What Are the Different Stages of the Customer Journey?
While it may appear to be a seamless process, there are many
distinct steps a customer takes when purchasing goods or services. A business
that understands these steps can develop a marketing plan to accommodate every
phase of the customer journey, from the time a person first becomes aware of a
specific need to the end phase, when a customer tells others about their buying
The following are the key steps in the customer buying process.
The companies that can best anticipate these steps and use them to their
advantage have the best chance of engaging consumers on a deeper, more
Step #1: Awareness
Virtually all consumers begin compiling information before
making a purchase. Much of this information-gathering takes place online, which
underscores the importance of having a solid web presence. In fact, 87% of
shoppers start looking for products online first, regardless if they intend on
making a purchase in-store.
Because your website will most likely be the first
interaction a prospective customer has with your brand, you must make sure that
it’s effective at presenting your business. Think about the questions a
consumer might have at this stage and endeavor to answer them as clearly and
succinctly as possible. You can also use your website to position your brand
and business as an authority by creating how-to articles or linking to other
Step #2: Evaluation
The evaluation stage is still linked to
information-gathering, but at this point the customer may be comparing
different companies or products on a deeper level. They may also be perusing
reviews from past customers, which can have a significant impact, both
negatively and positively. Consider that 86% of consumers will be reluctant to
move forward with a company after reading negative reviews. Additionally, displaying
positive reviews on your website may affect your sales figures, with some
showing an 18% increase in sales as a result.
Encourage past customers to leave reviews and have a
strategy in place for dealing with negative messages. Effective handling of a
poor review, such as by responding quickly to the issue, offering a sincere
apology, and making a genuine effort to provide a remedy, can actually have a
positive impact on current and future customers.
Step #3: Decision-Making
By this stage, the consumer will be close to making a
decision based on the information gathered in the previous two steps. Because
the customer will be on the verge of making a choice between you and another
company, it’s more important than ever to demonstrate the value of your brand.
As stated above, customer reviews are crucial for showing
the value of what you have to offer. You can also entice a potential buyer in
other ways when he or she has entered the decision-making stage. Offering a
free trial of a product or service increases consumer confidence, while offering
a discount or special on an initial purchase shows appreciation. There are lots
of ways to present the value your business offers consumers; you just need to
pin down those that make the most sense for you.
Step #4: Retention
While it’s slightly more difficult to entice a new customer
into making a sale as it is to keep an existing customer satisfied, there is
still work to be done within the retention stage of the journey. First of all,
you want to leave the channels of communication open between you and the buyer.
You can do this by reaching out with requests for testimonials, providing
surveys, and sending notice of new products that may interest the customer.
You should also strive to provide resources to your
customers at this point. Maybe they have questions about getting the full
functionality out of a product, which can be satisfied by helpful tutorials and
how-tos. Once again, anticipating and fulfilling the customer need is a must
for business success.
Step #5: Advocacy
If you’ve taken the above steps, chances are you have a
satisfied customer on your hands. While this is a benefit all on its own, you
can also leverage a customer’s satisfaction to your advantage. This is why
having a presence on social media platforms is beneficial.
Ask your customers if they wouldn’t mind leaving a review
about your business online, specifically on Facebook or another social media
platform. You can also ask followers to share other information related to your
brand. Posting an amusing meme or informative article entices your followers to
share, which expands awareness of your business. The goal is to get them
talking about your brand in a positive way to as many people as possible.
We’re happy to pass on this information to you, so that your
online marketing strategy can be as informed and effective as possible. Feel free to contact us if you
have questions about your customers’ journey cycle and how you can capitalize