Picture this: A customer starts their journey by browsing your website on their laptop, adds items to their cart, but decides to make the purchase in-store

As they walk into the physical store, their smartphone buzzes with a personalized discount offer tailored to their preferences. They leave the store happy with their purchase and later receive a follow-up email with recommendations for complementary products. 

This seamless, integrated experience is the hallmark of the omnichannel customer journey — and understanding it is the key to building long-lasting customer loyalty and driving profitable growth.

In this article, we’ll walk through the omnichannel customer journey, giving you a better understanding of the paths the modern shopper takes to conversion. 

What is the customer journey, and why do we need to understand it?

At its core, the customer journey is the total sum of experiences that customers go through when engaging with your brand. It begins the moment they first become aware of your product or service, continues through the point of purchase and beyond into post-purchase support, and then loops back again for repeat purchases.

So why is understanding this journey important for marketers? 

Simply put, it’s all about perspective. By stepping into your customer’s shoes and anticipating their wants and needs as they move through their individual journeys, you can identify gaps and deliver exceptional experiences every step of the way.

This empathetic approach typically leads to higher customer satisfaction, increased loyalty, and better business outcomes.

By mapping the customer journey, marketers can gain a bird’s eye view of every interaction and decision-making point their customers encounter. This in turn allows for better cross-functional collaboration and is an effective means of shifting from a product- to customer-centric mindset.

The 5 core pillars of the omnichannel customer journey

No matter whether they discover your brand from Google search, a paid social campaign, or a referral from a friend, almost all of your omnichannel customers will have a journey that follows these five stages:

AcquisitionCustomers browse your store and shop around for options. They do their research, compare your products to others, and begin to build their cart.

Key tactics at this stage: 

— Lead acquisition
ConversionAs they view your products, customers continue building their cart. Eventually they convert, completing their purchase. 

Key tactics at this stage: 

— Welcome (new customer)
Abandoned cart
Abandoned browse
GrowthThis is the stage where you put your first-party data to use. You start nurturing your relationship with the customer, building trust, delivering relevant, timely and meaningful content, and encouraging them to repeat purchase. 

Key tactics at this stage: 

Progressive profiling
Post-purchase upsell
— Online to offline
Retention and loyaltyYou work to deepen your customer relationship, cultivating brand loyalty that drives CLTV and keeps them returning time and time again. 

Key tactics at this stage: 

Cross-sell and upsell
— Wishlist price drop
— Download retail app
— User generated content
— Brand survey
Win-backTake action and re-engage lapsing customers, winning them back before they churn or defect to other brands. 

Key touchpoints at this stage: 

— Purchase anniversary
Win back defecting customers

Omnichannel customer journey example #1: in-store to online 

Now, let’s explore this further through the context of how a customer would actually experience your brand, mapped out against each of those pillars.

Acquisition: A customer walks into your brick and mortar store, looking to buy a new pair of jeans. They’ve shopped around with a few other brands, have done some research online, and are now weighing up how your product compares. The customer is approached by a member of your sales team, who helps them to find the right size and style of product to suit them. 

Conversion: The customer makes a purchase via a point-of-sale (POS) system, and the sales assistant asks for their email address in order to send an e-receipt. You use this to identify the customer in-store, revealing that they’ve made a purchase previously via your website. 

Growth: You use this first-party data to trigger an email automation that follows up with the customer post-purchase, upselling them to similar products that complement their in-store purchase. 

Retention and loyalty: Your customer has now shopped with you several times, and you want to up the engagement, so you create a CRM ad campaign, backed up by an email automation, that encourages them to download your retail app. 

Win-back: After six months, the regular orders from your customer stop. Two months pass without them visiting your website, making a purchase in-store, or viewing your app. This triggers an email automation which sends them an exclusive offer for a range of products you know they love, tempting them back to the store. 

Omnichannel customer journey example #2: online to in-store

Let’s now shift our focus to a different type of customer journey, this time from online to in-store. In this example, you’re a watch and sunglasses retailer with both physical and online stores.

Acquisition: Your customer is directed to your online store after a Google search for the term “stylish men’s wristwatch.” After browsing through watches on your site, they decide to engage via an interactive quiz which guides them toward a watch that fits their style and budget.

Conversion: The customer decides to buy the watch and completes the transaction through your website’s secure payment gateway. They share basic first-party data including an email address for confirmation and tracking.

Growth: Leveraging this data, you trigger a post-purchase email automation that thanks the customer for their purchase and encourages them to sign up to your loyalty program to receive special discounts and rewards.

Retention and loyalty: The customer signs up and adds a loyalty card to their mobile wallet. This loyalty card enables you to send geo-fenced offers to this customer whenever they are within range of a physical store. 

Winback: A few months later, your customer walks past one of your physical stores which triggers a geo-fenced push notification directly to that customer’s phone. It’s an offer on a pair of sunglasses that compliments the watch they bought. Delighted at this clever use of marketing, the customer walks into your store and buys the sunglasses on the spot.

This journey illustrates how you can leverage online engagements to effectively drive in-store traffic and conversion — omnichannel marketing at its finest.

Real-time customer lifecycle marketing is the key to cultivating loyalty

Your customers have come to expect seamless, personalized experiences at every stage of their journey, no matter which channel they engage with. If you want to keep them spending more money, more often, you need to meet those expectations with an omnichannel customer experience that demonstrates an understanding of their wants and needs. 

This is where Emarsys comes in. Our omnichannel marketing platform helps the world’s most successful brands effortlessly launch cross-channel marketing automations and achieve 1:1 personalization at scale.

Want to learn more about how Emarsys helps brands create and nurture unparalleled omnichannel customer journeys? Watch our 3-minute demo.