5 Customer Journey Stages Great Marketers Understand (And How They Use Each Phase)

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Did you know nearly 50% of consumers say they would switch brands if a business failed to anticipate their needs?

Despite this fact, some businesses still struggle to foresee customer needs. This may be due to their limited understanding of a typical customer’s journey and what it takes to turn a prospect into a lifetime customer.

The customer journey is the path individuals take from first becoming aware of your brand, products or services, to becoming a purchasing customer and even promoting your products or services.

In this guide, we’ll break down what each stage of the customer journey entails, why these stages matter to marketers, and how to get the highest ROI out of your customer journeys.

TL;DR: A customer journey has the following five stages:
  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Purchase
  4. Retention
  5. Advocacy

Key Takeaways

  • There are five phases in the customer journey: awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy. 
  • It takes research and cross-channel communication to understand how to optimize the customer journey for your business.
  • Customer journey mapping tools like Funnelytics can help to track user experiences and deliver a frictionless omnichannel experience.

What are the stages of the customer journey?

Let’s explore each of the five phases or stages a customer goes through with your brand.

1. The awareness stage

The awareness stage of the customer journey is where potential buyers or target audiences know they have a problem or a need they must address. Although they may not know what product or service might help them, they start searching for a solution.

In this stage, most customers seek educational content to learn about the best market solutions to address their pain points or fulfill their needs. So your focus as a marketer should be to educate them rather than forcing them toward a sale.

The best assets you can use to attract prospects in this stage are:

  • Top-of-the-funnel blog posts, such as “how-to” articles, and in-depth guides
  • Whitepapers
  • Free webinars or courses
  • eBooks

What can you learn from customers in the awareness stage of the customer journey?

Awareness stage prospects are at the top of your sales funnel. To guide them through the consecutive stages of the funnel you need a thorough understanding of their problems, needs and expectations. Why does it matter? Understanding your awareness stage prospects allows you to tailor your informational content to speak directly to the potential buyer and address their concerns.

2. The consideration stage

The consideration stage is a critical phase of the buyer’s journey. This is when customers have finished their preliminary research and have shortlisted various solutions and brands.

Your goal is to stand out from your competitors so customers are naturally drawn to your offering as they gear up for the purchasing phase.

Product-centric marketing strategies are among the best tactics you could employ at this stage to win the customer over.

Here are some product-oriented marketing strategies that you might want to use to steer customers toward your brand:

  • Product webinars
  • Case studies and customer success stories
  • Product demos
  • Email nurturing campaigns
  • Free product or service trials
  • Product comparison guides

Why is the consideration stage of the customer journey important?

During the consideration stage, you can learn what it is about your product or service that makes you stand out or lose out among your competitors. Is it your affordable pricing? Is it your tool’s ease of use? Is it the authority you’ve established on the topic? Whatever the reason, you can identify how to break through the competition and create a preference toward your brand using tactics like email nurturing campaigns, product demos, and customer success stories.

3. The purchase stage

The purchase or decision stage comes when prospects have chosen a solution or have narrowed their selection down to a handful of brands. All they need is a slight push from your sales and customer support teams to close the deal.

At this stage, the prospects can be segmented as marketing-qualified leads because they’ve shown an interest in your solution.

So, what strategies should your sales and marketing teams employ for purchase stage prospects? Here are some examples:

  • One-on-one personalized product demos
  • Offers, such as discounts and free upgrades
  • Personalized sales presentations to address any last-minute dilemmas
  • Case studies and customer success stories

Why is the purchase stage of the customer journey important?

The purchase stage is vital because you can interact with a potential buyer or a new customer to establish a long-term connection. Also, a successful conversion in this stage indicates whether your sales and marketing strategies are effective or if they need a revamp.

4. The retention stage

The retention stage is a post-sale phase where customers have purchased your product or service and stay with you because they’re satisfied with your solution.

So, your goal is not to let these high-impact customers slip through your fingers and seek competitors.

Here are some strategies to ensure customers don’t churn:

  • Around-the-clock customer support for improved customer experience (CX)
  • Seek feedback and improve on your product or service
  • Educational content to explain how to use your product or service effectively

Why is the retention stage of the customer journey important?

Did you know it’s six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain one? Also, research suggests that existing customers are more likely than new customers to try out new solutions from their favorite brands.

These are great reasons to use customer journey mapping to build a loyal customer base and achieve consistent revenue.

Start your free trial of Funnelytics Performance

Unleash the full potential of Funnelytics with a free 14-day trial and get access to the platform that will help you plan, measure and optimize your customer journeys.

5. The advocacy stage

Who are your best brand advocates? Your happy customers, of course.

The advocacy stage is when happy, satisfied customers are willing to advocate your brand’s value to their inner circle and are glad to recommend your products or services. However, your customers need a solid reason to turn into brand advocates at this stage.

Strategies to help secure this final stage include:

  • Referral and loyalty programs
  • Testimonial requests
  • Exceeding customer expectations by offering a seamless product or service
  • Discount perks

What can you do to identify loyal customers who can make the advocacy stage successful?

You could try sending out net promoter score (NPS) surveys to all current recurring customers. NPS surveys indicate the likelihood of customers referring your solution to their friends or family.

What are the challenges of understanding the customer journey?

Let’s discuss a few challenges marketers face when it comes to understanding the customer journey, and how to overcome them.

Challenge #1: Insufficient research to improve customer journey stages

A customer journey is best understood by creating detailed buyer personas that cover the ideal customer’s demographics, goals, motivations, pain points and preferences.

Most marketers fail to conduct adequate research and don’t create buyer personas to guide them. Instead, they go straight to creating top-of-the-funnel content to attract their target buyers based on guesswork alone.

