The Digital Customer Journey from Prospect to Advocate

Learn how you can transform customers into advocates throughout the digital customer journey.

Article

Brittany Klokkenga

September 22, 2020

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Customer expectations have radically changed. It’s not enough to offer a top-notch product or service.

To stand out from the competition and gain loyal, long-term customers, you need to design an outstanding digital experience that treats your customers as individuals. That’s how you turn prospects into customers and customers into advocates for your business. 

Setting up an exceptional and thoughtful digital customer journey is no small task. Providing a great journey can turn someone who was just browsing your website into an advocate who offers valuable word-of-mouth referrals to your business and returns frequently to make purchases as well. 

These customers are the backbone of sustainable business growth. And this guide will tell you everything you need to know to gain more of them through your digital customer journey. 

What is the digital customer journey? 

The digital customer journey is the process or path that a customer goes through with your business—from awareness through retention and loyalty. 

Every customer will have varying interactions with your business.  Digital customer touchpoints range from seeing an ad on a news site, browsing your website, noticing a mention of your brand in a social media post, to making a purchase online.. Touchpoints can also happen in person, of course, but in an increasingly digital world, your customers and prospects are likely digitally interacting with your business.

These varying touchpoints make up the digital customer journey. It’s a map of how customers get to your business, make a purchase, and what they do after that purchase. These maps, called customer journey maps, help your business to see every interaction that impacts how people feel about your brand. You’ll learn more about these maps later in the guide. 

Interactions with customers and prospects happen both online and in person. But more and more business interactions are moving online, and narrowing your focus can help improve your digital customer experience as you pinpoint what you’re doing well and where you can improve. 

It’s also vital to focus on the digital experience because so many companies struggle to get this right. The digital customer experience has many paths, and it’s easy to get one or more of them wrong. Customers have high expectations for digital experiences, they want your website to look like Airbnb, to be as easy to purchase from as Amazon, and have effortless customer service like Apple. That’s a pretty high bar and most businesses aren’t even close. 

By ensuring that your digital customer journey is as smooth and customer-centric as possible you can stand out from the competition and gain loyal customers. 

Stages of the digital customer journey  

There are five main stages in the digital customer journey. Each company’s journey will look different based on its industry, geographic area, customer demographics, and more. 

Awareness 

The awareness stage is where the customer begins their journey with your business. They are only a prospective buyer, and they’re often not exactly sure what they’re looking for yet. They’ve just become aware of your brand, products, or services through one or more channels (e.g. social media, search engine results, emails, apps, blogs, word of mouth, affiliate marketing, or more). 

Consideration 

In the consideration stage, prospects begin to research your products or services. They’ve found something they might want or need, but they’re still weighing their options.

Some actions customers might take during this stage include visiting your website, signing up for a free trial, attending a webinar, requesting a product demo, researching discounts, engaging with a chatbot, and/or checking out review websites and testimonials.  

Purchase 

This stage is where a prospect becomes a customer. In the digital customer journey, they’re taking this step online via your ecommerce site, adding products to their cart, and finishing the checkout process. 

What is important about this stage isn’t just that the customer purchased (though that’s certainly nice), but that they have taken a committed step in their relationship with your business. 

Experience 

This stage is all about how well the order your customer just placed is fulfilled. The customer has trusted you with their money and time, and they want to see the results. 

Touchpoints in this stage may include the shipping and delivery process, product or service guarantees, order tracking, help center service, FAQs or product instructions, onboarding, and more. 

Loyalty 

Finally, your customer arrives at the loyalty stage. If you don’t want to have an endless parade of one-time customers, this stage is every bit as vital as the others. Many businesses approach this phase with tactics such as loyalty programs, personalized rewards, social media interaction and engagement, and newsletters to keep customers in the loop and thinking of the brand. 

While there’s certainly plenty of value in these tactics, the new approach to customer loyalty also focuses on creating an emotional connection with the customer. Buyers want to have a relationship with the brands they purchase from, instead of being treated like just another transaction. Customers also need to receive the value they expect from your goods and services, and the support they deserve when they encounter an issue, in order to remain loyal. 

If you get all the stages of the digital customer journey right, your customers will be more than just loyal, they will also recommend your business and products to their friends, family, and colleagues. This kind of marketing is very powerful because consumers trust the people they know more than marketing campaigns.

How to create a positive digital customer journey 

Creating a positive digital customer journey from awareness to loyalty is a tall order. An exceptional, customer journey can help you retain customers, keep them loyal, and encourage them to become advocates for your brand as well. 

So how can your business create your own positive digital customer journey? The process begins with taking a close look at touchpoints from the customer’s point of view, gathering feedback from your customers about those touchpoints, and using the data to optimize your digital customer journey. 

