A Walk in your Customer's Shoes

The Customer Journey on an eCommerce Site receives a lot of attention. Every site wants to understand what a customer wants or prefers and builds the site to suit that preference. The hope is that this will result in a purchase by the customer and an increase in revenue for the site.

Tools to develop customer journey maps and A/B testing tools to understand customer preferences are numerous. These help define the journey that the customer will make through the site and make sure that the path trodden is filled with objects of interest to the customer and devoid of experiences that will cause them to abandon the journey. They attempt to attract the right customer and interact with them in an appropriate manner to ensure that the customer will transact with the site.

In spite of doing all this, sites often find that they don’t see the results they expect.

So what are they missing?

They are missing the recognition that a customer’s journey includes a key aspect of any journey – the experience. Understanding the customer’s experience is important to ensuring a successful outcome of the journey, i.e., a purchase transaction.

There is an old saying: "You can’t really understand a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes”. If you really want to understand your customer’s experience on your eCommerce site, you just have to get in their shoes and make the journey through your Web site.

This journey will show you what the customer sees and experiences on your site. The personalized content that is presented, the navigation choices available, the promotions that are presented and the product choices that are suggested based on customer targeting rules or past purchases. The experience is also likely to vary based on the means (browser/device etc.) that the customer chooses to access your site. Given that the path taken by different customers through your site can vary significantly (in terms of content, personalization, access method etc.), so will their experience.

Understanding the variety of experiences on your site will help you close the loop between designing the customer journey and validating the impact of that journey on your customer to ensure a successful outcome. This understanding can be gained by testing the eCommerce site with a simulated user (synthetic testing) in a manner that captures the user journey through your site and your site’s response to that journey. Testing every possible variation (different content, personalization and navigation paths) of the customer journey and evaluating the response of the different systems/components that make up your site for all these variations requires what I call Deep Synthetic Testing. The depth in this testing is critical to gathering adequate and relevant data on the customer experience. Data that can then be worked upon by analytics and reporting tools to provide the necessary understanding of the customer experience and validate the journey.

What have you done to understand your customer’s experience on your site? What has worked for you and what has not? Would you be willing to share this?