A customer journey is something that we have all been on and will have all experienced as purchasers. It is something, however, which is not always fully considered by the business owner looking back at you from the other side of the same pane of glass.
The customer journey is a process customers go through when making a decision to purchase from you (or from a competitor, or even not at all), and the elements which convince them to do so.
Ask yourself, when was the last time you bought something on complete impulse, without knowing anything about the item or why it might be useful to you/make your life better. You probably haven’t.
Understanding the stages which your customers will go through mentally, and creating a strategy around this can help influence the pendulum to swing in your favour.
The 5 stages which you should look to plan for are:
The first stage for any customer to be able to buy from your business, is to know that it exists. This first interaction could be something which is pushed on to them (having seen a social media post for example), or something which they have gone out and looked for (when seeking the solution to a problem that needs solving).
At this stage, the customer will be seeking information – ‘how closely does your remedy match the causes/symptoms of their pain’. You should communicate this factually to your customers, listing the benefits (not the features!) of your goods/services.
Once the customer has decided that what you sell is what they need, next comes the stage where they decide if they would like to buy it from YOU. This is where your customer will begin to do their due diligence on your business and its offering… the untechnical term for this is ‘shopping around’.
This is where customers will research the quality of your website, refund policies and reviews left by previous customers, etc. Depending upon the sector, they may also look for evidence of your personal credibility and knowledge.
The outcome of these considerations is also likely to be influenced by your business’s marketing mix / “the 4 Ps” (product, promotion, price and place), and so it is important that these are effectively communicated to your customers.
3. Decision & Approach
Once your customer has reached this stage, they are likely to be willing to buy from your business. Sadly, however, they are also likely to still be willing to buy from one of your competitors.
This is the stage where your customers will likely reach out to you for the first time, so it is important that you make this as easy as possible for them to do.
It is at this stage where your ‘soft skills’ are going to be needed. A lack of customer service and rapport building skills could be the deal breaker, as could the basics of replying to an inquiry in good time. If this experience is a positive one for your customer, you are halfway to them signing on the dotted line.
Once a customer has chosen to purchase from you once, the aim must be to do all you can to stop them from starting their purchasing journey from stage one ever, ever again. From here on, your business needs to be their ‘go to’.
Continue to engage with your customer post-sale and ensure that they were happy with what they received, and obtain any feedback they may have on their experience. Ask them what they liked, and which factors were important to them when choosing to purchase, as well as the areas your business can improve on.
This helps to build a relationship with your customer by showing that you care about them, and not just taking their money. It also provides you with market research to help you attract new customers with similar wants & needs.
Retaining customers is also more cost-efficient than starting this process from step one, which requires an investment in marketing outreach.
The final stage is for your customers to share the (positive) experience they have had purchasing from your business.
Word of mouth is generally accepted as one of the most trusted forms of marketing. Genuine, positive appreciation of your business, either in form of online reviews, or personal referrals showcase how your business actually performs – and not just how it claims to.
Did you know: over 80% of businesses rely on word of mouth/referrals, yet less than 30% have a strategy to obtain them.
Where does your business fall within these statistics?
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