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Getting to know your customer journey stages

PostsDesign & UX
Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

January 06, 2023

The customer journey can be like a maze: the more twists and turns, dead-ends, and surprises there are, the less likely a person is to complete it. So how do you make your customer journey more like a highway, speeding them towards the finish line? You must predict the obstacles they might encounter along the way and provide solutions. And to do this, you need to know what they’re experiencing throughout the customer journey stages.

In this article, we’ll look at customer journey stages in detail so that you can better guide them toward a conversion.

What is a customer journey?

A customer journey is an entire experience your potential customer has with your business. It’s made up of what experts call ‘touchpoints’ — the places customers have contact with you, physically or digitally. These touchpoints range from first becoming aware of your brand all the way through to purchase and beyond.

Why do you need to know what these stages are?

By knowing each stage and what customers want at each step, you can optimize your customer journey to give the best possible experience. That way, you’ll increase their chances of converting and hopefully becoming happy, loyal customers. 

Key phrases and what they mean

  • Content strategy: Content strategy is the process of planning, creating, and optimizing content for a specific audience to achieve a business goal. It involves defining the creation and delivery of your content. 
  • User Personas: User personas are fictional representations of your ideal customer based on actual data about customer demographics and behavior. They help you understand how different types of consumers use your product and what their needs are.
  • Conversion Rate: The conversion rate measures how effectively your website converts visitors into customers. It’s calculated by dividing the number of conversions (sales, sign-ups, etc.) by the total number of visitors.
  • Touchpoints: Touchpoints are points of contact between your business and customers, such as a website or mobile app. They give you insights into customer behavior and needs.
  • Onboarding: Onboarding is the process of introducing new users to a product or service, showing them how it works, and helping them get the most value out of it.
  • OKRs: OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are a goal-setting system designed to help organizations focus on the tasks that lead to success. They involve setting objectives and measurable outcomes, then tracking progress toward them.
  • Roadmapping: Roadmapping is the process of creating a plan for how you will reach your goals. It involves setting out the steps you need to take, any resources required, and timelines for completion.
  • UX: UX (User Experience) refers to how easy and enjoyable it is to use a product or service. Good UX involves ensuring the experience is as intuitive and frictionless as possible. Run regular UX audits to keep your website up-to-date.

Now that we know why customer journey stages are important, let’s look at what they are.

The five customer journey stages: definitions and tips 

Here are the five main customer journey stages:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Purchase
  4. Retention
  5. Advocacy

Let’s look at these in a little more detail.

1. Awareness

In the beginning, there was nothing. And then, one day, your prospective customer realized they had a problem they needed solving. 

Perhaps it was chilly outside, and their feet were cold. Or maybe they were entirely fed up with the cold and wanted to warm up in the Bahamas.

Whatever the problem, they’re on the hunt for a solution. In other words, they have become aware of an issue and know there’s a solution waiting for them. And you know what that means? It’s time to step in and give them more information about how you could help. Not only that: how you are what they need.

The awareness stage is broken down into two parts:

  • Awareness of the problem: this is where they realize they have a ‘problem’ they’d like to solve (to use our examples back there, this could range from cold feet to wanderlust and beyond)
  • Awareness of the solution: This is where they’re aware of the answer to their problem (e.g., slippers or plane tickets).

Key questions customers will ask at this stage: 

  • What is the problem I have?
  • Can I solve it?
  • What are my options for solving it?
  • How can I find out more about these options?

What you need to focus on at this stage:

  • SEO: According to research from Salesforce, customers overwhelmingly begin their search online (87%, to be precise), which means you need to be visible. Focusing on SEO and ensuring you appear in relevant searches is a must.
  • Content: You need content that will grab your potential customer’s attention and inform them about their options via blog posts, videos, or product descriptions. However you do it, make sure it’s engaging and informative!
  • Advertising: If you’ve nailed your SEO, you can look at other avenues for getting your brand in front of potential customers. Paid advertisement is a great option here, and native ads (adverts that appear as content) can be particularly effective.
  • Research: how can you connect with your customer when you don’t know who they are? Research is critical here. Look at what people search for and which influencers they look to when they have a problem — this will help you craft content and target your advertising accordingly.

