Understanding the Customer Decision Journey
Understanding the journeys your clients take to reach your products and services should be a top priority in developing and deploying your marketing efforts.
Most experienced marketing executives will agree that customer experience helps create brand differentiation and competitive advantage. By thinking from the customer’s perspective to create an insight driven customer decision journey.
The customer decision journey shows the entire customer experience, from initial brand awareness through purchase, and importantly, after the (post) purchase. The ultimate goal is to be able to reach customers in the moments that are most influential in their purchase decision. These are sometimes called “micro-moments, or as Google defines them as intent-rich moments when a customer wants to learn, go, do, or buy. Having this insight, you will be able to know which marketing touch points to use (i.e.: search, website, banners, ads). You will also know how to articulate your brand message to communicate in each of those touch points, to engage your customers. So you can focus your resources in the right places and share the right information to be most relevant to your customers.
There are two ways to develop a customer decision journey. The customer’s current state or the customer’s future state.
Current State Decision
Known facts and knowledge about how customers currently engage with your brand.
Future State Decision
An hypothesis about your customers wants and needs.
The evolution of customer decision journey
The customer decision journey has changed a lot in the last two decades, but mostly in the last 5-10 years, with the expansion of digital technology, internet of things (IoT), devices such as cutting edge smartphones and computers, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and of course – the practice of marketing in the digital age.
If you think about it, you are a customer of many brands. Whoever you may be. In the past, if you wanted a product, you would go to the nearest store that sold products such as the one you were looking for, saw the products, compared them and then decided which one to buy.
In the world of today, however, things are a bit different – as consumers can access the internet to research the companies that are selling the products that customers want. The research extends to, of course, the quality of the product, how it is made, but also the practices and brand message of the company itself. This alteration in consumer behaviour has been obviously influenced by our access to fast information (think smartphone, internet connection, Google; less than 10 seconds to search for that information).
Client Persona Insights and Build-up
Customer insights can help you understand and optimise the decision journey of your customers. An insight is a comprehension of a customer’s mindset, needs, objectives, wants or motivations. Insights are useful for marketers to think from the customer’s perspective and which messages and touch points are engaging customers across their journey.
In a previous article, we talked about the importance and having a Marketing Plan, and within the plan there is the Marketing Strategy, which contains three important steps.
Grouping customers around a particular benefit they seek, wants, needs and persona.
Choosing which customers in your segment you are going to want to convert.
How you will reach your targeted audience and what message will you use to convert them.
In this article, we will touch on how important it is for your business to know your clients, as well as how exactly do they find your company online, what steps they take to purchase something from you, how long does it take, what makes most people leave (bounce rate) and what hurdles or difficulties are they encountering when aiming to purchase your products or services (you should consider customer feedback for any complaints of such nature).
In the very first step of the Marketing Strategy phase is Segmentation – where you determine the age and geographical location of clients (demographics), cultural associations, wants, needs, personality traits and behaviours. In the behaviours and personality traits segment is where you build your client persona.
Sometimes referred to as buyer persona, a client persona is a profile of the customers you need to engage throughout their decision journey to encourage purchase decisions, brand loyalty and advocacy. These client profiles help you understand what kind of people your customers are, but more importantly – you will know what marketing approach, resources, message and touch points to use to attract engagement on social media or improve your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) practice and search engine rankings, as a result.
Three out of four companies that use client persona profile exceed their annual revenue objectives. Without using buyer personas, marketing content is 2-5 times less likely to make an impact and breakthrough all the marketing messages’ clutter. There’s also a really important internal company benefit – client personas help align business and marketing efforts internally across multiple departments within your company.
Customer Decision Journey Stages
A decision journey stage represents each specific phase your customers will go through to make a purchase. It requires a very good understanding of your customers’ points of view and they make buying decision. You should keep this in mind when trying to define your client’s decision journey stages.
You should begin by mapping out all the steps that you customers take before they buy products/services from your business. These steps are called touch points. Below, you will have a typical customer journey decision map with the most common touch points.
The customer considers an initial set of brands based on brand perceptions and exposure to recent touch points.
Customers add or subtract brands as they gather information and evaluate what they want.
the customer selects a brand and buys that product or service.
D. Post-purchase Experience
After the customer purchases a product or service and builds expectations to inform the next decision journey.
Customers have received a great experience and they share their opinions with their social network.
Customers connect with your brand and establish a close emotional relationship with your brand.
Mapping Your Touch Points
A touch point is anywhere a customer makes contact with your brand – this could happen via online search, peer reviews, video ads, in-store marketing, digital marketing or website. To engage customers across touch points, the most important thing you need to know is how to choose touch points strategically. The key to success is to engage customers at touch points that are relevant to them based on their mindset and stage they’re in within their decision journey.
Many marketers would be typically stuck when choosing between an existing decision journey framework (such as the one above) or develop a customised one. The best decision is to review your customer persona and current decision journey stages.
You should aim to optimise the stage at which most customers find it difficult moving forward (high bounce rate, low page session), as well as the stages at which customers make the decisions you expect them to.