Learn / Guides / Ecommerce guide

Back to guides

How to create an ecommerce customer journey map (with examples)

In the highly competitive world of ecommerce, selling great products is not always enough. Customers expect fantastic experiences during every interaction with you—and if you don’t deliver them, your competitors will.

Last updated

5 Jan 2023

So: how do you find the best opportunities to optimize your funnel, improve conversions, and grow your ecommerce business? With a little help from your new friend, the customer journey map.

Find new ways to grow ecommerce sales

Hotjar shows you what key user segments are doing on your site, so you can fix the problems hurting your conversions.

What are ecommerce customer journey maps?

Customer journey maps visualize the steps your customers take when moving through your conversion funnel

A basic map, like the one below, simply shows the key touchpoints customers go through on their journey.

An example of a simple customer journey map from CartsGuru

More sophisticated maps integrate detailed insights about the customer, such as their actions, thoughts, and needs, at different touchpoints. This allows you to take a walk in your customer’s shoes and find ways to improve your ecommerce user experience (UX).

A map from MarketingMag.com.au revealing customer thoughts and feelings at each touchpoint

Some customer journey maps also integrate quantitative data into each step. By tracking key metrics—like your Net Promoter Score® (NPS®), customer satisfaction (CSAT) score, or customer effort score—you’ll get a data-informed view of the weak points in your journey.

A customer journey map from Tallwave incorporating quantitative data

4 (very good) reasons to create customer journey maps

Sure, your company as a whole has a basic understanding of what customers do. But does every department have a consistent, detailed view of what they’re experiencing?

Customer journey maps provide exactly that, bringing several key benefits with them: 

1. Understand your customers’ motivations, drivers, and point points

In ecommerce, buying journeys are rarely simple. They usually entail a range of emotions, questions, and pains—ranging from “how quickly can I get this awesome dress?” to “am I really getting the best deal?” and “why is this so complicated?”

Customer journey maps give you an at-a-glance view of these vital insights, helping your entire company empathize with your audience.

2. Get your teams working together

Improving the customer’s journey, even at a single touchpoint, often requires multiple teams.

For example, imagine your new customers are confused about how to use your latest product. In this case, your customer service team could report their feedback to your content team. Your content team can then create educational product videos to provide helpful (and necessary) guidance.

Cross-team coordination like this is faster and easier when your company has a shared view of the customer’s experience.

3. Remove internal silos and clarify who owns what

Imagine a scenario where a customer buys a product and feels it doesn’t meet their expectations. When they contact your company, should customer support help them, or a technical product expert?

For growing companies, the lines of responsibility often get blurred. Customer journey maps help you determine which team is responsible for key actions and support at each step of the way.

4. Make improvements and convert more visitors into customers

With a clear overview of the customer’s journey, your team can quickly home in on the touchpoints where something’s going wrong.

For example, you might realize many customers are landing on your product page, but few are completing purchases. 

  • By mapping out the next steps they take and gathering data about their experiences, you discover that customers are dropping off at the shopping cart

  • A closer look at your behavior analytics data clearly shows visitors find the shopping cart UX confusing

With this knowledge, you can take action to simplify your customers’ shopping cart experience and track whether it helps you increase conversions.

What are the stages of the customer journey?

It’s important to remember that every customer’s journey starts before they land on your ecommerce site, and long after they make a purchase.

Most marketers consider the following stages when mapping out a customer journey:

❗️Awareness

Your customer’s journey starts when they become aware of a desire or challenge that your product addresses. This is where you can start appealing to them with content and marketing campaigns.

In the later stages of awareness, your customer educates themselves about the different products you have available.

💭 Consideration

In this stage, the customer considers whether your product is right for them. They may be trying to choose between several similar products or comparing your product with a competitor’s.

💡 Decision 

Your customer has decided your product is right for them, but is weighing up final hurdles like price, delivery time, and payment options. To complete the purchase, they’ll also have to navigate your checkout process.

💰 Retention

After the sale, your customer’s evolving perception of your company will depend on delivery, support, and the product itself. If your customer has a positive experience, they may continue spending with you.

❤️ Advocacy

A remarkable experience may result in a customer becoming an advocate at the end of their journey. This could mean telling others about your company, discussing your products on social media, or positively reviewing your business on public platforms.