As they move from the first stage to the second, they’ll become aware of various brands that offer solutions to their problem, usually via advertising, social media, or word-of-mouth recommendations. This takes us neatly onto stage 2.

2. Consideration

The consideration stage is where your prospective customer discovers the different solutions available to them and narrows them down to decide which company or product offers the best fit for their needs. This can take a while, depending on what they’re looking for — they may need to do plenty of research or spend time comparing prices, features, and reviews before deciding.

Key questions customers will ask at this stage:

  • Does the brand offer what I need?
  • What are the benefits of this product/service?
  • Is there a better alternative out there?
  • How much does it cost, and is it a good value for money?
  • Can I trust this company?
  • What is their return or refund policy?

What you need to focus on at this stage:

  • Content: You need to ensure you have the relevant information available so they can make an informed decision. This could be product descriptions, blog posts, and videos — but it’s also essential to include social proofing, like customer testimonials, certifications, logos of your existing clients, and so on. These things make a difference: according to Hubspot, 91% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, and 70% trust customer opinions posted online.
  • Customer service: An excellent customer service team can help at this stage. Make sure you respond quickly to queries and offer help wherever needed. As part of this, make sure you reply to feedback online. According to research by Podium. 56% of customers say responses to online reviews have changed their perspective. 
  • Trust symbols: As customers are assessing whether they can trust your company, it’s a good idea to include social proofing and logos from existing partners, as well as certificates, accreditations, images of your product, and any other trust signals you can think of. This will give them peace of mind that you’re a legitimate business. If the customer feels like something is amiss, they’ll be out of there faster than you can say “abandoned cart.”
  • Marketing: Retargeting campaigns can be incredibly effective here. They allow you to show ads to potential customers that have already expressed an interest in your product or service by visiting your website or engaging with your content. By tailoring your campaigns and providing interesting content, you’ll be able to engage customers at this stage, keep yourself front of mind and move them onto the next stage.

3. Purchase/Decision

Once prospects have done their research and made their decision, they enter the purchase stage. This is where they consider a shortlist of products/services and decide to commit and actually make a purchase — hopefully!

Returning to our opening maze analogy, ensuring the process is as smooth and straightforward as possible is vital.

Note: this stage looks a little different for B2B and B2C buyers:

  • B2B customers often have to go through a longer process with multiple stakeholders and often require a sales team to guide them swiftly and seamlessly through the journey. Things like product demos are helpful here. 
  • B2C customers, on the other hand, tend to make purchase decisions faster, so here it’s all about optimizing their experience and ensuring you’re doing everything you can to persuade them at a glance. This includes having your contact information clearly visible in case they need assistance or have any questions.

Key questions customers will ask at this stage:

  • Is this product/service the right fit for me?
  • Do I trust this company enough to part with my money?
  • Where can I find…?
  • How do I pay?
  • What’s the installation process?
  • What support will I get?

What you need to focus on at this stage: 

  • Simplicity: From the customer’s point of view, make sure the purchase process is as quick and easy to use as possible. Anything unclear or confusing could lead to an abandoned cart/lost contract. 
  • Trust signals: As customers assess whether they can trust your company, it’s a good idea to include reviews, logos of payment providers, and anything else that will help reassure them. 
  • Customer service: Train up your sales team so they can be on hand to answer any questions.
  • A smooth transaction: Ensure your website is easy to navigate and efficient, with no hidden charges or checkout issues. If you signpost something — like displaying a specific product on your PPC ad, then make sure your customer lands on that product page when they click.
  • Show you’re the best: Do what you can to outshine the competition, whether that’s social proofing, case studies, free trial periods, etc.  And, of course, always gather customer feedback at this stage — the purchase experience can often be a deciding factor in customers’ loyalty and repeat buying habits!

4. Retention/Loyalty

So you’ve made a conversion. Congratulations! Now it’s time to keep that customer on your side. 

