What is a Customer Journey?

The customer journey is the process of research and decision making that leads up to a sale.  It will vary for each type of business, product and service. The customer journey for your customers includes the problems or issues that create the need for your products or services. Documenting the customer journey for your business will give you the insights necessary to improve your marketing program. Reaching potential customers early in their journey greatly increases the chance they will purchase from your business.

A customer journey can have up to 10 - 15 individual steps, but there are 3 widely accepted stages that almost all customer journeys include. They are:

  • Awareness: The customer becomes aware of a problem or need, and does some basic research (Google) to find possible solutions.
  • Consideration: The customer does additional research to weigh the different options available.
  • Decision: The customer narrows down the options and does final research that leads to purchase decision.

Here are some telling statistics related to the customer journey:

  • 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying. (Adweek
  • 65% of consumers spend 16+ minutes comparison shopping before making a purchase. (Conversion XL
  • Half of shoppers spend at least 75% of their total shopping time conducting online research. (HubSpot
  • 72% of buyers turn to Google during awareness stage research; 70% return to Google in consideration stage research. (Pardot
  • 50-90% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer reaches out to sales. (Multiple Sources)
  • 67% of the buyer's journey is now completed digitally. (Sirus Decisions
  • Almost 90% of study participants indicated it is important to influence buyers earlier in their journey. (Demand Metric)
  • 83% of consumers require some degree of customer support while making an online purchase. (eConsultancy
  • 62% of customers find it extremely/very important to be able to call your business at the purchase stage. (Google

Many small businesses focus only on the final action (often called "last click" attribution).  This misses many opportunities to reach customers earlier in the decision making process.

How can businesses utilize their knowledge of the customer journey to reach customers earlier in the process?

Awareness Stage

Blogging

Providing high quality informational blog posts related to your products and services can catch potential customers at this stage. A popular method of starting the tracking process of a potentially interested visitor is to offer some type of white paper or informational download that requires the visitor to enter their name and/or email address. With this sign-up you can now begin tracking and/or remarketing to get your brand in front of them during the rest of the process. Google display ads or email marketing are popular ways to achieve this. It is important,  however that the messaging is appropriate to the stage of the journey the customer is on. Presenting decision stage content too early can be a turn off and backfire.

Social Media

Getting social media follows from potential customers is another way of engaging with them during this stage of the process.

Email

Present high level information that will keep the potential customers engaged

Consideration Stage

Video

At this stage you want to present detailed information about your brand, company, and culture in order to build trust and authority.  Videos are a great way to do this because they convey more than cold information, and can make an emotional connection with the customer if properly and professionally done. 

Blogging

Blogs that demonstrate authority and expertise will also help in this part of the journey.

Email

For those visitors who show potential to move down the funnel, show information that demonstrates why your solution is the best.

Decision Stage

Buying Decision

Reviews and Testimonials

Reviews  and testimonials are critical in a customer's decision making process. Here are some recent statistics covering local businesses (Bright Local)

  • 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
  • 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they're asked to
  • 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business
  • 54% of people will visit the website after reading positive reviews
  • 73% of consumers think that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant
  • 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
  • 58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important

The bottom line: If you aren't putting effort into getting positive online reviews, you are effectively turning away online business.

Email

Special offers, case studies, and of course reviews and testimonials can help nudge the potenial customer to choosing you.

Conclusion

Although your website should act as the hub of your business marketing efforts, it is not enough on its own. The ever increasing competition for online dollars means businesses need to start looking at the entire journey the customer takes to buy their products or services, and engage them every step along the way.

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