The Evolution and Stages of the Consumer Journey

4 mins

According to recent research from Salesforce, 80% of consumers now consider their experience with a brand to be just as important as the products it sells. As more devices, sales channels, social sites, and advertising opportunities become available, it’s harder for brands to manage and control this experience. 

While you can easily optimise a shopper’s experience on your own website, this task becomes much trickier when you’re working with multiple sites, apps, and ad platforms - many of which are outside of your direct control. Yet, consumers still develop opinions about your brand based on the sum of all these interactions.

The Evolution of the Consumer Journey

The consumer journey is the process that shoppers go through to become customers. When mapping it out, brands need to consider every interaction that a consumer can have with their business - from the first moment of awareness through to post-purchase communications. This can be a difficult task for eCommerce brands as the number of digital touchpoints available to shoppers is growing every day. 

Interactions can happen on your website, your app, online marketplaces, retailer websites, social media, search engines, comparison websites, and all the other channels that your brand has a presence on. Brands also need to be mindful that these interactions can take place across a multitude of devices, including desktop, mobile, and smart speakers. New disruptive technologies are coming to market all the time too.

Example: How Nike Evolves the Consumer Journey

Nike provides an excellent example of evolving the consumer journey. They integrate their mobile app, website, and physical stores to create a seamless shopping experience. 

Consumers can check product availability in nearby stores through the app, enjoy personalised recommendations based on their browsing history, and participate in community events promoted via social media.

Changing Consumer Behaviour

As technology evolves and the number of channels grows, consumer behaviour changes too. Here are some of the key ways this affects the consumer journey.

New Tools Aiding Decision Making

Reliable review sites and comparison sites are right at consumers' fingertips. Then there’s also cutting-edge technology like AR and VR, which can help them experience a product before they commit to buying it.

Example: Sephora’s Virtual Artist

Sephora’s Virtual Artist uses augmented reality to allow customers to try on makeup products virtually. This tool has transformed how consumers decide on cosmetic purchases, providing an interactive and engaging way to explore products.

Product Research

Consumers can commence their journeys across more channels than ever before. Brands need to look beyond their own D2C store and manage their product information wherever consumers can do their research.

Example: Amazon’s Product Pages

Amazon is a primary research tool for many consumers. Brands selling on Amazon must ensure their product pages are comprehensive, including detailed descriptions, high-quality images, customer reviews, and FAQs to aid in consumer research.

New Shopping Habits

The average consumer now has access to ten connected devices, with many of them being mobile, which means people can shop while they’re on the move.

Example: Mobile Shopping with Starbucks

Starbucks has mastered mobile shopping by integrating ordering and payment into their mobile app. Customers can order ahead and pick up their drinks, reducing wait times and enhancing convenience.

Two-Way Interactions

Consumers can contact support, ask a question on social media, send a chat message, interact with a livestream, or leave a review – all attributing to the consumers’ brand perceptions.

Dealing with a Fragmented Media Landscape

In the past, retailers could design a consumer journey for shoppers to follow. Now, consumers choose their own paths and brands need to do their best to build a presence on the channels that they choose to use. The customer journey can include a wide variety of sales channels, ad types, and content types. Brands are implementing omnichannel strategies to deal with this fragmented media landscape, however, this poses its own challenges.

The Consumer Journey Is No Longer Linear

Consumers now navigate through various channels and touchpoints before making a purchase decision.

Example: IKEA’s Omnichannel Approach

IKEA uses an omnichannel approach where customers can explore products online, read reviews, visit physical stores, and use their AR app to see how furniture fits in their space. This nonlinear journey allows consumers to interact with the brand through multiple touchpoints before purchasing.

Tracking the Consumer Journey Is Harder Than Ever

With the multitude of touchpoints and devices, tracking consumer interactions and understanding their journey has become increasingly complex, so understanding the digital consumer journey is crucial.

Example: Using CRM Systems

Brands use CRM systems like Salesforce to track interactions across channels. This includes logging email communications, social media interactions, website visits, and in-store purchases, providing a holistic view of the consumer journey.

Final Thoughts

The modern consumer journey is continuously evolving, as is the behaviour of shoppers. But brands can still use traditional tools like sales funnels and journey maps to understand customer interactions. 

Brands just need to factor in the digital touchpoints that are now available to shoppers and flip their thought process to create a consumer journey that reaches shoppers where they spend their time, rather than create a consumer journey for shoppers to follow.

For more on the consumer journey in the digital age, download our free eBook.

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