SaaS business

Customer Stages of Awareness: Mapping SAAS Customer Journey


mins to read

There are two related concepts in marketing — customer funnel and customer journey. 

Marketers and salespeople love funnels because they are simple and controlled, and show a pleasing picture of leads that inevitably convert, forced by gravity. A SaaS sales funnel is so adorable we even put one on Eleken’s landing page.

SaaS sales funnel

In fact, as product designers, we at Eleken prefer using customer journeys in our UX research, but we would never think of illustrating anything with a journey because nobody loves customer journeys. In fact, they create all kinds of troubles — they are messy, confusing, and hard to work with. Just look at Gartner buyer journey below. 

b2b buying journey by gartner.com
A not that cute customer journey by gartner.com

The bad news is that you need to work with journeys anyway if you’re in SaaS. Successful SaaS can’t do without superb user experience, which is hard to achieve without compiling user goals and actions into a timeline skeleton.

The good news is that understanding journeys is way more simple than it looks. To organize a complex web of interconnected events, we can divide touchpoints into stages of awareness. We’ll get to this later, and now let’s clarify what customer journey map and sales funnel are.

The difference between sales funnel and customer journey

Funnel tells a company-centric story. From your company’s point of view, leads start at the top of the funnel and passively move toward the bottom from awareness to purchase. 

A marketing funnel is focused more on broad categorization than individual touchpoints. Even though a customer’s real behavior can go through those milestones, they usually take a much more winding road. 

That's why funnels can't offer us much insight about consumers. When we want to understand customers’ behavior, we need a user-centric marketing and design tool. We need a customer journey.

The difference between sales funnel and customer journey

What is customer journey

A customer journey is a story of someone who has a problem and is looking for a solution to that problem. Even though it visualizes the same process of moving from strangers to buyers as a funnel does, the journey approaches it from the customer’s perspective.

That’s a key point to realize — for customers, journey includes a problem and a solution, it doesn’t necessarily include you as an endpoint

Actually, SaaS customers are facing an unprecedented number of choices in platforms and tools. So how will you break through to gain their attention and make your prospective customers realize your SaaS is the one they are looking for?

Why is customer journey important for SaaS

Look at Gartner’s B2B SaaS customer journey we’ve left above. Customers have some jobs to be done to find a solution to their problem, but they don’t move gradually. They are looping around each step, bouncing from one to another, sometimes going backward. All because choosing software is anything but an easy decision.

SaaS market is a web version of an endless Turkish bazaar full of colorful noisy street sellers yelling at you. Choosing software tools is not exciting. It’s overwhelming. It’s confusing.

Maybe not for an industry insider, but for a person that just flipped through a dozen of SaaS landing pages, they all look the same, and they all say the same.

SaaS landing ages look all the same meme

Moreover, there are thousands of possible options in each SaaS category, and the numbers are growing wild. To illustrate the point: 1 in 5 of the solutions on 2020’s MarTech landscape weren’t there one year before. The segment that consisted of 150 apps in 2011, had grown to 8,000 apps in nine years only.

It’s a matter of minutes to get buried under the information flow that all that thousands of companies produce.

People need some guidance. You’re an expert. Do you see the window of opportunity opening?

saas growing industry meme

Buyers appreciate a helping hand as they navigate an overwhelming purchase process. In fact, customers who received content that helped them to move across their buying jobs were three times more likely to buy a bigger deal with less regret.

For content to be helpful, it must be relevant. The way we treat the customer who’s unhappy with their team’s workflow, vs the one looking for project management apps vs the one who has signed up for trial will be hugely different. 

That’s where we need a customer journey — it helps us to align our solutions with challenges your customers are facing. Looking at the entire experience from the user’s standpoint, we can make that experience more valuable.

How to map customer journey

To start working with a customer journey we need to break it into steps, visualize them and map our marketing messages to every step. 

What stages does the journey consist of? Nobody knows. In fact, every customer has their unique stages, but we keep trying to summarize them to a single formula. 

