The importance of the Customer Journey; Acquisition, Activation, Retention.

 March 12, 2020

By  Will

The problem a lot of businesses face is failure to optimise the entire customer journey. They get a website built, stick products on it, set up some transactional emails and start driving traffic. They treat each touchpoint a customer has with them as a completely separate incident, and don’t consider how the customer moves between each stage in the journey.

Sometimes they don’t even understand who their target audience is, they don’t truly understand why someone would use their product or service, and they don’t understand how to keep them using it.

Below I’ll breakdown each of these key stages in the customer lifecycle so you can start turning more of that paid traffic into paying customers.


Do you really know your target audience? I’m not just talking about their demographic though, you also have to consider where you’re finding them, where you’re advertising to them and the mindset they’ll be in at that time.

You can have the best written and designed adverts, but if you’re putting the wrong message in front of the wrong people, your conversion rate will suck. An example of not really understanding the customer is targeting high net worth individuals with adverts for Rolex watches…on finance. While some of them may choose the finance option if it’s available, it’s not the most important message to them because they can afford to shell out the cash up front.

However, put this in front of the average person and let them know they can have an amazing, iconic Rolex watch for just £99 a month and they’ll fly off the shelves.

Nike is a great example of a company that knows how to talk to their customers, and make them believe that only Nike’s products can help elevate them to the elite level.

Do you really have a solid understanding of who your audience is, and what message to put in front of them in each of your acquisition channels?

Take an hour to yourself and run through some customer avatars/profiles.

Plot them out like a character in a book. What’s their name? How old are they? Do they have pets or children?

Some of the questions will seem a bit weird at first, but once you’ve done this exercise you’ll have a much stronger idea of what is important to your customer, and how to get them to buy from you.


So now you know who you’re targeting (and this should help a lot with the channels you use to market), next up is actually getting that purchase..

There are hundreds of opportunities to optimise on a website whether it’s ecommerce or SaaS, so I can’t even cover a fraction of them in this article, but here are a few big ones that can really impact conversion.

  • Product Videos

Videos can replace the whole product page themselves. You can show off the product in it’s ideal setting, cover testimonials, FAQs and more all in 1 engaging video (of course have that information in text format as well!). Shoppers are up to 85% more likely to purchase a product after watching a video. There’s even potential for the viral factor, just look at Dollar Shave Company and the Squatty Potty.

  • Reviews & Testimonials

Everyone wants them, everyone knows they are important, and yet the actual execution of reviews and testimonials is so frequently neglected. 93% of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. 93! 82% of customers say that the actual content of a review has directly resulted in a purchase. They don’t just want star ratings, they want quality, genuine reviews, and after content they value star rating, total number of reviews, and recency.

Make sure your reviews are easy to find, well laid out, and give options to filter by recency, star rating etc. Transparency = trust.

Credit: Amazon

Amazon really owns reviews on it’s own platform. You’ve got a clear overall rating and the number of ratings, and then you can dive into the detail below looking for verified purchases. They also have a questions function so if you’re still unsure after the reviews, you can just ask your question and get an answer from someone who bought the product.

  • CTAs – Call to Actions

It’s pretty simple. If someone can’t find the Buy Now button, they won’t be able to buy your product. Make it bold, make it clear and stand out on the screen. If you squint while looking at your page and the thing that stands out is your CTA, you’ve done it right.

Here’s an example of where it’s done well. 

Credit: Debenhams.com

By far the most obvious thing is the Add to bag (which i think is unusual wording actually), followed by the discounted price.

Here’s an example I’m not so keen on. The button just isn’t obvious at all, it’s actually in a smaller font than the text above it.


So you’ve got that initial purchase, but now you need to get that customer back again and again. As a customer is 5x more expensive to acquire than retain, it’s incredibly important that you retain these customers, and upsell to them as you build a relationship with them.

So what are the best ways to bring people back?

  1. Loyalty schemes & Gamification

These 2 link up quite well, but you rarely see them done well. A bit like referral schemes, everyone does the same boring, generic thing. A great example of a loyalty scheme is buy 9 coffees, get your 10th free. You know exactly what you’re getting, and what it’ll take to get there. A bad example is one where you collect points for every pound or dollar you spend, but you don’t really have transparency on what that means for you.

People are loyal, and even the smallest rewards are well received if they are relevant, but you can go the extra yard by gamifying a customer experience, and even just awarding simple badges once customers hit milestones. 

Gamification works particularly well in the early stages of a customers lifecycle.

If you’re in SaaS you could reward customers for connecting their website, or inviting a teammate to collaborate. A retail business could reward someone simply for adding to their basket, creating their account, adding a delivery address or payment card. Reward each of these steps as the customer goes and you’ll help move them along.

All the things that they’d need to anyway, but you can create a little winning feeling out of these micro-actions.

A clever marketer will gamify this experience.

2. Marketing communications, data & personalisation

This is the key thing that so many businesses get wrong.

{firstname} is no longer enough, customers don’t notice this anymore, although what they will notice is a mistake.

No, personalisation is all about the offer and the messaging.

Use your data. Use what you know about the customer to send relevant newsletters, product suggestions and even content.

This does get a bit more difficult the wider your product offering. Let’s take John Lewis for example. If someone comes through a PPC ad for dining chairs and buys 6 chairs at £299 each, you’re not going to send them emails with more dining chairs.

However, what you might do is acknowledge that they spend almost £1800 on 6 items and so put them in a high ticket value category and send them high end products all the time. Given that their first purchase was in dining, maybe you could start off by offering them other kitchen and dining related products.

If you really know who your target audience is, and you can overlay that with real purchasing information, you can create a much much better experience both through marketing communications and on the website.

Those are the main two I wanted to cover. They’re so so important and yet so few businesses do them well.

Other areas to improve retention are:

  • Referral schemes – prompt people to refer friends when they’ve reached that critical moment in their journey i.e. when they’ve done what they came to do.
  • Product – make the actual product itself as strong as possible, and offer extra value where you can.. If you sell a slow cooker include a recipe book, if you sell whey protein throw in a free shaker. One of my favourite items I received with a product was a printed newsletter from Pact Coffee. It didn’t sell anything, but the purpose was something interesting to read while you made and drank your coffee
  • Red flag data – this applies a lot more to SaaS or consumer subscriptions like Netflix or Spotify, but it’s basically the data that indicates strong usage, and flagging it once usage drops in a way which indicates a customer might churn. For retail you could look at the average number of times a person buys from you every 6 months, let’s say this is 6 (once per month), if someone goes 2 months without purchasing you flag this and communicate with the customer.
  • Customer service – obviously a huge one, and one that Zappos has put at the head of everything it does. Bear in mind that for every 1 customer who contacts you, 23 will simply walk away. If you become known for great customer service you’ll decrease the number who walk away and increase the number who contact you. This information then feeds back to all the way back to the start of this article to help you optimise earlier stages, and reduce the number of people who need to contact you.

So hopefully this has given you a snapshot of how important it is to optimise every contact point someone can have with your business.

It’s not good enough to just get the ad-click. Every step of the way can be improved and optimised to generate a better ROI.


Will is a marketing consultant specialising in reduction in costs of acquisition, and increasing average order values. Find out more about him on Linkedin or simply email him.


Will is a Customer Journey Marketing consultant, specialising in CRO, CRM and Customer Experience. Will has over 7 years experience working across a range of consumer facing businesses and has worked for huge brands such as MyVoucherCodes, Europcar, JackpotJoy, Virgin Games and Virgin Bet.


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