Understanding the different ways that customers approach your company, the decisions they make and the feelings they experience along the way can be an essential part of any web project. Identifying each of these gives us important insight into the best design, navigation and content for your customers.

So, what are the typical stages of a customer journey? Well, just as there's no such thing as a 'typical' company, equally there's no such thing as a 'typical' customer. The example shown however, fits many.

  • Purchases often start with a research phase, increasingly conducted online. Our learning from this is that your site should cater for customers who want to browse quickly and you need to blow their socks off with the way you show your products/services
  • Following this primary research the next step can often be to experience the product in the flesh, especially if it's a high value item. Featuring a prominent store finder on your site helps customers get to you. You could also include a stock checker so they're not disappointed when they arrive. Once in-store, giving web access to customers via a mobile site or terminal helps deliver a joined up experience. Acknowledging that they may not be ready to buy in-store is also important, so sending them away with something like a discount voucher for use online can encourage purchase
  • The customer's next step may well be further online research. Your site now needs to get customers easily to the products they're interested in, quickly delivering as much information as possible and allowing them to spec the product and add any extras, before of course helping them checkout
  • Hopefully we're at the purchase stage now. Give your customers as much confidence as possible in your online security before you ask them to type in their card details – show trust logos, design your checkout to work quickly and seamlessly, and tell them know about delivery and returns
  • The journey doesn't end there. Once they receive their order, encourage them to share their hopefully fantastic experience socially, review the products and give them clear information on how to contact you with any queries

This is only the tip of the iceberg for customer journeys, but hopefully it will have given you a flavour of the power of these pieces of work. Fully understanding all the ways that customers come to your business and all of the different routes through to making a purchase can pay dividends when planning a website.

It's the only way to ensure that your new site caters for every customer at every stage of their journey.