The customer journey is the path a customer takes from discovering your brand to making a purchase to finally becoming a loyal (and hopefully, repeat) customer. Understanding the customer journey is important because it helps you see your business strengths and weaknesses and address them. The goal of knowing your customer journey goes beyond an initial conversion and plans for long-term strategic growth, customer retention, and the development of brand advocates.
The customer journey has five primary stages:
Let’s explore each stage in more detail.
The awareness stage of the customer journey is where customers first start to notice your brand. They discover you through advertising, search, social media, word of mouth, or your other marketing activities. Making a strong first impression will capture their attention and encourage them to visit your website and learn more.
Strategies for capturing customer attention and building brand awareness include content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization, paid and non-paid ads, and networking.
Now, you might be wondering:
- How do I build brand awareness?
- What kind of content should I share to gain visibility?
- How often should I be creating and share content so new customers can find me?
A common mistake that most businesses make is focusing on the product or service being sold instead of the problem it solves for their potential buyers. In the awareness stage, the goal is to connect with future customers, make sure they know you understand the problem they need to solve or the need they have and introduce your solution.
You can build brand awareness by:
- Creating and sharing blog articles that speak to your expertise and establish your brand in your market
- Being a guest on podcasts and doing interviews on topics relevant to your business can help you establish authority quickly.
Try creating content like:
- Your origin story — Origin stories that share what prompted you to create the solution and your experience with the problem that you’re seeking to solve with your target audience.
- A customer success story — Success stories are a great way to connect with your audience and help them step into a former customer’s shoes and see what it will be like working with you or using your product. Customer stories confirm your ability to deliver on your promises and show future customers what’s possible.
As for how often to share content, it depends:
- Select a cadence for sharing content that you know you can be consistent with over time. Consistency is the first thing that you want to establish when working in the awareness stage of the customer journey because it builds credibility and trust.
- Try different posts on social media during different days and times instead of sticking with a specific schedule. When you test out different days and times it gives you the opportunity to identify when your audience is online and check the respective platform.
To spark more ideas, here are four examples of successful brand awareness campaigns:
- Share a Coke – Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign was launched in 2011 to reinvigorate the brand and attract new, younger consumers. The campaign featured personalized Coke bottles with people’s names on them and encouraged customers to share them with friends and family on social media. The campaign was a tremendous success, generating over 500,000 photos shared on social media and a 2.5% increase in sales in the U.S.
- Old Spice – Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign was launched in 2010 to reposition the brand as relevant to younger consumers. The campaign featured humorous TV commercials and social media content that poked fun a traditional male grooming product advertising. The campaign was a viral hit, generating over 40 million views on YouTube and a 107% increase in sales in the month following the launch of the campaign.
- Apple – Apple’s “Think Different” campaign was launched in 1997 to reposition the brand and its products as innovative and creative. The campaign featured iconic ads with images of famous innovators like Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi, and the tagline “Think Different.” The campaign was an enormous success, helping to turn Apple’s fortunes around and establishing the brand as a leader in innovation.
- Nike – Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign was launched in 1988 to reposition the brand and its product as a symbol of motivation and athletic achievement. The campaign featured inspirational ads with images of professional athletes and the tagline “Just Do It.” The campaign was an immense success, helping to establish Nike as a global leader in athletic apparel and footwear.
These campaigns built brand awareness by creating memorable and engaging content that resonated with their target audience. The operative words here are memorable and engaging. If your campaign fails on either of these fronts, you’ll struggle to connect with potential buyers and move them through the remaining stages of the customer journey.
The campaigns also leveraged social media and other digital channels to reach a wider audience and generate buzz for their products. By studying successful campaigns like these, you can learn valuable lessons about how to build awareness and create a strong brand identity.
The consideration stage takes place after customers are aware of your brand, and when they are considering a purchase. This is a critical stage because it’s the time in the customer journey when potential customers are comparing your products and services with your competitor’s products and services — and the brand that builds trust and provides the most helpful information wins.
Consideration stage strategies include things like product descriptions, customer reviews, product demos, free trials, and competitor comparisons. Highlighting brand differentiators can also work well in the consideration stage, as long as your points of differentiation are important to or relatable to your target buyers.
This is where “niching down” benefits your business. Identifying a niche market — a specific type of buyer — allows you to tailor your message and marketing directly to your buyer. It’s proven far more effective than trying to be a one-size-fits-all solution that is for everyone.
Successful marketing campaigns focus on winning over a specific audience and expanding their reach from there. Winning over the initial audience creates credibility as you gain reviews and testimonials that back up any claims you make about your product or service.
Here are two examples of successful customer consideration campaigns:
- Dollar Shave Club – Dollar Shave Club’s “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” campaign was launched in 2012 to disrupt the traditional razor market and attract younger, cost-conscious consumers. The campaign featured a humorous, irreverent video that explained the company’s value proposition and poked fun at traditional razor brands. The campaign was a viral hit, generating over 23 million views on YouTube, and helped to establish Dollar Shave Club as a major player in the razor market.
- Warby Parker – Warby Parker’s “Home Try-On” campaign was launched in 2010 to overcome the hesitation of buying eyewear online. The campaign allowed customers to choose five frames they liked, Warby Parker would then ship those frames to the customer for free to try on for five days. The campaign was a huge success, building trust with customers and boosting sales.
