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E-commerce: understanding the online buyer’s journey

5 November 2019 Maxence Pezzetta

Understanding the buyer’s journey of your users is essential if you want to implement a marketing strategy that meets their needs and increases your conversions.

In this article, the professionals at our Montreal SEO agency will first explain the concept of the buyer’s journey, then give you the keys to understanding the buyer’s journey of your potential customers.

What is the online buyer’s journey?

An individual’s buyer’s journey is divided into three stages, which we will see in more detail below: awareness, consideration and decision.

E-Commerce Online Buyer's Journey

The first step in the online buyer’s journey: awareness

The awareness phase can begin in two different ways. Either the customer realizes that they have to solve a problem, or the customer discovers an online ad that creates a desire or highlights a need that they were not aware of until then.

The Internet user will want to meet this need, i.e. an obligation or desire, i.e. something that is not essential.

Awareness begins when the potential customer first interacts with your company. As mentioned above, this first interaction can result from an action that is “active”, originating from the Internet user, or “passive”, if you initiate it.

Here are the differences between these two actions:

  • “Active” e-commerce activities include Google search results, content marketing, social media posts, etc.
  • “Passive” e-commerce activities include the appearance of remarketing banners and paid ads for your brand when the Internet user browses online.

Let’s take the example of someone who wants to improve their search engine ranking: they will actively search online to meet this need. They might search for “SEO agency” on Google and see our agency appear in the search results.

Buyer's Journey Search Results

Alternatively, the user might see an ad from a web agency that offers SEO optimization or website creation. In this case, the advertisement will create awareness for the user, who previously may not have felt the need to hire a web agency.



The second step in the online buyer’s journey: consideration

The user has clearly identified the goal they need to reach in order to meet their needs or desires and enters the consideration stage as they reflect on the different solutions available to pursue this goal.

This reflection stage also includes a comparison stage between the different companies that offer a good or service that meets the need. This is the most crucial part for your company, here the Internet user will either decide to approach you or one of your competitors.

During this consideration phase, the visitor will come into indirect contact with your company for the first time by visiting your website to learn about your various offers, rates, customer testimonials, etc.

Remarketing campaigns can play a very important role here. This type of paid advertising will allow you to strategically interact with visitors who have visited your website. This will increase your brand awareness and encourage the individual to make a purchase on your site.


The third step in an online buyer’s journey: the decision

After a certain period of research and reflection, the individual considers themselves sufficiently informed and decides to make a purchase and then becomes a customer.

The transition from step 1 to step 3 can take a few minutes or several days or weeks, depending on what you have to offer.

Although this is the last stage that we present in this article, the process of the buyer’s journey doesn’t end once the user becomes a customer. These different stages occur several times during the individual’s life. This new customer has made a first purchase, but will go through the different stages of awareness, consideration and decision making when they experience new needs/desires and seek solutions. The buyer’s journeys of the same user will therefore probably be different from one another depending on their needs.

The map of your users’ buyer’s journey

In order to better understand the buyer’s journey of an Internet user, you can use a customer journey map to give you an idea of the motivations, needs and weaknesses of your prospects, as we will see a little further down in this article.

This map illustrates the different steps that the consumer takes when contacting your company. This information will allow you to strategically adapt your contact points to encourage Internet users to make a purchase on your website.

Determine your typical customer’s profile and goals

The first step is to do some research on your typical customer. This can be done with questionnaires and user tests to obtain information about their profile and opinions about your products or services. You can use tools such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms to create a business survey.

Google Forms

Here are some examples of questions you could ask in an e-mail or form after an order or booking:

  • How did you hear about our brand?
  • What are the goals you want to achieve by contacting our company?
  • Have you already used our services? If so, what were the determining factors?

Let’s take the example of Mr. X, the owner of a hotel. In order to know more about the needs and profile of his customers, Mr. X integrated a commercial survey into an e-mail following a booking. This enables him to find out how the guest learned about his hotel and what he could improve in order to attract more prospects and build customer loyalty.

Business Survey Example

Analyze the different contact points

Next, you will need to analyze the different contact points, that is, the different points on your website where your potential customers can interact with you. These contact points can, for example, be a contact form, a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section or a quote request.

Free Quote Buyer's Journey

This step is very important because it allows you to determine the actions your customers take on your website, which will help you understand the objectives of your customers’ buyer’s journey.

This analysis is not just about your website. You also need to analyze the different ways in which the Internet user could get in touch with you online, such as:

  • Social media,
  • Paid ads,
  • Your newsletters

Next, make a list of the different actions that visitors perform when they interact with your company. These actions can be very diverse:

  • A search on a search engine for a query that you are positioned on;
  • A click on a call to action button in your newsletter;
  • Clicking on a link to your website from another website

In addition, you should be aware that each action is motivated by an emotion and that throughout the Internet user’s buyer’s journey, these emotions can change. This emotional driver is often caused by a weak point or problem encountered during the journey. You need to highlight these obstacles in order to overcome them. For example, you could create an FAQ page that would answer any questions your prospects may have.

FAQ Buyer's Journey

Understanding your visitor’s buyer’s journey will enable you to offer the right content at the right time and ensure that the journey runs smoothly.



Example of a map of an online buyer’s journey

In order to create a map of an online buyer’s journey, you have to put yourself in the user’s shoes and get an idea of how they think during the different stages.

In this example, we put ourselves in the shoes of “Julien”, a typical entrepreneur user profile who wants to use a web agency to optimize his SEO.

Buyer's Journey Map

Understand your users’ buyer’s journey to increase your conversions

The buyer’s journey should be at the heart of your marketing strategy, since it allows you to guide the visitor to the purchase or contacting your company.

You can use various types of content, such as articles or videos, to guide the visitor in their decision-making process, which will help the visitor reflect and form an opinion about your brand.

If you need help optimizing your SEO or web marketing strategy, contact our agency and we will be happy to help you.

Maxence Pezzetta
Cofondateur et Spécialiste Web Marketing et acquisition de clients Diplômé d’une double Maîtrise en Marketing et Communication, Max cumule plus de 10 ans d’expérience en Marketing digital. Ancien employé de Microsoft, sa mission est de « mettre le Web à la portée de tous » pour aider les entreprises à améliorer leur présence en ligne.
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