Merchants have always tried to understand how people make purchasing decisions and found nothing better than to create a consumer decision journey. This sequence of steps illustrates what leads do before placing an order. It shows how they move from the initial consideration phase to paying for services and becoming loyal.
Using this kind of journey, brands can segment buyers and track where they bounce to enhance offline and digital marketing. Customer journey segmentation helps engage leads, increase sales, personalize messages, and improve marketing in many other ways.
This guide explains what a consumer decision journey is and how to use it to your benefit.
What is the Customer Decision Journey?
The customer journey maps how a lead decides to buy a product or service. The decision-making process consists of multiple steps, from building awareness to conversion and loyalty. These stages aren’t something every lead must go through; they just visualize the most common phases.
While one person visits your website ready to convert, another spends months reading your creative content without showing any buying intent. The customer decision journey will look different in these cases.
Gathering behavior data to recreate a customer journey is almost impossible without advanced automated software. Especially, if you have lots of traffic to your digital marketing channels. Hence, you will need to connect your content management platform to a web analytics tool that automatically tracks consumers. Such software will even convert the collected information into a consumer decision journey for your convenience. It will save you a lot of time and effort.
What are the Its Stages?
There is no universal approach to picturing how consumers buy brands. You may find different models of the decision journey, yet they all have something in common. They start with awareness or initial consideration set and lead to loyalty.
Let’s review two of the most common models below.
This model is a classic five-stage journey you can use to track conversions. It’s suitable for any online or ecommerce business to grow sales and reduce bounce rates. The main stages are:
Awareness. Awareness is mainly about discovering your brand. A person only learns about what you offer among other potential brands. At this point, quality website design, search engine optimization, and social media marketing impact the purchase decision most.
Consideration. The initial consideration is when the lead focuses on several product options you offer. They are not ready to make up their mind but already pay closer attention to specific product pages, prices, etc. Brand consideration is the riskiest phase since here most consumers bounce.
Acquisition. At this point, the customer converts after initial consideration by adding a product to the cart or completing another required action (e.g., subscription, download, etc.).
Service. The service phase happens at the latter stages of the decision journey. Now it’s your responsibility to meet consumers’ expectations. You need to assist the customer with any questions about your product. For example, consumer electronics companies can share additional guidelines on how to use their devices, help with configuration, etc. The key goal is to make the customer stay with your brand and enjoy their experience.
Loyalty. Customer loyalty is when consumers tend to praise your brand and return to purchase again. You may launch a loyalty program with bonuses to nurture and retain them. Empowered consumers are more likely to generate more conversions and make word-of-mouth recommendations for your brand. Word-of-mouth recommendations are the most desired marketing content since we usually trust real people more than ads.
This approach has been offered by McKinsey and has become quite popular. The funnel suggests the consumer decision-making process as a circular loyalty loop, not as a funnel. After an initial consideration set, buyers continue with active evaluation and approach the moment of purchase. The key idea is that the customer relies on their post-purchase experience after purchasing, skipping the initial consideration set and active evaluation before the following order. Hence, a positive customer experience and a convenient trigger may be enough to drive another conversion.
Regardless of which funnel you pick as a reference, you will generally use the same means to encourage purchase decisions. Consumers complete a similar combination of steps on their way to placing an order.
How do Consumers Make Purchasing Decisions?
Since modern consumers spend most of their time online, their digital marketing experiences have the most significant impact. Therefore, the web is where you usually catch the eye of potential buyers for the first time. As they learn more about your brand, the active evaluation phase starts. If you are lucky enough and do effective marketing, the active evaluation will turn into active shopping.
But what makes people get interested in one brand and ignore the other? The answer is short – triggers. You need to grab the attention of the user with the right CTA, relevant offer, an appealing product image, or convincing internet reviews. A trigger initiates the journey to turn a random customer into the lead you can nurture.
What Affects the Decision-Making Process?
You may relentlessly optimize thousands of product pages, add vivid high-definition pictures, and try to reach consumers, but all the exposure appears wasted if people don’t buy. It’s increasingly important to know what affects consumer purchasing behavior before starting a marketing campaign. This way, you are more likely to launch marketing that pays off with increased sales.
Here we have collected some of the most influential factors based on qualitative research and best practices.
Personalized Messages and Triggers
Personalization is equally critical at the initial consideration set and when a customer has already purchased from you. Messages and in-store activities targeted at a specific user are more likely to engage them than generic content. For example, if you detect that the customer is about to leave after learning the shipping fee, a timely discount banner can change their mind.
Positive Consumers Experience
Besides selling a product, every detail in your marketing strategy must aim for an excellent customer experience. Even though the first impression matters, past experience is particularly impactful at the final stages of the consumer decision journey. A positive experience makes 89% of consumers buy again. When you ensure customer satisfaction, repeat purchases become more frequent.
