Understanding the New Customer Journey

For years, businesses had illustrated the customer journey with the traditional sales funnel.  While each company’s funnel may have been slightly different, the underlying structure was the same.  Create a system in which you define the ideal process you intend your customers to experience as they move towards purchasing your product.  A common funnel would consist of: awareness, interest, decision, and action.  Marketing departments would then use this structure to focus on creating campaigns that would appeal to their target audience and influence their purchasing decisions as they move through the funnel.  This generic representation of how customers travel along the path to purchasing your product was a great tool when consumers used traditional marketing and advertising to make purchasing decisions.

8 Requirements of the 21st Century Customer

As today’s consumer becomes more connected and engaged, they routinely consult a variety of different media outlets for user generated content and reviews to research their purchases without ever seeking information from traditional marketing outlets.  This means that your businesses’ marketing efforts are going more and more unnoticed, while your customers are relying much more heavily on content created outside of your organization.  This does not, however, mean that the future of your business is out of your hands.  Understanding how today’s consumers are interacting and making purchasing decisions and how you can influence these actions is key to improving your marketing strategy.  Embracing this new customer journey will allow you to re-evaluate marketing efforts and make decisions that will reflect these changes and stay relevant with your brand.

There are 5 points in the new customer journey, 4 of which are various “moments of truth” – the points at which your potential customers will make key purchasing decisions on your brand.  It is important to note that this new customer journey is not linear like the sales funnel, rather a continuous circle in which each journey returns back to the beginning of a new cycle.  That is why your focus should now be on helping customers maximize their experience both pre and post-purchase to maximize your influence at each point of the new customer journey.

Below are the points of the new customer journey:

Stimulus – the connected consumer values information from friends, online reviews, and shared experiences more than anything you will publish.  Therefore, you can expect that a potential customer’s awareness and interest will be sparked by stimulus created by customers sharing their experience online.  It is these shared experiences that will determine whether or not these potential customers will continue with your brand in the first “moment of truth” called the Zero Moment of Truth.

Zero Moment of Truth – the moment your potential customer decides to start researching your brand.  This starts consumers along the path to purchase, and is the point of social discovery.  “Googling” your brand is a very common action in the Zero Moment of Truth, and it is what your potential customers will find when they search your brand online that determines their initial opinion of your brand.  If you have effectively engaged and created positive experiences with previous customers, they will likely find positive content that will form a strong opinion of your brand and lead them to the next step.

First Moment of Truth – the moments in which your potential customers are forming opinions on your product based on the content the find from those who have already completed the journey.  It is in this moment, the consumer will decide whether or not to make a purchase.  This again stresses how important it is to create memorable and sharable experiences for consumers to share it online for those in the First Moment of Truth to find and use to influence them in their purchasing decisions.

Second Moment of Truth – is the experiences your customers have with your product once they have made the decision to purchase.  This does not only include the actual interaction with the product, but how your company interacts with and supports them throughout the life of the relationship.  This is the step that you will have the greatest influence over as it is your product and your effort to engage the customer that will create the desired experience that compel your customers to share online.

Ultimate Moment of Truth – is the final point of the journey, and represents the experiences that your customers are sharing, based on their experiences in the Second Moment of Truth.  This could be in the form of reviews, blogs, forums, ect.  Each of these will be resources for others just starting their customer journey to find and influence their moments of truth.   It is for this reason that the Ultimate Moment of Truth is so important.  The experiences shared by your current customers essentially become the way your brand is defined.  You want to exhaust the opportunities to help lead your customers to share content that potential customers starting a new journey will find helpful and encourage them to continue on their customer journey with your brand.

Remember, while the connected consumer has shifted the focus from content you generate to content your customers generate, you don’t have to leave the new customer journey to chance.  Instead, make sure to define the experiences you want your customers to feel in the Second Moment of Truth and share in the Ultimate Moment of Truth and focus your effort on shaping their experiences to follow that design.   You want the Ultimate moments of Truth for one customer to always be the Zero moment of Truth for future customers to ensure your brand a constant flow of new business while building strong brand equity and customer loyalty with current customers.  This is the path of the new customer journey, and slow adopters to their marketing campaigns will find themselves falling behind competitors, reacting to rather than influencing potential customers, and ultimately leaving the future of their brand up to chance.