The retention/loyalty stage is perhaps the most important — without loyal customers, you won’t have a business for long. This means providing excellent customer service after purchase, responding quickly to queries or complaints, and providing incentives to motivate them to return. Your goal here should be to create a loyal customer base that will keep coming back and telling their friends about your company.

Loyalty schemes, discounts for repeat purchases, unique newsletters, and exclusive invites to events are all great ways of incentivizing customers to stay with you. And remember — social proofing is critical here too! Focus on gathering positive reviews and testimonials, and don’t forget to thank your customers for their loyalty.

Key questions customers will ask at this stage:

  • Do I get any discounts for being a loyal customer?
  • Can you recommend anything else to me that might be of interest?
  • Where can I find more information about….?
  • Are there any exclusive offers available?
  • Are there better deals out there?

What you need to focus on at this stage

  • Rewards: Establish a rewards system for loyal customers. This can be anything from a loyalty program to discounts or vouchers — but make sure you choose something that will genuinely benefit them and encourage them to return.
  • Communication: Keep your customers updated throughout their journey with helpful advice, reminders, and information about product launches, events, or special offers that could be of interest to them.
  • Social proofing: Ensure you have plenty of reviews and testimonials from satisfied customers, giving potential customers a sense of reassurance regarding their purchase and keeping buyer’s remorse away! This is particularly important for B2B customers who may need additional support post-purchase as they roll out your product or service across their business. 
  • Customer service: Offer a top-notch customer service experience by responding quickly and effectively to any queries or complaints that may arise. This will help to build trust and ensure customers feel valued.

Stage 5: Advocacy

This is the pinnacle of the customer journey stages — where customers go from loyal shoppers to advocates. Here, your customers are happy with your product or service, actively spreading the word about it and referring friends and colleagues. They’re customer royalty, so treat them as such! 

The best way to get here is through excellent customer service and effective referral schemes. Incentivise customers to refer their friends and family by offering them rewards for their loyalty.

Creating an advocate base is essential to sustain any business — so don’t forget to thank your customers when they recommend you. Also, consider using existing customer data to target new potential advocates with tailored offers.

Key questions customers will ask at this stage:

  • Do you have any referral incentives?
  • What rewards do I get for referring to my friends/family/colleagues?
  • Are there any exclusive offers available to me as a loyal customer?

What you need to focus on at this stage:

  • Rewards: Incentivize customers to refer their friends and family by offering them discounts or bonuses.
  • Data-driven targeting: Use existing customer data to target new potential advocates with tailored offers and discounts. Every happy shopper has the potential to become a loyal advocate. 
  • Social media presence: Leverage your social media channels to reach out to customers and create a positive atmosphere around your company’s brand. This means they’re still proud to associate with you once the thrill of experiencing a new product or service has died down. 

And that’s it! Your five customer journey stages from start to finish. 

Now let’s take a look at these in action. 

An example of a customer journey for a new pair of slippers

Stage 1 — Awareness: Finding out about the product

Your customer has cold feet. They’ve decided to upgrade their WFH outfit with a new pair of slippers. This is when they first find out about your slippers. 

It could be through an advertisement in a magazine, seeing them on display in a shop window, or hearing about them from their friends. Or, more likely, via a Google search for ‘warm slippers’ and the ensuing PPC ads that follow them.

Stage 2 — Consideration: Comparing and deciding which product to buy

The customer has now narrowed down their choices and is comparing different brands of slippers to decide which one they’d like to purchase. When choosing, they might look at price, style, comfort levels, and customer reviews. They’ll also likely look at different stockists for the same product and determine which offers them the best price while still appearing trustworthy.

Stage 3 — Purchase: Committing to the product

The customer has now chosen your brand of slippers and made the purchase. This is a great opportunity to provide them with an excellent shopping experience — through delivery, customer service, and after-sales care.

Stage 4  — Loyalty: Returning to buy more 

The customer is now happy with the product and their buying experience. Even better, they become a loyal customer by returning to purchase more slippers from you in the future. The best way to get here is through excellent customer service and effective loyalty schemes that reward them for sticking around. 

