Product Journey Walkthrough

The Product Journey is one of our more unique reports. It may seem like a lot to take in at first, but once you know what you’re looking at, you’ll see that it’s based on a simple concept that can lead you to powerful realizations about how your customers engage with your brand.

This guide starts with a quick explanation of the value of the Product Journey. Then it walks through how to read the report, how and when to adjust report settings, and what types of decisions you can make based on what the data suggests. As always, if you get stuck or have a question that isn’t answered below, let us know at!

How the Product Journey can help

Every customer is different. They discover your brand in different contexts, they buy different products, and they have different experiences with them that influence if or what they’ll repurchase.

But the more customers you have, the more patterns will emerge. Maybe customers who start with a free sample product are more likely to buy high-ticket items on their next purchase. Maybe one variation of a product makes your customers twice as likely to buy a subscription pack.

Identifying these patterns puts you at an obvious advantage. If you know what your customers are likely to buy next, you can make better decisions about which products to invest in and how to optimize your marketing dollars. But the problem is that these patterns are notoriously difficult to identify in a spreadsheet. There are so many unique paths that customers follow that it’s hard to compare the frequencies of each one.

This is what makes the Product Journey report so useful. It helps you visualize common buying behaviors by highlighting the most frequent paths your repeat customers follow from their first orders to their fourth orders. The most common paths have the biggest “noodles” connecting two products. Less common paths have thinner noodles. You can hover over each product or path for more specifics, but that alone is enough to start giving you valuable info on your customers! Let’s take a look.

How to read the Product Journey

You can access your Product Journey from the drop-down menu of “Customer Behavior” reports in the top menu bar.

Below is an example Product Journey from one of our test stores. This report shows the most frequent buying patterns of the store's returning customers over the last two years. (Remember - we're only focused on the buying behavior of repeat customers, so customers who only placed one order in the report's time period are excluded.)

Every Product Journey consists of four columns. The first and left-most column displays the most common products that were purchased on a repeat customer’s first order. Each bar in the column represents a different product (labeled above), and the relative size of each bar matches that product’s percentage of total sales.

The next column displays the most common products purchased on a second order. Since we're looking at repeat customers only, there should be at least as many second orders as first orders, and the two columns are equal in size. But when we move to the next column displaying the most common third order products, you can see from the size of the bars that there are fewer third order sales. And by the fourth order column, repeat sales have dropped off enough to where only two products are displayed at this level of zoom.

We'll look at these columns more closely in a minute, but now let's focus on the links that run between the columns. These paths or “noodles” track the most common sequences of repeat sales. The thicker noodles correspond to the most common paths. In the example above, you can see that the thickest noodle links the Vegan Fudge Brownie Shake Subscriptions in the first and second columns. This means that customers who ordered a Vegan Fudge Brownie Shake Subscription on their first order were very likely to order the same product on their second order. They weren't nearly as likely to buy a Vegan Pineapple Shake on their second order, as you can tell from the much thinner noodle linking those products.

So without looking at a single number, you can already start seeing patterns and answering basic questions. Here are some questions that any Product Journey should help answer:

  • What products are popular with repeat customers?
  • For customers who buy product A, how likely they are to repurchase A vs ordering product B or C?
  • Which products tend to retain customers, and which tend to discourage reorders?
👉 Use case: Let's try to answer these questions for the test store above.
  • What products are popular with repeat customers?
    • The Vegan Fudge Brownie Shake Subscription is clearly the most popular product across all repeat orders.
  • For customers who buy product A, how likely are they to repurchase A vs ordering product B or C?
    • Customers who subscribed to receive Vegan Fudge Brownie Shakes on their first order were much more likely to re-up that subscription than than to try something else. Customers who started with the Vegan Shake Subscription (pink), however, were just as likely to switch to Vegan Fudge Brownie Shakes or a Value Pack Subscription (blue) than to continue with the same product.
  • Which products tend to retain customers, and which tend to discourage reorders?
    • In addition to being the most popular product, the Vegan Fudge Brownie Shake Subscription appears to retain the highest percentage of customers across repeat orders. In contrast, although the Vegan Shake Subscription (pink) drew a high share of first and second orders, nearly all customers who bought this on their second order either moved on to a new product or didn't reorder anything altogether.

Potential takeaways:

  • Is there an opportunity to start a sample program with Vegan Fudge Brownie Shakes?
  • Should marketing dollars be allocated away from other flavors towards Vegan Fudge Brownie Shakes?
  • Are their cross-selling opportunities (for example email automations) for customers on less-popular subscriptions who haven't reordered yet?
  • Should the Vegan Shake Subscription (a variety pack) try a different combination of flavors?

Of course, to answer any of these questions, it helps to have more detail. To see exact numbers for different products and paths on your Product Journey, you can hover your cursor over any part of the chart:

Hovering over a product in any column will show you:

  • The product's share of total orders in its column
  • The average number of days since the previous order
  • The average number of days until the next order
  • The most common customer paths to and from that product

Hovering over any path will give you:

  • The exact number of customers who purchased the linked products in sequence.

How to customize your Product Journey report

Right now there are three different ways to customize your Product Journey:


Adjust the time period

You’re probably already familiar with the time period toggle, as it's an option on nearly every report in Lifetimely. To change the time period of the report, just click on the "Time period" window, where you can select from pre-set date ranges or select your own customized date range.

💡 Tip: When does it make sense to select longer vs. shorter time frames?
  • Longer time periods obviously include more customers and more data, which allows more time for patterns to establish. This can give you more confidence in the strength of any pattern you see. It also helps with understanding long-term trends and is especially useful for businesses with marketing channels and product offerings that have held relatively stable over a matter of years.
  • Shorter time periods are more useful when you've introduced new products or have a quickly evolving customer base, and you want to see to what extent these changes have shaken up old patterns.

Of course, there's no reason to select just one time period - it's helpful to compare your Product Journeys in the long, medium, and short-term!


View chart by product, variant, product type, or SKU

The "Product Journey by" setting allows you to set the level at which your products are displayed:

The right setting for you depends on your catalog and on the buying behavior of your customers. Generally, it's best to select the lowest level at which there are meaningful differences in your number of orders.


Zoom to different levels of detail

Adjusting the Zoom slider of your Product Journey controls how much detail you want the graph to show. A default report is zoomed all the way in - this means that uncommon paths are removed completely so you can focus more on common paths. As you zoom out, it takes fewer orders for a path to display on the chart.

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