The Seven Phases of the Buyer Experience Journey

The Seven Phases of the Buyer Experience Journey

Mapping seven buyer experience phases of the buyer journey can be one of the most significant undertakings an organization can make to gain deep-rooted knowledge about its markets and buyers. Mapping the buyer experience journey provides a basis for making informed decisions on how to align strategies, structure, and go-to-market processes with enhanced relevancy to buyers. Top marketing automation software typically offers tools and features focused on creating a compelling customer journey and tracking results across various campaigns to hone the key aspects most important to your customers as they navigate your website. It also will set the stage, along with buyer experience insights and persona development, to lead the organization through the efforts of Buyer Experience Design to create highly memorable and fulfilling buying experiences.

The seven buyer experience phases of the buyer journey can be labeled as:

  • Initiative
  • Research
  • Assess
  • Decision
  • Implement
  • Support
  • Renewal

Frequently, when "inside-out" views of the B2B buyer experience journey, buying cycles, and buying processes are used, the focus conventionally has been on the phases leading up to the decision. Buyer Experience Innovation calls for viewing experiential stages beyond the decision. The "sale" begins when you get the signature. How many "won" deals have gone south, falling off the cliff of poor implementation and support experiences? B2B executives can lead by giving the same attentiveness to implementation, support, and renewal as they do B2B buyer experience marketing and sales tactics leading to a decision. Evolving strategies and technologies also pave the way for an important role that B2B marketers can play in creating experiences that resonate with buyers throughout the entire buyer experience. Let's take a brief journey through each of the seven buyer experience phases:

Buyer Experience Phase 1: Initiative

There are two tiers of thinking in this buyer experience phase. The most common has been around a term that has existed for several years in mapping the customer or buyer experience journey. That is the concept of "triggers" or "trigger events." This thinking implies that an event triggers a customer or buyer to begin the search for a resolution. In many situations, this will undoubtedly be true that an event will create a response to find a buyer experience solution and an opportunity for the seller. Equally, if not more important, is to recognize that many B2B organizations have a yearly set of strategies, initiatives, and goals by which a planning process is put into place.

Part of the planning process involves preliminary thinking on achieving initiatives and how much should be allocated to an expense or capital budget. Initiatives are often accompanied by buyer experience strategies and policies. Leading marketing automation systems often have tools to streamline the planning process and set you up for both quantifiable and scalable success. Many leading marketing automation systems often have mechanisms to simplify the planning process and set you up for quantifiable and scalable success as you find what works best. Insights into initiatives and the planning process can yield monumental clues for content marketers on how to map to the buyer's mindset during this phase.

Buyer Experience Phase 2: Research

In the B2B buyer experience journey, researching potential solutions or even ideas is often delegated to a person, a team, a task force, a committee, and numerous other naming conventions that can be assigned. Multiple people may be researching the same initiative at any given time but from different perspectives. This no doubt causes challenging assignments for digital and content marketers. Understanding this phase in detail can lead to creating consistent research experiences yet tuning to the different potential perspectives.

Buyer Experience Phase 3: Assess

B2B complexity has robust chemistry of sales, content marketing, partners, and channels, providing various touchpoints in the assessment phase. How buyer companies go about availing themselves of interacting with this robustness, and the experiences they encounter can shape their opinions about whether to place a considered organization in the running for the decision phase. This is the phase where a potential buyer can experience support for the first time. How? As often seen, pricing, billing, and implementation questions can get routed to the "back office" and can be a road filled with craters if support is not designed with buyer experience.

Buyer Experience Phase 4: Decision

The higher the stakes, the greater the buyer's need to create a confidence-building decision experience. The insight gained through mapping can reveal the process by which buyers follow established policies for decision-making that often involve multiple stakeholders. This phase can also inform your overall customer experience strategy and bring about improvements across sales and service alike. Is their buying experience aligned well with what they must comply with internally? While facts, figures, and ROI are heavy components in this phase, selling organizations can be attentive to the emotional side of the decision process. The higher the stakes, the more emotions you can bet will be involved.

Buyer Experience Phase 5: Implement

This phase consists of the many experiences related to delivery, packaging, on-site implementation, and roll-out. An essential factor in this phase is to recognize that the buyer is still "buying" at this phase. Ensuring that the buyer's goals related to an initiative are achieved and that this phase of the buyer experience stays "on message" throughout becomes paramount. How many times after a purchase decision is made in a B2B context has the implementation experience felt starkly different than those leading up to the decision? Insight into the buyer experience expectations and established processes in this phase is critical because providing a unique customer experience will differentiate your brand. Start building long-term providing a unique customer experience will determine your brand and build long-term customer loyalty. 

Buyer Experience Phase 6: Support

Is support embedded into the entire buyer experience? Or is supported by an adjunct department outside the buyer's sphere of experiences with the organization? B2B complexity can make support a critical component of the overall buying experience. As mentioned before, support can be called upon in the early phase of Assess. If support is not embedded into the entire buyer experience and positioned as an adjunct function, there can be a severe disconnect in the buyer experience.

There have been many promising advancements in support-related capabilities; however, there appears to be tremendous potential for digital content marketing to play a role in enabling support to enhance the overall buyer experience. B2B marketers today can view buyer experience support enablement and sales enablement as essential elements of a buyer experience strategy. Marketing automation software reviews can give you a good idea of the capabilities offered by systems and indicate the best integrations you can consider as part of your overall improvement process for buyer experience journeys from the inside out. 

Buyer Experience Phase 7: Renewal

In the experience sense, renewal refers to annual renewals of services and renewal of the buyer experience that involves new initiatives and challenges. Does the buyer undergo a vastly different buying experience because they are in the renewal category versus the new account category?

Insight gathering respective to the buyer experience practices and processes for renewal consideration can yield establishing buyer experience strategies aimed at customer retention and customer loyalty.