What is an E-Commerce Buyer’s Journey and How To Create Paid Social Content for Each Step

November 14, 2022
by Merikay Noah

What Exactly Is an E-Commerce Buyer’s Journey?

In digital and e-commerce marketing, we often discuss target audiences, prospects, and buyers’ journeys. But what is a buyer’s journey, and why is it essential to your e-commerce brand?

We take a buyer’s journey every time we purchase something, whether we realize it or not. At some point along that journey, we decide whether to buy or not. 

The best buyer’s journeys are those customers don’t even realize are a journey. It’s like watching a movie you’re so swept up in that you forget it’s a film. You’re buying the story as a form of reality because you’re completely caught up in it. 

If something suddenly feels wrong or off or pulls you out of that story’s reality, it becomes just a film again. You tell friends afterward that it was okay but not that great, or you tell them you can’t recommend it. Why? Your journey got interrupted, which downgraded your experience, even if you can’t consciously say why it happened.

The e-commerce buyer’s journey is similar. When done well, it feels seamless. The buyer never realizes the path they’re on was constructed for them. They take the journey to its conclusion and purchase happily if the product and brand are right for them.

A lot of strategy and planning goes into constructing that path to fit your target e-commerce brand audience as perfectly as possible. The above description, however, is the essence of what happens.

Remember, prospective buyers can sense when they’re being manipulated and sold a bill of goods. When that happens, they pop right out of the journey, just like the movie watcher, and their journey ends. If they purchase despite that feeling and feel conned afterward, that bad news will travel at the speed of light.

The buyer’s journey we’re discussing occurs when you help a buyer realize why a product of value is the right one for them personally. That happens while you’re making their buyer’s journey personal and their decision to purchase as effortless as possible.

Using Paid Social Media Content for Each Buyer’s Journey Step

Before we dive into the buyer’s journey on paid social media content, here’s a brief historical look at paid social media content as a digital marketing avenue during economic downturns. 

During the Great Recession of 2008, paid social media content helped savvy e-commerce companies weather that recession until conditions improved, while those who refused to use that venue struggled. Since then, paid social media content has only improved as a cost-effective way to achieve digital marketing results during any economic circumstance. 

The Buyer’s Journey Steps & Social Media Paid Content

Let’s look at each step of the buyer’s journey and how your e-commerce brand can use paid social media content effectively to make that journey as effortless and smooth as possible. 

Because e-commerce brands and products cover a broad spectrum, our look at the steps involved will also be broad. This journey can be completed in just 2-3 quick steps, or it can take more steps over varying lengths of time. It depends on factors unique to your brand and target audience. Those can include perceived need vs. want, urgency, difficulty finding the right fit, product uniqueness, or competitive price points.

Because each social media network has unique methods, we’ll use Facebook as an example. Facebook offers a lot of target audience criteria points to choose from, from very broad to incredibly specific. Select yours carefully at each step, so you don’t waste money or spam Facebook audiences, causing the opposite of what you want.

Step 1 = Awareness

Until Awareness, your brand didn’t register because this person didn’t need it. This time, your brand catches their attention because they’ve identified a potential need or want that your brand might fill. They’re just looking, so brand awareness is the point of this step.

Creating Awareness on Facebook: You can generate awareness with a mid-range demographic setting. Keep your settings within known target audience ranges to be cost-effective while reaching those most likely to pay attention. Your Awareness content’s purpose is to attract attention in a good way, sparking potential interest. Step 1 introduces your e-commerce brand, reflecting your brand voice and image to resonate with your target audience. Your Step 1 goal is to catch their attention and prepare them for greater interest.

Step 2 = Interest

Your target shopper has identified a specific need and is actively looking at what’s available. Awareness and Interest may be one step, depending on your e-commerce brand and product lines.

Creating Interest on Facebook: If Step 1 produced a good reaction, you can keep the same settings or refine them for your Interest settings. Running an A/B test will quickly let you know which works best and help keep your ads cost-effective. Your Step 2 goal is to help your target audience become even more interested in your brand so they’re ready to move into consideration. Depending on the product/brand, some will move straight to purchase.

