How to Update Your Customer Journey to Cope with COVID-19 Changes


Neil Herbert

COVID-19 has had the biggest impact on online trading since Mobile browsing stepped away from WAP to HTML. You may be reading this and wondering when (or if) your site traffic is going to come back to pre-COVID19 levels. Or you might be on the other end of the spectrum, concerned that the volume of traffic hitting your site is not showing a correlated increase in transactions, taking your conversion numbers to numbers you've never seen before.

But what we've all realized by now is that we can't just wait for things to return to normal. The pandemic has created a paradigm shift that means we all need to reassess our perceptions, conclusions and beliefs. The customer journey has changed drastically across all industries this year, and it's essential to take the time to understand what you can do to adjust to shifted consumer needs and expectations. In my work as a Relay42 consultant, I help a range of leading brands to do just that, which is why I wanted to share this article with some simple, accessible steps to get you going. 

Before we get started, I suggest pulling up a simple map of one of your customer journeys to work with. If you don't already have a clear visualization of your journeys, you can map one out in a couple of minutes with our free tool

Empathy-based customer segmentation

OK, so you've mapped out your journey, probably grabbed some exit rate data from your analytics platform, and you think you already know which step to focus on. Job done, right? Not so fast.

The most important step to take right now is to empathize with your users. Customer Experience has been touted as one of the primary drivers to cause people to act, and it's only by putting yourself in their shoes that you can understand what is driving their intent and what will block them from taking the next best action now that online behaviors have changed dramatically.

I can vouch for this personally. Having recently attempted to buy home gym equipment, I had my own natural concerns: 

  • Is the item in stock?
  • What impact will COVID-19 play in logistics?
  • Is this the best price for the item?
  • How are returns handled?

These were my personal concerns. And this is as someone who is au fait with purchasing online. 

What you also have to consider is whether there is a segment of your visitors who for years have continued to make purchases from brick and mortar stores. Purchasing online is a new world for them, and they are competing for low stocks against more internet-savvy users. This group will often have more basic questions, such as:

  • Is this the right product for me?
  • Will it provide the service I'm looking for?
  • How can I pay?
  • Is this site trustworthy?

It is important to remember that as you've never had a need to address this group before, your current journeys won't be built to give them the appropriate customer experience. Knowing what this is and how to create journeys that match is what we’ll cover next!

Interrogate: challenging your notion of your customer's journey

If you look now at your online traffic data for the last few weeks/months and segment based on user attributes, you're going to see big differences in how users traveled through your funnel compared to previous times. You'll now need to think about how you segment for the new browsing behaviors. 

Empathy is the first part of this process. If you can, call a relative or a friend in your target demographic, and ask them to go through the journey, narrating whilst they go. This is user testing and is the surest way to truly understand a user's emotions throughout the funnel. 

If that’s not an option, there are many remote user testing options available. Failing that, if you have access to visitor recordings of your site, then putting aside an hour to watch how these new groups interact with your funnel could be one of the best hours you spend this week.

Make sure that as you’re going through these you think of the following types of questions:

  • Where do new users we've never seen exit?
  • Are new users coming back? 
  • If so, what channels are bringing them back?
  • Are users exiting the funnel, or simply diverging to different pages?

By now you should have clear segments of your users, a clear understanding of what questions they have, and you should know where they’re coming from.

Now we need to marry up this qualitative data with your quantitative analytic data, you should have some pretty clear ideas on where to improve.

Ideate: marrying qualitative and quantitative data

By now you should have an understanding of how new and old user habits on your site have changed, and where the most painful point in your funnel is. This could look like:

  • New users who come into the funnel from SEA are dropping out of the funnel at step 3. 
  • 60% of users exit and never return. 
  • 40% of users diverge on site before leaving. 
  • 50% of this group is going to our FAQs. 
  • By looking at visitor recordings of these sessions, users exit once they’ve reached the refunds section of this page.

From this scenario, we have two hypotheses we can instantly test:

Refunds: For first-time visitors, add details on your homepage/top nav that instructs people how refunds will be handled. A great example of this in action right now comes from Banana Republic and Zalando:

How can we get the 60% back into the funnel? If you have the user’s e-mail address, add an e-mail reactivation step to your funnel. If you had limited success with e-mail open and click-through rates in the past, now is a great time to test.

Leave no stone unturned

Don’t forget to build out these new journeys before you implement them to make sure you’re not leaving any stone unturned. And if you didn’t use it before, now’s a great time to use our free visualization tool.

As a marketer, you’ll be all too aware that you can’t fix all your problems with one change. But by segmenting your data, creating new audiences, and identifying the micro-trends, you can take your first steps in remodeling your journeys to meet the needs of your audience. 


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