The Customer Journey Model: From Funnel to Circle

The customer journey model

Table of Contents

If you have an e-commerce business, the customer journey is one of your key focus. Or at least, it has been until now.

The digital era is in constant evolution. What was working yesterday today is obsolete, and so is the old sales funnel. Today the customer journey changed and adapted to the market and the users. A new model has born: it’s the customer lifecycle.
In this article we will see how the funnel turned into a circle. We will also tell you what is the best way to adapt and adopt the change.

The Sales Funnel

The sales funnel is a popular model when it comes to digital marketing. The idea is that users are funneled through a set of steps that lead them to a desired action. In this case: the sale.
There are different kinds of funnels, but the original one includes four different stages, also called AIDA. They are: Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action.
Awareness is the phase where the prospect get to know about your existence. The interest is when the prospect starts looking for information about your brand. Then comes the decision, where the prospect sees your products or services comparing them to the ones of your competitors. Finally, the desired action. Here the prospect turns into a customer and buy your service or product.
This sale approach focuses on the idea that once the customer complete the desired action, the job is done. Yet, today, this is not enough and we will see why in the next paragraph.

From funnel to circle

Today the customer acquisition costs keep rising. In fact, acquiring a new customer means spending 6 to 7 times what it would cost to make a client buy again.
This is why the sales funnel is not enough. The first thing to consider is to add a pre and post sale phase to the previous mentioned.
This is where omnichannel marketing comes in. Omnichannel marketing means engaging your audience throughout all your different communication channels. Both offline and online. In fact, today, users use different touch points before completing the action. They see first your adv on their mobile phone, then they visit your website with their computer. They subscribe to your newsletter and receive an offer on their mobile phone again. They put the product in the cart, but do not buy it. So, when they are on social media, they see the offer once again. Finally, they decide to buy your product via desktop.
Can you see how complex it is?
This is why you need an omnichannel marketing strategy. This means creating ad-hoc messages for your prospects for every channel you have. And this is how you change the customer journey too.
Adding two more phases to the sales funnel (the pre and post sale phases) means changing its shape. The point is not to make people complete and action and then forget about you. The goal is making customers repeat the action again and again.
This is why we passed from customer journey to customer lifecycle. So, the funnel turned into a circle.

The customer lifecycle model

The customer lifecycle is similar to the sales funnel. Yet it has some very important differences. In fact, this model takes into consideration the different role of customers. Users are now proactive and have high expectations and complex needs.
They do not look for products anymore. They look for pain points solutions and for someone that will take care of them.
Knowing the customer lifecycle will help your business to be successful and long lasting.

The customer lifecycle stages

As in the case of the sales funnel, there are different customer lifecycle models. Brands adopt and adapt the phases according to their needs and angles.
Being the customer lifecycle an evolution of the customer journey, we will divide them in the following:

  • Awareness. Is the stage where the prospects find about you. Here, your relationship begins. Awareness happens thanks to web pages, blogs, social media, offline adv and personal referrals;
  • Engagement. When a prospect finds your brand, he/she can show interest by following you on your social media channels, blog and podcast. Or he/she can subscribe to your newsletter. Here is where the engagement should happen. In fact, engaging with your prospects will make significant purchases easier for them;
  • Evaluation. Before making a choice and buying, prospects do research. They can wait for a very long period before buying, or only give a quick check to your competitors. In any case, this is the phase where you have to support them to make their decision. First of all, give them the chance to find all the information they need by themselves. Customers doesn’t like to reach out for you, they prefer to do it alone. Yet, this is also the phase where you want to establish a conversation with your prospect. To do this you can use also live chats and give them the chance to contact you via phone;
  • Purchase. This phase is when the prospect makes a decision. Here, again, you have to make yourself available to help them to convert into prospects. Give all the information they will need to complete the action. Include a live chat, where they can contact you and ask for more information. If you manage this process well, you can give them the extra-push they need to buy from you. You can show them what clients think about that product and how it helped them to solve their problems;
  • Experience. This is a crucial stage for the customer lifecycle and the success of your business. It’s where customers experience the product and the post-purchase support. You have to take advantage of every interaction to make them understand that you want to build a real and long lasting relationship with them;
  • Loyalty and Advocacy. You have to keep providing customers with support and valuable content. In this way they will become first loyal customers and then brand advocates. In fact, in this phase the satisfied customers share their experience with the public. They suggest your service or products with their network.

lifecycle model

The key to have loyal customers: personalization

The web has loads of different definition of the customer lifecycle. As well as about the customer lifecycle marketing (CLM). This is due to the angle used to face this strategy.
Despite all the differences, there is one key point that makes them coincide: personalization.
Creating customized messages is fundamental to win the loyalty of your customer. In fact, users want to receive only high relevant content from your brand. Showing the and adv about a product they already have makes the understand that you do not know them.
The goal is to establish and maintain long lasting and trust relationships. To make them trust you, you have to show them that you care. This is why personalized content is more effective. Thanks to ad-hoc content you will treat each customer as an individual, giving them value.
Furthermore, you will be able to create messages based on the phase of the lifecycle of your customers.
What this change means for your business?
To have a long-lasting, healthy business you must focus on the customer lifecycle. Start working on pre and post sale actions to gain your customers loyalty and advocacy.
Focusing on the customer lifecycle means attract and educate prospects. In this way you will be able to turn them into loyal customers.
This means that you don’t have to make them buy once and give up. You have to nurture your relationship and support your customers all-time long. In this way you will make them buy from you again, lowering the costs of acquisition and raising your sales.
Customers are smart and well informed. This is why the old advertising strategy doesn’t work anymore. They don’t want to feel forced to follow the funnel steps. If they feel like that they will go to one of your competitor.
They want to be engaged and cared.
In this article we have seen how the sales funnel turned into a circle. At the same time, we analyzed the changes in the customer behaviors and needs.
Being able to adapt to the change is fundamental when you work in a digital sector like e-commerce. This is why you must be ready to change your business strategy to respond to the needs of your customers.
Switching from the customer journey to the customer lifecycle means improving your business. Raising your revenues and keeping the cost of acquisition the lowest possible.
It also means having a wider audience that will come to you without you needing to invest in marketing. This will be possible thanks to your voluntary brand ambassadors. They are your loyal and happy customers who did a lot of positive word of mouth for you with their friends and family.
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