It can often feel like your customers’ purchasing decisions are random and unpredictable, but the truth is, there is a well-documented pattern to the consumer buying process. By understanding this process, you not only are able to better understand your customers; you are also able to create marketing and sales initiatives to support and guide them through the process.
Step 1: Identifying the Problem
Although some purchases are impulse-buys, the majority of sales are driven by the consumer’s need to solve a problem. In order to solve a problem, the consumer must first identify that he or she has a need and that there could be a product/service on the market that would offer the solution.
Marketing Tip – Help your customers identify the challenges that your product/solves solves through targeted marketing and sales campaigns.
Step 2: Searching for the Solution
Whether this starts with a specific product in mind or simply the thought that “there must be a product out there for this,” the consumer will begin to search for solutions. To be that solution, your brand and product/service must stand out as the best choice. This means your customers must first be able to find you, and then be able to gather all of the information necessary to understand why they should choose you.
Marketing Tip – In the digital age, customers are more likely to have their minds made up about your brand before you ever get to speak with them. Make sure your website sends the right message, has a flawless user experience (UI), and is mobile responsive.
Step 3: Calculating the Options
Regardless of whether they know what they want or not, most consumers will compare products and reviews before purchasing. Customers want to know that the product/service they are purchasing is the right one for them.
Marketing Tip – You know your customer is going to research the options, so keep them on your website by providing a comparison chart that compares your product/service against the competitors. This not only instills trust in your brand, but also gives you some control over their research phase.
Step 4: Deciding to Purchase
They’ve done their research, understand the costs, and now need to weigh the options. This is the critical moment, and your brand needs to support the customer in this moment without being pushy.
Marketing Tip – If a customer fails to buy in the moment, don’t give up. Follow up with them, if at all possible. If you’re operating an online store, consider incorporating “abandoned cart” emails into your auto responder system.
Step 5: Purchasing
Even though your customers have made the decision to purchase, the act of purchasing is a step in and of itself. Support your customers in this step by ensuring the purchase process is easy and credible.
Marketing Tip – Consider every step the customer must take to complete a purchase. From how they get to your store (e-Commerce vs. brick and mortar) to how they pay, each step is a barrier. Therefore, you should minimize those steps as much as possible.
Step 6: Evaluating
In the age of hassle-free returns, the customer still has the ability to change his or her mind after the purchase. Minimize this risk by ensuring your product/service lives up to all the claims you made throughout the buying process. You can also minimize buyer’s remorse with strategic follow-up.
Marketing Tip – Establish a post-purchase automated email campaign with satisfaction surveys and appreciation messages. This is your opportunity to turn a one-time purchase into a loyal customer.