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What is the buyer’s journey? Definition, stages, and examples

Mapping the buyer’s journey allows you to gain a deeper understanding of your customer’s path to purchase so you can improve your sales, support, and marketing efforts.

Por Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Última actualización el September 8, 2023

Customers rarely buy on a whim. It can take days, weeks, or even months of deliberation before they commit to buying. And if you aren’t communicating with them throughout that process, you could miss out on profitable sales opportunities.

That’s why it’s crucial to understand the buyer’s journey, why it’s important, and how to use it to establish improved sales and marketing efforts.

What is the buyer’s journey?

The buyer’s journey (sometimes called a purchase journey) describes the process a customer goes through to purchase a product or service.

This includes all the decisions, actions, and interactions from when a prospect identifies their problem to when they buy a solution.

The buyer’s journey is essentially what a sales funnel looks like from a prospect’s perspective and consists of three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.

Mapping out the journey provides an in-depth view of how your potential customers behave at every step in the buying process. Paired with sales funnel software, you can ensure your buyer’s journey doesn’t have gaps that cause leads to drop out of your funnel.

How does the B2B customer journey differ from the B2C journey?

The business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) buyer journeys differ in prospect motivation and sales cycles.

The B2C buyer’s journey involves consumers purchasing a product or service for themselves or individuals they know well. The driving force behind these purchases is emotion, so B2C marketers should appeal to the desires and interests of these consumers. Sales cycles can be a few months or a few moments—whenever the prospect is sufficiently motivated.

The B2B buyer’s journey involves businesses purchasing a product or service for their organization. The driving force behind these purchases is the return on investment (ROI), so B2B marketers should highlight the newfound efficiency, profitability, or sales revenue their offering will bring. Sales cycles are much longer, as multiple decision-makers must weigh in before committing to a purchase.

Buyer’s journey vs. customer’s journey

The buyer journey is how you acquire customers, while the customer journey is how you retain them.

The buyer’s journey refers to a prospect’s actions and decisions before purchasing. During this time, businesses should focus on serving prospects the right content at the right time to keep them moving on their journey and eventually turn them into customers.

The customer’s journey focuses on everything that comes after the buyer’s journey. Successful businesses know the first purchase is merely the beginning of the relationship, so this process prioritizes retention. Businesses can earn long-term loyalty by engaging in continued support and personalized content.

Both terms exist in the larger context of customer lifecycle management.

Why is the buyer’s journey important?

The buyer journey is important because it enables you to examine your prospects’ choices at each stage, thereby improving your customer acquisition process.

No matter what kind of business you’re running or what industry you’re in, it’s important to have a framework that helps you understand who your customers are and how they behave before purchasing. With this information, you can adjust your sales strategy to optimize your messaging and maximize conversions.

A successful buyer journey identifies and overcomes common objections in each stage, personalizes the experience to resonate with the target audience, and drives upselling and cross-selling when applicable. Doing so creates a well-oiled machine that turns prospects into customers time after time.

What are the 3 stages of the buyer’s journey?

The three buyer journey stages are awareness, consideration, and decision.

Each stage presents unique challenges to customers that can shake their desire to buy. It’s your job to eliminate as many of those roadblocks as possible. Observe how prospects respond to every step of your sales cycle so you can continue identifying and knocking down obstacles.

The awareness stage

When a prospect is in the awareness stage, they know they have a problem that needs a solution. At this point, every option is on the table for them, and they may have performed research to understand their situation better.

The consideration stage

In the consideration stage, prospects actively identify and evaluate possible solutions to their problem. At this point, they are researching their options with more intent for a resolution or purchase.

The decision stage

In the decision stage, prospects are confident they have found a solution to their problem and choose the product or service that will solve it at the right price. Prospects are close to the finish line, but your sales personnel must exceed expectations in every interaction to ensure they don’t back out or switch to a competitor at the last moment.

Map the customer's journey with our free templates

Build an effective customer journey map with our guide and free templates to understand your prospects and optimize your customer acquisition.

Examples of a buyer’s journey

B2B and B2C buyer journeys can vary, as prospect motivations and sales cycles differ by industry. Below, we highlight two hypothetical examples to better illustrate the process.

B2B example

Disclaimer: The companies in the example below are purely fictitious. Any resemblance to real companies is purely coincidental.

Rainstorm Storage is a B2B business that sells online file storage and organization software. The company’s ideal buyers are small to midsize accounting firms that spend too much time searching for important documents and client information.


Z&D Accounting soon realizes that its recent wave of new clients came with a big pile of documents that need to be sifted through. After deciding employees are wasting too much time on this process, Z&D starts researching on Google.


While researching, Z&D comes across an SEO-optimized article from Rainstorm Storage that frames the firm’s problem perfectly. The accounting business now knows it needs online file storage and organization software.

Z&D continues its research by learning more about these tools and reading about Rainstorm Storage and its competitors.


After learning more about Rainstorm and its competitors, Z&D feels confident that Rainstorm has a solution to the firm’s problem.