How to create a customer journey map for your ecommerce company

Every customer journey map is different—the data you include will be unique to your company. But if you’re an ecommerce business of any size, there are five steps you’ll need to take:

Define your goal

Are you trying to get more sales from visitors on mobile? Or more customers advocating for you? Or perhaps reduce the bounce rate on your checkout page? 

By agreeing on a goal with your team, you can build your customer journey map with the right insights, metrics, and analyses in mind.

Gather relevant, accurate data

For your customer journey maps to be of maximum efficacy, you’ll want to gather a range of qualitative and quantitative data. The more data you have, the better—but the data you include in your map should always relate to your overall goal. 

For example, let’s imagine that your goal is to increase sales. In this scenario, you could:

  • Learn how customers navigate your store across the shopping journey by conducting usability testing

  • Use surveys and interviews to understand what information customers need during the consideration phase

  • Gather behavior analytics data to uncover pain points and signs of frustration during the checkout process

  • Gauge overall satisfaction by tracking customer NPS across their entire pre-purchase journey

💡Pro tip: using Hotjar? Your job just got easier! With our Surveys and Feedback tools, you can ask visitors both closed and open-ended questions. For example, ask customers to rate your product page, then follow up by asking how you could improve it. 

And when you’re gathering customer data, consider our new product for user-research automation, Hotjar Engage, which makes it easier than ever to interview customers and run seamless user testing.

5 types of user data you need to create a customer journey map

If you choose to create a customer journey map, you’re already engaging in data-driven marketing. Make your maps as useful as possible by taking relevant information from a wide range of sources.

1. Website journey data

Google Analytics (GA) is an essential part of your ecommerce website analysis toolkit. Its reports and dashboards give you a high-level overview of how people use and move through your site. What’s more, Google Analytics has a range of segmenting capabilities that let you gather data relating to your defined user personas.

For example:

  • The Behavior Flow report shows you the paths customers are taking through your site and where they drop off

  • The Conversion Path report shows you what platforms your customers are using at each stage of their journey

#A Behavior Flow report in Google Analytics
A Behavior Flow report in Google Analytics

💡Pro tip: make your analysis easier by connecting GA to Hotjar with our Google Analytics integration. Then, leverage User Attributes to filter Hotjar data for specific audience segments you identified with Google Analytics.

2. Behavior analytics data

Now that you know what journeys your visitors take, you’ll want to see what they’re doing on each page. This is where behavior analytics tools, like Hotjar Heatmaps and Recordings, can help.

  • Scroll heatmaps show you where people stop scrolling on your product and support pages, showing you which parts of your page go unseen

  • Click heatmaps show you where people are clicking most, indicating how intuitive your UX design is and giving you ideas for improvements

  • Recordings let you rewatch individual journeys to find out how customers behave, where they get stuck, and what they do before clicking your call to action (CTA)

#An example of a Hotjar Recording that shows the user’s mouse movements
An example of a Hotjar Recording that shows the user’s mouse movements

3. Email queries, chat logs, and customer support logs

Your company’s everyday conversations with customers are a gold mine of insights. They reveal what users commonly get frustrated with, what information they need, and how often specific problems occur.

Ideally, use a tool to categorize and log queries and support requests from your customers. You can then hold regular reviews with your sales and support teams to see how the trends fit into your customer journeys.

Customer support platform Intercom visualizes common conversation topics

4. On-site and email surveys

Asking your customers for feedback is an effective way to understand their experiences at different parts of their journey. In addition to getting subjective, descriptive feedback, surveys also give you quantitative data (like NPS scores) to support optimization efforts.

For example:

  • Following an interaction with customer support: email a survey that asks respondents to rate their customer satisfaction level. Include an open-ended question prompting customers to describe what you could do better.

  • Following a successful purchase: target shoppers with an on-site survey asking them to submit an NPS. Then, track how this score changes as you update and improve to your checkout process.

5. Customer interviews

Having one-on-one discussions with customers is a great way to dig further into their needs, motivations, and pain points. You might find it helps to offer customers an incentive to speak with you, but satisfied customers will often do so for free. 

However, don’t focus solely on happy customers. Performing exit interviews with regular customers who change to another supplier can reveal a weak link in the customer journey.

❓Did you know? Hotjar recently added Engage, a user research tool, to our platform. Engage makes it easy to book, conduct, and analyze customer interviews, so you can find new insights more easily.