Trust Towards Your Brand
The overall brand positioning is life-critical at the awareness and consideration stages when consumers are researching potential purchases. You must make your brand look reliable in the eyes of consumers and appeal to the right target audience to convince them to start their journey with you. One of the ways to strengthen your brand image is to encourage customer reviews on internet information sites. You will also need to formulate your brand character, create compelling visuals, and follow other brand marketing best practices.
The research suggests that pricing format significantly impacts consumers’ readiness to purchase. You can modify your pricing policies to encourage consumption by launching discounts, seasonal sales, or price bundling. Besides, you must always stay transparent about any additional charges or fees. People can still bounce at the moment of purchase if they need to pay $10 more than expected.
Quality UX/UI is one of the essential selling tools for online businesses. People may bounce at any stage of the consumer decision journey if your website is inconvenient. They will compare your web resource to competitors and start actively shopping elsewhere. Hence, you must ensure flawless in-store interactions that don’t distract visitors from conversion.
6 ways to Use the Consumer Decision Journey to Improve Marketing
Although traditional marketing remains important, personalized and consumer-driven marketing activities are more effective. For best results, you need to use information gathered about customer journeys to tailor your promotional efforts. Each stage and customer activity may require different marketing interventions.
1. Redistribute the Budget of Your Marketing Strategy Efficiently
The consumer decision journey gives the big picture of how people interact with your channels. Without these insights, you won’t know what deserves your investment and what can wait. For example, you can detect most of your purchases come from existing customers while you keep spending on newcomers. With this knowledge, you can prioritize objectives and allocate more money to nurturing loyals.
Detailed data on the journey is particularly valuable if you have a limited marketing strategy budget and aren’t sure how to use it. You can plan expenses more wisely when you see the share of interactions at each stage and their impact. Data-driven budget planning will make your marketing campaign more effective and help to increase its ROI.
2. Let Customers Seize Control with Consumer-Driven Marketing
Real-time data allows you to become more customer-centric. Your customer interactions change based on what the person has just done. For example, if they have moved from the consideration to the acquisition stage, general ads are no longer relevant. Instead, you must show personalized ad content related to their previous activity.
But note that the implementation of consumer-driven marketing requires advanced software. You will need a real-time customer journey analytics tool that can track how customers progress through the funnel and adapt the content accordingly. Only specialized software solutions offer the necessary level of automation. Doing it manually is impossible.
3. Tailor Messaging to the Stage of the Customer Journey
Without building the consumer decision journey, tracking your customers’ progress would be difficult. The funnel structures everything and helps you decide what message and offer would be the most suitable at a specified moment.
The further customers go, the more personal you may get since you have more data about their past interactions. It allows you to customize messages for people at different stages of the journey. When someone only learns about your brand, you can offer them relevant content on related topics. If the person has stayed with you for a while, deliver news reports that include new arrivals, inform them about the referral program, etc.
4. Synchronize Marketers with the Sales Team
Not only marketers navigate the consumer decision journey to plan their actions, salespeople also need it. Both teams can align their efforts to reach customers more effectively when they have access to real-time customer journeys. Working side by side, sales and marketing professionals achieve more than separately. While the sales team chooses relevant offers, marketers find the right words to attract consumers.
Therefore, if you adopt software for customer journey tracking, always make the collected data shareable. It will allow teams to stay on the same page and help each other.
5. Shift Focus to More Promising Leads
When you see how different leads move through the customer journey, it’s easier to detect whom to concentrate on. Since you cannot cover everyone equally, you need to nurture those who generate the most profit.
Software that tracks the decision journey provides detailed information about the main groups of leads. Tools like Verfacto even support a real-time customer profiler. This feature merges all user activities across channels into a single profile without breaching data privacy. You can see the customer journey stage, channels, last actions, customer lifetime value, and other details. Besides, Verfacto allows you to create highly personalized triggers for each profile.
Such functionality helps maximize the impact of your marketing efforts and make them more targeted.
6. Obtain Reliable Data for Marketing Research
Collecting information about leads is necessary to optimize your current marketing and develop successful campaigns in the future. When you have a big scope of data on typical customer behavior, you can use it as a reference. You can also track whether buying patterns are changing and respond to the shift quicker than your competitors.
Besides, you can rely on the decision journey data to analyze your website performance. If you implement significant design changes, it may impact the consumer journey. Reduced activity may mean you’ve done something wrong and the previous version was better, and vice versa.
As you see, the consumer decision journey is something every modern business must be aware of. Even though its stages are standard, the journey varies for every business. That’s why you need to implement web tracking software that automatically monitors how customers act across your digital marketing channels. You will know more about who they are and at what stage of the funnel they stand.
These findings are a real treasure to personalize your marketing and make it more effective. You can tailor interactions for every lead, which inevitably translates into higher sales and revenue.