Ignoring the customer journey is no longer an option for businesses in the digital space. Performing regular in-depth analysis is vital in order to perfect each and every stage of the sales funnel, creating a customer experience (CX) that nurtures leads and promotes loyalty.
Not only do organizations need to understand the key customer journey phases, but they must also ensure consistency across all touchpoints, as users may switch between platforms during the buying process. A divergence in routes taken by specific groups at critical moments in the cycle also adds complexity, meaning catering to well-researched audience personas is important to achieve success.
Main customer journey stages
While the nuances of every business will be different, it’s widely agreed that the customer journey is made up of five main phases. These are:
Mapping these stages will facilitate users moving through them seamlessly, helping you to improve the UX and leading to a successful outcome for everyone. Losing or frustrating a prospective buyer during any of the earlier stages reduces the likelihood of them travelling on to the next step in the journey.
Conduct in-depth customer journey analysis to work out where you’re performing well and which elements could be improved. Knowing exactly how efficiently your funnel is working is the only way to continually evolve it and keep pace with your competitors.
1. Awareness stage
Your customer’s journey begins before they even make a purchase. They’re just a person on the internet with a problem and it’s up to you to show them that your company is the right one to solve it for them. Firstly, they need to know you exist, which is why the awareness phase is so important.
Marketers should be taking a multi-channel approach to awareness. Organic search, paid ads, referrals, press releases, news articles, social posts and email campaigns are all useful tools you can leverage to get on your audience’s radar. Understanding your target audience is key here, so you can put resources into the areas that your personas are most likely to respond to.
2. Consideration stage
At the consideration phase, prospects are likely to be weighing up your product against a number of others offered by your competitors. How long this phase lasts will depend on various factors, including the cost of a product. Big ticket items may take weeks or even months of deliberation, while smaller purchases can take just seconds or minutes.
Information is paramount at this point to help aid their decision and you can present it in a number of ways. Consider the following to demonstrate how you can solve their problem:
- Customer reviews
- Free trials or samples
- Demo videos
3. Purchase decision stage
All of the work you did in the first two stages should lead to the decision phase, so ensure you don’t lose your customer at this critical moment. A difficult to navigate buying process with too many stages, for example, could send a user back to the consideration step and result in them purchasing from one of your competitors.
Consider offering a discount code or free shipping to provide added value to help aid the decision. Customer service can play a crucial role here, so ensure there’s easy ways to contact representatives of your company. This team should have access to the customer journey history across all channels, so the individual doesn’t have to spend time getting them up to speed.
To learn more about the importance of understanding the customer journey, listen to our interview with Becky Simms on The Strategic Marketing Show:
Listen to the episode via your preferred pocast platform:
4. Retention stage
Your customer’s journey doesn’t end with a sale, or at least it doesn’t need to. The old marketing maxim suggests that it costs five times more to obtain a new customer than to retain an old one. As is pointed out in this Forbes article, this was based on an old business model, but predictive analytics techniques can now estimate a customer’s lifetime value (CLV).
Knowing the CLV of a retained customer and an obtained customer, which is different for all companies, helps you to make smarter decisions about which relationships you're investing in. Personalization, keeping in touch with current customers and requesting feedback are effective ways of reselling to those already inside your buyer funnel.
5. Advocacy stage
Even better than reselling to existing customers is having them tell others how positive their experience with your business was. Advocacy can come in a number of forms, from posting reviews online to telling their friends and family in person that they recommend your company.
Your advocate strategy can include various approaches too. Incentivize referrals by offering unique affiliate links that entitle both the giver and the receiver to discounts on future purchases or entry into a prize draw. Post shoutouts on social media and publish user generated content to engage with potential customers.