The different stages of the digital customer journey - How to adapt your marketing

In order to succeed with digital marketing, you need to understand the customer journey and to set up your digital marketing strategy accordingly. Whichever digital channels you choose for your marketing, the customer's behaviour is always the focus of successful advertising. Here we describe the different stages of the customer journey, give examples of how you can meet the customer through digital marketing at each step and discuss the challenges you may face along the way.

The different stages of the customer journey

No matter which channel you intend to use for digital marketing, whether it is social media, SEO, keyword marketing or other digital channels, you need to focus on the customer journey. The steps that your customer goes through, from becoming aware that your company or your product exists to making a purchase, is called the customer journey, but can also be described as the buying journey, the purchasing funnel and the sales funnel. There are many models that describe the customer journey with different levels of detail, for example AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action) and RACE (Reach, Act, Convert and Engage). However, the purpose is always the same – to identify the different stages users go through before making a purchase. A customer's journey might look like this:

  1. Awareness (also called upper funnel) – at this stage, the customer becomes aware that they have a need, and then begins to search for more information. Here, the customer has a long way to go before making a purchase.

  2. Interest (also called mid funnel) – here the customer has shown an interest in something and may be starting to consider their options. They begin looking for a solution, comparing products or services or want detailed information before making a decision. The customer is closer to a purchase than in the "awareness" stage but not yet ready to buy.

  3. Decision (also called lower funnel) – the person is ready to make a purchase, become a member or similar, and chooses a solution. Here, the potential customer becomes an actual customer.

  4. Loyalty - after purchase, many customers show loyalty to the company, for example, by becoming repeat customers, leaving a review, starting to follow the company on social media or talking about the company to their friends.

The customer journey is often not as simple and straightforward as in the model above. On average, a customer interacts with a company's content 12 times before making a purchase, but this of course varies according to industry and type of product or service. Today, our purchasing journey often uses different types of device. We might click on an ad when using a computer, then another on a tablet and then a few days later do a google search and make the purchase using a mobile phone or go to the store to buy the item.

Mapping your customers' buying journeys can therefore be helpful when planning your marketing. Following this standardised approach usually provides a strong basis for understanding your customers.

Adapt your marketing to the customer journey

Below we present examples of how different types of company might advertise using the RACE model. The advertising is designed specifically for where the customer is on the buying journey.

By understanding how your potential customer thinks and acts at the different stages of the customer journey, you can work effectively with your digital marketing to reach the person in the right way at exactly the right time. Spending your budget on conversion-driving ads and showing them to people who aren’t open to buying will probably not be a good investment, for example. It is therefore important to have a carefully thought-out strategy in order maximise your marketing ROI (return on investment).

RACE is a common model used to explain what marketers should do at the different stages of the customer journey:

R – Reach
A – Act
C – Convert
E – Engage

Since digitisation has made it easy for us to be able to predict a customer's intentions, we can show conversion-driving ads when we know a customer is at the decision-making stage of the process, for example, regardless of whether they have previously interacted with our company or not.

Your marketing can be adapted to the customer journey in the following ways:


At this stage, you need to reach out to potential customers and show that you exist. Your marketing in this phase could be a general introduction to what the company offers and your USPs or consist of information.


When a customer has interacted with your company in some way previously and has shown an interest or is considering alternatives, or has previously shown an interest in similar products, you want the customer to take action. A search intent on search engines that clearly shows that the customer already has an interest and is considering their options is also an indication that the keyword marketing should call to action. Try to understand what kind of solution the customer is looking for.


At this stage, you need to confirm what the customer already knows and get them to make a choice. When the customer is at this stage of their decision-making process, you can show them an offer on the product they have shown interest in, for example, using retargeting advertising or by appearing when the customer using a search engine to look for a specific product. In this phase, it is important to understand what could make the customer convert and focus on that.


Once you have a customer, you want to build loyalty and get them to continue to interact with your company, e.g. on social media, by subscribing to newsletters, visiting your blog and ultimately by making more purchases.

Examples of marketing activities along the digital marketing customer journey


Marketing at this stage should target prospects, i.e. people who are in the awareness phase and could potentially buy your product, but have not yet engaged with or heard of your brand. The channels that are most suitable at this stage are display advertising, programmatic, video advertising, social media marketing and SEO. For paid marketing, this may involve creating target groups and excluding people who have already been in contact with the brand.

At this stage, the user probably does not know you, so your communication should be tailored accordingly. Here, your goal should be to arouse interest and build recognition by introducing your brand to your potential customers. Your advertising content at this stage should be inspiring and, for example, describe who you are, what you do and what your USPs are.

