A customer is a moving target. They’re constantly searching, browsing and interacting with thousands of brands, both online and offline, each day. So it’s now harder than ever to pin them down.

The good news is that there are now more opportunities to get yourself in front of your customers including eCommerce sites, online ads, social media, high street stores and email – to name just a few. In fact the average customer ‘touches’ a brand 56 times between inspiration and transaction.

However, there’s now too much noise and competition in the space and retailers are struggling to get cut-through. Combine this with a tough economy and it’s no wonder customers are thinking twice about purchasing!

But help is at hand. We’ve looked at each step of the buying process to show how you can improve your retail customer journey and stand out from the crowd.

Step 1 – Discovery

The path to purchase all starts with discovery. It’s the moment consumers start gathering ideas and inspiration about what to buy. And it’s the point at which you make your customer aware that you’ve got something to offer.

But it’s not just about crossing your fingers and hoping they stumble across your brand. It should be a calculated move to make sure you’re always on the radar.

Sometimes it’s about producing content that answers a common Google search. From there it might be presenting a personalised homepage with recommendations. It could be sending a timely and relevant email that sparks interest and a visit. It might even be a social media recommendation that prompts someone to consider a new product or brand. And when it comes to offline it’s a unique store experience with great product demonstrations and seamless service.

Whatever it is – it should be a tactic that puts you in the picture from the very start. Something that answers a need for the customer and makes sure you make a memorable first impression.

Step 2 – Research

This is the point at which consumers start narrowing down their choices. They typically spend 225 minutes browsing retail items online and 42.6 minutes visiting stores a week. From this discovery phase they start creating a shortlist.

If your brand wants to be seriously considered then you need to be able to help them with this research phase. This is done by providing the detail – filling in the gaps so they have everything they could possibly want to make an informed decision.

They’ll want specifications, pictures, availability, to compare prices and understand delivery charges. They might want to find a store to touch, feel and use the product itself or simply use a chatbot to ask questions.

Make sure it’s easy for them to find everything they need. Provide a great search tool, detailed product descriptions and social proof in the form of unbiased customer reviews. And don’t forget to help guide them through their research with personalised product suggestions onsite and on email. These helpful sources of information will help them gather their research and make sure you’re included in the next phase.

Step 3 – Purchase

This is the most important stage of them all – converting all that browsing behaviour into buying. This is the stage where you need them to come back and commit.

There are lots of tactics that will provide you with that all-important final push. There are cart abandonment campaigns that retarget browsers who put items in their basket but don’t check out. And if the shopper has selected just one item then show a cross-sell or upsell suggestion that increases their order value. Or you could give them that little extra nudge with an alert about availability or an offer expiring.

Whatever you choose it’s all about providing the final piece of the puzzle that will convince them to buy. It could just be a tiny tactic that will tip them over the edge between browsing and buying.


Step 4 – Post-purchase and fulfilment

If you want to succeed at this post-purchase and fulfillment stage of your customer journey then show your customers you care. We’re talking fast delivery and fulfilment, click-and-collect services, easy returns and after-sales care.

In today’s omnichannel retail environment this is about creating a seamless customer experience between all your channels. One that is convenient, personalised, super speedy and designed around the customer’s needs. This could be done by providing a variety of delivery options, gift wrap and delivery updates. And when it comes to fulfillment don’t forget free samples, great packaging and presentation!

Step 5 – Experience and feedback

Customers’ expectations have changed as rapidly as the technology they’re using to browse and buy today. It’s no longer just a case of selling them an item – it’s about providing an experience.

And it’s the customer service that sets brands appart. You need to show them you care and there’s only one way to do this – by asking them about their experience.

And if you don’t get the response you want, it will give you the chance to right the wrongs they might have experienced. You can automatically request customer reviews by email, encourage them to share positive experiences on social media and send customer satisfaction surveys. Each piece of information you gather will help you provide a better service next time and can be used to influence potential purchasers in the future.

Step 6 – Repurchase

So they bought from you and you know they like what they got – great! Now it’s time to move on to making sure they come back again. And this can be the tricky part but if you succeed you’ll reap the rewards in the long term. Research shows that if you can get a new customer to buy for a second time, they’re up to nine times more likely to become a long term customer!

And it needn’t be as hard as you think. After all you already know tonnes about them from their first purchase – now it’s all about using it to your advantage. Show them personalised recommendations based on their previous browsing and buying habits. Email them suggestions for additional buys based on what they bought before.

You can even make suggestion based on what others like them did next to prompt another action! And if they’ve bought something that will run out then get them to replenish it when the time is right. Sending these useful reminders for the customer provides an easy and instant way to buy again.


Step 7 – Loyalty

So this is the end game – not just acquiring a new customer but nurturing existing customers to build ongoing loyalty. It means you won’t have to go the expense and effort to constantly chase new customers for more sales.

So how do you reach this retail nivana? Well it all starts with focusing on the customers you’ve already got. It’s about making their experience is good as it can be and incentivising them to stay loyal. You can do this by making it easier to shop with you than anyone else – a tactic popularised by Amazon. It might be by responding to each action with an offer or reward like supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s or Waitrose do. And if you don’t see a customer for a while send a lapsed customer campaign to tempt them back!

And at this final stage of the retail customer journey you want loyal customers to become your advocates. You want them to spread the word and tell their friends and family about you! After all the consumer has far more influence on others’ purchasing patterns than any marketer these days. And when they do come back make sure you use each bit of information they’ve given you to create a better experience next time. It might be be using their browsing history, past purchases or profiling them against similar customers. Each of these tactics will let you create a completely personalised shopping experience which cements a loyal relationship.


So there you are – the seven steps in the retail customer journey. By mastering each one you’ll not only be seen but heard and chosen.

Retail marketing is no longer just about exposing customers to your brand and hoping they’ll visit your store or website. It’s about influencing them every step of the way so the customer makes the exact step you want them to. And it’s about creating a consistent experience wherever the customer shops. By bringing your data together, these techniques can be used to respond to the customer’s online and offline actions.

And with the right tools it’s easy. All the tactics we’ve mentioned are all possible using our behavioural targeting and customer insight software. It means you can personalise their experience and retarget your customers to improve every step of your retail customer journey.

Personalise your customer experience