McKinsey consumer decision journey consists of initial consideration, active evaluation, closure and post-purchase. Gartner’s B2B buyer journey we’ve seen above splits into problem identification, solution exploration, requirements building, supplier selection, validation and consensus creation. 

We at Eleken prefer the model developed by Eugene Schwartz in 1966 called “Stages of Awareness”. It divides the journey into five stages: unaware, problem-aware, solution-aware, product-aware and most aware. 

With this map, we plan a series of touchpoints aimed to help potential customers in their journeys.

Journey mapping example by Eleken content team
Journey mapping example by Eleken content team

And you know what that means? The article you’re reading was designed to be a touchpoint of your journey. And given you’re halfway through the piece at the moment, high chances are everything goes as planned.

Want to see how it works? Let’s figure out how the customer journey framework can be used on the example of Eleken’s content marketing team — and how it can be adopted by SaaS companies.

1. Unaware stage 

Thanks to keyword research, we know that our audience often googles “what is a customer journey map.” That’s an informational intent, we map it to an unaware stage of the customer's journey and write a corresponding article.

People with this request are at the very beginning of their journey. So even if we try to spread knowledge of our brand in the article, we don’t promote our design services. 

hire UI/UX design agency meme

What we need to do at the first awareness stage of the buyer's journey is to give comprehensive answers to readers' questions and thus, move readers from unaware to a problem-aware stage. 

2. Problem-aware stage 

When a person aims to create a SaaS customer journey map, they face a number of practical questions, or problems, that need to be clarified:

If you look closely at the picture of our reader's journey map above, you’ll see that all those questions are covered by the topics mapped to the problem-aware stage. 

Our unaware-stage article raises those questions and links to the articles that give the answers — thus, help readers to move to the next stage of their journeys. 

3. Solution-aware stage

Why are you digging into the info on buyer journeys? Probably for using customer journey maps to improve your marketing or customer experience. And quite possibly, you want to redesign something or even design from scratch — in that case, you’re a potential Eleken’s client.

SaaS web app, or mobile app, or product webpage — no matter what you need, we want to be a shortlisted solution. So, we’ll prepare a bunch of content that lists the ways to design pages and apps with stellar customer experience. 

Remember that customer journeys include a problem and a solution but don’t necessarily include you as an endpoint? The solution-aware stage is your chance to book a place among the solutions your customers consider.

At the solution-aware stage, the customer is much closer to a purchase than at the beginning of the journey, so helping them to see all solutions available you can show off a bit, proving that your solution is the most suitable — and redirect your reader to a page that speaks about you solely. 

4. Product-aware stage

If you need UI/UX design and we did a good job describing our value proposition, you’ll probably click on a link that will bring you to our UI/UX design services landing page.

The product-aware stage is your selling content finest hour. Customers are already considering paying you money, so it’s high time to address your best convincing pillars. This could be case studies and testimonials that prove your words or earth-shattering offers that help potential customers decide on the step further. 

Eleken’s earth-shattering offer is a free 3-days trial. It helps remove friction from the customer’s journey — no need to make a hard decision whether to buy or not a "cat in a bag." All doubts dispel as you get a chance to try our services and figure out if they’re going to fit you.

product-aware stage of a customer journey map example

For SaaS companies, freemium pricing is usually used to remove barriers to product value. Users can try a product for free at a base level to feel the benefits it offers, and then the product sells itself, uncovering premium features that offer even more value.

But when you are relying on your product to do the heavy lifting of driving engagement and conversion, you should provide users with a truly superb experience. To ensure a consistent experience for all users, UX designers create their specialized customer journeys, a.k.a user flows, that visualize the path users take inside your product from an entry point through to the final interaction.

User flow we crafted for Fin.do money transfer system app
User flow we crafted for Fin.do money transfer system app

5. Most aware stage

The customer journey doesn’t end when the users find what they need, and it’s especially important for SaaS companies. A newcomer can easily top up your churn list given that your competitor offers a better product at a better price. 

