From 3 clicks to 15: The E-commerce customer journey is getting longer

E-commerce customer journeys are getting longer. In fact, these days, they have more clicks than a Zulu wedding speech. So what’s going on, and more importantly, what can you do about it?

Optimizing your e-commerce store for conversions is hard work. You need design, compelling product pages, and a user-friendly checkout. What’s more, you need to ensure the technical aspects of your site are on point.

Those factors of converting users on your site are constant. However, the customer journey is not. Instead, it changes are evolves based on a variety of public factors. So, let’s dig in.

The state of customer journeys

Customer journeys used to be simple. For a long time, people associated the 3-click rule with the late Apple visionary Steve Jobs. While Jobs might not have coined the concept, he was obsessed with simplicity in design. When working on the iPod interface, he “insisted on being able to get to whatever he wanted in three clicks.

Despite this being a good design principle, attempts to incorporate it into the world of digital marketing were always uncomfortable. But in 2018, research by Google CEE and IPSOS suggested that the average number of touchpoints for e-commerce goods was three, which gave the concept some credence.

As the data below demonstrates, the customers they researched used some configuration of the following touch points.

  • Web-search
  • Price comparison website
  • Store or manufacturer site
  • Conversation with friends
  • In-store
  • YouTube video

But all that was six years ago, and times have changed. For starters, a lot has happened over the last few years, some of which have had a considerable effect on online shopping behaviors and demographics.

How have customer journeys changed?

By October 2022, MarTech Zone suggested that the “average online journey can now range from 20 to 500 touchpoints.” That number is pretty staggering, but a few things contribute to these figures. Let’s explore them.


Omnichannel marketing has been a big change over the last decade. Instead of seeing the customer journey as a linear voyage, omnichannel marketing allows users to bounce around different points as they gather the information they need to make a purchase.

There are so many different online and offline channels where touchpoints on the customer journey can happen, such as your website, email, social media presence, chatbots, paid ads, and so on. The sheer volume of options is causing the customer journey to grow in both size and complexity.


We’ve all likely heard quite enough about COVID-19 and are delighted to see it in our rearview mirrors. However, the pandemic has had a massive impact on e-commerce. For starters, during lockdowns, people were forced to change their buying habits. This forced new users into the digital marketplace, many of whom came with their own habits.

In Spotify’s Future of E-commerce report from 2023, stats show that an average of 5% of consumers from the UK, Spain, France, and Italy bought their first online products during the pandemic. These consumers have largely stuck around, but their e-commerce habits are slightly different.

Consumer behavior

Another thing to consider is that general consumer behavior is changing. Some of these changes are quite small, such as a gradual uptick in cart abandonment rates. Baymard Media puts cart abandonment rate at around 70%, while SaleCycle, a UK based global Behavioral Marketing firm, suggests it could be as high as 80%.

Different channels

While brands fall over themselves to advertise on youth-oriented channels like TikTok, it’s important to remember that old classics are still producing results. Marigold’s European Consumer Trends Index 2024 report suggests that 50% of consumers have made a purchase via email in the last year.

Online sales growth is deceiving

While e-commerce sales are growing, it’s important to consider a few factors. Firstly, the share of people who use the internet is growing, in both developed and developing countries. So, yes, the volume of sales is rising, but a portion of those figures is about new people coming to the market.


Fashion accounts for over 20% of e-commerce sales. However, McKinsey’s State of Fashion 2024 report provides some interesting insights that are transferable to other e-commerce verticals.

A few interesting findings from the report include the slowdown in e-commerce growth that is expected throughout 2024. Over 60% of fashion executives they interviewed suggested that global conflicts and tensions as the biggest barrier to growth this year. Economic volatility and inflation were mentioned as factors by 55% and 51% of executives, respectively.

Not everyone agrees if Europe is in a recession or not. However, the signs are there. For example, as reported by Euronews, loans to businesses decreased slightly at the end of 2023, which is the first time this has happened since 2015.

However, Global Economics Intelligence, another McKinsey report from the end of last year, shows that there is growing pessimism about the economy.

When coupled with a Euro Area Consumer Confidence rating of -15.5%, some patterns start to emerge.

If customers are more cautious about the economy, they’re more cautious in their spending habits. This trend is completely normal during difficult financial times, as people cut back on discretionary goods and focus on food, fuel, and other essentials.

Another point to note is that consumers become more price conscious during a recession, meaning they shop around more.

So, more shopping around and more caution are the big headlines here.

Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT): The 7-11-4 rule

There’s a lot of references to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) and the 7-11-4 rule recently. While it’s not an official policy, many marketing people have suggested that it’s a summary of research by the search engine giant. Broken down, it suggests that to make a purchase, a consumer needs:

  • 7 hrs of content (blogs, video, reviews, etc.)
  • 11 different touchpoints (ads, posts, video, social media, etc.)
  • 4 different locations (website, store, social media, etc.)

This principle suggests a customer journey with a lot of research across 15 different steps. That’s a lot of clicks, lots of channels, and lots of decision-making time.


If you want to drive more e-commerce sales in 2024, you need a balanced approach. Overall, the big takeaway here is that consumers are more hesitant and indecisive due to economic concerns, but with enough clicks they will convert. So, get your brand in front of them and you can drive more revenue.

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