An Introduction to the Buyer Journey for E-Commerce

There was a point, not all that long ago, where you could launch an e-commerce website and that was enough to make those precious sales. Your audience was poised to splash the cash, and you were ready and waiting to oblige.

But as competition becomes fiercer and the average consumer’s access to information has become instantaneous, the e-commerce landscape is no longer quite so simple. The ‘buyer’s journey’ (as it’s so often referred to in the marketing world) is no longer linear, and this can make it tough to target the right people at the right time.

Below, we take an introductory look at the buyer’s journey, and how you can identify yours.

The buyer’s journey

The buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through as they decide what product to purchase.

Here at Return on Digital, when we complete a content audit, we look at a site based on two things.

  • Firstly, is the site performing technically? In other words, is it working appropriately? Is it optimised for the audience we want to reach? Is it in any danger of receiving a Google penalty?
  • And secondly, does it match the user intent of the audience?

Historically, sites have been so focused on ranking well that it’s not uncommon to find that the site was written for the purpose of search engines rather than for people – and this needs to change.

Taking a detailed approach to considering the mindset of your buyers can help to expand this audience and improve conversion rates, through valuable content. For this we need to know the stages of the buyer journey.

Traditionally these are grouped into:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision

This sounds quite simple at face value, but as we’ve pointed out, purchasing is complex. Not to mention, we all consider the concept of “value” on our own terms, so throw away any “one size fits all” strategies – they’re not going to cut it anymore.

So how can you identify the buyer’s journey for your potential customers?

Identifying Triggers

One way to get an umbrella understanding of your existing audience is through paid search data. Take a look in Google Analytics at Acquisition > AdWords > Search Queries and exclude any branded terms.

buyer journey

(n.b. We exclude branded terms using the assumption that if they’ve searched for your brand specifically, they already know you. We want to identify potential customers who don’t yet realise that they need your products.)

Then, narrow down these results by including a variety of terms. Below are the terms that will typically give you indications as to what the buyer is thinking at each stage:

  • Awareness stage – Search types are typically generic
    Who, What, When, Where, Why, How?
    g. What does a baby sleep in?
  • Consideration stage – The user has an understanding of what they might want, but now want to know what specific items are best for their circumstances, and whether this fits in with their lifestyle (can it be bought locally? Is it within my budget?)
    Versus, Reviews, Ratings, Top, Best, Cost, Value, Worth
    g. Moses basket vs crib
  • Decision stage – Searches are more specific. The user knows what they want and they’re hunting for it.
    Where to buy, Discount Code,
    g. buy Sleigh cot bed in White

TIP – Don’t overlook the often neglected post-purchase stage. Key terms such as “repairs” “returns” or “log in” with your brand name can identify common purchasing issues with your clientele. Addressing these can make sure that they either come back as a returning customer, or recommend you to a friend.

If you don’t have paid search data, don’t panic. Take a look at Behaviour > Site Search > Search Terms to see what users are looking for on-site. This can give great insight into how well your site is offering the correct content to the people it’s attracting, and all of this data is a great way to improve your title tags and meta descriptions to help you ‘win the click’ in the rankings.

Be There and Be Present

So you’ve identified some common issues your customer base is encountering. This is a great starting point. Now we need to use this information to turn those visits into sales.

(For ideas on how you can be topical and really encapsulate the “be there at all times” mindset, explore Google Trends on how the market may influence your content.

(Also similar to Google Trends is Shopping Insights – a tool which explored trends and popularity of products. However, this is only in Beta stage and covering the U.S, but hopefully will be rolled out globally.)

The key takeaways here are to be on mobile, and to have great, relevant content which addresses your visitors’ queries.

Whether it’s an everyday purchase, such as bulk-buying nappies, or a big ticket item like a collection of nursery furniture, we’re increasingly turning to mobile to influence purchasing decisions.

As consumers we are now completely cross-device in our behaviours and this means the path to purchase isn’t linear.

Let’s say it’s payday. You want to splurge on some designer sneakers. You could do some window shopping on your lunch hour, use a mobile phone to research prices on your commute, and take a more detailed look on a large-screened desktop over the weekend. The content at each stage will be slightly different, but with the same end goal.

Google lists these stages as the “micro moments” of the buyer journey: the “I need some ideas” moments, the “which one’s best” moments, and the “I want to buy it” moments.

Mobile phones have become the new shopping assistant. Because we are just as likely to do research before going into a physical store, this mobile behaviour is changing the e-commerce landscape, and is a driving factor for local search.

It’s this kind of behaviour which makes it incredibly difficult to pinpoint these “micro moments” of purchasing. So it’s essential to shift your marketing strategy to keep up with mobile’s growing influence on the customer decision journey.


“The future of retail lies in the smallest moments. It’s no longer critical for a shopper to be present in-store, but rather for the store to be present wherever the shopper is.” – Think With Google.


If you need help identifying your customer’s pain points or want to ensure your marketing strategy matches your target audience’s customer journey, get in touch.

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