A new report from Forrester Research suggests that many digital marketers are having trouble with customer engagement because they don’t understand the customer journey.

The report “Fragmented Path-to-Purchase Demands Everywhere Marketing,” says there are four different stages of the customer journey: discover, explore, buy and engage. Forrester notes that while the stages have the same headings for each customer, these people are unique individuals who have different motivations and use different social channels , so they have to be treated as differently as possible. With this report, the company gives advice on how business to customer (B2C) marketers can better understand the consumer landscape and develop a better engagement strategy.

Following the Yellow Brick Road isn't Easy

According to the report’s analysts, Corrine Munchbach, David M. Cooperstein and Alex Hayes the customer journey, or life cycle, is a "complex web of engagement," because of how different it can be for each person involved.

In detail, the four key stages of this journey are:

  • Discover: In this phase, a consumer is finding out what they like about a brand, a product or a service. Also, at this initial stage, a customer will decide if they are willing to make a purchase or not.
  • Explore: At this appropriately titled stage, customers will often compare a product, service or brand with its competition.
  • Buy: As the name suggests this is the stage where a purchase is made, but a marketer's work isn't done. They should be making sure that they are doing what they can to make the process as smooth as possible by being engaged in both an online and offline capacity with the customer.
  • Engage: While engagement is a necessary part of each stage of the consumer journey, the post-purchase time is critical as it can help a customer find similar products and allows them to provide feedback about their experience.

Overall, a marketer has to make sure that the customer is the central focus of their marketing efforts, while also keeping in mind that engagement happens before, during and after the customer journey is finished.

Sometimes, Things Stay the Same

When trying to map out the customer life cycle or journey there are characteristics that are part of each stage that outline how a customer interacts and behaves during that particular stage.

When discovering a new product despite being in a digital environment, customers still want to connect with a business. In brand discovery, customers primarily rely on word of mouth suggestions from friends, search results and advertisements, such as television commercials and prior experiences with a product, service or company.

For example, polled results for the report found that 94 percent of customers would buy a product after speaking with someone they know, 79 percent's brand discovery results were based on what they found through a search engine, while 70 percent said that the experience they had with a brand or product contributed to their decision to continue using it or not and 64 percent said that this experience influenced their repurchasing decision.


In the explore stage customers have more product control as they have a variety of tools and ways, such as search engines, to find out information that’s not only about the brand, but potential retailers. 62 percent said they searched a company to find out more information on it before a purchase and 57 percent visited the retailers website. This and other factors lead 57 percent to say that the brand's reputation played an important role in the their decision to continue with the product or service provider.