Consumers are becoming smarter, more knowledgeable, and even more empowered. With the rise of the internet, what we previously knew about consumers is fast changing. The traditional marketing funnel is no longer a good representation of the consumer decision journey.
The marketing funnel was used to map the consumer and the various stages they go through to arrive at a purchase decision. Social media, word of mouth, online price comparison platforms, review platforms, forums, and a plethora of other tools and platforms out there are giving the consumer leverage to make the best decision possible. This means brands and businesses can no longer rely on a narrow view of the consumer’s journey especially when the consumer now has all the power to decide what is truly good for them.
The consumer decision journey (CDJ) is the revolutionary perspective from which the Google Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) was created. In 2009, McKinsey & Company conducted research on 20,000 businesses located in the United States of America (USA), Germany, and Japan.
The study led to a revolutionary marketing concept which they called the Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ). More than 10 years on, the concept still remains very effective for understanding consumers and how marketers can better position their brands for growth.
What is The Consumer Decision Journey?
McKinsey & Company suggested a rather unending process that starts with the trigger which leads the consumer to the next stage of initial consideration. Unlike the Marketing Funnel which ends with the consumer’s purchase, the CDJ seems to have no end. This is because, after the purchase, the customer can change their mind about the brand from their post-purchase experience. This means brands cannot get cocky after a sale. They have to work to keep the customer’s loyalty. The loyalty loop in the model is rather revolutionary. New data from McKinsey & Company suggests that customer loyalty is becoming far less valuable as compared to touchpoints that inform experiences such as social media, post-purchase experiences such as after-sales, onboarding, tutorials, and support.
The Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ) is a marketing model created by McKinsey & Company which shows how consumers make decisions. A model is a tool that marketers can use to reverse engineer the decision-making process for consumers to inform their marketing strategies and tactics.
The model suggests that unlike previously suggested by the marketing funnel, consumers may not always be loyal. Also, some customers are more loyal than others. Hence, marketing teams must keep their brand on the positive side of the consumer if they want to stay relevant.
Consumer Decision Journey Process / Stages
Like the traditional marketing funnel, the CDJ is also made up of stages. The CDJ has 6 main stages all of which are important if the business or brand is to make an impact. However, the study found that some stages are more important than others in specific industries and markets. Let’s take a look at the 4-consumer decision journey (CDJ) stages or processes.
One may say that consumers only think about the best brands to buy from when they need something. And that may be true, except for the fact that sometimes consumers get influenced by brands long before they know they need any of the offerings of the business. Imagine a celebrity you follow constantly recommending a certain skincare product or smartphone brand. The celebrity talks about how much they enjoy using the products.
You may not want the product when you see their posts. But trust me, your mind is being made up about the brand. Once the trigger hits and you decide you need the product, the brand is certain to make your top list of brands to consider in your initial consideration.
This means brands should not only target current customers but rather, they should be able to anticipate the perfect target for their products. This way, they get on the consumer’s good side even before they need the product. This leads to the initial consideration.
Once a consumer wants something, they probably already have a list of brands in mind. These brands could have been shortlisted from word of mouth, social media influencers, an ad they saw a month ago, or one of the other many marketing channels.
Making it to the initial consideration stage is a big deal, but if your brand does not have a lot of value, you will likely lose the consumer in the next stage. The next stage is where it gets scary. It’s the battle.
Through social media, price comparison platforms, forums, word of mouth, blog posts and articles, online reviews, YouTube videos, and many more channels and platforms – the consumer begins to activate the brands they came up with within the initial consideration stage.
During the active consideration stage, the consumer is likely in their logical thinking stage since they are more intentional and purposeful in what they are looking for. They search for “Product A Vs Product B” on Google. Consumers go to forums to ask if users have ever used “Brand A” and if they think it is better than “Brand C”. If you are not there when they make these inquiries, you are most likely to lose the battle.
Ubiquitous marketing is one of the ways to make sure you are there, at the right time with the right message to respond to customers and potential customers.
Being on social media actively, having a website and a blog, and other platforms will ensure you are there to assist them and then they will see the value in your brand. If the impression is good enough, you might make it to the next stage.
Moment of Purchase
Call to action (CTAs) all lead to this. If the purchase isn’t complete, it means something didn’t work well or something is missing along the journey. Another possibility is that your product simply isn’t good enough. Perhaps improving the product will do you some good.
After all the Googling, and active evaluation, the consumer arrives at a decision. Is that brand going to be yours? Were your marketing efforts well-strategized?
It doesn’t end at the purchase of your product or service unlike the marketing funnel suggested. Consumers now expect support and materials to enable them to enjoy their new product or service to the maximum.
Your post-purchase marketing activities need to meet the various needs of the consumer. This is because even after purchasing the product or service, the consumer is still evaluating the brand and its product.
