Apple’s customer journey explained

Guiding users through the five phases of the customer journey — from awareness to advocacy and back again

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Jonathan Anderson
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It seems as though we’re always talking about the customer journey — designing it, aligning it, checking steps off of it. But what is a customer journey, and just where are your users going?

The customer journey refers to the touchpoints customers have with your brand that make up the overall customer experience. Every interaction is a step in the customer journey, and it’s your job to move customers through their journey and delight them along the way. From initial brand awareness through post-purchase, SaaS companies have the opportunity to impact user behavior at every turn.

And the customer journey trophy goes to…

So who’s got the customer journey down to a science? Apple, of course! When you think of a great customer experience, Apple is exactly who comes to mind, with their sleek stores and Genius Bar support.

Apple has even found a way to make waiting more pleasurable. Just as the lack of windows and clocks in casinos make time seem to vanish, Apple Store employees are trained in clever techniques to alter the perception of time for waiting customers. It sounds more sinister than it is, and Forbes’ Carmine Gallo details how periodic interactions with employees reset his internal clock. The result was an 8-minute wait that felt negligible and a customer experience that lived up to Apple’s reputation.

Even lacking the resources of a tech giant, SaaS companies can put some of Apple’s strategies into play. Let’s take a look at each stage of the customer journey, from the top of the funnel down, and how Apple guides its users through.

The five stages of the customer journey

The customer journey neither begins nor ends at purchase. Just as important as the sale itself is courting the buyer beforehand and supporting them afterwards. The typical customer journey looks something like this:

1. Awareness

Before you have the opportunity to court potential customers, users need to know that your product exists. Apple has a reputation for ingenious ad campaigns, but advertising is only a small piece of the puzzle.

[via BillboardsIn]

According to Neil Patel, Apple leans far more heavily on product placement and media reviews. In fact, the company did away with paid advertising completely for a short period in 2007 after introducing the iPhone, finding word-of-mouth to be a more powerful tool.

While your product may not (yet!) generate the same kind of organic buzz as an Apple release, consider following in their footsteps with strategic PR and outreach. Approach influencers, offer free trials, and publish case studies and customer testimonials to help spread the word.

2. Consideration

This is where users weigh all their options and size you up against the competition. Not everyone can compete on price, and that’s ok. Apple certainly doesn’t! With products that are far and away more expensive than the competition, they focus on their unique value proposition (UVP), which is sleek design.

What’s your product’s UVP? Is it superior customer service? An easy-to-use no-code interface? Determine your product’s unique selling point, and focus attention there to move users on to the next stage of the customer journey.

3. Acquisition

Now it’s time to close the deal. You could be signing on new users or upgrading free ones to paid, but — either way — the acquisition phase is when prospects become customers. Your goal is to make it as easy as possible.

Apple guides customers smoothly through acquisition by giving them a bevy of options. Buy the new iPhone online or in store. (In-store customers buy directly from employees through mobile points of sale so there are no lines to wait in after they’ve made their selection.) Pay in full, or pay monthly. Finance with your wireless carrier or with the Apple Card. Then, choose your wireless carrier so that Apple can set up your new iPhone for you.

Apple removes every impediment that could stand in the way of a sale. SaaS companies can do the same by making sure site performance is up to par, signup and checkout processes run smoothly, and multiple forms of payment are accepted.

4. Retention

A survey by Invesp found that it can cost five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. That’s why nurturing relationships after the acquisition phase is so important.

Apple has built a cult of loyalty around its products that allows it to retain an extraordinary number of users. According to a recent survey from SellCell, 92% of iPhone users plan to stick with Apple when they next upgrade.

How do they do it? First, Apple offers outstanding customer support thanks to Apple Care and the Genius Bar, ensuring that users understand the products well enough to stick with them. The Genius Bar also serves the clever purpose of getting users back into the Apple Store, turning customer support into another sales opportunity.

Next, the seamless integration of different Apple products makes it almost impossible not to buy into the entire Apple ecosystem. You can unlock your Macbook with your Apple Watch, find your iPhone with your Macbook, and copy and paste between all three devices. Not to mention that iCloud syncs all of your information everywhere.

While most brand’s will never reach Apple-level rates of customer loyalty, you can boost customer retention with onboarding and support tools that get customers to value. The sooner users reach that “Aha!” moment, the sooner they become loyal customers.

5. Advocacy

[via Cult of Mac]

When you successfully guide users through phases one through four, customers don’t just become loyal, they become fans. Nobody knows this better than Apple and their army of fanboys who promote Apple products far and wide. They camp outside stores, they talk up the brand, and they flash the logo on devices, clothing, and even permanently on their skin. (No, we’re not kidding.)

Apple fanboys may take things to the extreme, but there’s nothing to stop a SaaS company from turning users into ambassadors. Start a referral rewards program, or simply solicit reviews through your app.

Soon enough, advocacy will lead right back to awareness for a new set of users, completing the customer journey circle.


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