New insights on the customer decision journey

Columnist John Cosley shares research from Bing Ads on the customer journey and explains how you can apply these learnings to optimize your paid search campaigns.


For years, paid search has centered around clicks. Getting the most clicks. Getting the highest click-through rate. Marketers have obsessed at delivering the most clicks for the lowest cost. But who is behind all of those clicks? And what are they really looking for?

New research at Bing Ads now allows us to better understand the customers behind those clicks and where they are in the customer decision journey (CDJ). Such insights not only help advertisers to optimize their campaigns, they also help to further search as the personal assistants of tomorrow.

But before we get into search, we first need to understand the consumer mindset and the science behind each customer’s decision journey.

All consumers go through five distinct stages, which vary depending on the type of purchase:initiation, research, comparison, transaction and experience. Whether you are hopping online to replace a broken espresso maker or find yourself in the rather unpleasant market for a new hot water heater, you are subject to the same five CDJ stages, although they will vary in length and importance.

For the espresso maker, you’ll probably skip the initiation and research stages and start to compare models for an immediate purchase. For the hot water heater, you’ll need much more time to get educated before making a decision. Who knew the future of water heaters was tankless? And that a tankless water heater could save you hundreds each year? You’re now ready to enter the comparison stage.

Identifying consumer journey types

In order to better understand the unique journey types all consumers go through, researchers created the continuum chart below that compares two driving factors within every purchase: frequency of a purchases against the potential cost of failure.