Why do people buy your products? How do they discover you, learn about your offerings, and choose your brand? Where do they buy? These are questions every brand should be able to answer. But that can only happen when you understand your customer journey.
Your customer journey is the path people take to become customers. It’s how they move from having never heard about your brand to buying your products again and again.
In marketing, it’s easy to focus on maximizing conversions on specific pages, assets, and campaigns. We devote a lot of resources to helping brands do that. But sales are only a small piece of the customer journey. And if you want to secure the long-term stability of your brand and consistently win the digital shelf, this granular optimization needs to be accompanied by an intimate understanding of your customers.
Who are they? Why do they come to you? How do they get there?
This isn’t just about learning “what makes people click?” That kind of thinking is missing the forest for the trees. You need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and consider what they’re trying to accomplish every step of the way. But if you get familiar with your customer journey—the forest—you’ll know why people click. Because you’ll understand where they’re coming from and where they’re trying to go.
Here are 10 tips for understanding your customer journey.
1. Collect customer feedback
It’s hard to put yourself in your customers’ shoes without listening to them. Customer feedback is a vital component of understanding your customer journey. But you don’t just want to read product reviews, either. You need to ask your customers specific questions about their relationship with your brand, their goals, their pain points, and other relevant information that helps you get to know them.
This is often referred to as a voice of customer survey. Whether you send one long survey or a series of short ones, you should aim to learn something specific about your customers. You might ask things like:
- “How did you hear about us?”
- “What qualities are most important to you in a [your product category]?”
- “What features are you most interested in using?”
- “How do you plan to use [product]?”
- “How would you describe your experience with [industry or task]?”
Open-ended questions can lead to deep, unexpected insights. But fill-in-the-blank, yes or no, multiple choice, rating scale, or Likert scale formats are all strong options, too. The format isn’t what’s important—the point is to learn as much as you can about the people who buy your products. Yes or no questions are easy to evaluate and draw conclusions from, but other formats can give you more nuanced and specific insights.
To maximize responses, you should promote your customer survey through various channels, including emails, packaging, outbound and inbound phone calls, and potentially even advertising.
2. Identify every customer touchpoint
There are a lot of different ways someone can interact with your business. Every touchpoint plays a role in the customer journey—and people may encounter them at any step of the way.
If you want to understand how consumers become your customers, you need to take inventory of all the channels (online and offline) where they may come into contact with your brand. The more detailed you can be, the better.
Not all of these touchpoints are properties or channels you control. Retailers’ product pages, review sites, and influencers can all lead someone to discover your brand and shape how they think about your products.
Consider the role each touchpoint is best suited for in the customer journey and the moments where someone might be led closer to buying your product. If someone has never heard of your brand before, what touchpoints are they most likely to first encounter your brand? If someone is comparing products in your category, where will they find you? And if someone has bought from you before, what are the touchpoints where they’re most likely to interact with you again? How do your touchpoints relate to one another? What other touchpoints could those interactions lead to?
3. Create buyer personas
The journey someone takes to become a customer completely depends on who they are, what they’re trying to accomplish, and how they go about solving their problems or reaching their goals. So if you really want to understand the path people take to your products, you need to take some time to understand the people who buy from you.
Whatever your niche, there are probably a variety of demographics that are valuable for you to reach. For each demographic you want to reach, you should create a buyer persona.
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of a specific person who represents a member of a core demographic. Maybe it’s a certain type of small business owner, a first-time parent, a high school teacher, or a tile contractor. Give them a name. Give them goals, problems, desires, and preferences.
But don’t just make these things up. Each detail you add about a persona should be informed by real insights about your customers, ideally drawn from your voice of customer survey. The more your buyer personas accurately represent the people who buy your products, the more they help you understand the customer journey.
Creating buyer personas is a valuable exercise that can drastically improve your marketing efforts. It also makes it easier to think about every stage of your customer journey.
4. Don’t just start with “awareness”
If you want to understand your customer journey, at some point, you’re to have to define where that journey starts and where it ends. Brands often assume “awareness” is where the customer journey begins. Where, when, and how do people become aware of your brand?
But from the customer’s point of view, they’re well into the journey before they know about your brand. They’re on the customer journey before they even know your product category exists, or that it’s what they need to explore.
In most cases, your target audience starts with something they’re trying to figure out or accomplish. They have a problem or a goal.
“How can I get healthier?”
This leads them to research a range of topics, which leads to solutions, which leads to your product category, and eventually, awareness of your brand.
If you start examining your customer journey at the point where people become aware of your brand or product, you’re going to be missing a lot of crucial insights about how you can serve them and lead them to your products.
