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What is the Customer Journey in Marketing?

Are you struggling to reach your target audience despite marketing on the most popular channels? Rest assured that while this is common, there is a simple reason why: you’re not crafting and delivering your messages based on the customer’s journey and decision intelligence.

As Annette Franz, an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, once said: “In a world where products and services are becoming more and more commoditized, customer experience is the only true differentiator.” In today’s market, this means more personalization. Research shows that most customers appreciate brand personalization: 71% have come to expect it, and 76% get frustrated when brands don’t do it. 

And the only way to provide a unique, personalized customer experience is by knowing each customer’s journey from their first touchpoint with your brand to now. So, what is the customer journey in marketing, and why is it important? Keep reading to find out!

Understanding the Customer Journey in Marketing

In the simplest terms, the customer journey in marketing refers to the path buyers take from their first interaction with your brand and products/services through making a purchase. Hopefully, the journey will continue. It’s an essential component of marketing, in particular, because it gives you insight into potential motives buyers have for moving from the stage in which they learn about your brand to the final step in which they advocate for you. 

As the iconic quote goes,  “focus on the journey, not the destination.” Although Greg Anderson was referring to the joy of doing something you love, it’s also relevant in today’s marketing.

The fact that customers purchase from you is excellent, but the real gold is found in what led to that purchasing decision. This insight will allow you to guide other potential customers to the same outcome. 

Related: How to Measure the Performance of Your Buyer’s Journey Funnel

5 Stages of the Customer Journey

To thoroughly understand the answer to “what is the customer journey in marketing?” you must also get familiar with the buyer stages. The number of steps can vary from company to company. However, the more detailed you are about the journey your customer takes with your brand, the better prepared you will be to guide them to not only purchase but build loyalty and advocate for your brand. 

To cover your bases, you’ll need to be intimately familiar with at least these five stages and how they will pertain to your target audience specifically. 

1. Awareness

In the awareness stage, your customers have identified they have a problem and are just now becoming aware of their potential solutions. Now would be a good time to implement marketing efforts like content marketing because it:

  • Draws consumer’s in as they discover possible solutions
  • Provides insight into what solutions are available to resolve their problem
  • Associates your brand and products/services with the solutions they need

2. Consideration 

Consumers begin ‘considering’ their options when they move into the consideration stage. At this point, you’ll want to differentiate your brand from the competition well enough to show these potential customers that you’re the solution they need. Marketing methods like email marketing and social media are often helpful in this stage because they connect you with consumers on a more personal level. This, in turn, helps you:

  • Build meaningful relationships with potential customers
  • Interact and engage effectively
  • Continue to provide informative information to help make their search easier (i.e., experts advice, tips, how-to’s, checklists, etc.)

3. Decision

Customers in the decision stage have made their decision — and they picked you! Great news, but your marketing is far from over. Now you want to nourish that relationship into the next step. You can do this by:

  • Emailing a ‘Thank You’ for their purchase, personalizing it with their name and what they purchased (if a mailed product, a personalized thank you is often appreciated in the package)
  • Sending discounts and ‘exclusive’ offers for repeat purchases or your other products/services
  • Showing your appreciation for their support 

4. Retention

If you’ve guided your customers into the retention stage, you have leveled them up to repeat buyers. You can continue encouraging repeat purchases with discounts and deals, but there’s still another stage. To guide your buyers into the fifth stage of advocacy, you’ll want to consider the following: 

  • Prioritize positive and seamless customer experiences
  • Reward your repeat customers with gated content and exclusive deals
  • Create a customer loyalty program 
  • Create content that continues to resolve customer problems even after they’ve made a purchase (for instance, tips for using the product correctly or a how-to video on using all of its exclusive features)

5. Advocacy/Loyalty 

The final stage of your customer journey is that beautiful sweet spot where customers not only become loyal to your brand but are inclined to advocate it to friends and family! Loyalty essentially equates to free marketing through word-of-mouth and referrals.

To keep your repeat customers at this stage, you must truly understand them. After all, research shows that more than half (56%) of consumers stay loyal to brands they say “get them.”

To maintain and nourish loyalty and advocacy, your brand will need to continue doing the following:

  • Engaging with customers on marketing channels and platforms they’re most active on
  • Offering promotions that are relevant to the customer’s problems and purchase history
  • Delivering personalized content and communication — i.e., Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, and customer appreciation notices.
  • Asking your loyal customer for advice AND listening to it

Why is The Customer Journey Important in Today’s Market?

Now that you can answer “what is the customer journey in marketing?” it’s essential to know why it matters to your brand. You should know your customer’s journey in today’s market for several reasons. However, a few notable consumer trends in today’s market that are leading the way for more customer journey mapping include:

  1. Personalization research shows that most (90%) of consumers in the U.S. say that marketing personalization is ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ appealing, and 72% report that they only engage with personalized brand messages. 
  2. Customer service and experience81% of consumers say that a positive customer experience influences repeat purchases. Another report found that more than 65% of people in today’s market have higher expectations for customer service than just 3-5 years ago (Millennials, in particular). 
  3. Multiple touchpoints — Studies have found that at least 73% of consumers shop across multiple channels and that buyers engage with at least 3-5 channels during each journey they take towards the decision stage.  
  4. Consistency — in addition to wanting to interact with brands on multiple platforms, 90% of customers expect brands to be consistent across all platforms. 

These key trends in today’s market allow marketers to understand each touchpoint at the individual level better. This level of understanding can significantly affect how well you know your audience and reach them. Imagine how well your brand would stand out if it could not only personalize the language and relevance of your messaging to the receiver but also deliver it at the exact moment they need to hear it to move forward to the next stage. 

Steve Jobs once advised that you “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need before they realize it themselves.” Mapping your Customer Journey is how you get started!

Related: Influencing Marketing’s Impact on Revenue Throughout the Customer Journey

Ready to Map Your Customer’s Journey? You’ll Need RevOps Automation Including Integration, data hygiene, and intelligence!

Integrating customer data across marketing and sales systems is critical to understanding the customer journey and improving customer experiences. And yet, many still don’t have the necessary integrations to execute it successfully. According to one study, 88% of industry leaders believed their company was ill-equipped to meet customer expectations because of “operational obstacles of integrating customer knowledge into workflows, cross-functional collaboration, and real-time access to consumer insights.”

Another common challenge is access to clean data. You need to be sure the data is clean to make the most of the insights and leverage them in highly segmented marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, only 5% of executives trust the quality of their data despite the consequences of poor data quality averaging $15 million annually in losses. 

Now you can answer: what is the customer journey in marketing? But how do you ensure it’s backed by clean data and well integrated across marketing and sales? We’ve got that answer too!Contact Vertify so you can seamlessly automate the integration of your marketing and sales data with quality analytics to enrich your insight into what is working and what isn’t. You’ll provide more optimized marketing efforts and waste less time on initiatives that won’t get your brand in front of the right audience.