How to fix it?

The solution is to create detailed, data-backed buyer personas. A solid strategy is to run interviews with individuals and key decision-makers that fit your buyer persona to learn firsthand about their goals, needs and challenges.

Challenge #2: No system to tie in customer communication across channels

Most brands follow a multichannel approach where customers and prospects are engaged across various touchpoints like social media, SEO, email, chat, and a mobile app.

But customers tend to switch channels abruptly, and this leads to miscommunication and a disconnected user experience. And marketers face a difficult task when attempting to capture customer actions from so many different locations. This makes it hard to analyze and improve CX.

How to fix it?

This challenge can be addressed by building integrations that break down silos across these different channels and enable better cross-communication. This creates an omnichannel marketing strategy instead of a multichannel one.

For example, tools like MoEngage and CleverTap help connect channels like push notifications, email and SMS with each other. This way, brands can bind channels to unify user experience and communication.

Say an eCommerce customer abandons a shopping cart. You could analyze their most preferred channels for engagement and set up an omnichannel engagement strategy. For instance, you may send them a follow-up email and a push notification with consistent messaging to double the chances of conversion.

Challenge #3: Content and offers are not working as imagined for successful awareness and consideration stages

Sometimes companies have to face the hard reality that their offers aren’t strong enough or their content simply isn’t effective.

How to fix it?

Publish customer-centric content rather than just marketing-focused content. The key is to find a balance. And to make sure your content is as relevant and effective as possible, centre your customer’s perspective in your marketing plan.

How to improve each stage of the customer journey

Customers’ shifting preferences, increasing touchpoints and myriad customer journeys are some of the barriers that make it difficult to drive value out of each stage of the customer journey.

We’ve collated the best ways to monitor these barriers and optimize your customer journey stages.

Use a customer journey mapping tool

Customer journey mapping may seem straightforward but can become more elaborate as you add essential details. And while you’re figuring it out slowly, your customers may look elsewhere to get their issues sorted.

How can you take back control? By engaging in customer journey mapping using rich analytical tools like Funnelytics.

Here’s how a customer journey mapping tool like Funnelytics can help you better understand your customer journeys:

  • It lets you customize funnels and map strategies with channels and events like landing pages, upsells and ads using a simple drag-and-drop interface.

  • It helps you uncover potential gaps and user drop-off points so you can proactively fix them.

  • It visualizes how people get to your site and move between pages, so you know what works and what doesn’t.

  • Its visual focus makes it easier to communicate stage-wise information with teams.

  • It measures performance in real time. For example, you can find out how your landing page contributes to results and brings in conversions through a lead magnet like a free eBook download.
Most importantly, customer journey mapping software allows you to offer exceptional customer experiences through a clearer understanding of their journey until and beyond conversion.

Emilyn Sinamban, Global Customers Success Team Manager at Tomedes uses the following approach to optimize their customer journey mapping:

“To optimize customer journeys, I’ve found success in continuous feedback loops, data-driven insights, and cross-departmental collaboration.”

Start your free trial of Funnelytics Performance

Unleash the full potential of Funnelytics with a free 14-day trial and get access to the platform that will help you plan, measure and optimize your customer journeys.

Personalize, personalize, personalize 

A Salesforce study shows that over 63% of millennial consumers are willing to share data with companies in exchange for more personalized experiences and offers.

This shows how modern customers now expect brands to use their data to deliver unique and personalized customer journeys that meet their needs.

Imagine the number of interactions you have with prospects and current customers that can benefit from personalization. For example, curated emails as opposed to generic ones, dynamic landing pages versus static ones, and tailored product recommendations. The list is endless.

Pro tip: Use marketing automation to send personalized messages, emails or notifications to potential customers at the right time to increase the possibility of a conversion.

Deliver a frictionless omnichannel experience

If you’ve used brands like Amazon, Sephora or Starbucks, you may know how easy it is to reach them using your preferred kind of communication, be it via email, phone call, website or social media.

Now, that’s what an omnichannel experience is all about.

Why does it matter in improving customer journeys?

Offering customers a frictionless omnichannel experience means reaching customers where they already are, not where you want them to be. This makes it easier to sell to them and offer support, leading to shorter sales funnels and smoother transitions between customer journey stages.

Improve every stage of the customer journey with Funnelytics

Marketers play a key role in shaping the customer journey and they face a sizeable challenge when doing so.

Thankfully, intuitive customer journey mapping tools like Funnelytics allow marketers to outline the intricacies of their funnel, analyze their customer journeys, and achieve a competitive advantage for long-term growth.

Try Funnelytics’ 14-day free trial today!

Start your free trial of Funnelytics Performance

Unleash the full potential of Funnelytics with a free 14-day trial and get access to the platform that will help you plan, measure and optimize your customer journeys.

What are the five stages of the customer journey?

The five stages of the customer journey are: awareness, consideration, purchase, retention and advocacy.

Why is it important to understand the customer journey stages?

It’s important to understand customer journey stages so brands can learn what customers need and prefer. This also exposes areas or touchpoints that can be improved to enhance customer experience and boost conversions.

How can I map the phases of the customer journey?

You can map the phases of a customer journey by following a simple process. You can start by: ● Gathering audience insights, like buyer personas ● Identifying various touchpoints and mapping them ● Dividing the journey into five phases based on customer actions: awareness, consideration, purchase, retention and advocacy ● Outlining each phase by creating a visual map ● Using customer journey mapping tools to optimize the entire funnel

What is the difference between the customer journey and the buyer journey?

A buyer journey outlines activities that lead up to a purchase, while a customer journey extends beyond purchase through to retention and loyalty.


Picture of Mikael Dia

Mikael Dia

Founder & CEO @ Funnelytics Inc.

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