Forrester: Marketers Need a Customer Journey Strategy

6 minute read
Katie Ingram avatar

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 necessarypart 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.

In addition to this, before even considering an item or brand, 70 percent of those surveyed said they look for a sale or discount offer first.

Learning Opportunities

The amount of research a consumer does before making a purchase varies by category, but even for typically low-consideration items, research is an essential feature of the purchase journey,” says the report.

The buying stage can be the most complicated as today’s shopper is a unique, multi-device, multi-tool individual. Customers are no longer just looking for items in an online capacity, but offline as well with the rise of e-Commerce sites and shopping applications on mobile and tablet devices. According to the report, while only one percent of US online adults made a purchase through a shopping application,nine percent say they’ll use this service within the next six months.

Another important fact to note from the report is that there are three key groups of buyers in the United States: Super Buyers who are 17 percent of the population, Connected Traditionalists who are 24 percent of the population and Traditionalists who make up 59 percent. Super Buyers are individuals who tend to use technology throughout the experience, Connected Traditionalists have mobile and tablet devices and apps, but tend to do most of their purchasing in store, while Traditionalists don't really use technology to shop.

Therefore, in order to keep up with availability demand that customers will have, marketers should adapt a multi-channel approach so purchases can be made at any time, from anywhere and any kind of device, and they need to know what type of buyer they are working with.

During the last stage, engagement, marketers should make sure consumers have had a “full brand experience” that can lead to repeat sales and rediscovery with customer support, product information or by including them in a customer community. Good customer service can lead to a better customer experience and a high level of brand advocacy. According to Forrester 65 percent of those who found the interaction an effective experience would recommend a company, whereas if the experience wasn't effective only 4 percent would. In addition to this, 79 percent who found the experience enjoyable would recommend the company, whole only eight percent would if the experience was un-enjoyable.

While these elements are important, a company also has to make sure that they are always monitoring the journey, as customers have high exceptions. After getting a customer’s attention with something like a sale, a company has to make sure that customers are impressed by what they are selling, as one fifth U.S adults recommend products and services they like to their friends or family. Therefore marketers need to be looking at new and insightful ways to promote an item and interact with that customer.

The Customer is Always Changing

The last part of the customer journey puzzle that Forrester outlines in its report is that while the customer of today follows certain trends, they are constantly changing. So, in order to keep up with this change, marketers need to be targeting and meeting the expectations of influencers (or customers that influence the decisions of other customers), always looking at insights and analytics data for behavior trends and looking for different ways to engage with customers.

To be successful in this modern, digital marketing, multi-channel engagement world, a company has to be flexible and easily adaptable to changing trends and focused on the consumer life cycle or journey marketing model. Overall in adapting a good strategy, marketers and their companies will form a more focused, intimate relationship with current, potential and repeat customers.

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