Abbreviated as CDJ, customer decision journey is a model that describes the process customers undergo before making any purchase decisions. It is believed that there is no such thing as an impulse buy. New businesses always develop marketing strategies without considering the decision-making process by assuming that customers are always prepared to make a purchase. Every purchase customers make is a decision journey, involving interactions with different brands from initial contact to the point where they make a purchase.

Customer decision journey concept has been in existence for many years. However, the actual route that customers take to arrive at a purchase decision has changed over time and has made many companies modify their marketing strategies to fit the best model. Traditionally, companies used a linear approach to customer decision journey which was later modified to a more circular approach (McKinsey model).

The Old Approach

Some companies are still attached to the old model since the new model lacks sufficient evidence to support its effectiveness. The old approach simplifies this process into four steps.

  1. Awareness – the customers know nothing about the company or its products. Also, they do not know their needs. Customers discover the products through advertisements or recommendations.
  2. Selection – customers start analyzing information given to them about the product. At this point, they believe that their needs can be fulfilled.
  3. Preference – they have assessed all the information and compared all possible solutions. They can now make a decision.
  4. Purchase – they purchase the product they have selected hence becoming customers.

This approach only considers the pre-purchase decision and neglects to design the experience gained as customers use the product.

The McKinsey Model

Due to marketing evolution, customers have also evolved as well as the buying process. The McKinsey consulting company designed a model for customer decision journey consisting of four steps.

  1. Consideration – customers consider several brands in the hope that they can fulfil their needs.
  2. Active evaluation – they evaluate the brands considered by accessing several information databases. The number of brands is reduced depending on their pros and cons.
  3. Buy – customers decide to go for the one brand that meets their needs and make a purchase.
  4. Post-purchase experience – this stage explains what happens after the customers execute the purchase. At this point, the customers can use the product and gather experience. If they are fully satisfied, they may rate and recommend the product to others. This is word-of-mouth marketing which forms the core of the loop in McKinsey’s CDJ. Positive or negative feedback affects the evaluation phase and purchase decisions that customers make.