Z&D enrolls in a free demo of Rainstorm’s platform, and after multiple interactions with qualified and knowledgeable sales reps, the accounting firm purchases from Rainstorm.

B2C example

Disclaimer: The companies in the example below are purely fictitious. Any resemblance to real companies is purely coincidental.

AudioCrab is a B2C business that sells headphones. Primarily targeting runners, the brand’s “claw,” over-the-ear design ensures its headphones never fall out or shift positions during a workout.


Tom is an athletic individual who typically runs 5 to 10 miles weekly. He realizes he has a problem: His headphones never sit right during his workouts, so he always has to readjust them multiple times during his run. Tom decides to look for potential solutions.


At first, Tom isn’t sure what to look for. He researches DIY techniques to fix his current headphones and reviews posts on social media looking for advice. One of his connections suggests AudioCrab, and Tom spends a few minutes browsing the company’s website.

Tom likes the idea of over-the-ear headphones and decides he may want to buy a pair, but he isn’t sure which brand. Over the next few days, he does more research, looking at AudioCrab and other options on the market.


At this point, Tom is confident in his decision to buy a new pair of headphones and compiles a handful of companies he could purchase from. Eventually, Tom decides on AudioCrab, thanks to the brand’s helpful content and product features, and makes a purchase.

4 tips for applying the buyer’s journey to the sales cycle

Now that we’ve covered the important details of the buyer’s journey, let’s look at how you can incorporate them into your sales operations.

1. Develop and evaluate buyer personas

Buyer personas are in-depth descriptions of your target customers and typically include information like age, gender, location, likes, and dislikes.

It’s important to create accurate buyer personas because if you can identify customers who get the most value from your offering, you can serve them the right messaging at the right time. This, in turn, leads to more effective marketing materials and a more effective buyer journey.

Keep in mind that your customer base isn’t a monolith. You will have multiple buyer personas, each with different details. When you add content to your sales funnel, build a unique funnel for every persona so you don’t find yourself pitching to the wrong audience.

2. Use data to understand effective content

Once you understand who your ideal customer is, you need to create a content journey that correlates with your sales funnel and/or sales pipeline.

But it’s not enough to simply create relevant content. You must monitor that content to ensure it’s performing and meeting expectations. Here are some content ideas for each stage of the buyer journey and how you can use data to supplement your efforts.


During the awareness stage, buyers are at the top of your sales funnel. Make yourself more visible across marketing channels by publishing blog posts, landing pages, ebooks, infographics, guides, and social media posts.

Analytically, focus on click-through rates and the type of prospects interacting with your targeted content. This will give you a sense of whether your messaging is effective and resonates with your intended audience.


As the center of the sales funnel, the consideration stage is where you should use your unique selling proposition (USP) to show how your solution stands out. Create engaging and educational content—like case studies, blogs, demos, webinars, testimonials, and white papers—to further emphasize your USP.

In this stage, focus on product reviews, consumer polls, and any relevant forums. This type of feedback can highlight any areas where your business is lacking, from content to product features.


Prospects in this stage are at the bottom of the sales funnel and ready to buy a product or service. Craft your content to meet any sales objections and pain points that typically arise, including issues related to pricing, contract length, supply concerns, or something else.

Here, it’s important to get information from converting customers. Send periodic surveys to determine how customers found out about your business, the most useful pieces of information they encountered, and anything else that led them to make a purchase from you.

It’s also wise to invest in sales pipeline software to optimize your closing rates.

3. Create a buyer’s journey map

Buyer’s journey maps, similar to customer experience maps, represent the thoughts and actions a buyer will experience throughout their journey—from awareness to decision.

You can’t read your customers’ minds, and they will always do something in certain stages of the buyer journey that simply cannot be accounted for. However, buyer journey maps can serve as a guide to learn more about consumer behavior and how to capitalize on it.

Consider this a part of your organizational playbook. Once completed, your sales and marketing teams can use your buyer journey map to optimize content, guide behaviors, and increase customer acquisition.

4. Align goals across sales and marketing departments

Once your marketing team has identified and executed the content your potential buyers need at each stage, make sure your sales reps are ready to run with every opportunity.

Sales personnel usually don’t speak to potential customers until the decision stage, at which point the consumer may have read every piece of content—or none at all. Your reps must be able to handle prospects with varying degrees of education about the product or service without sounding redundant or confusing.

To get to this point, make sure your teams are aligned. Even though marketing and sales teams often work independently, ensuring each team member is well-versed in the buyer journey and customer acquisition process will make for stronger content, more effective closing rates, and a better sales journey.

Keep tabs on the buyer’s journey with a reliable CRM

Understanding the buying process is crucial to closing more deals. Zendesk Sell is a powerful customer relationship management (CRM) software solution that prioritizes simplicity—making it easy to organize your funnel and pipeline, build lasting relationships with your prospects, and streamline your sales process.

Our software even offers features like email automation and templates, so you can fine-tune your inbound marketing strategy and craft a more insightful buyer’s journey.

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