When faced with problems, many of us often give or receive the same advice: “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.” This mindset is the bread and butter of DTC companies, as the problems and perspectives of their customers shape every aspect of their brand, from product development to shipping options to marketing.
Mature ecommerce businesses—and especially those with a recurring revenue channel—often use customer journey mapping to put themselves in those metaphorical shoes. They don’t just conceptualize the customer’s experience at one point in time, but instead break it down into five key stages.
Awareness, consideration, conversion, retention, and advocacy: Each phase has different focuses, as well as different strategies that can be used to provide the greatest value, increase customer satisfaction, and improve return on investment (ROI). In this post, we’ll walk through the key tactics that can be used to optimize each of these stages, as well as examples of what this could look like for your business.
- Customer journey optimization allows brands to create cohesive experiences that encourage retention and customer advocacy.
- By thinking about the unique focus of each stage—awareness, consideration, conversion, retention, and advocacy—as well as the stages’ relationships to one another, brands can increase ROI and customer loyalty.
- When optimizing the customer journey, it’s crucial to center customer expectations.
The value of customer journey mapping
While not all customer journeys have the same path, they tend to follow certain patterns as they progress through the sales cycle. By following a mapping process to outline each step’s unique purpose, as well as its relationship to the buyer journey as a whole, brands can create a cohesive, end-to-end experience where each stage flows into the next.
This customer journey orchestration encourages customers to complete the entire journey and linger in the retention and advocacy stages. These last two stages are especially critical for brands with a recurring revenue stream, who have built-in touchpoints for repeat purchases.
If your business has different customer segments with nuances among their customer journeys, creating a customer persona for each segment can be valuable. This can make it easier to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and tailor your efforts to their unique preferences.
Strategies for each stage of your customer journey map
Now, let’s walk through each of the five stages and the corresponding tactics you can use to increase value for both your business and customers.
1. Awareness: Influencer partnerships
The awareness stage of the customer journey is all about cutting through the noise. Your mission is to reach shoppers with a clear, compelling message—and to have that message make an impact on them that encourages them to move on to the next step.
One highly valuable strategy brands can use to make a positive first impression at the awareness stage is influencer marketing. This doesn’t mean your brand is required to partner with celebrities—influencers can be anyone with a highly engaged following who is especially active in your community or popular among your customer base.
For example, if you’re a meal kit company that sells higher-end, more gourmet meals, you might consider hiring a well-known food blogger to develop influencer content for your brand on Instagram. This can allow your brand to access new groups of customers, grab their attention, increase customer engagement, and capture their trust.
2. Consideration: Retargeting ads
At the consideration stage, your customers are already aware of your products and services. They’re thinking about making a purchase with you—and they’re nearly ready to do so. They may just need a bit more information or incentive to take the next step.
A worthwhile strategy for moving customers from stage 2 to stage 3 is using retargeting ads. For example, if your site has an email opt-in, you can reach out to a potential customer who visited your site but didn’t make a purchase. You can send compelling offers or information on desirable products right to their inbox to compel them to buy.
Of course, personalization is crucial here to ensure your offers are enticing and relevant for shoppers. By segmenting your customers and sending out offers tailored specifically to them, your chances of conversion increase.
3. Conversion: A smooth checkout process
The checkout process is crucial for the third stage of the customer journey, conversion. Now that a customer has decided to buy your product, you need to make it as easy and quick as possible for them to do so.
If the checkout process goes well, your customers may not notice at all. But if it goes poorly—for example, if customers have to progress through multiple pages, or if there are unexpected shipping charges, the risk of cart abandonment is high.
To ensure a smooth checkout, make sure to optimize the checkout for both mobile and desktop devices so customers can purchase from you on the go. Consider launching one-page checkouts so shoppers don’t have to click through several pages to complete a purchase. And if you sell in multiple markets, make sure that all your customers can purchase in their preferred currency.
You can even incorporate surprise-and-delight tactics into the checkout experience to move shoppers on to the next stage. For example, if you’re a premium skincare brand, you might display a few free sample gifts on the checkout page to create a positive purchase experience and keep customers coming back.
4. Retention: Free loyalty programs
With today’s rising customer acquisition costs, retention is important for all businesses—but it’s especially important for brands who rely on a recurring revenue stream. And when you strategically implement the right retention tactics, your subscription customers will continue subscribing, repeating purchases with you over time.
One way to encourage customers to move into the retention stage is to implement a free loyalty program. These one-size-fits-all programs cost nothing for customers to join, allowing you to engage large groups of shoppers. As members continue making purchases with you, they can earn points, unlock discounts, and access other incentives that add value for them.
One common example of a free loyalty program from the brick-and-mortar world is a punch card from your local coffee shop, where you can earn a free drink after a set number of purchases. In the ecommerce world, the concept is similar. You can display the points shoppers earn with you in their customer portal to remind them of the value of continuing to purchase.
5. Advocacy: Referral programs
Those who reach the advocacy stage with you are arguably your most valuable customers. Not only have these individuals chosen to stick with your brand—they’re advocating on your behalf. Advocates may recommend you to friends and family, leave positive reviews, or even create user-generated content on social media featuring your brand.
People often trust recommendations from their peers more than recommendations from companies. This makes your advocates a highly trustworthy group to potential customers, and investing in them is a worthwhile process for your business.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting customers to reach the advocacy stage, and this process largely depends on your customer experience as a whole. Be sure to tap into customer feedback regularly to see what’s working well and what isn’t so you can make constant improvements.
Alongside these holistic efforts, it can be helpful to implement a referral program to encourage existing customers to recommend you to their friends. For example, you could offer current customers $10 off their next order if they refer a friend to subscribe. This also rewards your advocates for reaching this highly valuable stage and encourages them to keep advocating for you.
Create a seamless customer experience with buyer journey optimization
By thinking critically about the purpose of each stage of your customer journey, then taking steps to optimize it effectively, you create a cohesive and compelling shopping experience. And when each step of the journey flows into the next, customers are more likely to reach the most valuable stages: retention and advocacy.
Looking for more information about the customer journey? Check out our blog post on how the loyal customer journey differs from the traditional customer journey.