If you want your website to be effective, it needs to do more than offer basic information. You’ll want to carefully craft its design and content, in order to lead visitors towards taking key actions. To do this, you’ll need to understand the online customer journey.
Most people go through a standard process along the way to making a purchase or joining your site. For example, they need to become aware of your company and offerings in the first place, and will probably go through a process of research and consideration. Even after a purchase has been made, you’ll need to focus on retaining the customer over time.
The online customer journey (and why it matters)
If you’re looking to sell products or services online, you’ll have a lot of competition. It’s not enough to simply list out what you have to offer and hope people will start making purchases. Instead, you’ll want to provide a clear path for potential customers to follow and encourage them to move forward at every step.
While each business is a little different, most customers go through a few predictable stages. The result is an online customer journey resembling something like this:
- Awareness: First, leads need to become aware of your business and website.
- Consideration: Then, they’ll learn about your product or service, and consider whether to buy it.
- Purchase: At this stage, the lead makes their first purchase and becomes a customer.
- Retention: After the first purchase, you’ll want to ensure the customer keeps coming back.
- Advocacy: As long as the customer is happy with their experience, you may be able to get them to advocate for your business (bringing in even more leads).
If you want to maximize conversions, your website will need to account for and guide visitors through each stage.
How to lead website visitors through the online customer journey (in 5 stages)
There are a lot of ways to incorporate the five stages of the online customer journey on your WordPress website. What follows are some suggestions to get you started, which should be relevant to most sites. However, don’t be afraid to get creative as well!
Stage 1: Awareness
Naturally, people can’t buy your products or services if they don’t know you exist. Therefore, the first stage of the online customer journey is ‘awareness’.
Your website plays a huge role in this stage. In fact, one of the primary reasons businesses run websites is to expand their reach and visibility. To do the same, you’ll want to focus on attracting as many people as possible to your site.
We’ve written extensively on how to attract website traffic. However, if you’re new to the topic, here are the best places to start:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A huge proportion of potential customers will find your website through search engines. Taking a few simple steps to optimize your site and content increases your odds of ranking highly and getting seen.
- Social media marketing. Setting up social media profiles and cultivating an online following can do wonders for awareness of your business. Just make sure your profiles and posts direct people back towards your site.
While there are plenty of strategies you can employ, putting some effort into these two areas is often enough to get lots of new eyes on your website.
Stage 2: Consideration
Once you’ve succeeded at bringing new visitors to your site, they’ll start considering whether or not to purchase your products or services. Your job is to encourage them to take the plunge.
This means paying attention to the basics of your site’s design, such as providing clear navigation and a strong User Experience (UX). After, here are a few of the best steps you can take:
- If you’re a service-based business, create a dedicated ‘services’ page. This should clearly explain what you do, and how your customers will benefit. It also helps you provide examples of your results (if relevant).
- If you sell digital or physical products, you’ll want to set up an individual page for each item. Include plenty of descriptions and images – everything a potential customer will need to make a decision. Plugins such as WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads can help you accomplish this.
No matter what you’re offering, consider including testimonials on your site as well. A few quotes from satisfied customers can be the nudge visitors need to take the next step. This is simple with the right tool, such as the ever-popular Testimonials Widget plugin.
Stage 3: Purchase
You may think that once a visitor decides to make a purchase, you’re home free. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of pitfalls during this stage.
You’ll need to make the process of purchasing your products or services easy and intuitive, so visitors don’t change their minds or get frustrated partway through. To do this, you’ll want to:
- Provide a clear and prominent Call To Action (CTA). These are buttons or forms that indicate (very obviously) how to initiate a purchase, so there’s no confusion.
- Use an e-commerce plugin like WooCommerce to set up a quick and easy checkout system. You want the payment process to be fast and intuitive, and to not send people away from your website.
- Offer multiple payment options. It’s very possible to lose people because they aren’t able to pay using a method they prefer. Therefore, it’s best to offer a number of options, which you can do with nearly any e-commerce plugin.
It’s worth noting that this stage doesn’t have to involve a literal purchase. If your goal is to encourage form submissions or sign-ups, for example, the same advice applies. What’s most important is to be very clear about the action you want people to take, and to make doing so easy.
Stage 4: Retention
The online customer journey isn’t just about getting people to make a single purchase. Ideally, you want to cultivate a dedicated base of customers who return time and time again. This means after someone buys one of your products or services, you’ll want to immediately turn your efforts towards retaining their interest.
When it comes to retaining customers via your website, two of the best strategies include:
- Making use of email to stay in touch. This includes sending a follow-up email immediately after the purchase, to give thanks. In addition, you can collect customer email addresses during the purchase process, and use targeted email marketing campaigns to keep their attention over time.
- Provide quality support. Answering customers’ questions and helping them with any problems that arise is a great way to retain their business. There are plenty of WordPress plugins to help with this, such as WP Live Chat Support and bbPress.
The importance of retention will depend on your business and what you’re offering. However, it’s almost always more cost-effective to keep existing customers ‘hooked’ than to solely focus on bringing in new leads.
Stage 5: Advocacy
Finally, your existing customers can do more than bring in consistent revenue. They can also become ‘advocates’ for your business, helping to bring in brand-new leads (and hence start the online customer journey all over again).
The most effective strategy for turning customers into advocates is to keep them happy. This means providing quality products or services, offering top-notch support, and so on. However, you also need to make it easy for them to spread the word about your business, such as by:
- Letting them rate and review products on your site. This lets them share their (hopefully) positive experiences with those in the first two stages of the online customer journey. What’s more, it’s a feature you can easily add using our own WP Product Review plugin.
- Placing social media sharing opportunities on your site. This enables your customer base to help you improve awareness. You can use plugins such as Social Media Share Buttons and Social Sharing Icons to make it easy for them to spread the word.
If you can manage to convert even a few satisfied buyers into advocates for your business, you’ll know you have a highly-successful online customer journey in place.
You’ll want to ensure all five stages of the online customer journey are accounted for on your website, including:
- Awareness: Use SEO and social media marketing to get people’s attention.
- Consideration: Provide information and testimonials, encouraging new visitors to convert.
- Purchase: Make the buying process easy, and offer multiple payment options.
- Retention: Send follow-up emails to stay in touch, and provide quality support.
- Advocacy: Encourage customers to advocate for your business through reviews and social media shares.
Do you have any questions about the stages or techniques we’ve introduced? Ask us anything in the comments section below!