Schmarketing: The Customer Journey

What is the Customer Journey?

The customer journey is the complete experience a customer has with your brand, from initial awareness to final purchase and beyond. It’s about understanding and mapping out the stages your customers go through, addressing their needs at each step, and creating a cohesive and engaging experience.

The journey typically includes several key stages:

  1. Awareness: The customer first learns about your brand through marketing efforts or word of mouth.
  2. Consideration: They explore and compare your product or service with others.
  3. Decision: The customer decides to make a purchase and completes the transaction.
  4. Retention: After the purchase, focus on customer support and satisfaction to encourage them to come back.
  5. Advocacy: Happy customers may recommend your product to others.

While these stages offer a guide to understanding the customer journey, it’s crucial to stay adaptable. Different people react differently to various interactions, and their journeys might not follow a straight path. By being flexible and responsive to customer behavior, businesses can ensure a smooth, enjoyable, and effective customer journey that not only meets but exceeds customer expectations.

Synonyms: Customer Experience Path, Buyer Journey, User Journey, Customer Lifecycle, Purchase Path, Brand Touchpoints

Antonyms: Inconsistent Experience, Uncoordinated Effort, Scattershot Approach, Random Acts of Marketing


Helpful Analogy

The customer journey is like planning an epic road trip. You start with the excitement of packing (awareness), make several pit stops along the way (consideration), and finally reach your destination (purchase). Once you arrive, you settle in and enjoy your stay (retention), and then you can’t wait to tell friends about your amazing trip (advocacy). The key is to make each stop enjoyable and memorable.


The Unjargoned Truth on the Customer Journey

“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic.”

Seth Godin

Once upon a time in a small town, nestled between an obligatory antique shop and an equally obligatory over-priced bakery, there was a bookstore. But this wasn’t just any bookstore—it was the kind of place where every book felt handpicked, like the owner had read it, loved it, and wanted you to love it too. The kind of place where you walked in for one book and walked out with five, feeling like you just had a meaningful conversation with an old friend.

Now, let’s call this bookstore “Martha’s Pages” because, well, Martha owned it. Martha was the epitome of customer-centric marketing, although she wouldn’t have used such jargon. She simply knew her customers. She knew their names, their favorite genres, and even which sections they avoided like the plague. She had a knack for recommending books that you didn’t even know you wanted to read but ended up loving. She made every visit an experience, weaving stories, relationships, and a bit of magic.

Contrast this with the chain bookstore that opened up across the street. It was shiny, massive, and boasted every bestseller you could think of. It was, in theory, a book lover’s paradise. But the customer journey there felt more like a hurried trip through an airport terminal: efficient but utterly soulless. The staff there might as well have been robots, programmed to offer generic greetings and point you to the self-help section with all the warmth of a GPS.

Now, if you’re a marketer, you might be wondering: what does Martha know that the shiny chain store doesn’t? Martha understood the customer journey on a fundamental level. She knew that people don’t just buy books—they buy the experience of discovery, the joy of a recommendation that feels personal, and the warmth of being remembered. She understood that the journey was not only about transactions but about relationships.

Imagine you’re planning a marketing strategy. You could throw all your budget into flashy ads and SEO tricks, but without a solid customer journey plan, it’s like building a mansion on quicksand. Sure, it looks impressive, but it’s bound to collapse. Your customer journey plan is the blueprint that ensures every touchpoint, from the first ad to the final sale, is a step towards building a relationship, telling a story, and yes, a bit of magic.

Let’s take an example from my own life. I once bought a sweater online from a store that promised “a seamless shopping experience.” What I got instead was a nightmare. The website was slow, the product descriptions were vague, and after I clicked ‘buy,’ I received more emails than a political campaign during election season. The sweater arrived a month late, and when it did, it looked like something a depressed alpaca had reluctantly donated. Needless to say, I never shopped there again.

Now contrast this with another experience I had with a different online shop. The website was intuitive, the descriptions detailed, and after I made my purchase, I received a personalized thank you email. The package arrived promptly, beautifully packaged with a handwritten note inside. I felt seen, valued, and part of a story. I’ve been a loyal customer ever since.

The moral of these tales? The customer journey isn’t just a path from point A to point B. It’s an adventure, an experience, and a story that your customers are eager to be part of. By mapping out this journey, you’re not just selling a product or a service—you’re crafting an experience that resonates on a human level. 

So, my friends, as you sit at your desks plotting your next big campaign, remember Martha and her magical bookstore. Remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. Because at the end of the day, people don’t just buy what you sell—they buy the relationship, the story, and the magic you create. 

And if you do it right, they’ll keep coming back for more.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.