Mapping the user journey from A to Z

Consumers today often visit a number of online destinations before making their final purchase.

retail shopping trolley shopping cart

These include brand, voucher-code, cashback and comparison sites, as well as social media.

They are not only looking for the best price, but also recommendations from valued sources to ensure they are comfortable making a purchase.

It is imperative that e-retailers understand the routes of these online customer journeys so that they can reach out to new or existing customers in the right place, at the right time and in the right way.

Understanding buying behaviour
Only by gathering information on the complete journey made by each individual consumer can brands truly understand digital buying behaviour and how it differs by geography and market sector. But information is not enough on its own, marketers need to be able to turn it into intelligence they can act on, strategically and tactically.

Among the challenges facing digital markets is that consumer behaviour differs across markets and sectors and that even within those markets and sectors buying behaviour is evolving constantly.  Accurate tracking and understanding of these consumers therefore requires sophisticated, intelligent and integrated technology.

retail journey

Cultural differences
To illustrate some of the trends in online buying behaviour, we recently undertook an extensive analysis of eight million transactions taking place across our network, using our business intelligence tool, ADAPT.

This enabled us to map millions of user journeys across various markets and the research findings revealed some interesting European variations. For example, the Germans make the quickest online purchase decisions, taking just over five days and 3.5 clicks to buy an item – the fastest and most direct buying route of any of the countries explored.

The Swedes, meanwhile, take the longest and most complex route to an online purchase, spending some 12 days and making 15 clicks on average before buying something. They are followed closely by the French, who typically take just under 11 days and 16 clicks to make a purchase.

Closer to home, the Brits may make quicker decisions when buying online, just under seven days on average, but we make six times the average number of clicks in a purchase journey, despite visiting less than two websites on average.

Picking your battles
User journey insights such as those illustrated above, but with the type of website, product and other added-value data included, make it possible to drill down into and analyse specific sectors. This kind of intelligence allows marketers to adapt campaigns and target offers where they are most likely to succeed.

The best business intelligence tools deliver insight built around a marketer’s KPI objectives, whether that’s to increase the average order value (AOV), sales volume or the desire to shorten the purchase journey time.

As a result, marketers receive the exact insight they need to define and adapt their strategies and make decisions about where and when to invest their budgets, and which partners and business models it would be most advantageous for them to work with.

For example, the behavioural insights we have collated suggest that for a personal travel purchase, consumers research options at the beginning of the week before finalising their purchases at the weekend. By then they have decided which vendor they are going to buy from. Therefore, marketers might want to start targeted promotions on a Monday with the intention of converting customers the following weekend.

The shopping mall in our pockets
How we communicate with consumers is also changing. Smartphones have overtaken PCs and even tablets as the primary device for going online – so content needs to be tailored and optimised to be viewed on a smaller screen.

It’s not just about having an app and measuring the number of downloads. Marketers need to understand how customers are using the app to interact with the brand, and whether this is different to how they interact through the mobile web. Brands need a coordinated approach to their entire mobile strategy.

Time is a currency
Tracking online purchase journeys is vitally important in order to know exactly where customers are, from the first click to the last.

Brands need to identify the publishers that drive sales the quickest to optimise sales and their digital budgets. Once these are established, the right technology makes analysing their effectiveness simple. This allows marketers to optimise strategies and digital spend to achieve their business and marketing objectives and show a clear return on investment.

Brands need to understand this changing behaviour and use it both to enhance interactions with existing and potential customers and to ensure that every pound of their digital marketing budget is well spent.

Not just today, but tomorrow and into the future as the online journeys of their customers continue to evolve.

Dan Cohen is regional director at Tradedoubler