Create a digital customer journey map

If you don’t know where you’re headed, you won’t know if you’re on the right path or straying in the wrong direction. That’s why creating a digital customer journey map is essential as a starting point to improve your digital customer experience. This map will be unique to your business and industry.  After all, the B2B digital customer journey can look pretty different from the B2C digital customer journey but the outline and steps remain the same. 

What is a digital customer journey map? 

A digital customer journey map is a map that lays out the complete digital journey a customer takes with your business. This includes all the devices your customers use to interact with your business and all the touchpoints in their journey. Mapping out the digital journey visually helps you gain a deep understanding of your customers interact with your business.

Keep in mind, creating a digital journey map doesn’t allow you to control a customer’s journey. They will go where they want and get there how they like. The purpose of the map is just to observe and collect data on their journey so you can make improvements that benefit the customer. 

Learn how to create your own digital customer journey map by checking out free customer journey mapping templates from GetFeedback!

What are the benefits of customer journey mapping? 

Customer journey mapping offers many benefits, including:

  • Develop a deeper understanding of your customer. Understanding your customers deeply means knowing more than just what they buy and how often. It’s also important to know why they buy what they do, what they expect from your business, and what they like and dislike about your brand, products, and services. 

  • Improve the customer experience. Are customers getting what they expect from your business, or is the customer experience disappointing? Once you understand your customers more, you can work to improve the things that frustrate them and prevent them from becoming loyal, repeat customers.

  • Predict the next step of your target customer. Knowing how your prospects tend to turn into customers—the steps they take, the friction that gets in the way of their purchases, and what attracts them—gives you the ability to predict future actions, like making a purchase. 

  • Faster sales cycles. Digital journey mapping helps you find the pain points or slow parts of the sales cycle. This can help speed up the pace of your sales as you remove roadblocks. 

  • Improve customer service costs. Happy customers typically don’t have issues and problems. And since having humans solve problems is an expensive part of your business, using journey mapping to resolve pain points can save costs. 

  • Greater return on marketing investment. When you have a clear map of customer touchpoints, you can decide which marketing techniques will be most effective at each step, giving you better results and an increased marketing ROI. You’ll avoid targeting the wrong prospects or sending the wrong messages because you’ll know exactly who to target and what to say at each stage. 

Data you can collect with digital customer journey mapping 

Digital customer journey mapping allows your business to collect many different kinds of data to help understand and improve the customer experience. These sources of data can include: 

  • Web-browsing data: tracking the activities and interactions of your site users 

  • Mobile-app data: customer information like sign-ins, activity, and location

  • Sales data: tracking purchase history, shopping habits, and spend over time

  • Advertising data: information on click-through rates, conversion rates, and behavior 

  • Loyalty data: tracking who customers in your loyalty program are and how they use your program and think about your brand

  • Survey data: ask customers directly what they think of your products, services, and brand at every touchpoint of the customer journey

  • Social media listening: understanding how customers interact with your brand on social media platforms 

  • Aftersales data: information about issues customers have with products or services 

Use data collected to create a positive digital customer journey 

Once you’ve created a digital customer journey map, it’s time to put it into action using the data you collected. 

Analyzing the collected data should reveal some areas that are performing well. For example, if your website conversion rate is fairly high, your website is likely providing a good customer experience. 

Your data should also indicate some areas for improvement. Afterall, no matter how good your customer experience is, it can always be improved. If your website conversion rate is lower than you’d like to see, you can take steps to determine exactly where the issues are. This is another place where surveys with open-ended questions are highly valuable. 

Now you can identify the problems, areas of friction, and pain points for customers at every touchpoint. The journey mapping process may indicate some areas you didn’t even know were an issue and will tell you how to approach solving them. 

There might be some places where you’re not sure of the best way to solve the problem, like if your billing process is making some customers unhappy. The best approach is to try out a solution, continue collecting data and survey feedback, and optimizing if your first approach doesn’t work. 

Fixing any pain points that cause customers to depart for a competitor, or even merely look around for other options, is great for your customers. You’re making their life at least a little bit easier. But it’s also good for your business. The fewer issues customers encounter, the more likely they are to stay with your business for the long term and tell their friends and family about their great experiences with your business. You’re both increasing the loyalty of your existing customers and using them as a way to gain additional new ones, all without extensive marketing campaigns. 

The customer journey map and the data you collect enables your business to optimize every interaction a customer has with you, from the first time they encounter your brand to their tenth year as a loyal customer. Ensuring customers are satisfied and happy throughout the digital customer journey builds your relationship with them, and that makes them loyal and vocal advocates for your business. 

Key takeaways 

Creating a digital customer journey map can help your business create stronger connections with your customers, from prospecting to advocacy. This process is simplified with the sophisticated customer experience platform offered by GetFeedback, which enables you to gain access to customer listening tools, data analytics, and much more.  Customer journey mapping will pay dividends in longer customer relationships and increased customer loyalty. 

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