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The Digital Marketing Consumer Journey Explained

Making a purchase is rarely a snap decision. The buying approach is not linear, compact, or quick and instead takes time as we consider our options and research. The consumer journey describes what goes into the buying process and what stages occur. While there are as many consumer journeys as consumers, there are enough similarities to illustrate the trends with a consumer journey map. 

What Is the Digital Marketing Consumer Journey?

The digital marketing consumer journey is the process that takes them from browsing to purchase and beyond. It shows how the customer interacts with your brand as they decide to purchase or return for subsequent purchases. Their experience directly ties to your brand's success and determines whether you’ll prosper or not.  Customers expect a positive experience. Otherwise, they won’t remain your customers.  Seventeen percent of consumers will abandon a brand after one bad experience, and 59% will leave after two or more poor interactions.

For marketers, understanding why a customer makes each decision throughout the journey critically allows you to shape their experience to ensure it’s positive. The key is to identify which stage the customer is in and then serve up relevant and impactful content throughout every cycle, decision point, and channel throughout their non-linear journey. Mapping this process allows marketers to visualize what goes into the buying decision to understand how the consumer journey boosts business.

What Are the Stages of a Consumer Journey?

Though there is a wealth of information on traditional marketing’s efficacy and how it fits into the digital space, mapping the consumer journey is particularly beneficial for digital marketing. There are five stages in the consumer journey that describe the motivations and thought processes of your potential customer:

  1. Awareness
  2. Research
  3. Consideration
  4. Conversion
  5. Re-Purchase

Awareness

The awareness stage is where the customer becomes aware of your brand. They aren't yet sure of what they want, but you have earned their interest. You need to concentrate on offering helpful information without being too "salesy” at this point. Make sure you are helpful as they consider their options. They’re intrigued by your offering, and you want to let that sit. Pushing a sale too early will likely push them away.

Research

During the research stage,  your customer knows what they want but they want to make sure they are doing their research on all of the brands.   Now you have your opportunity to convince them your brand is the right choice. They’re still deciding whether to move to the next step and make the purchase. Keep your brand top of mind by showing them precisely what you have to offer and how it can solve their problem. Let them see what people have to say about you. Position yourself as an industry expert with blog posts, emails, and social media posts. Doing so lets them see your brand as quality, making them trust you enough to consider purchasing from you.

Consideration

The consideration stage occurs after customers have conducted research, when they’ve decided they’re going to purchase and are deciding what to purchase. Consumers will pick the product that best matches their needs and rule out options until they’ve decided. They make a decision based on two characteristics:

  • Objective characteristics, like how the product functions, any extra features, or how much it costs
  • Subjective characteristics, like the consumer’s feelings about your brand

Consumers compare objective features first and use subjective features, like past experience or product reviews, to make a final decision. You can earn their trust by designing your site to hold their attention and keep them engaged for longer. If your product is very similar to competitor products, make sure consumer reviews are upfront and accessible. Make reviews available both on the home page and product pages to reassure customers through testimonials and encouraging them to buy your products.

Conversion

At the conversion stage, the sale is still not guaranteed. Make sure your customer can make their purchase quickly, easily, and without technical issues. Do they get their purchase to the cart but still don't convert? Have you spoken with them a few times but they haven’t made a decision? Here is your opportunity to convince them to convert by some means such as:

  • Calling a phone number to call to speak with a representative
  • Scheduling an appointment online
  • Filling out a form

Marketers also have a chance to use retargeting to encourage them to complete their purchase. Retargeting reminds them that they’re considering a purchase and subtly nudges them the last step to follow through. 

Re-Purchase

Your work doesn’t end once the customer completes their purchase. At the re-purchase stage, customers evaluate their purchase and decide whether they’re satisfied enough to buy from you again or recommend your products to others. Make sure they continue engaging with your brand by reaching out to leave a review or address any of their concerns.  Consider sending a "Thank You" email with discounts on future purchases and engage them on social media to let them know you appreciate they chose you over your competitors. Develop a strategy that encourages long-term engagement to maximize the amount of return customers you get. After all, it’s easier to keep repeat customers than to earn new ones.

Why Should You Map Your Consumer Journey?

Mapping your consumer journey lets you identify the most critical touchpoints. It clearly shows:

  • Where you lack digital touchpoints
  • When a particular one is effective
  • What kind of content works best for each touchpoint

When you know where and what to focus on, you can optimize the consumer journey by eliminating friction points. The ultimate goal is to help more people to complete their journey and become your brand's advocate.

How Do You Map a Consumer Journey?

Your first step in creating your consumer journey map is identifying the map’s objective before creating your target customer personas and defining their goals. Then you should list every touchpoint with the elements you want your map to show. From there, identify what resources you have and what you need, like customer service tools to follow up on interactions and feedback. Finally, go through your sales process as a customer to see the consumer journey yourself. Incorporate any changes that correct gaps or roadblocks to completing your purchase. 

Ensure the Success of Your Digital Marketing Plan

The digital marketing consumer journey is essential to the success of any digital marketing sales plan. Taking the time to create a digital consumer journey map for your brand allows you to recreate the customer experience to experience what your customer will. It enables you to identify how to get more customers and what you need to know how to attract, engage, convert, and advocate for your brand and your customers.  

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Shannon Allen

Written by Shannon Allen

Shannon Allen is the VP of Sales for Federated Digital Solutions. She has over 23 years of experience in sales and marketing and over 15 years more specifically working in the digital world. Her passion for digital marketing is what drives her to find the best digital solutions for clients as well as for FDS. Shannon believes that true marketing starts after the sale with strategic campaigns and detailed reporting to help all FDS clients with an ROI, so they see the value in digital marketing.

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