It costs at least 5x as much to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. That’s one reason winning back familiar customers has become a top marketing priority.
Rusty Warner, a Forrester analyst cited in CIO, explains that digital marketers are placing less emphasis on filling the top of the funnel with leads, and more on influencing the entire customer journey — from awareness to retention and loyalty.
Another reason for this shift in marketers’ focus from lead generation to customer lifecycle is a new understanding of a fundamental marketing process: the marketing funnel.
Evolving from a Funnel to a Journey
With a linear understanding of how prospects move through the purchase process — as though they descended through a funnel — marketers typically would focus on filling the top of the funnel with leads of varying quality. This approach emphasizes brand awareness activities, such as advertising.
The traditional marketing funnel doesn’t take into account the experience customers have when using the product they’ve purchased. It also doesn’t account for the experience — or the decisions — of a repeat customer.
Enter the consumer decision journey.
While initial steps in this process are similar to those at the top of the traditional marketing funnel, the loyalty loop incorporates new steps — and a new orientation — that add greater context to the customer’s journey.
The Loop that Never Ends
Rather than a linear funnel with an endpoint at loyalty, the consumer decision journey depicts the purchase process as a continuous loop. The loop includes the post-purchase step, and implies that consumers decide whether a product they’ve purchased meets their expectations and warrants another purchase. The cycle repeats each time a purchase need is triggered.
Loyalty is not automatic after purchase. It depends on a positive post-purchase experience. While marketers know this intuitively, failing to depict the post-purchase phase in the marketing funnel hinders a deeper understanding of the customer journey.
The way marketers understand the buying process influences how we approach customers — the interactions we imagine, the content we design, and the touch points we create.
“The practice of marketing has moved from a primary focus on brand awareness and lead generation to the convergence of acquisition and retention capabilities across the entire customer lifecycle,” says Sharon Goldman.
By understanding that the buying process is more of a loop than a funnel, marketers can more effectively influence both prospects and existing customers.
It can be useful to think of the consumer decision journey as a process improvement in marketing as a discipline.