5. Talk to sales and customer service representatives
Sales representatives and customer service agents are your organization’s “boots on the ground.” They’re constantly coming into contact with customers at various stages of their relationship with your brand. They speak directly to people who have never bought from you before and people who have been buying from you for years.
Each of these teams are intimately aware of your customers’ concerns, problems, and goals, as well as the things they find most compelling about your products and your brand.
They’re an invaluable resource for understanding your customer journey. They know what features are most appealing to particular types of customers. They know what strategies are most effective. What solutions people need the most.
And just as importantly: they know where the gaps are in your business’ ability to serve the people you’re trying to reach.
6. Get better visibility into how people purchase
One of the greatest challenges ecommerce brands face when trying to understand their customer journey is the lack of visibility into where and how people buy. Attribution is a constant struggle in marketing. If the transaction needs to occur on your site for you to see when a campaign or channel leads to a sale, you have no idea how your efforts are actually contributing to overall sales.
PriceSpider’s Where to Buy solution lets you collect in-cart data from retailers, which is the missing ingredient from most brands’ marketing campaigns. When you can follow a purchase from a Facebook ad through to a retailer’s website and track the actual transaction, you can see what messaging and which channels are driving sales. You also get a lot more insight into where your target audience prefers to buy.
But we don’t just show you when someone buys your product. You’ll also gain visibility into what else they purchased and how much they spent. This helps you identify problems and goals that coincide with the ones your product solves, and new opportunities to support and strengthen your customer journey.
7. Follow the thought leaders your customers follow
In virtually every niche, some people and brands have built a following around their expertise, perspective, or lifestyle. They’re not necessarily famous or well known, but when people turn to Google or social media to explore a topic, these are the people and pages they find.
If you want to understand how people become your customers, you need to follow the people and brands they listen to. Who is educating them about your industry? Who is teaching them how to solve their problems and achieve their goals? What are your customers learning there, and how does it lead them to the next leg of their journey?
8. Find out what they’re searching for online
When people need answers, Google is almost always one of the first places they turn. Using search engine optimization tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and even Google’s own tools, brands can explore the specific terms people use to explore the topics related to their product categories—or even to find their product categories.
Knowing what people search for is a vital piece of understanding your customer journey. The terms people use reveal their underlying challenges, motivations, and aspirations. It also helps you investigate what they’re learning about concepts that matter to your brand—and who they’re learning it from.
9. Explore the barriers to purchase
At every stage of the customer journey, obstacles stand between your customers and your products. But you can’t remove those barriers or help people navigate them if you don’t know what they are.
As you define the stages of your customer journey, and work through them for each buyer persona, think about what someone needs to know or do before they can progress to the next step. How can you support them? What can you do to get them what they need?
At the purchase stage, for example, brands often try to capitalize on direct-to-consumer sales, so they make it difficult for their website visitors to navigate to their preferred retailer. But there are many reasons why a consumer may prefer a specific retailer.
In many cases, that retailer preference is strong enough that they’ll head to Google or the retailer’s search engine to find what they’re looking for, rather than buy direct from a brand. This exposes them to ads and other search results, and it makes it a lot more work to do what they’re trying to do: buy your product. Some people who would’ve bought your product are simply going to give up. And some of them will buy from a competitor they discovered when you made them do that extra work.
A where to buy solution removes this barrier by letting you display an assortment of quality retailers that carry your product right from your website. Your potential customers can click a single button to see all their options, then make a selection and head straight to your product page on their preferred retailer’s site. You can even display stock availability and buying options, so people don’t choose a store where they can’t buy, and they can choose the option that makes the most sense for them.
10. Make a customer journey map
A customer journey map is essentially just a table. The stages of your customer journey are the columns, and the things you want to know about each stage (such as touchpoints, motivations, and barriers) are the rows. Like creating a buyer persona, making a customer journey map is a valuable exercise that forces you to empathize with your customers. Instead of focusing on your channels and messaging, you look at the journey from your customers’ perspective.
This helpful marketing document pulls together a lot of the insights we’ve discussed above and organizes them in a way that makes it easy to identify gaps you need to fill and the best ways to address potential problems.
Want to start working on yours? Check out our guide to creating a customer journey map.
Follow the journey from start to finish
PriceSpider’s Where to Buy solution gives your brand insights you won’t find anywhere else. With our in-cart data and advanced attribution marketing analytics, we give you a simple, convenient way to see where your customers come from, where they go, and what they buy along the way.
Schedule a demo today, and see how Where to Buy helps your brand increase conversions and understand your customers.