Customer journey is the relationship customers have with your brand. It has always been there, but there’s greater recognition of it now beyond the typical “sales funnel.” And online experience has impacted the customer journey at each step with both pitfalls and potential.

The journey often starts with the awareness of your brand and goes through the transaction of purchasing your product or service. As a brand, it’s important to extend the journey beyond the sale into next steps of loyalty and advocacy. Repeat business and word-of-mouth is what you’re after to reduce costs and increase sales!

Understanding how your customer behaves at each step helps you to plan appropriate marketing messages and content that can influence your customer towards a purchase decision — and the experience you provide through this journey helps turn them into loyal customers who advocate for your brand. Your customers’ information needs change as they move through the process. So how you speak to them and influence them should also change so that you can move them in your favor at each stage.

How the Customer Journey Model Works

As potential customers begin to identify a need in the early stages of the customer journey, avenues like traditional mass media advertising, display ads, social advertising and brand advocates work to create awareness in the customers’ mind. As result most customers start the research process with a need and with a smaller set of brands in their consideration set.

There are a lot of things happening here: salesperson interactions, word-of-mouth, etc. But suffice it to say, a big — and constantly growing — part of their research is online.

As your customers move through the consideration and evaluation phases, customers turn to channels such as search engines and social mediums to find information. For most brands, this is a danger zone: There’s potential for more brands to enter into the consideration set!

At this point, customers will evaluate your product or service based on their digital experience and how well your content informs and helps. Remember most customers engage with your business in these pre-purchase steps of the journey digitally. As customers move closer to purchase decision, online reviews, social mentions of your product and any earned PR help establish trust and validate customers’ decision to purchase. Pay per click ads, email campaigns also assist in the interaction.

Content that helps your users, answers their questions, can engage and motivate them to take action here. A poor experience will cause you to lose your audiences attention and trust. In fact, if your product can be purchased online, a poor online shopping experience can cost you a sale (about 67% of shopping carts are abandoned).

Post-purchase experience is extremely important, as well. Most customers continue to do research to validate the decisions they’ve made about the purchase. Content that helps support and validate those decisions helps build loyalty with your customers. Easy-to-find content that provides helpful support for your customers and customer portals that provide easy access to information also help build loyalty.

It’s time to take a hard look at your digital presence and online marketing. Ask yourself:

  • Does your brand have a presence throughout this journey?
  • Does your brand provide helpful content to your potential customers that influences and helps them?
  • Does your brand provide support to your customers post purchase?

If you’re unsure (or if the answer is “no”), learn about your customers’ path to purchase and start building a strategy to provide a digital experience that truly helps your potential customers through the journey. If you’re already doing this, measure and improve your presence.

There are so many other non-digital elements that influence a customer through this journey. Some examples are traditional marketing tactics, and contact with a sales person at the evaluation phase. A memorable, consistent brand experience through all channels is key to winning the customer journey.

Read more about customer journey:

The Consumer Decision Journey (McKinsey) 

Dynamic Customer Journey (Altimeter)

The Dim Light at the End of the Funnel (Brian Solis)

The Rise of Generation-C...and What to Do About It (Brian Solis) 

Learn about marketing channels that help through the path to purchase:

The Customer Journey to Online Purchase (Google)