Photograph taken from above of a blue pair of shoes facing out to customer journey arrows

Understanding and Optimizing Your Customer’s Decision Journey

The ultimate goal for any business website is to encourage customers to convert. However, the journey your potential customers take will play a major role in whether or not they make that final decision.

Fortunately, it’s possible to better understand the digital customer journey, and improve it to increase the odds of conversion. This will provide them with a more seamless experience, and enable you to meet your sales goals more effectively.

In this post, we’ll introduce the customer decision journey (also called the digital customer journey) and the various stages it includes. Then we’ll share some ways you can better define the customer journey to online purchase. Let’s get started!

Defining the Customer Decision Journey

In short, the customer decision journey is the path your customers take from initial contact to conversion. For strategic marketers, the digital customer journey is guided by a ‘map’ with easily distinguishable stages, so as to improve and streamline the process.

A well-defined digital customer journey enables you to deliver the right content at the optimal times, to increase the odds that a lead will eventually convert (i.e., make a purchase). This can be done manually, but technologies such as automated marketing software can also improve the process.

What Are the Stages of a Customer Decision Journey?

While the customer decision journey will differ for every industry and website, there are a few basic stages that just about every consumer will travel through. Sometimes these are referred to as digital touch points in the customer journey. Let’s dive in. 

Stage 1: Browse

During the browsing stage, the consumer probably hasn’t decided what to purchase, and may not even know what they’re looking for yet. This means they’re likely casting a wide net, with the help of search engines and social media. This is sometimes referred to the ‘prospecting stage’ of the customer decision journey.

This is where your website’s position on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) will play a key role, as will your approach to audience targeting. In this stage, you’ll want to focus on attracting those indecisive consumers to your website, so you can then ‘hook’ them.

Stage 2: Compare

At this stage, the consumer has pinpointed a specific product or service they want, but they’re not yet invested in any particular company. This is where you need to focus a lot of your efforts, with the goal of wooing the potential customer into choosing your business.

While the browsing stage required you to use broader targeting techniques, you’ll now need to segment your audience so you can offer them exactly what they need. This may involve email marketing segmentation, and even geo targeted advertisements.

Stage 3: Contemplate

Even once your company has made an impression on the consumer, they may still have some concerns or fears. These may be connected to the product itself, but it’s more likely that the consumer is wondering whether that product is worth the cost involved.

It’s crucial that you address consumer concerns at this stage, so as to put their minds at ease. You can do this by initiating follow-up contact via email or phone, with the sole purpose of answering questions. The purchase decision journey often lulls at this stage and reaching out to your customer can be just the thing to push them to purchase.

Stage 4: Purchase

When all questions have been answered and concerns addressed, the final stage is the purchase. This happens once the consumer has committed to the process, and it constitutes a conversion. However, the customer decision journey isn’t done at this point.

You’ll now need to consider how you can get the customer to share your product with their friends and family, and how you can get them to return in the future. Surveys and follow-up contacts are useful at this stage, and they can also help you improve your purchase process for future transactions.

What Is Customer Journey Mapping?

If you’re curious about what customer journey mapping is, look no further. Customer journey mapping is the process of creating a visual story of customer interactions with your brand. Essentially it takes the steps above and turns them into a more digestible visual format. 

Mapping can be a good way to visualize the customer decision journey and better understand the process your consumers go through before purchasing. This is helpful in defining your specific customer purchase journey & developing a better marketing strategy. We’ll outline below how to create your own customer journey map.

How to Define Your Customers’ Decision Journey

Now you have a greater understanding of what a customer decision journey involves, it’s time to create a customer journey map to ensure that process is seamless and consistent. Let’s talk about how to do that.

Step 1: Think Like a Customer

As mentioned previously, the digital journey that customers take will vary by company and website. You need to clearly define your own customers’ decision journey, by taking their thought processes and needs into account.

One way to achieve this is to go through the customer purchase journey yourself. Keeping an unbiased opinion, begin your ‘customer journey’ on the home page of your website. What steps seem most natural to an indecisive customer, and where do they lead?

Continue through this journey all the way to completion, and make note along the way of any improvements you can make. For example, consider how you can make the steps easier to travel through, and look to pinpoint any obstacles you can remove.

Step 2: Make Interaction a Priority

Once you have a customer’s-eye view of the customer decision journey on your website, it’s time to offer support during the most critical stages of the process. The best way to do that is via direct customer interaction.

You should always make it easy for potential customers to contact you whenever the need arises. However, it’s also smart to initiate contact at the most crucial points, to ensure that the customer continues through the decision journey. You can do this via phone, email, or even live chat.

Step 3: Implement Your Changes and Make Room for Growth

This final step requires you to implement the changes you’ve identified, in order to create a more seamless digital journey for your customers. However, you’ll also want to leave room for growth, so future adjustments are possible.

It’s inevitable that your customers’ journey will change over time. This is especially true when you consider that the technologies you use and the best practices for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will continue to shift. For those reasons, it’s important to periodically revisit your customer journey, and update it as needed.

Marketing & The Customer Decision Journey

The role of marketing in the customer decision journey is to be at the right digital touch points, with the right message, at the right time. This starts with strong research: once you understand a customer’s journey with your product, and which areas are your weak points, you can tailor and target your message to bring up these weak points and push customers over the edge to a purchase.

For example, if you find that your brand awareness is strong but you lose customers at the point of purchase, you might consider shifting marketing resources to improving packing, in-store signage, or your online sales page to help capture those customers. 

On the other hand, if you find you’re losing customers at the contemplation stage, you may need to shift your focus to addressing pain points and following up with outreach. Successful marketing is all about shoring up weaknesses to move customers along the journey.

Work With WP Engine to Improve Your Customers’ Digital Journey

When you want to provide the best digital experience for your customers, you need the ‘right’ platform to help you do so. WP Engine is a leader in helping websites provide an optimal digital experience to capture – and convert – their audiences.

To learn more about WP Engine and what we can offer you, take a look at our plans!

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