The conversion stage is where a lead converts to a customer by making a purchase through your website, in-store, or via a third-party platform. A primary focus of the customer journey conversion stage is making the buying process as easy and seamless as possible.
Conversion stage strategies include clear calls to action, simple checkout pages, one-click add-to-cart purchases, and chatbots that answer questions and help customers find products and services. The simpler the purchase process is, the better.
Your call-to-action plays an important role in increasing on-site conversions. Calls-to-action tells prospective customers how to take the next step and invites them to do so — and the best calls-to-action are driven by emotion because emotion is what drives most buying decisions.
Research shows that emotional purchases dominate the conversion process. Successful messaging has a focus on the customer and helping them to answer questions that trigger an emotional response.
When you speak to a customer’s desire, a need they have, and why it matters in your messaging and content, it makes it easier for customers to connect with your brand and see what’s in it for them. Doing this throughout the customer journey paints a picture of the experience a customer will have after they buy. It highlights how buying right now will create a better future.
Here are two examples of successful customer conversion strategies:
- Amazon – Amazon’s one-click purchase button was launched in 1999 to make the purchase process as simple and with minimal friction as possible. By storing customers’ payment and shipping information, the one-click button makes the checkout process much faster and easier, reducing the likelihood that customers will abandon their carts. The one-click button has been a key factor in Amazon’s success and has helped the company become the world’s largest online retailer.
- Zappos – Zappos’ free shipping and returns policy was launched in 2003 to reduce the friction of buying shoes online. By offering free shipping and returns, Zappos could build trust with customers and make the purchase process much easier. The policy was a tremendous success, helping Zappos become one of the top online shoe retailers.
The retention stage comes after a customer makes a purchase. This is the stage of the customer journey where you show a customer that you care about more than making a sale and taking their money — you care about them. A great way to do this is to empower customers to share their experiences through post-purchase surveys and feedback loops.
A healthy, sustainable business is one that keeps its customers engaged and coming back for more. It’s easier and more economically efficient to get an existing customer to make another purchase than it is to spend your budget and efforts on winning a new customer.
Customer retention strategies include tactics like follow-up emails, customer surveys, exclusive customer-only deals, early access to new products, loyalty programs, and personalized recommendations based on their purchase history.
Here are two examples of successful customer retention strategies:
- Sephora – Sephora’s Beauty Insider loyalty program was launched in 2007 to reward customers for their purchases and incentivize them to make more. The program offers a range of benefits, including exclusive discounts, free samples, and early access to new products. The program has been an enormous success, with members spending three times as much as non-members.
- Starbucks – Starbucks’ mobile app was launched in 2011 to make it easier for customers to order and pay for their drinks. The app allows customers to order ahead of time, skip the line, and earn rewards for their purchases. The app has been an immense success, with mobile orders accounting for 22% of all orders in 2021.
Advocacy is the final stage in the customer journey. It speaks to the process of turning loyal customers into advocates for your brand that recommend you to others, provides positive reviews and testimonials, and share your products on social media.
Customer advocacy is a powerful marketing tool because word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most effective forms of brand advertising. Studies show that leads from referrals have a 30% higher conversion rate than the leads generated from other marketing channels. (Invesp)
Customer advocacy strategies include referral marketing, customer features, social media takeovers, and brand loyalty programs. The goal is to engage your best customers to help drive sales and attract more customers who are also likely to refer more people your way. If growing your audience and customer list is a priority, you can’t afford to ignore this stage of the customer journey.
Here are two examples of successful customer advocacy strategies:
- Dropbox – Dropbox’s referral program was launched in 2008 to encourage existing customers to refer new customers to the platform. The program offers rewards to both the referrer and the person they refer, incentivizing customers to spread the word about Dropbox to their friends and family. The program was an enormous success, helping Dropbox grow from 100,000 users in 2008 to over 100 Million in 2012.
- Apple – Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” campaign was launched in 2015 to showcase the quality of the iPhone camera and encourage customers to share their photos on social media. The campaign invited customers to submit their photos to be featured in Apple’s advertising, which helped to create a sense of community and advocacy around the brand. The campaign was an immense success, generating over 5,000 submissions in the first week alone.
Next Step: Define Your Customer Journey
Successful businesses know and understand the importance of the customer experience. A customer’s journey through your sales funnel not only introduces them to your brand but also helps them decide why they should buy from you. In the end, you want them to feel inspired to tell their friends and family about you and excited to purchase from you again in the future.
When you create a well-planned customer journey that goes beyond collecting payments to encompass the full customer experience, you turn buyers into happy customers and happy customers into loyal brand advocates. That effort directly translates to better testimonials, more positive reviews, compelling case studies, and a more stable baseline of revenue.
I encourage you to:
- Review your current sales funnel and look for opportunities to meet your customers in each stage of the customer journey with helpful information, resources, and support that builds trust and deepens loyalty.
- Take the necessary steps to improve your customer experience throughout the customer journey by removing obstacles and reducing friction.
If you’re not sure where to start, what exactly to evaluate, or how to map out and design your customer journey, don’t worry. You’re not alone and I’ve got your back. This is what I help clients do day in and day out.
Book a free consultation today and let’s discuss your brand’s customer journey from awareness to advocacy, and the opportunities available to enhance your customer experience at every stage so you not only get more customers but more referrals and repeat business.