Conversion-driving campaigns are rarely profitable at this stage, in the same way that you are more likely to make a purchase from a store you already know rather than a brand new store you have no relationship with. From an SEO perspective, you can instead create copy that targets information searches by answering questions that are asked early in a customer journey. Such articles are also excellent landing pages for campaigns on paid channels such as paid social.

Here is how an optimised article might appear in the search results on Google:

Search: "What is marigold used for?"

Although these types of ad are rarely immediately profitable, they are very important for brand building, which leads indirectly to more conversions. In addition, the traffic from this type of advertising is highly relevant for retargeting ads in the next step, as the user is already familiar with your brand.

Important KPIs at this stage include relevant impressions, store visits, impression share and impression-assisted conversions.


Your marketing at this stage should focus on leads, i.e. potential customers who are at the Interest stage. They have shown interest in the brand in some way, for example by watching a video, clicking on an ad at the Reach stage, liking a post on Instagram or reading a blog post. Or it may be someone doing a Google search that indicates that they are already interested in something your company offers. Searches at this stage are usually more specific than at the previous stage, and the user’s intent may be to find a specific page on a website. Brand searches are also common in this phase of the journey.

The most suitable channels at this stage include SEM, Google Shopping, e-mail marketing and SEO.

Important KPIs at this stage include relevant sessions, events, assisted conversions and store visits.


At this stage, your marketing should focus on buyers, i.e. customers who are ready to convert. It is vital that you aim your marketing at the right customers at the right time with the right content. The most suitable channels at this stage are SEM, Google Shopping, e-mail marketing, affiliate marketing and price comparison. Many of these channels are also used at the Act stage, but with different types of keyword and message.

At this stage, the user is already familiar with your brand and has probably already been in contact with you in some way. They may have already visited your site during a branding campaign using SEM, display or paid social or an informative Google search. Many factors can influence conversion at this stage, including, price, stock availability, shipping costs, delivery times and returns policy. Ease of conversion is also a crucial factor, and working with CROcan increase your chances of conversion.

The KPI here is conversions. It is also important to use the right attribution model given the goal and to measure the right conversions. For example, if you work with B2B marketing or a service with a complex buying journey, you should measure micro-conversions.


After conversion, it is important to make the customer remember you. The cost of bringing in a new customer is usually significantly higher than retaining an existing one. In addition to being able to generate additional revenue from the customer, an engaged customer who interacts with your brand online can help to strengthen your brand and contribute to your SEO by mentioning you and linking to your site. They are also often likely to make recommendations to friends.

The most suitable channels to use at this stage are remarketing, (which can be used within several different channels), and marketing automation, (e-mail marketing and SMS marketing).

An important KPI at this stage is lifetime value, which gives a picture of the long-term value the customer provides.

How to succeed throughout the digital customer journey

As customers often move forwards, backwards and cyclically during the purchasing process, as well as moving between different channels, it is wise to map exactly how your customers behave. How a customer interacts with your company physically is much more difficult to measure than digital interaction, but marketing is more effective today than ever before thanks to digital tracking.

However, there are also more products and services available today than ever before. A customer who has added an item to their shopping cart on your website might slip back into the Interest stage at the last second and start comparing you with your competitors, who are just a click away. Our digital age has given us a huge range of choices, and we are constantly being targeted by marketing from all directions.

So what do you need to think about when marketing your goods and services digitally?

  • Clarity – internet users are impatient and good at ignoring ads. Make sure your offer is quick and easy to identify. People often decide in a matter of milliseconds whether to scroll past an ad or to click on it.

  • Targeting – ability to show the right ad to the right people is a gold mine in the digital world. Invest your budget where it will maximise your ROI.

  • Analyse the data – a common mistake is not to use the data that digital marketing provides. All data can provide new insights. Don't just focus on the online numbers – perhaps you didn't increase traffic to your website as much as you wanted, but did more people visit your high street stores during your ad campaign? Make sure you look at the whole picture.

  • Market your company or product at all stages of the customer journey – As we have discussed, every stage of the customer journey is important when it comes to marketing. Be visible before your customers even realise that they need you, and then all the way until they purchase. And don't forget to keep in touch with your customers after they have bought from you.

Do you need help?

Beet can help you with your digital marketing, both strategically and in practice. We are specialists in all aspects of digital marketing, from SEO and SEM to social media and e-mail marketing. Through close cooperation between channels, we can take your marketing to the next level.

Contact us for a free micro health check of your marketing, where we will look at the potential for your marketing and how we could help you to succeed.

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