Create user personas for the customers you’re trying to serve

Depending on your goals, you might want to create multiple maps for different ‘types’ of customers. For example:

  • New customers + Existing customers

  • Actual customers + Ideal customers

  • B2B customers + B2C customers

Creating separate maps for your different customer types ensures more accurate, actionable maps. However, you’ll need a clear idea of who these customers are and how you can identify them. That’s why it’s a good idea to create a user persona for each distinct customer you’re trying to help.

An example persona from UXPressia

💡Pro tip: with Hotjar User Attributes, you can cross-reference data from other platforms to get insights into specific user segments. For example, use Google Analytics to create a segment of new users who visit your site after clicking an ad, then watch Recordings of their journeys.

Why are user personas helpful in customer journey mapping?

Depending on your goals, you may be interested in different user personas: to improve sales of a specific product, you’d want to understand the needs and actions of customers who bought that product. To increase repeat purchases, on the other hand, you’d need to know how existing customers navigate your site and what they need from future purchases.

In both cases, you’d want to see how their journeys differ from other customers and visitors. Understand what they do on their journeys, and you’ll find ways to serve them better.

For example:

  • By analyzing the journeys of people who buy your flagship product, you learn that they often visit a competitor’s site to compare products. Using this insight, you add a table that compares your product with others, keeping visitors on your site and boosting sales in the process.

  • By analyzing the journeys of existing customers, you learn that they begin looking at related products in your range around three months after an initial purchase. Accordingly, you start sending automated emails around month three to grow sales while increasing customer delight.

Note: traditionally, marketers created user personas with demographic information like gender, sex, and age. Today, many marketers find it helpful to use the jobs to be done (JTBD) framework.

JTBD views user personas less in terms of qualities and more in terms of goals, motivations, and desired changes. Of course, this is perfect for customer journey mapping!

Unravel your customer referral paths

Your customers interact with your ecommerce business in various places, both online and offline. Understanding how these touchpoints fit together—and delivering a consistent experience across them—is the goal of omnichannel marketing.

In some cases, their journey will be a straight line:

  • The prospect enters ‘best winter jackets’ into a search engine

  • They immediately find your blog, click through to your store, and make a purchase

  • A week later, the customer receives their order and goes on social media to share their satisfaction with the product

However, in other scenarios, the journey will be more complex:

  • A prospect hears about your clothing brand from a friend 

  • Weeks later, they see your brand on Instagram, visit your store, and sign up for your newsletter

  • The prospect then visits two other physical clothing stores to compare jackets 

  • A day later, they receive an email from you offering a 10% discount on jackets they previously viewed—they return to your online store to make a purchase

  • The customer has a small issue with the order and calls your customer support line to resolve it

As a business, you might want to serve the second customer better so they can become an advocate, too. But to map out their journey accurately, you need to know where they came to you from—in other words, their referral path.

Combine data from your different tools to understand your customer referral paths

Building an accurate map of omnichannel journeys is challenging but not impossible. Ideally, you’ll look at data from two different tools.

  • Look for referral paths in Google Analytics. The Behavior Flow report tells you where website visitors are coming from (e.g. organic search or email). 

  • Use surveys to fill in the gaps. For example, when a customer signs up to your email newsletter, send a survey to ask how they discovered your brand.

Combining both these data points gives you a more complete customer journey map. And if you’re using Hotjar, our Segment integration helps you view survey responses for different audience segments by leveraging User Attributes.

#A Hotjar traffic attribution survey example
A Hotjar traffic attribution survey example

Create (and update) your maps

Having gone through the previous four steps, you can build maps for each key customer persona. Your team is now in a great place to analyze and improve critical touchpoints along the customer journey.

But don’t forget that your business is always evolving, so your maps need to evolve with it.

  • Update journeys as they change. As you add new products, features, and marketing funnels, map out the new journeys your customers take.

  • Track and update key metrics. If you’re including quantitative data in your maps, like NPS or CSAT scores, track changes and update your maps every quarter.

Start mapping your ecommerce journeys today

The more complicated your customer journeys are, the more opportunities you have to delight—or disappoint—your audiences. Customer journey maps give your company a shared framework for improving their experiences across the entire conversion funnel.

But remember: your customer journey maps are only as good as the data you used to create them. By researching the what, how, and why of your customers’ behavior, you’ll build effective customer journey maps that drive real impact.

Solve your biggest conversion challenges

With tools like Recordings, Surveys, and Feedback, Hotjar helps understand why visitors don’t convert—and gives you the insights and information you need to make them.

Ecommerce customer journey map FAQs