The Buyer’s Cyclical Journey

Have you ever stopped to think about your customer’s journey

In 1898, E. St. Elmo Lewis, came up with the concept of the Buyer’s Funnel to describe the process. It went something like this:

Awareness – The customer discovers they have a problem and takes steps to identify what the problem is.

Consideration – Having discovered what the problem is, the customer comes to your store to see what the options are and weigh up the pros and cons.

Decision – Having done their research, the customer decides on which product or service suits their needs, budget etc. and buys.

The concept proved a good one for well over a hundred years. Then along came the internet, smartphones, big data, clever targeting techniques, mass competition and multiple ways of engaging with potential customers on a daily basis. The way consumers journey through the buying process, both online and off, has changed forever. and made the Buyer’s Funnel redundant. Understanding these new journeys and taking advantage of them is crucial. 

In their book Smash the Funnel, Eric Kelles and Mike Lieberman describe the modern customer journey not as a funnel, but as a cyclical process. The Buyers’ Journey Cycle has eight stages and a potential customer can be influenced at each one.

Here, we break down the stages and suggest ways you can take advantage of them. As an example, we use commuting.

A potential customer has a need or problem but they don’t know it. They are totally oblivious and are not looking for solutions.

Example – I commute to work in a diesel car. It’s cheap to run and reliable. I’ve been reading on various websites that there are concerns regarding the emissions from diesel cars

Marketing Tip – Use your marketing and communication channels to make prospective customers aware that they have a problem and at the same time show them products and services that could fix this problem.

The potential customer now knows there is a need and starts to look for a solution. They ask friends or browse the net for thoughts and opinions.

Example – Aware that I have a responsibility to the environment, plus driving to work is becoming more difficult, I ask friends and colleagues about how they get to work in a more sustainable way that’s also easy for me. I start to look online.

Marketing Tip – Make sure your website has plenty of information to inform, entice and persuade. Make the user experience slick and amazing to increase the chance of being remembered. Use retargeting to entice potential customers back. Ensure all web content highlighting the problem is duplicated on social media.

The potential customer researches and gathers information about products and services that they may not have used in the past. They are looking to build trust and confidence in their decisions prior to purchase.

Example – It’s too far to walk to work. The train doesn’t stop anywhere close. I can’t afford a new car. Buses don’t always run when I want them. However, I like the idea of using a bike and getting fit as well. What sort of bike do I need? Where would I buy one from? How would I look after it?

Marketing Tip – Use blogs, case studies and instructional videos to demonstrate your products and services. These help build trust and confidence. Recorded testimonials and reviews from previous customers are especially relevant.

Having done their research, potential customers will start to evaluate their options and look for potential suppliers. They are no longer looking for alternatives, but looking for solutions and the suppliers that could meet their needs.

Example: – I like this provider. They seem to have a good stock list with brands I’ve heard of, prices seem competitive and great reviews. They have articles around the benefits of cycling, cycling tourism and what type of bike is best for me. They seem to care about cycling.

Marketing Tip – Use visual images, video and strong copy to position yourself as a key provider. Focus on the problem your product or service is looking to solve for the customer. Focus on benefits, price, added value and availability. 

The potential customer has a shortlist of solutions and makes in-depth comparisons. They consider things such price, specification, delivery and after sales.

Example – I’ve shortlisted it to a Hybrid or cross bike based on what type of riding I’m likely to do. I understand the differences in specs and what type of additional products I will need. How soon could I get it and could I return it if there was an issue? Do they offer finance options?

Marketing Tip – Website content should be as in-depth as possible to enable potential customers to have all the information they need to make a positive decision.

The potential customer seeks confirmation from friends, review sites etc. They have already emotionally made their decision. They are now looking to convince themselves that the decision is right.

Example – I just need to ask a few more questions before I press the ‘buy’ button. Where am I going to keep my new bike? What about those steep hills? Can I really justify the £1,500?

Marketing Tip – Ensure your site has lots of positive reviews. A good score from a Review Site can make all the difference to a potential customer looking to buy. Case Studies and customer testimonials all help to build confidence prior to purchase. Focus on retargeting and putting the product the customer was interested in, and your brand, back in front of the customer while they rationalise the purchase.

The potential customer decides to buy and proceeds to order, however, they still need to be reassured.

Example – Wow, I’ve just bought a hybrid bike!

Marketing Tip – The buying process should be easy with no hidden costs or delivery charges. Nothing should freak out the customer at this stage.

The customer receives help and information to help build loyalty and come back again. At the same time, the supplier looks to develop a relationship with the customer so that they recommend the supplier’s products or services.

Example – My bike arrived on time. It came with a free puncture repair kit along with a voucher for 25% off my first service and winter clothing. This was followed up by a phone call to make sure I was entirely happy and an e-newsletter invitation to join the supplier’s online cycling community where I could find articles on cycling and special offers. I was also emailed a video tutorial about how to clean the bike properly, including which products would best suit my needs and why.

Marketing Tip – Keep in regular contact to inform customers of new products and special offers and help them on their journey. Think about e-newsletters, an app, your website, social channels, offers, incentives, loyalty rewards and information that will add value to the relationship with the customer. Think about what should sent, when and how often so it will have the most impact and offer the most value. Think about the problems the customer is likely to face now they’ve started their journey and how they can be helped.