What’s the Buyer’s Journey? And How It’s Changed Over Time
Let’s say you need to buy a sales automation tool. You’ll probably start with a quick Google search, right?
From there, you’ll click a few links, read a few articles, and watch some videos. You might even talk to a friend or two before finally settling on the right product to try out or purchase.
See what's going on?
You, the buyer, are already on a journey to make a purchase or decide not to for reasons you’ll discover along your research process. This entire journey is what marketers and salespeople call the buyer’s journey.
Before we go too deep into this topic, let's start with a proper definition…
What is the Buyer's Journey?
It applies for purchase decisions of all sizes; whether you’re looking for the perfect pillow or want to replace the CRM for a global company, you’ll navigate through the buyer’s journey.
Some people call it "the sales funnel," because it often starts with many potential buyers at the top (awareness), narrows down to fewer people who are considering your product or service (interest), and then finally reaches the bottom of the funnel with those who are ready to buy (decision.)
It's important to understand this journey because it helps you create relevant content that speaks to your buyer at each stage of their buying process.
But of course, the buyer's journey doesn't always look like a perfectly neat sales funnel. In reality, it's often more like a winding road with lots of detours, U-turns, and sometimes dead ends.
Now that we've got a general understanding of the buyer's journey, let's take a more in-depth look at how it has changed over time.
How the Buyer's Journey Has Changed in Recent Years
Here are three of the biggest changes we've seen in the buyer's journey over the last few years—starting with the most important change of all...
1. The Internet Has Given Buyers More Control Than Ever
Thanks to technology and the internet, buyers have more power than ever before.
A recent survey by Demand Gen Report found buyers rank (1) conducting anonymous research on potential solutions and (2) developing an informal list of potential vendors as their top two priorities after identifying a business need.
So customers can easily find information on products and services without even speaking to a salesperson. Sometimes they even make their final decision before making that first contact.
Which means you can no longer rely on traditional marketing and selling techniques to bring customers in. You'll have to work harder to reach them and earn their trust.
For instance, you need to be active on social media, regularly providing valuable content that helps potential buyers make informed buying decisions. You should create educational resources on your website and optimize them using SEO (search engine optimization) so buyers can find those when they search on Google, Bing, and other search engines.
And you'll need to do all that for free; that's the cost to earning their trust (remember: they're in control now—and they'll only do business with businesses and people they trust).
2. Nearly Every Sale Requires Multiple Touchpoints
The average buyer interacts with a company multiple times before they make a purchase decision.
Some of these touchpoints include online ads, social media posts, search engine results, blog articles, and even company reviews. Each of those points is an opportunity for you to build trust with potential buyers and guide them further down their purchase journey.
For example, if you're sending cold emails to fifty people, you might get one or two responses—and that may be good enough for you.
But there's an opportunity to get better results; if you're sending those emails to people who already visited your website, read or viewed your content, and built some level of familiarity or trust with your business, you're likely to get more responses and conversions (sales).
Side note: if you're doing cold calling, here's a sales cadence you can use to create multiple touchpoints with potential customers:
It's all about providing value at each stage of the buyer's journey and building trust so they'll eventually do business with you.
It's also important to ensure each touchpoint is consistent with your brand, using the same colors, fonts, logos, and messaging across all channels. Buyers will instantly recognize your brand no matter where they interact with you, and they'll be more likely to do business with you as a result.
3. Social Media Now Allow Buyers To Interact With Each Other
Another big change we've seen in the buyer's journey is the way social media has changed buyer-to-buyer interactions.
Potential buyers often reach out to their network of friends and followers for recommendations on products and services. In fact, social media is about the third most-used channel for product discovery among 18- to 54-year-old buyers.
Think of the last time you made a purchase—whether it was a new house/apartment, a piece of furniture, or even just a new pair of shoes. Your first point of research may have been Google (or another search engine), but chances are good that you asked your friends, family, or social media followers for input before making your final buying decision.
4. Buyers Are Big On Mobile Now
Right now, more than half (58.99%) of all web traffic worldwide comes from mobile devices.
And that number is only going to increase in the years to come as more and more people get smartphones and mobile internet access.
For businesses and sales reps, this means that if you're not designing your website and the customer journey for mobile users, you're likely going to lose out on a lot of business.
For instance, if your website takes too long to load on a mobile device, potential buyers are likely to click away and go to a competitor's site. Or if they're not able to easily navigate your website on a smaller screen, they’re going to have a hard time finding the information they need—and again, they'll likely go to a competitor.
So, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, it's important to make sure "mobile-friendliness" is a top priority for your business.
3 Stages Of The Buyer Journey
Here are the three stages of the buyer's journey, and what they look like today:
1. Awareness Stage
When buyers are in the awareness stage, they've recognized they have a problem or need to take action on something, but they don't know how to solve it yet.
So they’re doing research on potential solutions to help them solve their challenge or grab the opportunity they've identified. They want to learn as much as possible about their options, but they’re not yet ready to buy anything just yet.
A good example is someone who’s just realized they need to increase sales for their business. They know they need to do something, but they know little about the options available to them. So they research with a Google search like “best ways to increase sales."
They’ll get search results with different options (like cold emails, content marketing, ads, etc) and eventually narrow down their choices to a few that look promising.
Challenges Buyers Face in the Awareness Stage
Here are three significant challenges buyers face during the awareness stage:
- They don’t know what they need: They're just trying to figure out what they need to do to solve their problem or take advantage of their opportunity. They haven’t settled on a specific solution yet, so they don’t know what they need to buy.
- They don’t know who to trust: Buyers are also trying to figure out who they can trust at this stage. They’re looking for information from sources that are credible, but they may not have found those sources yet.
- They don’t know what end results look like: Buyers in the awareness stage also don’t know what successful results look like for their specific situation. They might have a general idea, but they need more information to paint a clearer picture.
What Sellers Can Do During the Awareness Stage
Here are three important things sellers can do to help buyers during the awareness stage:
- Help them understand their problem or opportunity and be as detailed as possible when providing information about potential solutions.
- Prove your authority and credibility by sharing your experience and case studies.
- Help them identify the right products to use and why they should use them.
2. Consideration Stage
At this stage, buyers have a pretty good understanding of their problem or opportunity and they’re considering potential solutions.
For instance, someone who wants a better way to manage their sales contacts and customer data knows they need CRM software. They’re now considering whether they need software for it or if they can just use a spreadsheet.
They may also be considering whether to buy a CRM system that’s specific to their industry or one that’s more general.
Challenges Buyers Face in the Consideration Stage
Major challenges they face here include:
- Comparing options: There are a lot of potential solutions out there, so buyers can have a hard time comparing them side-by-side. They may not be sure what factors to compare, or they might get bogged down in the details.
- Making the right choice: Buyers also want to be sure they’re making the right choice. They don’t want to regret their decision later, so they’re being cautious and doing their research.
What Sellers Can Do During the Consideration Stage
Here are a couple of ways to help buyers during the consideration stage:
- Help them compare different options by providing detailed information about each option, like different strategies they could use to solve their problem.
- Help them see you as a credible information provider on their situation by sharing insights from your personal experience and expertise on the topic.
3. Decision Stage
At this point, buyers have decided which solution they want to use and they’re ready to buy.
Now, they need to decide which exact product or service they want and how to complete the purchase.
For example, someone decided they want to buy a CRM tool and wants to decide which brand to buy from. They’ll compare pricing, features, and reviews before they make their final purchase decision.
Challenges Buyers Face in the Decision Stage
The challenges buyers face at this stage include:
- Finding the right product: With so many options, buyers can have a hard time finding the right product. They already know what they need, but they need help zeroing in on the right option.
- Comparing many products and brands: Once buyers have narrowed down their options, they need to compare the products and brands to find the best one. This can be overwhelming because they need to consider a lot of different factors, like price, quality, and features
- Knowing which brand to trust: Buyers also need to be careful about which brand they trust. They want to make sure they’re working with a reputable company that will provide a great product and customer service.
What Sellers Can Do During the Decision Stage
There are a few things sellers can do to help buyers during the decision stage:
1) Provide detailed info about your product and how it stacks up against the competition. Make sure you’re providing unbiased information and let buyers know what factors they should consider when making their decision. For example, Close creates pieces of content that compare different CRMs:
2) Help them understand the features and benefits of your product, and how it can solve their specific problem or help them take advantage of their opportunity. Also, use case studies and customer testimonials to build trust and show you’re a credible source.
3) Provide easy sales support and be available to answer questions they have and help them make the best decision for their needs.
How to Map Your Buyer Journey in 5 Steps
Now that we’ve gone over the buyer journey, let’s take a look at how to map it out for your business. Here's a quick overview of the steps you need to take:
1. Create Clear Buyer Personas
The first step is to create a buyer persona.
A buyer persona or ideal customer profile is a semi-fictional character that represents your ideal buyer. This persona is based on market research and real data about your existing customers.
It looks something like this:
Creating this buyer persona will help you understand your buyer’s needs, wants, and pain points. Once you have a clear buyer persona, you can start mapping out their buyer journey.
If you’re not sure how to create a buyer persona, here’s a helpful guide we've written on the topic: How to Create an Ideal Customer Profile for B2B Leads (ICP Guide).
And once you have a clear buyer persona, you can start mapping out their buyer journey for each stage we covered earlier: awareness, consideration, and decision.
GET YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMER PROFILE TEMPLATES →
2. Align Your Marketing Strategy for Better Inbound Leads
The next step is to align your marketing and sales strategies with the buyer’s journey. This means using inbound marketing strategies to create content for each stage of the buyer's journey.
For example, if you want to generate awareness for your product, you would develop a content marketing strategy that includes creating blog content, social media posts, or even podcasts and webinars that speak deeply to the challenges your target customers need your product or service to solve.
While you're it, you get the chance to position your product or service as the solution to their problem.
3. Identify Roadblocks at Each Stage of their Journey
The buyer’s journey can be long and complicated. And along the way, there will be roadblocks. It’s important to identify these roadblocks so you can address them and help your target audience move past it to the next stage.
Some common roadblocks include:
- Lack of awareness
- Lack of information
- Too many options
- Trust issues
- Decision paralysis
Once you’ve identified these roadblocks, create relevant content or buyer journeys that help your buyer overcome them.
4. Build a Sales Funnel that Adapts to the Buyer Journey
Your sales funnel should be adapted to the buyer’s journey.
This means creating a logical sales process for each stage of the buyer’s journey and providing the types of content or support your buyer needs at each stage.
For example, if someone is in the awareness stage, they might need top-of-the-funnel educational content like informational blog posts, whitepapers, or eBooks. If they’re in the decision stage, they might need things like product demos or free trials.
By having a sales funnel that’s adapted to the buyer’s journey, you can make sure your buyer is getting the right information at the right time, which will help them move smoothly through each stage until they’re ready to buy.
5. Create a Well-Rounded Customer Experience
The buyer’s journey doesn’t end when they make a purchase. In fact, that’s when the real journey begins.
It’s important to create a well-rounded customer experience that keeps your buyer happy and engaged even after they’ve made a purchase. This could include things like the following:
- Providing a strong customer support experience.
- Sending follow-up emails or even just a thank-you note when they make a purchase, or a loyalty program to keep them coming back.
- In B2B marketing, especially SaaS, making sure onboarding and implementation goes smoothly.
By creating a positive customer experience, you can increase customer retention rates and turn your buyer into a lifelong customer, and advocate for your business.
Know Your Buyer's Journey And Align With It
In the modern era, buyers are no longer passive consumers.
They’re active participants in their buying journey, doing extensive research at each of the different stages to find the best possible solution to their problem.
As a seller, it’s important to understand the buyer’s journey and what it looks like today. By understanding the buyer’s journey, you can better align your sales and marketing efforts to address the needs of your buyer and their buying process.