Changing suppliers is as simple as a few clicks for a customer, and is nothing less than a financial loss for a supplier. User acquisition expenses are front-loaded, but monthly per-user fees need time before they become profitable, so providers need to put the work in to make sure customers stick around.

Customer journey: a method to investigate user experience

Knowing what a person does, needs, and feels at each stage of awareness helps to build a cjm that becomes a real marketing tool, not just a pretty graph on the office whiteboard. A customer journey means users set in motion by a problem that moves them looking for a solution. Understanding that journeys can help SaaS companies to join consumers in their investigations and help to turn moments of frustration into moments of delight.

With such a human-centered approach, you can help customers figure out the crowded SaaS market to earn their trust and make the customer stick with you via human-centered design

customer stages of awareness

Dana Yatsenko


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SaaS business
min read

SaaS Market Overview and What's Changed After Covid-19

In 2020, after working as a full-service app development agency for five years, we at Eleken decided to focus exclusively on SaaS and became the design studio that we are now.

Why SaaS? It’s one of the fastest-growing markets and the design is crucial to it.

In the same 2020, the coronavirus pandemic came to our world. Everybody’s life and work changed and the SaaS market changed, too. It turned out that our shift to SaaS happened at a good moment — in 2020’s meaning of “good”, of course.

We can tell a lot about how cloud is the future but don't trust bare words. In this article, we have collected all the most important numbers of the SaaS industry, visualized and explained.

SaaS market size

There are so many reports on the SaaS industry, each one giving different projections. What they all have in common is the fact that the SaaS market will indeed continue to grow in the following years.

The most optimistic prediction promises over 25% CAGR in the following years. CAGR, Compound Annual Growth Rate, is the metric that is most commonly used by investors to indicate the potential of a business or industry.

However, even the modest reports show quite a promising future. According to the report by The Business Research Company, the global SaaS market will grow from $212.20 billion in 2021 to $240.61 billion in 2022 at a CAGR of 13.4%. In 2026, the market will get to $374.48 billion at a CAGR of 11.7%.

global saas market CAGR 11,7%

The industry has been growing significantly during the last few years. All the researches predict SaaS CAGR to be no less than 10% for the next five years. SkyQuest Technology consulting report says that the market will reach $720.44 billion by 2028.

According to Gartner, end-user SaaS spending will reach $208 billion, accounting for ⅓ of all public cloud end-user spending.

SaaS end-user spending forecast by Gartner


2021 showed a huge rise in venture capital (VC) investments in SaaS. In 2022, the growth rate will not maintain that crazy high, but if we compare it to the 2020 and previous years, we see that by June of 2022 the number is already bigger than it used to be two years ago.

SaaS capital investment

Series C valuations account for such a big jump in VC investments. As stated in the report by Silicon Valley Bank, late stages of funding are what investors are going for.

saas market overview 2022

COVID hangover

If I learned something from life is that good moments don’t last forever. The same thing happens with SaaS market success: after steroids-level of growth during the pandemic inevitably comes the hangover.

Recent dynamics of SaaS on the public market has shown that revenue multiples are lowering. Revenue multiple is a ratio that measures the value of the company based on the revenue. A higher ratio makes a company more attractive to investors.

Is this number really alarming? Probably not. As Jason Lemkin, the founder of SaaStr says, there is no reason for worrying. The abnormal COVID rise has to stabilize when the pandemic is over or even before. However, the general positive tendencies will go on.

Biggest investments in SaaS

Talking about investments, the pandemic didn’t make a revolution. Some companies like Zoom have grown to an unprecedented level, but if we look at the biggest investments of 2022, we see the products belonging to the same good old fintech, business management, CRM, data management, eCommerce, and so on.

saas investments 2022

Sectors that got more attention due to the pandemic, such as healthcare and online education, did not dominate the market (with the exception of cybersecurity, which has been an important issue for a while and only got more attention because of remote work). However, on this list of fastest growing SaaS by Latka, we can see that the top ones are cybersecurity and collaboration software.

fastest growing SaaS 2022
Image credit: Latka

And there is another little trend — SaaS management SaaS. You read that right, it’s not a typo. There are so many SaaS, that new products are now needed to manage them. Examples are NachoNacho and Cledara.

