Customer Journey Stages | Segment

Learn everything you need to know about the customer journey stages.

What are the customer journey stages?

The evolving relationship between a customer and a business is often described as a journey. It’s the culmination of every customer touchpoint: from a person’s initial awareness of the brand, to a point-of-sale, and beyond. 

Right now, we’re in an era in which business success depends on the quality of your customer experiences. 

As a result, businesses spend quite a bit of time optimizing the customer journey: from putting together customer journey maps, to personalizing each touchpoint. For a more nuanced view of how customers interact with their brand, businesses will often break down the customer journey into different stages, which are: Awareness, Consideration and Comparison, Purchase or Subscription, Retention, Referral. 

Let’s explore those stages in more detail below. 

Awareness

Awareness is the first stage of the customer journey; the moment when a potential customer discovers your brand or business. This discovery can be through a paid ad campaign, word-of-mouth, a Google search, and so on. 

For the awareness stage, it’s important for businesses to consider the consumer’s perspective. What problem (or need) are they trying to solve for? 

For example, say your company offered an Email Service Provider (ESP). You’ve created blog content and e-books exploring different topics and strategies related to email marketing, to help bring awareness on what you do to potential customers. 

One prospect may be considering adding an ESP into their tech stack. They conduct a Google search, discover your online guide, and suddenly become aware of your brand. But better yet: they’re impressed by the quality of your content. You’ve framed yourself as an expert on the problem this prospect was trying to solve (email marketing). And as a result, they want to know more about what you do. 

Remember, that at each stage of the customer journey, the goal is to provide value to the user (and motivate them to continue moving through the funnel). 

Consideration & Comparison

After Awareness comes Consideration and Comparison. 

This is when prospects or potential customers start to hedge their bets (e.g. perhaps one of your competitors offers the same product or service, but at a better price). This is more of a research stage. 

For a SaaS company, this may take the form of demo requests, downloading white papers, and so on. For a retailer, this might be a user visiting a product page several times, or even adding an item to their cart before abandoning it. 

Purchase or subscription

Next comes: Purchase or Subscription. 

This is the point-of-sale, or point-of-conversion. Perhaps the customer bought an item from your online store, or created an account with your company. 

Businesses are often focused on getting people to this point: when they become customers. But this isn’t the end of their journey by any means, which is why businesses need to think strategically (e.g. is there an opportunity for an upsell or cross-sell at this stage?)

Retention

Conversion or the point-of-sale is not the end of the customer journey. 

After this moment, businesses need to focus on retaining customers if they want to grow their business successfully. (In fact, retention has been referred to as the ultimate growth strategy.) 

Loyal customers, on average, are worth 10x the value of their first purchase

The bottom line being: to sustainably scale your business, you need to keep your current customers. 

For SaaS companies in particular, one of the most important things they can do to strengthen retention rates is to help customers reach their a-ha moment as quickly as possible. 

At Segment, the first two weeks have been deemed a critical window for making this happen. To help encourage users to get up-and-running in these early days, we’ll keep track of their in-platform behavior to intervene if we notice a person is having trouble setting up a Source or Destination. Below is an example of a message we would send: directing the person to the right resources or instructions to help them get acclimated to the platform (and see it’s value). 

Here are a few other ways to stay on top of customer retention: 

  • Communicate the value of your platform or service regularly (if applicable!). For instance, you can show ROI dashboards, or send milestone messages. 

  • Understand user’s behavior and preferences to identify cross-sell and upsell opportunities. 

  • Be aware of “warning signs” like waning engagement, and proactively intervene. 

  • Get to the root of why users are churning, to understand if there are certain bugs or points of friction that can be fixed. 

Referral 

You may be wondering, what comes after retention? And that would be: referrals. This is when you’ve successfully retained a customer and secured their loyalty, and ask them to spread the word about your business to their friends and colleagues. 

It’s a highly effective way to get new customers.  Nowadays, people highly value the recommendations of their friends or people they know. In fact, a person is 4x more likely to buy from a brand that a friend recommended. And not just that: customers that are the result of a referral tend to have a 37% higher retention rate. 

So, how do you go about asking for referrals? Like all customer communications, timing is everything. (Check out this recipe to see how you can determine the best time to ask for a customer referral.) Another great tactic is to offer your current customers an incentive for making the referral. For instance, when current ClassPass members successfully refer a friend to sign up for the app, they’re given complementary credits to use for a workout class.  

Examples of customer journeys

Now, let’s tackle the customer journey through a different lens: from the customer’s perspective. 

We’ll use an e-commerce company as an example: 

  1. Awareness: A consumer sees a paid ad on Instagram promoting an item of clothing. They click on the item and are taken to the store’s Instagram storefront. 

  2. Consideration & Comparison: The consumer adds the item to their cart, but has second thoughts right before checkout. They want to see if there are similar items available, perhaps at a lower price. So, the person abandons the cart and begins to check out competing brands. During this time, the e-commerce retailer sends an abandoned cart email, with the item they had almost purchased. 

  3. Purchase: The consumer decides to go through with the purchase, and completes their checkout for the item.  

  4. Retention: The business sends their new customer a confirmation email, which also showcases items that are similar in style (or complementary to) the item they just purchased. 

  5. Referral: To encourage your new customer to refer their friends, the company offers a special discount code for both parties.


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