You can make their experience better through the channels or touchpoints such as social media. Consumers can easily call brands out on social media if something goes wrong with the product or service. If you are not around to help them, your victory may be short-lived.
Through a robust system of tutorials, support, and after-sales services, brands can begin to take hold of the post-purchase stage.
Gaining the trust of the consumer comes with its own privileges. The loyalty loop is a bypass to the initial consideration and the activity evaluation stages and straight to the moment of purchase. This means once the consumer has decided on a great brand, they stick with the brand.
Consumers who stick with the brand are said to be loyal. This establishes the loyalty loop. This doesn’t mean they will cheerfully recommend you. McKinsey & Company indicates that there are two types of loyalty that marketers should treat differently.
The first is the active loyal consumer. Active loyalists will openly recommend your brand and be your advocate. The second is the passive loyalists. They may be hooked with your brand but are on the look for other options. They are less likely to recommend your brand or be your advocate.
Consumer Decision Journey Vs the Traditional Marketing Funnel
The main difference between the consumer decision journey and the traditional marketing funnel is that the funnel works to get as many leads as possible to convert them into customers while the consumer decision journey is a model which can be used to reverse engineer the necessary touchpoints in the consumer journey to making a purchase.
The funnel uses a top-down stage system. The top of the funnel is wide to allow lots of prospects to enter. By the end of the funnel, the ideal customers would have made their purchase and exited. The consumer decision journey provides a more realistic and circular process that relates to the current market.
Even though the funnel concept may not work well with marketing in general, it’s a good sales tool. The concept has gained prominence with companies like ClickFunnels providing the platform for brands to build effective sales funnels through templates and standard systems.
The consumer decision journey forces the business to think about the consumer first. This means that customer-centricity and customer focus are the main focus of the consumer decision journey. Understanding the consumer provides you with more insights to win at each stage and continue to impress them with great post-purchase experiences.
In summary, the differences between the Funnel and the Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ)
- The consumer decision journey reflects the current consumer behavior better than the marketing funnel
- The CDJ is broader and helps marketers win at each stage while the funnel focuses on only getting the sale.
Consumer Decision Journey Examples
An example of a typical decision journey would be very complex since you cannot be sure of all the touchpoints that influence the consumer.
However, a typical one goes this way. Imagine a potential consumer who plans to start exercising by running.
They know they would need some running shoes. Nike Adidas, Reebok, and some other sports shoe manufacturers might be at the top of their minds because these brands are ubiquitous. They might also have heard someone give a recommendation about these brands.
This is the initial consideration stage. With these brands in mind, they move into active consideration. They watch comparison videos, read reviews, ask friends, and so forth. They could get to know other brands that they didn’t know of. They end up making a decision and buying their running shoes. They start using it. Evaluation is ongoing. If the shoe hurts their feet, they have a bad experience.
They may take to social media to vent their grievance. If your brand is online, you could offer a discount or ask them to return it for a better. You could ask them for a second chance. If you are not there to try to fix the broken trust, the loyalty loop is broken and they are open to making new considerations and evaluations. So, the journey doesn’t truly end. You have to be on your toes for opportunities.
However, you may not be able to be there all the time. This brings the importance of content to light. Your content can talk for you when you are not there. If your shoe seems to be hurting their feet and they Google “why is my shoe hurting me” but you are not there to guide them to solve it, you might be selling yourself short. But if you have content on shoes hurting consumers, then you might be aware of the problem already. What have you done about it? This is how complex the journey goes.
Consumer Decision Journey Map
Being able to map the various variables of initial consideration up to the post-purchase stage should be your focus. This is because leaving one stage to chance may mean getting kicked out of the consideration list. If your consumer awareness isn’t strong, you may never get into the initial shortlist. If you do not have a lot of publicity, content, and perhaps some ads to help your brand be noticed in the active evaluation stage, then you might be selling yourself short yet again. It’s all connected. It’s a process. One stage leads to the next. To truly stay at the top of the consumer’s mind, you need to be at the top of each stage.
Using the various stages, you can create a journey based on your customer avatar or buyer persona should give you some insights into how a typical stage you should. This will enable you to anticipate the journey hence be steps ahead of the consumer even before they know they need your product or service.
For the running shoe example
- Initial consideration – Building brand awareness through brand identity is the best way to build a strategy at this stage. Who are you as a brand? What are you? What value do you bring to the consumer, the market and what do you represent?
- Active Evaluation – Comparisons, learning resources, trusted reviews, making your contact lines open for inquiries, content about various topics in your niche, etc. These help the consumer to arrive at a decision.