Stage 4 — Advocacy: Telling others about your slippers 

At this stage, the customer has become a loyal advocate for your slippers — sharing their experience with family and friends and recommending them to others. If you’ve provided a great product and excellent customer service, they may even write a review or post about your slippers on social media.

Bonus stage —  Re-engagement: Encouraging customers to return 

The grass is always greener. Your customer loves your product but found something similar for cheaper. They’ve been with their new company for a while, and now it’s time to repurchase new slippers. Who do they choose? Remind them of their great experience with your slippers, or offer them exclusive discounts or bonuses to get them back on board.

An example of a B2B customer journey for a new project management tool 

Stage 1 — Awareness

The customer has realized that their current project management ‘tool’ (aka hundreds of Excel spreadsheets) is no longer working for them, and they need to switch to something new. This is when they first find out about your project management platform. It could be through an ad in a trade publication, seeing it on display at a conference, or hearing about it from colleagues. Or, more likely, via a Google search.

Stage 2 — Consideration

The customer has now narrowed down their choices and is comparing different project management tools to decide which one they’d like to use for the team. They might look at the price, features, ease of use, and customer reviews. They might also personally try out a few demos or semi-rolled out to a small team. Typically, they’ll involve stakeholders in the decision, and there may be a bit of back and forth with your sales or customer success team as they weigh up whether it’s the right decision for them.

Stage 3 — Purchase

The customer has chosen your project management tool and made the purchase. This is a great opportunity to provide them with an excellent onboarding experience — with training, customer service, and any setup assistance they need.

Stage 4  — Loyalty

The customer is over the moon with the product and their purchasing experience. Even better, they become a loyal customer by continuing to use the tool and getting the most out of all its features. The best way to get here is through excellent customer service, effective onboarding and training, and regular updates on new features that can help them make the most out of their new product. 

Stage 5 — Advocacy

At this stage, the customer has become a loyal advocate for your project management tool — sharing their experience with colleagues and recommending it to others. If you’ve provided a great product and excellent customer service, they may even write a review or post about your tool on social media.

Bonus stage  — Re-engagement

Once the customer is settled in and using the project management tool, it’s time to re-engage them and encourage them to check out all the new features. Remind them of how much easier their life has become since switching to your project management tool, or offer exclusive discounts or bonuses for them to check out the new features. This will help keep them engaged and loyal — ensuring that your project management tool continues to meet their needs over time.

Customer journey maps: what are they?

Customer journey maps are a great way to visualize the customer experience from start to finish, helping you identify any potential problems or opportunities for improvement. By taking the time to create one, you can get a better understanding of how your customers interact with your business and where they may need more help. 

A customer journey map is typically composed of three parts:

  • The journey describes a customer’s stages during their experience — from awareness to purchase, loyalty, and advocacy.
  • Customer segments divide customers into categories based on factors like behavior or demographics.
  • Touchpoints show how customers interact with your business at different stages of their journey. This helps identify drop-offs and target your marketing messaging to suit each stage. 

By understanding how customers move through their journey and identifying any potential problems or opportunities, you can create specific strategies to improve the customer experience. Additionally, by looking at customer segments and touchpoints, you can better target your campaigns and tailor them to the needs of different customer groups.

A customer journey map template available in Cacoo

Tools for understanding your customer journey stages

Diagramming software can make the whole customer journey mapping process a lot easier. It allows you to create diagrams quickly and easily by dragging and dropping shapes onto the digital canvas.

For example, Cacoo allows you to visually map your customer journey stages and segment them based on their needs. Plus, once you’ve created your diagram, you can share it with colleagues or clients online, so everyone can better understand the customer experience and add comments. 

Final thoughts

Knowing your customer journey stages is a must. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to understanding your target market thoroughly and having a dedicated team and the right tools. If you keep these elements in mind, you should have no trouble creating an effective customer journey for your business. So, go ahead — get mapping!



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