User journey – How to smooth the path to more online sales

online-customers2

A customer arrives at your website homepage with the full intention of making a purchase. Let’s assume for a moment that our visitor knows exactly what he or she is intending to buy and that every click and keystroke from arrival to check out is dedicated to finding and buying that product. 

What follows is a journey that might (in some cases) lead directly from promotional content on the home page through to product details, a ‘buy now’ button and finally to payment. Alternatively it might involve navigation through a series of menus to the same end point. 

In that respect, a customer journey is simply the route that your visitor takes on any given day, guided by menus or promotional links. On the other hand, the website might be more pro-active in designing journeys for specific customer groups. For instance on a site selling a complex range of products such as mobile phones or holidays, the journeys might be designed around a series of ‘routes’ aimed at specific customer groups, such as those who never bought online before, returning customers, experienced customers or high value buyers.

But here’s the thing, regardless of how well the journey is designed, the customer will inevitably move through a number of pages, each in some form of interaction with the other. A problem on one page will disrupt the journey as a whole. Equally, problems encountered moving through the site will undermine even the greatest design on individual pages. In other words, every component in the journey plays a vital role in getting the customer from A to B. 

Keeping the customer on track 

And from the perspective of the website owner, one of the keys to a healthy conversion rate is a site that- for the most part – either effectively funnels customers along a desired route or makes it as easy as possible for customer to find his own way to the check out. 

But the journey doesn’t always go smoothly. Customers get pushed off track, often for the same reasons that motorists or pedestrians lose their way and get lost in an unfamiliar town. For instance:

Poor signposting – The customer takes a wrong turning and links to a part of the site that has no relevance. This could be because of poor signposting on the navigation bars or because of a simple error on the customer’s part.

Lack of clarity – the customer clicks through correctly to the next page on the journey but poor design means that he or she is uncertain what to do next.  Perhaps the relevant product information or registration box is not immediately apparent. This is the equivalent of being stuck on a traffic roundabout with no indication as to which road to take. 

A one-way system – the customer finds it difficult to move backwards through the site. Perhaps there is a need to amend a form on a previous page, but no way to get back without erasing all the data already entered.

Congestion – the customer may simply get bogged down in traffic or other forms of journey disruption. A page loads very slowly. A page crashes. We’ve all been there.

A holistic view

Disruption and distractions of this type can strike at any stage on a journey and be enough to stop a percentage of customers in their tracks.  And here’s the challenge. The site may look great and function well, but in the case of certain journey pathways, undetected problems might be preventing customers from progressing. Indeed you may not even know there’s a problem. 

Following in your customer’s footsteps

So how do assure yourself that your website is performing well in terms of the customer journey experience?

One of the most effective ways is to travel with the customer. UserReplay enables you to do this by recording each and every customer journey. Once you’ve done that you can replay them in real time. There are of course, far too many user journeys to be able to visually replay them all. The power of UserReplay is its ability to identify segments of unsuccessful journeys that share similar characteristics. Having identified that an expensive problem exists, visually replaying a sample of the impacted journeys can be very insightful.

In the case of the customer’s trajectory through the site you can see where they have strayed off course, struggled with a form that is necessary for the next step or simply been subject to long delays as pages load. Equally important you can see how the pages work together and where there might be problems. 

And once you have established at first where and why customers have struggled and in some cases dropped off, you can rectify the problems and smooth the journey.

And in smoothing out customer journey problems you go on to create a much better web experience.

Photo: Thomas Euler/Flickr cc