now, we have to map down the user’s journey.

Every e-commerce journey map consists of several stages and steps:

Stages of e-commerce: Awareness > Consideration > Decision > Delivery and Use > Return
The 5 stages of e-commerce customer journey mapping.

Once we’ve defined the stages, think about the different steps and touchpoints customers experience when they are interacting with your online shop. The level of detail of each step depends on the overall scale of the map that we’ve defined above. Ask yourself:

  • What are the steps within each stage?
  • What are the customers’ goals and pain points at each step of the journey?
  • What are your own business goals for each step?
  • Where do your current customers drop out of the journey, leave our website?
  • Do they get the right information at the right time?
Describe your customer's journey step by step to empathize with him.
An example of a customer journey mapping for online shopping.

There's one important thing to keep in mind at this point—

The customer journey starts before users get to our website. It starts with a need, a desire for a more or less specific product. Also, the customer's e-commerce journey does't end at the checkout. Nor when users hold the product in their hands.

Customers experience and interact with your brand after completing the online purchase. For example, when contacting support, returning to your shop, or recommending the brand to their social network.

5. Visualizing processes

This is an often neglected step in mapping e-commerce journeys.

You can also focus on the backstage activities happening during the journey. What needs to happen behind the scene, outside of the customers’ view to deliver a smooth experience? Close to a service blueprint, visualizing different levels of processes helps webiste owners better understand who’s involved at what step of an experience and who is responsible for their optimization.

In the below map you can see a strong focus on enabling processes could look like.

Illustration of the backstage processes happening in an ecommerce business.
A look at the backstage processes that help understand internal activities influencing ustomer's journey in e-commerce.

For comprehensive and complex journey maps with advanced lane and content types like those above, use a digital customer journey mapping software.

Examples of journey maps in e-commerce

This simple e-commerce journey map illustrates the steps of two different personas and compares their experience. It visualizes:

  • Channels they use
  • Their emotions
  • Involvement (dramatic arc)
  • Ideas for improvement
  • Backstage lane that provides a rough idea of  the processes that are invisible to the customer
Expand example journey map

This example of online shopping experience map shows a strong focus on backstage processes. It clearly differentiates between processes that are visible to the customers, and processes that aren’t. Hence, it gets very close to a service blueprint.

Example journey map: online shopping journey map with backstage processes

What are the challenges of mapping journeys in e-commerce?

Getting lost in all the data

In e-commerce, it is common to collect loads of data about users, their preferences, purchase history, and needs. It can be extremely useful and help get a better and more holistic understanding of your customers. However, using all this data too early in the process of mapping e-commerce journeys can prevent you from understanding of the big picture.

Quantitative data (e.g., from Google Analytics) is a good resource for sure, but remember to look at qualitative data, too. For example, try to interview some of your customers after the purchase or send them a customer survey to get some qualitative insights.

The good thing about qualitative data is that it helps us find the biggest pain points easily. If there’s a hole in the street and three pedestrians point to it, we don’t need another 10 folks to confirm this, right?

Also, quantitative data will never give you an answer to the “why”:

  • Why did users visit your page?
  • Why did they buy from your site, and not another?
  • Why did they abandon the cart?

Some more questions that could be interesting to dive into are:

  • How did they research the product in the first place?
  • What online and offline channels did they use?
  • How do they evaluate the experience on our website?
  • How do our users think your page could be improved?

Consider context and think cross-channel

Many different channels influence the e-commerce journey: website, shopping app, review portals and word of mouth…

Even though a big part of a service is being used in an online context, it does not mean customers don’t have any offline experiences. Consider physical context and direct, personal interaction! Is your online shop accessible to everyone? What do customer reviews tell others about your customer service? This is something you will  learn from Google Analytics!

Call to action: create online shopping journey maps!

Empty template for an e-commerce journey map

It’s time to create your own journey map!

Download this set of paper templates, or start creating digital journey maps with Smaply!

Create user-focused journey maps to understand the user experience and innovate your services. Smaply lets you easily create e-commerce journey maps, personas, and ecosystem maps with an in-app template.

Sign up now, it's free!

Create user journey maps with Smaply