Niches that have grown during pandemic


When talking about the pandemic impact on SaaS, it’s impossible not to mention healthcare products. During months that all the attention was turned to the medicine, it couldn’t have been not reflected in tech.

According to estimates, healthtech is 10 years behind other industries in terms of digitalizing processes. It means that there is a lot of space for improvement.

There’s no surprise that telehealth is one of those sectors that experienced huge growth since the pandemic started. In 2021, the spike in telehealth usage has stabilized, but it’s still a huge number compared to pre-pandemic levels. Here is a graph from McKinsey research. The report shows that the investments have grown as well.

growth in telehealth 2020 statistics

However, it’s not only about telehealth. There are also products that automate health management, apply artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnostics, or help users track their health dynamics. The sector is quite diverse. 

As an example, at the end of 2021, Oracle acquired electronic health records company Cerner for $28 billion. Big companies invest in the sector and will continue to do so after the pandemic.

From our personal experience, recently our designer got to work on a healthtech project, Refera. It was a discovery of a whole new world. There are so many things that have to be considered when designing a product for medical workers. If you are curious to learn more about the state of healthtech and what UX has to do with it, read our article healthcare UX challenges.

healthcare SaaS

Cyber security

While remote work became a blessing for some workers, it also became hell for many CISOs, which stands for Chief Information Security Officers. Outside of safe office LAN spaces, work data on private computers became exposed to all sorts of dangers.

Such issues need a new approach to information security, and SaaS seems a logical solution to it. During the last two years, a number of cybersecurity products got big funding, among them are Illumio, Tanium, Bright Security, and Netskope.

Our designers didn’t lag behind as well, and we have some experience working with the code security app Tromzo — you can find more in the case study.

cyber security SaaS products examples


Remote learning was no less of a challenge for the education sector than remote working for business. In the early months of  the pandemic, a number of eLearning products, such as Vedantu, Kano, Duolingo, and Eeo education got good funding. The biggest investments got Vedantu ($190.9M) and Eeo education ($265M).

New learning opportunities will be in demand in times of crisis when people are forced to change their jobs and learn something new all the time to stay afloat. However, edtech is not limited to online learning platforms. There is a lot of space for AI, ML, AR, and other more prosaic but highly needed things such as education workflow automation tools. 

Along with the popularization of online learning, traditional educational institutions have to work hard to attract students. That’s how student engagement software comes useful. Check out our story about Enroly to get a better idea.

eLearning SaaS industry products

Online events

Remember when people in 2020 wondered if they will get used to online events and refuse live ones? In 2022, it’s pretty clear that screen communication can’t replace personal contact. Yet, we had two years to see the opportunities the online events open, and sure they have taken their place in people’s everyday life — and the SaaS market is no exception.

I’m far from saying that there is a huge flow of online events software, although there are some examples such as Hubilo, a virtual events platform that raised $28M in 2021. Most SaaS online events advance came through extensions of existing apps. As an example, a very offline-focused product, Urban Sports Club, promoted online training, and even Airbnb was doing online experiences.

SaaS products for online events examples
Online events on Airbnb and Urban Sports Club

COVID-specific products

Remember when in the first months of the pandemic, apps for social contact tracking started to appear? There was much concern about privacy, but in some countries, they showed good results.

Naturally, these solutions gained momentum only shortly, without having much impact on the SaaS market, they are worth mentioning in this article. It’s interesting to see how some of them turned out to be functional even beyond the COVID.

In 2021, we’ve got to work on Haven diagnostics, a product that helps companies manage the return of employees to offices in a safe and healthcare regulations-compliant way. We could witness how fast they had to pivot: the situations changed every month. The product even inspired us to write the article offices vs COVID.

Haven Diagnostics started by just creating analysis and offering solutions to clients personally and wanted to grow into a product and automate the process. After some research, they realized that their services were useful not only to prevent COVID contagions. Distancing and work safety measures worked as well in preventing flu and other viruses from spreading.