- Moment of Purchase – Discounts, calls to action (CTAs), etc. At this stage, the consumer might need a little push. You should leave some incentives to make it urgent for them to purchase. You might wonder why black Friday is so common. It’s because people know it only comes once a year. So, they plan and anticipate it. When it comes, they rush to grab what they need. You can replicate that sense of urgency by giving limited-time offers, doing sales promotions, and giving demo access (More applicable to software as a service, SaaS, companies).
- The Post-Purchase Experience – Onboarding systems, support, tutorials, manuals are good at helping the consumer settle in. Building an ecosystem is a great way to increase post-purchase satisfaction were convenient in using a carefully created system that reduces everyday stress.
Why is The Consumer Decision Journey Important?
1. A Good Way to Learn About your Customers
Real Marketing success is not possible without a very precise understanding of the customer, their biographical data, behaviors, thought patterns, and several other things.
Understanding the tendencies of your customer is the best way to market to them. Why do they need your product? How do they want their product? How do they come up with the decision to buy? Who influences their decisions the most?
The consumer decision journey will enable you to understand what touchpoints to focus on in order to make a remarkable impact on the customer and make them happy.
2. Build a System That Caters for the Entire Journey
The consumer decision journey shows that your brand can win at one stage and lose at another. To truly win in the end, your company has to develop a system that satisfies the customer at each touchpoint leaving them amazed by not just your product, but your brand, its identity, and purpose.
3. Be Able to Track How Effective Marketing Strategy Is
Breaking down your marketing into matching stages with the CDJ will help you track data from each stage to assess your performance. Based on feedback, you can improve on each stage until your system is robust enough.
4. Informs Marketing Goals and Objectives
How do you determine your goals? Empty goals such as increasing sales often do not get you far. How about improving your ordering system by a certain percentage? That’s of course if your ordering system has been shown to be ineffective and distorts the experience your brand wants to create. A simple survey could get you that feedback.
The CDJ helps you determine which parts and stages of the consumer decision journey you need to pay more attention to. Your team might be good with certain aspects of marketing. The tendency is to focus on your strengths. How about improving your weaknesses?
5. Improves Marketing Teams Synergy and Collaboration
Marketing is too broad for one person or a small team. This is especially true for large companies with several divisions and markets.
Having a clear consumer decision journey map will enable various teams to collaborate on different aspects without losing the importance of their work to the broader map.
6. Helps Marketer and Brands Identity Key Consumer Touch Points
Your marketing may be failing simply because you focus on a few things against the broader spectrum of the buyer’s journey.
Remember, you need to win at all the stages and touchpoints if you are to stand a chance. There are so many amazing brands out there. Most of such brands have great products and services, offer great experiences, and have lots of money to spend. To win, you need to match them in strategic marketing.
The CDJ is the best way to find the key consumer touchpoints that lead to sales.
How To Use the Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ)?
- First Get to Know Your Audience/Customers
As much as the CDJ helps you understand your consumers better, you need something, to begin with. Through surveys, questionnaires, studying data, and paying attention to analytics, you can truly understand your customers.
- Engage in Brand Awareness
To be part of the initial consideration, you need a brand that has equity. People must first know you before they can make up their minds about you. Brand awareness is a great way to do this.
- Focus on Building Brand Equity
Keller’s customer brand-based model is one of the best out there in building solid brand equity. Equity is a long shot. But w a worthy long shot for that matter. It takes effort to build the marketing systems to generate brand equity and build a loyal customer base.
- Data Doesn’t Lie – Use Metrics to Gauge Your Success
Data is said to be the new oil for a reason. The biggest companies of our time manage lots of data to be able to gain the important insights to win at their marketing.
- Develop a Consumer Decision Journey Map
Having a map based on your customer insights detailing how several customer types go about their decision-making is a great way to be at the right place at the right time and with the right message.
- Use the Right Channels
Targeting women? You have to be on Pinterest. Are your customers business owners, experts, and professionals? Then your LinkedIn should be a key lead generation channel. Knowing your customer will help you know which channels they hang out online and physically. That way, you can focus your efforts on where the most impact can be had. This is important for small businesses which do not have the resources to be on every platform.
- Personalize Your Marketing Efforts
Everything is getting personal for a reason. The experience of personalized marketing feels better than being treated like a random person. Customers want to be recognized; they want to feel part of something.
Also, using personalized marketing tactics will help you cut costs. Instead of running ads to everyone, you can have a Facebook pixel track people who have shown interest by visiting your website. You can then target them with your ads. This way you have better conversion rates.
Marketing is such a complex venture that you cannot do it all. Not when you have a small team of interns in a small business. However, with the consumer decision journey, you can figure out the most important elements so that you can focus your marketing on success. The best marketing is very intentional and done out of care. If you care about your customers, you might as well have to know them well enough. The consumer decision journey is probably the most realistic model to do that yet.