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What is the customer journey?

The customer journey is the path that a person takes from visitor to customer, from customer to loyal customer, or even from customer to ambassador of your brand or company. The customer journey consists of different stages with touchpoints. Getting these customer journey stages and their touchpoints visible helps you understand how to interact with customers at the right time and in the right way. 

Understanding the customer journey will help you create a better customer experience. Your marketing strategy, Conversion Rate Optimization, website optimization, and customer care also work best with a good overview of the customer journey touchpoints. That way you know what your company is good at and what can be improved.

What is the difference between a customer journey and a buyer's journey?

The customer journey and buyer's journey are often used interchangeably. So what is the difference? Simply explained, the buyer's journey is the step from a new lead to a first purchase and the customer journey is the journey from a first purchase to a loyal customer. Regularly, when explaining the stages of the customer journey, the buyer's journey is already included and vice versa. The dividing line between the two concepts has blurred over the years.

Some companies and experts find it convenient to keep the buyer's journey and the customer journey separate since a new customer has different needs than a repeat customer.  But since the customer does not experience it as two separate journeys, other experts again say it is easier to stick to one term. They prefer the term customer journey for the entire journey. 

The most important thing is that your company provides for all stages of the customer journey to create the best customer experience. The steps the consumer takes after the first purchase can be decisive for a potential new customer and whether the consumer will return to your company next time. The customer journey thus becomes a continuous circle.

What are the customer journey stages?

The customer journey consists of a journey between three and ten stages, depending on which model you use. The most common model used to explain the customer journey assumes five stages:

  • awareness or trigger
  • consideration
  • decision/purchase/conversion
  • usage
  • loyalty

Each stage has a different customer need. That is why it is a good reason to create a customer journey map to map out the different touchpoints related to each customer journey stage. The more positive the customer experience at each touchpoint with your website or company is, the greater the chance of purchase or conversion.

There are all kinds of models and names for the stages in the customer journey. Many marketers use the AIDA model 'Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action', and Google, for example, uses the 'See, Think, Do, Care' model. Which model you use ultimately does not matter, as long as you are clear about how and where you reach your customers. You need to determine whether you see the customer journey and the buyer's journey as separate journeys, or whether you merge them into one complete customer journey.

Customer journey mapping with elaborate touchpoints can look like this:

Examples of customer journey touchpoints

Within each stage of the customer journey, there is a contact moment with your brand. Each stage is different, and within each stage, the customer is looking for different information. It is therefore imperative that your brand can deliver the right info at the right time. For example, it is important not to just have a Call to Action on your website, without also providing an explanation and information about what your product or service does. After all, a customer with no previous experience would like to know more about your products or services, while someone who knows about the product would like to know why they need to choose you to buy the product from.

 

Let’s dive deeper into the customer journey stages and touchpoints:

Awareness of trigger

In the awareness stage, the customer finds out that they have a problem or a need. The customer is mainly looking for information to solve it. 

 

 

This awareness stage can be fed from a company through blogs and editorials, radio and TV ads, billboards, and a social media ad or post that makes the customer think. 'Do I have this problem? Do I have this need? Is this an opportunity? The customer is triggered by something and goes to investigate. 

 

Through digital advertising with a strong Call to Action, the awareness stage becomes a trigger. Through social media and display ads, the customer is triggered; If the ad looks good, they click through. This makes the step from awareness to consideration much quicker. A customer can also decide much faster that the ad was not interesting or relevant and click away from the website. To trigger a customer and have them move quickly from awareness to the consideration stage, a good landing page is very important.

 

The difference between awareness and trigger is up to the customer. Does a customer come up with a problem himself ('my faucet is broken, I need a new one') and does he start looking for a solution? Or is the customer triggered by an advertisement ('there is a showroom sale at this kitchen store!') that inspires him to buy a new kitchen.

 

Consideration

The consideration stage is the second step in the customer journey. Once the customer is familiar with the solution to their problem or need, they start looking for companies, products, or services that can support them or fulfill their need. During this stage, your product or service comes into play.

 

If they are looking for a specific product that you sell, they want to know more about the product. Good SEO and SEA keywords when a customer is researching help to make your company and products visible. 

 

Moreover, clear explanations on the website about the product or service work to your advantage and give you the basis for the next step! Furthermore, the customer will search for your brand if your advertising has made him think during the awareness stage - you, therefore, want to be found on the search pages—which can be boosted through SEA and/or SEO. 

 

In addition, third-party blogs that link to your business and good reviews help during this consideration stage. 

 

Finally, a customer can also be referred to your brand by friends or family. The good experience of friends and family may convince the customer to buy from your company.

 

Once the customer has seen your website, you can refer them back to the website for the next stage: purchase through retargeting campaigns on social media and SEA. 

 

Purchase

During the purchase stage, the customer finally decides to buy or convert! Did your website and product or service score well during the consideration stage? Then the customer comes back to you to make a purchase. Make sure that the customer does not drop out; a customer wants to check out quickly and easily. A fast website is therefore important, but a chatbot can also help. 

 

Do you have a slow checkout? Is there uncertainty about the delivery of your product? Do you have to fill in too much information? Then there's a chance that the customer will drop out at the last minute. The website is the most influential during this stage of the customer journey.

 

Usage 

Hooray, the customer has bought your product! The customer now enters the usage stage. How user-friendly is your product? Is there a clear user manual? What about the warranty on your product? How easy is it to reach customer service? How easy is it for the customer to return the product? These questions are essential in the usage stage. Moreover, the quality of the product and the price-quality ratio are important for the customer. The better your product or service scores, the greater the chance that a customer will return and recommend your company. This brings us to the final stage!

Loyalty

The last, but certainly not the least important stage in the customer journey is the loyalty stage. As important as the first purchase of a customer is, it is perhaps even more important that the customer remains a customer. Through loyalty to your brand, you build a customer base, with which you can be assured of a steady stream of income.

Moreover, you can turn loyal customers into ambassadors for your company. In this way, they also become part of your marketing strategy. Customers talk about your new product, share it on social media, or become online followers. As a result, people around them will see that they are familiar with your company and will be more likely to buy from you themselves. Moreover, reviews can convince strangers through a phenomenon called social proofing. 

The customer journey: a short recap

Quick recap: The customer journey is the journey from website visitor to customer. The buyer's journey and the customer journey are terms often used interchangeably. The buyer's journey follows up to the first purchase and not the customer retention, which is why many marketers choose the customer journey as a 'complete concept'.

You can decompose the customer journey into customer journey stages, in which each stage has its own customer journey touchpoints.  How you describe these touchpoints and stages depends entirely on which model you use. In the end, this doesn't matter, as long as you use the customer journey to understand where your customers come from and what they do.

Were you able to follow it all? Great! Time to take a closer look at your customer journey map. 

Can't see the journey through all your touchpoints? Let's work together! Maybe one of our specialists can help you on your way. Read more about our social media, SEO, or SEA services, or contact us via our contact form!