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4 Ways to Identify Drop-off Points in the E-Commerce Customer Journey

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May 23, 2022

Nicole Hanson

For e-commerce brands, grabbing someone’s attention and getting them to click through your site and ultimately make a purchase has become quite a feat. Not only are you competing with a huge influx of competitors but you also have to contend with consumers’ increasing desire for a tailored customer experience. Of course, all of this is possible with the right strategy and tools in place—but only after you’ve taken the time to understand and solve for the key drop-off points in your customer journey.

While cart abandonment is a known and growing issue in the e-commerce industry, it’s critical to identify each and every point where a customer might exit your site and, more importantly, why they’re leaving at that point. Only then can you understand your customers’ motivations and optimize your customer journey in a way that compels them to convert. 

Let’s explore the stages of the e-commerce customer journey and 4 tools you can use to identify drop-off points within this journey.

The 5 Stages of the E-Commerce Customer Journey

While every e-commerce business is unique, it’s important to understand what a typical e-commerce customer journey looks like before examining your own. This journey has 5 stages:

1. Awareness: At this stage, a customer has identified a need or want and has begun researching a product (like yours!) that can fit their needs.

2. Consideration: Now the customer has found several viable retailers for the product they’re in search of and begins to narrow down their options. At this stage, the customer is considering various factors like product price, shipping speed and costs, and, of course, customer experience.

3. Acquisition: The customer has made their final decision and completed their first purchase with your brand.

4. Retention: Your customer is happy with their first purchase and comes back to your site to buy more!

5. Advocacy: Now your loyal customer is ready to let others know how much they love your products. This stage includes everything from the customer posting reviews on your site to interacting with your brand on social media.

4 Tools to Identify Drop-off Points in the E-Commerce Customer Journey

Now that you have an understanding of the typical e-commerce customer journey, you’re ready to dig into your own data and see which conversion paths customers are taking on your site. While analytics are useful for understanding the overall state of your website traffic, there are various other tools you can use to get a better understanding of shopper behavior and any friction points they may be encountering. Here are 4 tools that can help you clearly identify drop-off points in the customer journey:

1. Heatmaps

A heatmap is a graphical representation of the interactions on your website so you can see the elements that users are most frequently engaging with (e.g. buttons or menu items). By using heatmaps, you can quickly identify what is and isn’t working on your site and optimize these elements accordingly. There are 3 different types of heatmaps you can use to understand how users are interacting with your site:

  • Click map: This shows where users clicked (or tapped on mobile) and are best for measuring engagement with your CTAs or navigation.
  • Scroll map: Aside from tracking clicks, you can also measure how far users are scrolling down a page. This can help you optimize pages that might be too long or text-heavy.
  • Move map: A move map shows where a user’s cursor moves during their session, which can help you measure the flow of your site and spot any distractions.

Image credit: Hotjar

2. Session replay

Session replay tools allow you to take an even deeper look at user behavior by playing back the exact actions (e.g. clicks, scrolling, etc) that the visitor took on your site. Most session replay tools do not take an actual recording of a visitor’s screen but instead reconstruct the actions they took. 

Like move maps, session replay can help you better understand if your users are taking the intended path through your site or if they’re getting distracted. Further, these tools can help you identify and recreate any bugs that a customer might be experiencing so you can quickly address them. 

3. User testing

If you want to go a step beyond session replay tools and see how real users are interacting with your site in real time, user testing can help. User testing is the process of getting real people (like your customers!) to evaluate your website, either for usability purposes or before your launch a new feature or design. User testing can be done remotely, in-person, or by a third-party service, and it can be moderated or unmoderated. Let’s take a look at the difference between moderated vs. unmoderated testing:

  • Moderated user testing: With moderated user testing, you provide a specific path that you want the user to take on your website and have them provide feedback in real time. For example, you could prompt the user to purchase a men’s white t-shirt in a size large to better understand the path they’ll take to find the shirt, add it to cart, and complete the checkout process.
  • Unmoderated user testing: This type of user testing doesn’t involve any communication with the user, which can help you understand the different ways that different people are navigating your site (and maybe identify conversion paths you hadn’t previously thought of!). Unmoderated user testing is most helpful when you want to get feedback from a larger group of people and aren’t able to moderate a high number of sessions.

4. Surveys

Surveys are another tool to get real-time feedback directly from your users at various stages of the customer journey. For example, you can use on-site surveys to learn more about customer motivations (after they’ve been on your site for a certain amount of time) or why they didn’t complete their purchase (upon exit intent aka when their cursor moves above the browser bar). On-site surveys are best for addressing friction points in the first 3 stages of the customer journey.

You can also use post-purchase surveys to learn more about a customer’s experience after they’ve shopped with you so you can keep them moving on to the Retention and Advocacy stages. You might ask questions like:

  • How would you rate your purchase?
  • What is one thing we could improve about our website?
  • How likely are you to recommend our products/brand to others?

Of course, be sure to redirect these survey responses to your customer support team so they can quickly address any issues with a customer’s purchase or shopping experience.

Conclusion

Understanding user behavior on your website and identifying key drop-off points is just the first step to converting more customers and increasing revenue. Once you’ve done all this, you’re ready to implement new tactics to optimize your website in a way that resonates with your shoppers and compels them to convert. 

Check out these blog posts to start optimizing your e-commerce website today: