What is the Customer Buying Journey

The Customer Buying Journey is the sequence of activities that anyone takes when acquiring and utilizing something they purchase. Sometimes this journey takes minutes, sometimes years. It could be a few keystrokes or it could be a trip across country. It may involve multiple players, decisions and much work, or it may be very simple. And when we refer to the Customer Buying Journey, we always consider the complete end-to-end journey that includes the adoption and use of the purchase, not just its acquisition.

The buying journey may start with the growing awareness of a lack of satisfaction with something, or perhaps the realization of a new approach to something. It may be a friend or colleague getting needled about still using version 2.4 when 3.0 has been available for months. Perhaps it’s something somebody read in a magazine or saw at a trade show. It could be anything. But something somewhere upsets the balance and plants a seed in the buyer’s mind. And in the right environment, that seed can grow and trigger a Customer Buying Journey.

From that moment on, the buyer starts upon their own particular buying journey. It may motor along smoothly, it could slow down, or it could even come to a full stop, but it will follow a certain sequence of activities. Because buried within that seed is the Buying Journey DNA with its strands of instructions, details, steps, all directing the buyer along the journey’s path. Sometimes with, but usually without the buyer’s awareness of its very existence and the influence that it exerts upon their actions. But nonetheless, it is there.

And what might your own buying journey look like? Perhaps after that first realization of a new product, you go to the web and conduct some research. You add details to your growing knowledge, perhaps you look to find other users, or you call an expert. Along the way you may consult with or even involve others, perhaps many. You may then consider how you would use the new item, how it would fit into whatever else you do. You may start to think about how it could change what you do, for better or for worse. You probably will consider the price and funding. You may want to test drive it or try it out. You may find out where you can actually buy it. You will probably consider the alternatives, including doing nothing. However, if the journey continues successfully, you will commit and acquire the object of your desire. And the journey doesn’t stop there. You will want to use it, or look at it, or consume it. You may tell others, or even go back for more. It may be a one-time journey, or it may be a never-ending story of buying and using and buying and using again and again.

This then is the Customer Buying Journey. Now, some buyers might have a hard time describing exactly what their journey entailed, and some journeys might wander off in all sorts of different directions. But for certain buyers in a specific market when buying a particular offering, the journey will be remarkably similar. And it is this journey that can be decoded and mapped resulting in the enlightening array of the Customer Buying Journey DNA.

After talking to thousands of buyers purchasing a wide spectrum of items; multimillion-dollar software licenses, computing equipment, medical devices and services, elective orthopedic surgery, assisted living for elderly patients, fertility services, disc drives, semiconductors, food, construction projects, financial services, insurance. The list indeed goes on, and we learned a lot about how people buy. We determined that the Buying Journey DNA can be decoded into six strands; six defining elements that are shared amongst buyers within a specific market. We even now submit that “Buyers who buy in a similar way and share the same Buying Journey DNA” is the very definition of a market. It then follows that if you can decode the buying journey DNA for a particular market, you can then manage that Customer Buying Journey, and do so in an informed and proactive manner because you will know what is happening, you will know what is down the road.

Gone are the days when marketing simply blasts out its messages to the world. Gone are the days when sales people can just turn up with their highly polished presentations and ROI logic. It is time to embrace the very real and practical management of the Customer Buying Journey. In today’s world the singular role for sales and marketing must be to help the customer navigate, and to positively impact their end-to-end buying journey. The imperative for any company wishing to create and keep customers, is to decode their target market’s Buying Journey DNA. And from that, formulate an overall Market Engagement Strategy that will align their resources and investments to impacting and managing that buying journey to its mutually beneficial and profitable destination.