No matter what you sell or who you sell it to, your website should support your customer journey—the path customers take to get from not knowing about your business to being a loyal customer. If your site doesn’t do this, or if it creates obstacles, you’re missing revenue and repeat business.
Customer journeys can be incredibly complex or very simple. We’re going with simple here, so you can build a framework to get started.
Over time, as you collect website data and get to know more about how your customers behave, you can fill in more details in their journey and use that info to improve your website—whether you’re a freelancer, a local business owner, or an eCommerce merchant.
Charting the customer journey for a small local business
If you haven’t yet created personas for your ideal customers, do that first. Are the homeowners, renters, other business owners? Let’s say they’re families with kids. Here are the basic steps of a customer journey for, say, a local home-chef service:
1. Your customers realize they need or want something.
Your customers realize they need someone to prepare lunches and dinners for them because they’re working all the time and they don’t want their kids living on takeout and frozen pizza.
2. They discover your business.
Whether your customers find you on social media, through a web search, by clicking on an ad or via referral from a friend or neighbor, make sure you know how they got to you. With that knowledge you know where to focus your marketing resources to find more people like them.
3. They consider what you offer.
Do you offer weekly meal prep sessions? Can they customize orders for food allergies and picky eaters? Is the cost in their budget? Can they sign up easily? Are there customer reviews?
4. They decide to buy from you.
Woo hoo! You’ll get more conversions if this part of the journey is a snap. Tracking your conversion rates, A/B testing different calls to action, and continuously improving this stage can help you convert more customers.
For example, if your “get started” button is hidden at the bottom of a long block of text, fix that! Make it as easy as possible for customers to complete this portion of their adventure.
Conversion might feel like the end of the customer journey, but it’s the middle. When you convert a customer, it’s easier to sell to them again than it is to get a new customer to convert.
The longer your relationship with each new buyer, the higher their customer lifetime value can be. That means you’re spending less on marketing to get more revenue—the dream situation for any business. That means the next couple of steps are super important.
5. They evaluate your customer service.
Your customer left a positive review of the meals you cooked. Great! Or maybe they emailed with a question, and you didn’t see it. Uh-oh. At this stage, providing excellent service is critical to keep them coming back. Do what you can to save the relationship!
6. Finally, they (hopefully) become loyal customers.
When a customer loves your business, they keep buying from you. They may also refer people to you, which is essentially free marketing.
OK, let’s look at how these steps apply to different types of customer journeys. Sometimes the steps are all distinct, and sometimes they overlap a bit, as we’ll see.
Charting your eCommerce customer journey
Let’s say you run an online rabbit supply store. Your customers tend to be single, with one or more rabbits, and they love social media.
Here’s what their path might look like.
Your bunny owner customers may not know their pet needs a wooden castle to play in until they see it on your store’s Insta.
If your photos are cute and your message is engaging, social users may go to your website for…
Ideally, your link takes them to your website’s “rabbit castle” category page, so they can check out all the options. The more product information you have—including price, dimensions, shipping costs and times, assembly instructions, customer reviews, return policy, and lots of photos and videos—the more likely they are to add a castle to their cart…
Here we go! The castle is in their cart! Now comes the most perilous part of the journey. Customers abandon about 77% of the stuff they put in online carts, and that average jumps to 85% for mobile shoppers.
To help your customers make it through this part of the journey:
- State shipping costs up front and offer a free shipping option, even if it’s slow.
- Don’t force your new customer to make an account to check out.
- Give them the option to pay with a digital wallet like Google Pay or Apple Pay, so they can check out fast, without keying in credit card data.
- Keep the checkout steps to a minimum—longer checkouts = more abandonment.
If your customer bails out here, this stage of the journey needs work. If they buy, it can be the start of a beautiful (and profitable) relationship.
4. Service and retention
Your customer gets their bunny castle and unboxes it. The end, right?
What if a piece was broken in transit? How will your store handle their question about replacements or refunds? If you shrug and say, “sorry,” this customer journey is almost certainly over.
If you can offer them a replacement piece for the broken part, a new castle or a refund, you stand a better chance of retaining that customer, so they’ll buy from you again and move to the final stage in their journey with you.
This is what it’s all about. When your customers can count on your store to deliver good stuff and good service, they’ll come back. If your customers keep coming back, this part of the journey is on track. If not, check your customer service and marketing.
They might even take the extra step of becoming an unofficial ambassador for your brand, recommending you to their friends and followers.
Charting your freelancer or agency customer journey
What if you run an agency or you’re a freelancer? The basic steps of the customer journey are the same:
- Service and retention
However, for the consideration stage, you’ll need to have a strong portfolio of finished projects. You’ll also need to talk or have a virtual meeting with some of your customers as they move further along in the consideration stage.
At the conversion stage, you may be negotiating a rate or retainer. Your customer will need a contract, not a cart, so have that document template ready to customize based on your discussions.
Measure and refine your customer journey
Whatever your customer journey looks like, monitor your metrics—especially after you make changes to your website or marketing.
You can track:
- Social and email click-throughs
- Time spent on your site
- Items added to cart (or requests for discovery calls)
- Cart conversions or contracts signed
- Customer service requests
- Repeat purchases
Use your data to strengthen each step of the journey so your customers can find you, buy from you and keep coming back. That’s a journey worth taking.
Machielle Thomas curates content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.