November 1, 2023

Beyond the Sale: The Extended eCommerce Customer Journey

The full eCommerce customer journey goes beyond the sale, making it crucial to take into account the post-purchase experience as it can be the key to turning one-time buyers into loyal customers.


The full eCommerce customer journey goes beyond the sale, making it crucial to take into account the post-purchase experience as it can be the key to turning one-time buyers into loyal customers. 

The Extended Customer Journey

The customer journey is often thought of as the process that begins when a customer first becomes aware of a product or service and ends when they make a purchase. However, the customer journey actually extends far beyond that. 

Your customer journey includes all of the interactions that a customer has with your company, from the moment they first become aware of your brand to the long-term relationship that develops over time.

Even after a customer receives their order, the customer journey isn’t over. They may need to return or exchange a product, or they might be willing to leave a review. 

There are endless touchpoints along the way to delight or disappoint customers besides the transaction itself. Moments like repeat purchases, customer support inquiries, reviews, and returns all play an important role in the overall shopping experience. 

88% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services, which really illustrates the importance of creating a smooth customer journey from start to finish.

To optimize the customer journey, you must provide value at every stage - before, during, and after the purchase. It's important to think long-term about your customer relationships, beyond the sale.

Breaking Down the Stages

For a better understanding of the entire customer journey, let's break it down into distinct stages, each with its own goals and challenges. Each of these stages can also be broken down into further stages, but let's consider the big picture:

  • 1. Pre-Purchase - The pre-purchase stage involves attracting and engaging potential customers. This includes brand awareness, product discovery, product information, and customer support. The goal is to nurture visitors into buyers by providing a seamless and informative experience.

  • 2. Purchase - The purchase stage focuses on ensuring a smooth and secure purchasing process. Key aspects include offering multiple payment options, clearly outlining shipping costs and timelines, and sending confirmation emails or an SMS link to a receipt via text, to instill confidence in customers and ensure a positive shopping experience.

  • 3. Post-Purchase - The post-purchase stage extends beyond order fulfillment to order tracking, returns and exchanges, collecting feedback, and building loyalty. This stage is crucial for retaining customers and turning them into brand advocates.

When you optimize the entire customer journey, you can create a seamless and delightful experience that fosters customer loyalty and leads to long-term growth.

Now let's dive into the different phases of the extended customer journey and how to optimize them.


Before a transaction even takes place, you need to attract and engage potential customers. In this stage, your goal is to generate awareness about your brand, make it easy to research and compare products, and help visitors decide what to buy.

Your goal in the pre-purchase phase is to nurture visitors into buyers. This means making your eCommerce site easy to navigate, providing rich product information, and guiding customers to items that fit their needs. 

30% of customers leave sites because they can't find what they are looking for, so it’s important to make your site easy to navigate and your products easy to find.

The more value you provide early on, the higher the chances of converting site traffic into sales.

Key aspects of the pre-purchase stage include:

  • Brand awareness - Create a strong brand presence through marketing and advertising efforts to get your business on prospective buyers' radars.
  • Product discovery - Make sure products are easily discoverable through search engine optimization (SEO) and intuitive website navigation.
  • Product information - Provide clear, concise, and informative product descriptions, images, and videos on your product pages.
  • Customer support - Offer responsive and helpful customer support to address questions and concerns and help customers complete purchases.


Once a customer decides to make a purchase, your priority becomes ensuring a smooth and reassuring ordering process. This means providing multiple payment options, clearly outlining shipping costs and timelines, and sending confirmation emails.

During the purchase phase, customers want to feel secure that their payment will go through without issues and their order will arrive as expected. Efficiency is a high priority when it comes to online shopping, with two-thirds of customers expecting checkout to take 4 minutes or less.

The checkout process sets the tone for how customers remember their shopping experience, so you don’t want any friction here that could negatively impact customer satisfaction.

Key aspects of the purchase stage include:

  • Payment options - Offer multiple secure payment methods like credit cards, PayPal, and Apple Pay to provide choice and convenience.
  • Checkout process - Make sure checkout is simple, fast, and mobile-friendly, with guest checkout and saved payment method options.
  • Order confirmation - Send order confirmation emails and texts immediately to keep your customers informed and reassured.
  • Shipping information - Clearly display all shipping options, costs, and estimated delivery timelines to address any potential concerns or questions ahead of time.
  • Real-time support - Ensure customer support is easily available via phone, chat, and social media to address last-minute questions.


After a successful purchase, your relationship with the customer continues through order tracking, handling returns or exchanges, collecting feedback, and building loyalty over time.

Getting the post-purchase experience right is essential, as this is when you can lose - or gain - customers for life. The key is showing you care about them beyond just getting the initial sale.

  • Offer self-service order tracking: Provide customers with a way to track their orders online. This will give them transparency into delivery status and reduce the number of WISMO (Where Is My Order) inquiries you receive.
  • Handle returns and exchanges seamlessly - Make it easy for customers to return or exchange items. Automate the process to build trust and retain customers by providing a hassle-free post-purchase experience with a self-service portal and real-time notifications.
  • Get product reviews - Encourage customers to leave reviews of your products. This can provide valuable insights into what customers like and dislike about your products and help set expectations for future customers.

ReturnGO helps optimize the entire post-purchase process by automating everything from order tracking to returns, exchanges, and advanced analytics.

Ongoing Relationship

As an extension of the post-purchase process, the relationship continues even after a customer receives their order and returns it if necessary. You can nurture ongoing engagement by continuing the interaction, understanding the overall experience, and identifying areas for improvement.

Some ways to continue the customer relationship beyond the sale include:

  • Stay in touch - Check in regularly via email campaigns and social media to showcase new offerings relevant to previous purchases. 
  • Take customer surveys - Survey customers to get insights into pain points and opportunities about your products and service.
  • Reward loyal customers - Provide loyalty rewards in exchange for referrals and repeat purchases to maintain and grow your customer base.

When customers feel truly cared for, they go from being one-time buyers to advocates. This lasting relationship drives referrals, repeat sales, and long-term business growth.

Optimize Every Phase of the Customer Journey

The customer journey with an eCommerce business is not linear - it's an ongoing relationship. It’s important to remember that the post-purchase experience is as significant as the initial sale.

By providing an exceptional experience across the entire customer journey - before, during, and after the purchase - you can increase customer loyalty, generate repeat business, and expand your business.

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Aryan Vaksh

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