Step 3 = Consideration

Your target shopper remembers they saw your brand this time. If it still fits the criteria they believe are essential, they’ll consider it closely to see if it’s a good fit. They’re narrowing down their selection to make a decision. Some may buy at this point, depending on the product/brand.

Creating Consideration on Facebook: Pay attention to your prior data results to further narrow your interested audience for Consideration content. That way, you can ensure they get what they need to help them justify making a purchase decision. Your Step 3 goal is to support them in making a good decision about your e-commerce product.

Step 4 = Purchase Decision

Your target shopper knows they’re most attracted to your product and wants to justify that it’s the best one for them so they can purchase. Step 4 is a critical point in the process so try to ensure nothing about it creates doubt.

Creating a Purchase Decision on Facebook: As you go through the steps with your target audience, people will purchase at various stages. Step 4 is not the time to push hard for products needing a final touchpoint. You’ve refined your Facebook ad criteria at every step, so these shoppers are by default your perfect buyers and need a gentle push. Step 4 is another good time to run an A/B test with two different enticing offers designed to give them that little extra incentive to purchase. 

Bonus: Additional Steps To Ensure Happy Purchasers

Step 5 = Post-Purchase

Follow-up means everything and will determine whether your brand-new purchaser becomes a loyal customer. It’s time to reinforce that they made a good decision and to make good on delivery, product performance, and customer service. A happy purchaser becomes your best social proof evangelist and will give you word-of-mouth publicity worth its weight in gold. On the flip side: Bad news travels even faster on social media, so ensuring a good purchase and follow-up experience is critically important.

Step 6 = Building Loyalty

Use your purchaser profile information and timing to help guide your new customer to other content that will result in more successful purchases and a happy customer experience. Engage with them on social media to help build loyalty. Your customers are your tribe – treat them well.

Timing is important. Too many e-commerce companies immediately pounce on new customers with an onslaught of automatic offer solicitations that are not well received. They haven’t even used this one yet. 

It’s more appropriate to show gratitude for their purchase and welcome them. Let them know you’re happy to have them on board and hope they will love being a part of your e-commerce family. It’s also an excellent time to inform them to contact customer service if they have any issues and to reassure them everything was done to ensure their product arrived and would be exactly how they envisioned it. 

Repurchasing can come later when they’ve had a chance to open and use their purchased product. Then it’s time to engage them in purchasing similar products or other offers. 

For those interested in taking a deeper dive into plotting out your unique buyer’s journey, or you’ve never mapped a buyer’s journey for your e-commerce brand, you may find Shopify’s 2020 article, “How To Create a Customer Journey in E-Commerce (with examples)” helpful. 

What Now? How Do I Know Which Social Media Sites to Use for Paid Content Ads?

Have you been asking yourself which social media sites you should use throughout this article? That decision will be based on where your target audience hangs out. Putting paid content ads on social media sites that don’t attract your target audience is pointless. 

Each e-commerce brand will have unique needs, so we can’t make a blanket recommendation. It would be nice if it were that easy, but making that kind of recommendation would do your e-commerce brand a disservice and keep it from being as successful as it could be with a tailored approach.Our team partners with e-commerce brands to create customized buyer’s journeys for social media that help them scale up to the next level and beyond. Talk to us and explore how to use social media paid content to help your e-commerce brand thrive and grow. We’re happy to collaborate with you to achieve the success you’ve always known your e-commerce brand can achieve.

About the author: Merikay Noah has over 20 years’ experience in digital marketing. She worked with e-commerce B2C and B2B websites of all kinds, from Fortune 100s to small start-ups, at two of the top three search engines and at a Los Angeles ad agency. Her successful e-commerce book publishing website, PopcornReads.com, attracted an international audience of bookaholics for over eight years. She now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she works as a copywriter and loves to hike with her small but fierce doggy protector – Miss Lucy.

More Articles