In the age of digital marketing, a B2B customer's journey from initial contact with a brand or product to purchase has become much more complex than in the past. However, the phases of the B2B customer journey extend far beyond this buying process.
Marketing on a wide variety of channels, blogs, social media sites, review and comparison portals, and many other touchpoints between companies and customers have ensured that the B2B customer journey can take many more routes these days.
Only rarely does the customer journey lead directly from initial contact to purchase. This presents companies with special challenges.
What Is the Customer Journey?
The term customer journey is one of the most central concepts in marketing. It describes the customer's journey from the first contact with a company, a brand or a product to the purchase and finally to the use of the product or service.
The customer journey, which runs in cycles, includes all the touchpoints that customers have with a company during the purchase decision process. In today's age of digital media, a customer journey is much more complex than in the past.
Companies not only have direct touchpoints with customers, such as through advertisements, a phone consultation or a video demo, but usually also a variety of indirect touchpoints. These include rating portals, company blogs and forums where customers inform themselves about companies and their products.
Against the backdrop of the increased complexity of the customer journey, the customer's journey is now also much more flexible in terms of time.
Depending on the number and intensity of direct and indirect touchpoints, the customer journey can last from just a few days to several months.
For companies, an in-depth understanding of all customer journey phases and the individual touchpoints is a basic prerequisite for a customer-oriented orientation of marketing and sales.
Countless studies have looked at all the details of the customer journey in recent years. Two of the most important study results that companies should definitely keep in mind are:
only 2% of customers buy a product from a brand after an initial contact.
Customers interact with a brand an average of six to eight times before becoming its customers.
Companies that do not know the journey of their (potential) customers will thus have the greatest difficulty in acquiring new customers, as well as retaining existing customers in the long term.
Source: incomplete Customer Journey according to Pedalix
Customer Journey Phases at a Glance
The detailed mapping of a customer journey and an in-depth understanding of all phases of the customer journey are decisive prerequisites for aligning one's own marketing and sales in a customer-oriented manner.
The clear separation of all phases and the full representation of all possible touchpoints contribute to a company's ability to successfully accompany a customer throughout his entire journey.
The correct understanding of the customer journey and customer centricity is therefore an important contribution to increasing sales figures, increasing customer satisfaction and extending the customer relationship in every company.
Customer Journey According to AIDA
In recent years, various models have been developed to map the customer journey. These models differ in terms of their division into phases and the adoption of perspectives.
Marketing and sales professionals face the challenge of finding the most appropriate customer journey model for their company or brand.
Source: Own representation based on the AIDA model
The first description of the customer journey goes back to the American advertising strategist Elmo Lewis. As early as the end of the 19th century, he developed a model for advertising effectiveness that is known today by the acronym AIDA.
The four letters stand for the terms
According to the Customer Journey AIDA model, customers pass through four stages on their customer journey:
In stage 1 (Attention), the customer's attention is gained. Through advertising or other interaction, he learns of the existence of a brand or product.
In stage 2 (Interest) the customer's interest is aroused. He begins to show interest in a market or a product.
In the third stage (Desire) the interest turns into a concrete desire. The customer wants to own a product.
In stage 4, the customer converts his desire to own the product into a purchase (action).
However, the AIDA model, as well as the classic sales funnel, fall short, as they stop at the conclusion of the purchase or contract
On the one hand, countless scientific studies in recent decades have shown that the monocausal stimulus-response model underlying the AIDA theory rarely corresponds to reality. The human stimulus-response pattern has been shown to be much more complex than the AIDA model suggests.
And secondly, the number of touchpoints between companies and customers has increased many times over in the age of the Internet and extends far beyond the purchase.
Against this backdrop, the customer's travel route has become much less straight and much more "curvy".
Extension of the Customer Journey Phases
As an extension or update of the AIDA model to the present day, it is recommended to use a revised 4-phase customer journey model.
Source: Customer Journey according to Pedalix
It starts with the Attract phase. A customer has a problem and becomes aware that a product or service can solve the problem.
This awareness can come through various touchpoints, such as advertising, social media, or word of mouth.
So during this phase, the potential customer is attracted via their interest.
The second phase is the Engage phase. The customer informs himself in detail about the topic relevant to him and the associated solutions.
Information can also be obtained from a wide variety of sources, such as search engines, blogs or rating portals.
The potential customer searches for further information that deepens his basic knowledge and provides him with a sound basis for decision-making.
Phase three of the model is the conversion phase. The potential customer decides to contact a sales representative who accompanies him through the closing phase of the sales funnel.
Here, too, there can be several possibilities as to which touchpoints are used to complete the actual purchase.
Examples might include a face-to-face sales call, an online form, or a phone sales process.
The last phase, which is new compared to the AIDA model, is the Delight phase. The customer uses the product, is satisfied with the performance and becomes a returning buyer.
Provided the customer is delighted with the product, he is likely to recommend it to industry peers and possibly a wider audience.
Touchpoints for the Delight Phase are, for example, newsletters, reviews and surveys or customer service.
This four-phase model of a customer journey has the advantage that it fully maps all phases of customer contact before, during and after the purchase.
The more accurately a company maps the individual touchpoints with the customer within the different phases, the more precisely and specifically it can address the customer's individual needs.
Furthermore, a comprehensive representation of the customer journey makes it easier for companies to successfully accompany customers from phase to phase.