How to Map a Customer Journey in Ecommerce: The Data Behind Consumer Psychology and Experience

How to Map a Customer Journey in Ecommerce: The Data Behind Consumer Psychology and Experience

Can I have your attention, please? Statistically speaking ... probably not. 

If I had to guess, 20% of the people who clicked on this article have already decided they have somewhere else to be. In ecommerce, it’s even worse.

Of course, who can blame them? With all of today’s online noise, it’s hard enough getting someone’s attention. Transforming that attention into a long-term customer relationship can feel near impossible — especially when you’re operating at scale.

So, what’s the answer?

In his book X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, Brian Solis offers a way forward:

How To Map A Customer Journey In Ecommerce: The Data Behind Consumer Psychology And Experience

“Experiences are more important than products now. In fact, experiences are products.”

“People increasingly share their experiences with companies and products in our connected economy, and we can either be active participants in creating and nurturing desired experiences or spend more and more time trying to react or make up for bad experiences.”

Just as in real life, a customer’s experience with your brand is all about the journey … but the only way to bring that journey to life in a reliable, repeatable way is through data.

Ready to grow your business with data analysis?

This article is an abbreviated excerpt from The Shopify Plus Data Analysis Course, one of many courses available exclusively to Shopify Plus merchants …

Explore data analysis fundamentals and learn how to utilize platforms like Google Data Studio, Facebook Analytics, business intelligence tools, and session recording apps.


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Not on Shopify Plus? Keep reading to download the Personas and Customer Journey Map Template or connect with us today

Manage Customer Journeys, Not Lifecycles

Much like Solis, Kerry Munro — VP of Ecommerce at Home Depot Canada — also focuses on experience:

“[A connected experience] is all about ensuring the customer enjoys the experience of shopping with you, that you have the right products, that those products are available when they’re looking for them, and that when they have a question or a concern that someone is there to help.”

“That’s across all mediums, whether it’s a call center, a chat environment online, ecommerce versus in store, or now omni-channel.”

That focus sounds great in theory, but while customer experience management is “on the top of every C-Suite executive’s list,” the reality is designing a robust omni-channel retailing strategy and “managing the customer experience within the entire customer lifecycle is virtually impossible.”

While perhaps unintentional, the following image shows just how overwhelming exhaustive approaches can be:

Example customer journey map

Instead, a far better approach is to identify your most valuable customers — e.g., personas — and map their journeys one stage at a time.

Mapping the Customer Journey

Harvard Business Review defines a customer journey map as:

“A diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it is a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination.”

“The more touchpoints you have, the more complicated — but necessary — such a map becomes.”

As the Stages of Change Model told us in Customer Psychology in Ecommerce: Behavior Change in the Digital Age, one slip up from an external force can cause a person to either progress or regress in their journey. The wrong message at the wrong time can force people to flee. On the other hand, matching your offer to the right stage works like magic.

Customer journey maps help you keep it all straight.

They tell you where users are coming from, how many days or visits it takes to move from one stage to another, what the goal of the user is in each stage, and how each segment behaves.

Customer journey map in ecommerce (template)

Create your own personas and customer journey map using this downloadable template

Customer journey maps should be adjusted on a monthly or quarterly basis to answer the question, “How can we add more value to our visitors at each step of this journey?” or “How can we help customers at each stage achieve their goals easier?”

Jet is currently leading the charge, leveraging consumer psychology along the buyer’s journey to generate $1 billion in ecommerce sales in their first year of business.

Liza Landsman, the CMO, explained:

“Jet’s target audience is represented across almost every age and socioeconomic cohort, although it overindexes among millennials who have children and are college educated, and slightly overindexes on baby boomers.

“Our audience cares about value, they care about convenience, they want to make their life simple, and they care about service—all things we’re focused on profoundly.”

Jet has been able to utilize factors like convenience, simplicity, and service to drive sales. These factors stem from a profound knowledge of their customers, and not some amazing, last-ditch email campaign or fire sale.

From Personas to a Customer Journey Map Through Data

Before building your journey map(s), it is best to create customer personas to help you envision what your ideal customer might be going through when seeking your product.

This can be a lengthy process. Still, it’s worth putting the time in to get it right before defining the paths that different types of customers might take to purchase your products.

SilverPop, an IBM Company, explains that to create a good buyer persona, it helps to identify recent customers who made a purchase on your website and interview them to understand:

  • Why were they looking for the product that they bought on your website?
  • How did they research the product?
  • What criteria helped them make their purchase decision?
  • Which of your competitors’ sites did they visit while evaluating products?
  • Why did they choose your website?
  • What was their experience like on your website when buying the product
  • and what can be improved?

It’s best to start small in the beginning and prioritize the most critical customer personas for your business.

The real key, however, is using your existing data to map the customer journey based on psychological principles to drive more sales.

Here’s how …

Step 1. Monitor Your Behavior Flow Report to See How Customers Move On Your Site

Understanding how users move through your store is critical to producing sales that follow a psychologically informed model.

For example, why would sales be low if you’re offering a discount code to all first-time visitors? The offer (or, ability) might be great, but consumers still lack the motivation to buy. In this case, it doesn’t matter how much products are discounted.

Applying the Behavioral Change Model to the customer journey map

This all-too-common scenario can be uncovered with the Behavior Flow report inside Google Analytics.