Did you know that in the US, employees miss up to 111 million workdays because of the flu? It results in a $16,3 billion yearly earning loss. Although the danger of COVID is now very little, Haven Diagnostics has the future.

The development wasn’t easy for the founders. There have been issues with compliance and privacy, too. However, the product turned out to be usable and provide value to users, – and also had a great design! Check out the case study to prove we’re right!

COVID-specific SaaS product example

Market segmentation

By region

The USA is leading in the global SaaS market, leaving the rest of the world far behind. The fastest-growing region is APAC (Asia-Pacific). Although it is not likely to become the leader in the next five or so years, investors are attracted by the vast amount of opportunities in the emerging market. Given the slow adoption of SaaS in the APAC region, most of the products have to rely on the international market to gain good traction.

Latin America SaaS market is also growing fast, especially within the ecommerce sector. Europe has a strong market, second after the USA. European companies tend to go global and focus on monetization at early stages.

Here is a heatmap of the SaaS world, ranging by the size of revenue.

SaaS market segmentation by region, map

Please note that Singapore ($10.3B) and Hong Kong ($5.9B) are also present on the map. Countries with revenues in SaaS business below $2B are not colored. Data is taken from Latka.


If you were concerned whether the software-as-a-service industry is a good place for new business, there is nothing to worry about. The SaaS market remained healthy even when the pandemic hit. Its growth has been positive during the last few years and all the forecasts say it will be so in the next few years.

The popularity of micro SaaS is what makes the entrance to the market accessible for niche independent products. Remote work, the spread of 5G, artificial intelligence — all of it favors new cloud solutions and opens numerous opportunities for startups. To find out what else is shaping the market right now, read our article about the latest SaaS trends.

SaaS business
min read

How to Differentiate Your SaaS Value Proposition on a Market Full of Similar Offerings

Gartner's research on the New B2B Buying Journey shows that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase, they spend only 17% of their time meeting with sales representatives. Most of the time buyers run their own independent research on the web. 

People are looking for an offer that suits their needs in the best possible way. A clear and distinctive value proposition is something that can catch the prospect's eye just like good packaging stands out even at the loaded supermarket shelf.

saas value poposition meme

But you can rarely find a clear and distinctive value proposition on the SaaS market because the statements companies use to self-identify are usually…

  1. meaningless,
  2. unfocused,
  3. lack points of difference.

In this article, Eleken UI/UX agency will help you to figure out how to build your SaaS value proposition in a way that you'll avoid the three pitfalls from above. 

If you want more information on the idea of the enterprise value proposition and frameworks that help to coin one, take a look at our article on defining a product value proposition.

Find the core value your customer gets

The value proposition is your SaaS business and its competitive advantage in a short, memorable promise of value to be delivered, that you can communicate through marketing, sales, and customer success messaging.

The idea seems easy and straightforward if you sell something you could actually grasp, like coffee, furniture, or cat food. But for SaaS companies that sell non-physical products, it's hard to find the right words. Thus, the SaaS market is full of senseless landing pages with pompous titles. 

bad saas value proposition examples

Words like “world-class” or “cutting-age” are just white noise, they don’t give any information to the user. The rest of the titles name the product category at best but communicate no value to draw the attention as the viewer's eyes skim through the page. 

To make your value proposition meaningful, start by boiling it down to the key benefit your customers get. According to Tomasz Tunguz, a venture capitalist at Redpoint, all value propositions of SaaS startups can be broken down into three fundamental categories.

1. Apps that increase revenue

“Buy our software and you’ll double your leads.” Who wouldn't want that?

Software that increases revenue is the easiest to sell since for most companies, growth is the top priority. Most lead generation, marketing automation, and sales acceleration apps fall under this category.

Look at what Salesforce claims on its main page. The company literally sells users their future profits. The company backs its promises with a specific figure and makes it trustworthy by quoting a real company and a real person behind it.  

2. Apps that reduce costs

“With our software, you’ll save millions of dollars.” Not so impressive as the promise to earn millions of dollars, but still works. Software that cuts down the costs offers efficiency as their value proposition. Such solutions optimize workflows, automate operations and remove silos out of your work. 

