What is the customer decision journey and why you should care

The customer decision journey (CDJ) is a model that shows how customers complete a purchase. The most influential CDJ model was made by McKinsey as an update to the old marketing ‘funnel’ model — an outdated idea of how people purchase or consider something.

The CDJ maps the journey a customer will make when they make a purchase. It tracks different phases to help marketers understand more about where and what they should be doing. Whilst customers go along the same phases for each purchasing journey – every brand, product or service will have different touch points, customer groups and required messaging.

At Brilliant Noise, we’ve developed our own CDJ model which has four distinct phases:

  • Consider – a potential customer becomes aware of a need and considers a solution that satisfies that need
  • Evaluation – a potential customer evaluates different products or services to decide which provides the best solution to their need
  • Buy – a customer decides on a solution and purchases
  • The loyalty loop – customers engage with a product or service and advocate (either positively or negatively) to others. This consists of a few sub stages:
    • Enjoy
    • Bond
    • Advocate

An example journey:

  • A potential customer is recommended a book to read by a friend [consideration phase].
  • She searches for the book on Google and finds a number of suppliers of the book. She compares prices and reviews for a few suppliers [evaluation phase]
  • She chooses a supplier based on price and orders the book [purchase].
  • She receives the book in a couple of days and reads it [enjoy]. She appreciated the service from the book buyer [bond] so left a review on Facebook [advocate].

Try to imagine a similar scenario with your customers.

  • What are they looking for?
  • What problems do they need to solve?
  • Are you appearing in searches for the terms they’re using?

This kind of question generates surprising and powerful insights. But how can you use these to improve efficiency?

How does the CDJ make marketing more efficient?

After you have identified your customers decision journey, its time to make your marketing more efficient.

The first step in this process is creating data-led personas for customer groups, this helps marketers understand their needs. And your CDJ can help outline how each persona can be targeted most effectively. If you know a particular persona will be searching for a particular term when they are ready to buy, optimising for those keywords reduces spend on pay-per-click media.

Secondly, understanding what the most common ‘touch points’ are in these customer journeys:

  • Do your customers post on social media?
  • Do they use search engines to discover new products?
  • Do they use the press when considering different products?

These insights will help focus effort on the most important (and commonly used) channels.

Next comes messaging.
What messages do customers need to see at each phase of their decision journey?
Do you need to talk about the problem or the solution?

Deciding what to say and who to say it to has a dramatic affect on your time and budget. You won’t need to pump out endless display messages to everyone. Instead you can target customers who’ll engage with your messages and are more likely to buy.

Finally – visibility.

  • What percentage of your customers are seeing the messages?
  • Are they seeing them at the right stage?
  • Is spending more to reach them worth the cost?
  • Is increasing organic visibility more efficient than using paid media?

Answering these questions will help you benchmark performance and enable more efficient targeting.

We know this works because we’ve done it! Take a look at our American Express case study for more information.


The ‘customer decision journey’ has become a common phrase amongst marketers in the digital era. But it isn’t a solution. You need to apply the principles and theory behind the model before you can create journeys that customers really want to go on.

If you’d like to talk about your customer decision journey challenges – get in touch with our team of experts.

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