How to Use the 5 Steps in “The Complete Customer Journey” to Grow Lifetime Value

March 20, 2020 Gabrielle Policella

What does an online shopper’s path to purchase look like? Most people would simply say a shopper lands on a site, browses the content, and checks out. That would be an extremely simplified path. We all know from personal experience that the path to purchase is much more complicated than that. But, what if instead of mapping a path to purchase, we map a path to customer loyalty? We’re about to do just this and we like to call it the “The Complete Customer Journey.”

The Complete Customer Journey is a comprehensive way of viewing all of an online shopper’s interactions. Savvy marketers and site owners who understand this journey can grow customer lifetime value, customer retention, and ultimately, customer loyalty.

What is “The Complete Customer Journey?”

complete customer journey

Source: The Retail Intelligence 

The Complete Customer Journey is a framework that’s broken into five key steps. While it’s possible for a shopper to move linearly from one step to another, there are often sub-steps along the way like alternative evaluation, post-purchase analysis, and amazing customer experiences. These can either speed up or slow down the customer journey, but there are several things you can do to create the best possible experience at every step of the way!

Step 1: Awareness

Standing out in the sea of ecommerce brands can be tough: shoppers are bombarded with advertisements and messages everywhere, and nowhere is more crowded than online. Step 1 involves breaking through this noise and making potential customers aware of your brand in the first place. 

complete customer journey - quote 1

The goal here is to be included in a shopper’s evoked set, which is the group of products that they know of and consider for purchase. Once a shopper is aware of your website, they could enter the second stage: consideration, and visit  your site right away. But, they might not have a need at that time, and your site will slip deep within their subconscious until a need arises. 

Creating a great first impression with on-brand advertisements that clearly communicate your value will help these customers recall you when the time is right!

Step 2: Consideration and the site visit

You’ve finally gotten the shopper to visit your site, but it may not be time to celebrate yet. Visitors want a visually appealing site that is easy to navigate. If those two factors aren’t immediately apparent, you might lose them here. Besides the basics, your site will have to be well-optimized and tailored to your ideal customer segment’s wants and needs. 

complete customer journey - good web design

Source: Crazy Egg

Just like the graphic above, you need to make sure your website delivers a good user experience. The customer needs to be intrigued enough by the site to explore a potential purchase. Including relevant value-add content like blogs, tutorials, and customer reviews are a great way to keep your customers on your site exploring your brand. If they don’t stay, they can’t buy!

Once again, the customer could come to your site for the first time and purchase right away, but this is unlikely. After all, think about your own online shopping behavior. Most of us don’t make purchases right awaywe spend time evaluating all of our alternatives. Shoppers want to make sure that your products are of good quality, competitively priced, and well-liked compared to other options available. This is where customer reviews are a total game-changer. At the end of the day, getting a customer to visit your site is only half the battle: you have to make them want to stay too.

Step 3: Purchase

This is one of the most important steps in the customer journey. This is the step that pays the bills for your ecommerce site and drives up your revenue. Traditional thought would end the process here, but you need to use this first-time purchase to grow customer lifetime value down the road. 

complete customer journey - quote 2

This new customer presents much more value than this one time sale. In fact, in a poll, 70% of companies agreed that keeping a customer is less costly than acquiring one. Furthermore, the same poll also revealed that 49% of companies see a higher ROI from those retained customers than actively seeking new ones. That is why the ecommerce customer journey extends far beyond the first purchase.

complete customer journey - purchase

The important sub-step to keep in mind here is post-purchase analysis. Once the shopper has purchased, they will evaluate the purchase to some degree(the extent depends on the type of product you sell).  This is where creating positive post-purchase experiences with thank-you notes, follow-up feedback emails, and product recommendations can make or break you. A customer won’t move on to the next step (making repeat purchases) without determining if the product and experience was worth repeating.

Step 4: Incorporating retention for repeat purchases

Repeat purchases are a sign your site is providing a good customer experience, which is a building block to grow customer lifetime value. The customer enjoyed their interaction as well as the product and are back to do it again. They trust your brand to deliver their needs and, if handled properly, will continue to do so into the future.

For a customer to take the next step to brand advocacy, they need an amazing customer experience. After all, advocating for anything requires a deep level of dedication and passion. Your brand must be delivering something that makes them go out of their way to share and promote it. This could be next day shipping, amazing customer service reps, or a one of a kind product or site. Remember, the customer needs a reason to fall in love with you!

Step 5: Brand advocacy

This is the final step for a customer in the complete customer journey. Your site facilitated movement through the steps and it’s now paying off. In this stage, the customer now demonstrates total brand loyalty and encourages others to purchase as well, acting as one of your strongest marketing tools. This step is where the journey turns full circle. 

Brand advocates can be leveraged to increase awareness and ultimately encourage other shoppers to start through the journey; ultimately, growing your customer lifetime value.

complete customer journey - brand advocacy triangle of trust

Source: Liquid Agency

One of the best ways to leverage your brand advocates is through a referral program that rewards them for their sharing actions, as seen in the “Triangle of Trust”. These customers are not only repeat-purchasers (increasing their own value), they also influence others to buy (increasing their value even further). At the end of the day, you can’t put a price on the value of a customer pool filled with loyal brand advocates!

Key Takeaways

Believe it or not, this was just the beginning when it comes to the “Complete Customer Journey.” Focus on optimizing your customer experience in each of these key steps and you’ll have loyal customers before you know it! 

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