Make sure to examine different segments of users, whether it’s first-time visitors, returning visitors, purchasers or create a custom segment for visitors with long session durations but no purchases:

Using Google Analytics Behavior Report to determine a customer journey map

Look for trends, like specific drop-off points where hoards of users left your site without converting. Conversely, look for commonalities between behavior. What page do most first-time visitors view after landing on your homepage? In the first stage of a customer journey map, you will start to notice that most of these first-touch pages revolve around building awareness before driving conversions.

You can also install Hindsight on your Shopify Plus store to record visitor sessions. You’ll get heat maps and also be able to see user behavior as they move from page to page.

How To Map A Customer Journey In Ecommerce: The Data Behind Consumer Psychology And Experience

Detailed session histories can generate ideas of which pages correspond to each stage of the journey.

For instance, your blog or story pages are often perfect jumping-off points to educate users. The Elephant Pants uses their story page to build awareness, leveraging it as an external force to push consumers from one stage to the next.

How To Map A Customer Journey In Ecommerce: The Data Behind Consumer Psychology And Experience

Live chat and coupon-based offers at the end of the story provide just the right trigger at the right time to help transition awareness to action.

How To Map A Customer Journey In Ecommerce: The Data Behind Consumer Psychology And Experience

Use the Behavior Flow report in Google Analytics to better understand the typical paths people take on your site. Then, leverage each step as an opportunity to provide the right motivations and triggers to keep them in your funnel.

Step 2. Analyze the Top Conversion Path Report to See What Platforms People Use at Each Stage

An omni-channel strategy or multi-channel strategy is critical because ready-made buyers don’t just materialize on your website. Instead, it often requires multiple touchpoints along multiple channels or platforms before they eventually pull the trigger.

As a result, it’s also more critical than ever to optimize people’s experience as they move from one platform to the next.

People might find your business through a referral on social media. They might read your tweets or browse your Instagram. Then, they might head back to your site for more — all before handing over their credit card.

Knowing the typical paths on your site is one thing, but it’s another to understand when and why customer’s use different channels prior to purchasing.

Fortunately, you can find this data for free using the Top Conversion Paths report in Google Analytics:

Using Google Analytics Top Conversion Paths report to create a customer journey map

This report will show you which paths users take on different channels for the buyer’s journey. It can tell you if people are getting educated on specific platforms, and how they reached your site in the first place.

A more expanded view might look something like this:

How To Map A Customer Journey In Ecommerce: The Data Behind Consumer Psychology And Experience

Be sure to note these different channels and their specific order sequencing before purchase.

If you notice that social plays a huge role in awareness, add that to your buyer’s journey. You can later tap into this data and share content on social that focuses on brand building rather than selling, like Pura Vida:

How To Map A Customer Journey In Ecommerce: The Data Behind Consumer Psychology And Experience

If you’re a Shopify Plus merchant, you can access our custom Google Data Studio reports in our Data Analysis course to help you find your metrics that lead to a sale.

There you can see how many sessions the average user undertakes before making a purchase, and how many days it takes on average to make a purchase. You can further segment this by demographics or traffic source.

How To Map A Customer Journey In Ecommerce: The Data Behind Consumer Psychology And Experience

Step 3. Mold your Funnel (i.e., Customer Journey) to the Needs of your Visitors

The decision to purchase ultimately comes down to one major thing: your relationship with your customers. Again, this means understanding consumer psychology and building a strong relationship by providing value at each stage of their journey.

The role of data is essentially an analytical version of the fifth habit in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Data analysis will help you uncover what your customer cares most about, then it’s your job to serve them the content, products, and offers in line with their desires.

If customers aren’t ready to buy, they won’t. And even if they are motivated, the wrong trigger or ability could limit their potential to slide down your funnel.

Only after mapping your customers’ existing journey, can you then test different types of content and offers at each stage. For example, test a storytelling email versus an offer as your email autoresponder when someone first signs up, or try split testing your remarketing campaigns with blog posts, “about us” videos and offers.

Maybe your retention strategy would be more effective if you had a weekly storytelling email with a softer call to action or vice versa.

Offsite, apps like Shoelace for remarketing journeys or Klaviyo for email can guide this testing. Onsite, testing and personalization platforms like Google Optimize or Nosto integrate beautifully with Shopify Plus.

Now, it’s your turn.

As part of our Shopify Plus exclusive Merchant Acceleration program, we’ve put together Customer Personas and Journey Mapping Templates to map out each stage of the buyer’s experience align it with the wants and needs of your buyer personas:

Customer personas and journey mapping templates

Create your own personas and customer journey map using this downloadable template

Customer persona template

The template contains three pre-loaded customer personas, but you can add more customer images and persona profiles using Burst

Customer journey map template

Expand, edit, and duplicate the customer journey map to fit the data you’ve collected

Use the various parts of the above template in harmony to craft experiences that compel action at each stage.

Final Thoughts

It’s never been more important to understand the psychology behind consumer behavior.

Buying has never been more complex because there’s never been this number of platforms, channels, options, alternatives, or competitors.

If you want to grow your business, it’s time to take a deep look at your customer personas and their journey. The trick to dominating a market isn’t just clever advertising, but rather a habit of continuously deepening your understanding of your customer and striving to add more value to their lives.

Attention and sales are a side effect of doing this well. At the end of the day, the brand that can motivate the market most will win.

Photo of Doug Crowe

About the Author

Doug Crowe is a Shopify Alumni. After working on the Shopify Plus team for a number of years, he has recently joined the Noelle Floyd team as their director of marketing.