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As a consequence of digital media, customer journeys have become more complex and multi-faceted. In the past, marketers would use a sales funnel to map the customer journey in a linear fashion. Today there are numerous ways for a customer to reach the point of purchase.
The linear sales funnel is comprised of a number of steps, from creating customer awareness of the product, to identifying leads, turning leads into prospects, making a sale, and obtaining a client. While this path is still relevant today, e-commerce and digital marketing have made marketing and sales a much more diffuse process.
Customers have become more active participants in the purchasing process, and the customer journey reflects this. The contemporary customer journey follows a path which also starts with awareness, although this awareness may originate in a variety of channels outside of marketing’s control. Awareness may come from a billboard, an email, a colleague’s recommendation, a Facebook banner or a blog post. This initial awareness becomes interest, often without the influence of any sales representatives. Increased interest often leads to further research by the customer, and the consideration phase. The purchase follows, it may be an order from a website or a face to face meeting after a phone call. After the purchase, marketing and sales will often follow up with special offers or surveys in the hope of re-engaging the client. This ends the customer journey, the goals being retention and customer advocacy. The ultimate goal is to create so-called brand ambassadors, satisfied customers who recommend your service, give good online reviews, and come back for further purchases.
Understanding the customer journey requires some effort as buyers are increasingly out of marketing’s sphere of influence, and likely to follow different paths in reaching the same goal. Much time and resources are used to learn about customers in order to better understand the customer journey, and create a smoother progression. By using data and analytics you can recognize behavior-driven choices which inform the journey. Predictive analytics attempts to aid marketers by attempting to create a path for leads to follow towards a purchase. It is important as marketers to understand customer journeys, as today’s customer engagement tends to be on the customer’s terms.
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