Take PandaDoc, a business document processing app, as an example. Making your processes more efficient, the app can reduce the amount of work to be done, and, as a result, operational costs. Thus, PandaDoc promises to “take the work out of your document workflow”. 

3. Apps that improve productivity

“We’ll help you collaborate better, therefore you’ll be able to increase your revenue/reduce your costs.” To this category belong collaboration tools like Figma, Zoom, or Slack.

Productivity apps’ value proposition is one step away from revenue increases or cost reductions, therefore it may sound somewhat blurry. But since the word went remote, the correlation between team productivity and business success became obvious. So productivity as a value proposition requires no further explanations.

Here’s a value proposition example from Figma. The company allows the work to be done remotely, and therefore, the revenue to come.

Narrow the target market

The product or service you are selling matters, but the people you are selling to are equally important. The better you know your target audience, the easier it will be to offer them true value. And the best way to know your target audience for a startup is to narrow it down to a specific group of people.

Let’s see how it works on the example of Gridle, one of Eleken’s clients.

Gridle (later changed its name into Clientjoy) is a growth operating system, it belongs to the same product category as Salesforce and sells its users the ability to increase their revenue.

Salesforce, as well as most large CRM (customer relationship management) companies, focus on large or medium-sized enterprises. To stand out from their competitors, Gridle decided to focus on a narrow niche of small creative agencies and freelancers.

What Gridle offers on their website

Small businesses and freelancers, who used to run their businesses in a fast and flexible way, feel especially keenly that CRM systems are too damn complicated. Using the CRM doesn’t help with customer management, it rather slows the workflow down. Looks like an opportunity window for a niche lightweight CRM.

Make your value proposition distinctive

Have you managed to determine your audience and the core value that the audience gets? You're halfway there, but it’s time to think about your points of differentiation.

Each software category has a multitude of providers with similar offerings. Although each provider tries to differentiate their offering, most of them appear to be equal to a potential user doing a cursory review.

To make your software value proposition more specific, figure out how you can do your job differently.

Everyone in the business of CRM shouts with a megaphone that “CRM is easy,” but if you ask a crowded room how many find their CRMs easy, there would hardly be a hand showing. 

Customer relationship management apps are elephants in the world of SaaS products. They are huge and sluggish, they have a hard time trying to mediate conflicting needs of sales and marketing staff. The former need to enter minimal client information quickly. The latter need to be able to profile and segment customers, which requires more detailed information. Trying to satisfy both parties, CRMs often end up satisfying none.

With the CRM niche’s bad rap in mind, the Gridle team decided to make simplicity of use and a smooth user experience their distinctive feature. To turn the ambition into reality, Gridle used Eleken’s product redesign services.

It took us about three months to redesign Gridle. We conducted a UX audit and numerous user interviews to detect the product’s bottlenecks. Next, we recreated the entire platform to make it more intuitive and usable. When Gridle's CTO showed the updated design to some of their users, they were excited and said that they couldn't wait to start using the revamped app.

Gridle after the redesign

The key takeaway

So here are three questions Gridle answered to build a quality value proposition:

  1. What do they do? CRM software that helps users to increase revenue.
  2. Who is their target audience? Small agencies and freelancers.
  3. How do they do it differently? Stellar user experience is what sets Gridle apart from competitors.

Looks like Gridle’s value proposition worked out pretty well. Six months after our cooperation successfully ended, the company raised $800,000 in a Series A funding round.

If you want to build an effective value proposition for your SaaS application, be like Gridle. 

  • Don’t use an Oxford dictionary to find extravagant, yet meaningless words for your headings. Better think of the core benefit you offer.
  • Remember that you can’t please everyone. So you better decide on your target niche.
  • Think of audiences’ pain points that your competitors are missing and find a way to solve them. That would help you to excel in a crowded market.

And if you decide that exceptional user experience is going to be your distinctive feature, hire Eleken UI/UX designers.

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