Far too often, business owners think consumers buying process is basically random. Thereby, they approach product and service marketing in the same way, based on trial and error forgetting that there is usually a process.
Customers buying process describes the journey your customer goes through before actually purchasing your product.
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According to Larry Kim, marketing is about matching the way you market and sell with the way people actually want to shop and buy.
Therefore, understanding your customer’s buying process is not only very important for your sales personnel’s, it will also enable you to align your marketing strategy accordingly.
The actual purchase is just one step but there are six stages to the consumers buying process. This is to enable you as a marketer or business owner know how to market to them effectively.
Put simply, before a purchase can ever take place, the customer must have a reason to believe that’s what they want.
However, for the marketer, this creates an opportunity. By taking the time to “create a problem” for the customer, whether they recognize that it exists already or not, you’re starting the buying process. To do this, start with content marketing.
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According to Neil Patel, if you’re marketing to consumers directly, either through your blog, corporate site or online store, you need to know how to use content marketing effectively.
Share facts and testimonials of what your product or service can provide. Ask questions to pull the potential customer into the buying process. Doing this helps a potential customer realize that they have a need that should be solved.
This is often identified as the first and most important step in the customer’s buying process. A purchase cannot take place without the recognition of the need.
The need may have been triggered by innate desire such as hunger or thirst or it might be an external sort such as seen in an advertisement or by word of mouth.
The need is a source of buying behaviour which triggers an individual to act towards or buy the product.
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Marketers must identify the circumstances that trigger a particular need. Based on this, you can develop marketing strategies that will trigger consumer interest to purchase from you.
Once a problem is recognized, the customer search process begins. They know there is an issue and they’re looking for a solution. The next step a customer takes is to search for information. Usually, they do this in order to find out what they feel is the best solution.
For example, if it’s a new bag that is in vogue, they look for bags; if it’s a new car with the newest engine and top speed, they start looking at cars.
This is the buyer’s effort to search internal and external business environments to identify and evaluate information sources related to the central buying decision. Your customer may rely on print, visual, online media or word of mouth for obtaining information.
As a marketer, the best way to market to this need is to establish your brand or the brand of your clients as an industry leader or expert in a specific field. Methods to consider include becoming a Google trusted store or by advertising partnerships and sponsors prominently on web materials.
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Becoming a Google trusted store allows you to increase search rankings and to provide a sense of customer security by displaying your status on your website.
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Note that consumers will not collect detail information on all the brands available in the market. They scrutinize all the brands in sequence, from its affordability, to potency and all round.
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On that basis, effective communication can be prepared for the target market.
Evaluation of alternatives
Just because you stand out among the competition doesn’t mean a customer will absolutely purchase your product or service.
In fact, now more than ever, customers want to be sure they’ve done thorough research prior to making a purchase.
Even though they may be sure of what they want, they’ll still want to compare other options to ensure their decision is the right one.
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This not only simplifies the process, it establishes a trusting customer relationship, especially during the evaluation of alternatives stage.
As you might expect, individuals will evaluate different products or brands at this stage on the basis of alternative product attributes – those which have the ability to deliver the benefits the customer is seeking.
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Somewhat surprisingly, the purchase decision falls near the middle of the stages of the consumer buying process. At this point, the customer has explored multiple options, they understand pricing and payment options and they are deciding whether to move forward with the purchase or not. At this point, they could still decide to walk away.
This means it’s time to step up your game in the marketing process by providing a sense of security while reminding customers of why they wanted to make the purchase at the first instance.
At this stage, giving as much information relating to the need that was created previously along with why your brand is the best provider to fulfill this need is essential.
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If a customer walks away from the purchase, this is the time to bring them back. Re-targeting or sending simple email reminders that speak to the need for the product in question can enforce the purchase decision, even if the opportunity seems lost.
For example, having gone through the previous three stages, a customer chooses to buy a new phone. However, because his very good friend gives him negative feedback, he will then be bound to change his preference.
Furthermore, the decision may be disrupted due to unforeseen situations such as a sudden job loss or relocation.
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Simply, the most attractive brand, that can offer more benefits in relation to price paid, is selected by comparing one brand with others. Comparison shows superiority or inferiority of the brands.
Now, consumer makes up his mind to purchase the most preferred brand. However, three factors further affect whether buying intention result into actual purchase. More clearly, the consumer’ decision to avoid, modify, or postpone a purchase decision is influenced by these factors.
The first factor is attitude of others. The impact of other persons’ attitudes depends on degree of their negative attitudes toward the consumer’s preferred brand, and consumer’s degree of compliance with other persons’ wishes.
The second factor is unanticipated situational factors. Purchase intention may change due to certain unanticipated situational factors like price hike, loss of job, family income, major medical expenses, non-availability of the preferred brand, or such similar factors.
The third and the last factor is consumer’s perceived risk. Degree of risk depends on price, attribute uncertainty, entry of a new superior product, and his self-confidence.
Hence, the consumer prefers one product or brand with the most promising “future”, out of several brands. The former stage helps consumers evaluate various brands in the choice set. The brand that offers maximum benefits or satisfaction is therefore preferred.
A need has been created, research has been completed and the customer has decided to make a purchase. All the stages that lead to a conversion are finished. However, this doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing.
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A consumer could still be lost. Marketing is just as important during this stage as during the previous. Marketing to this stage is straightforward: keep it simple. In doing this, you can ask certain questions like:
Is it complicated?
Are there too many steps?
Is the load time too slow?
Can a purchase be completed just as simply on a mobile device as on a desktop computer?
Ask these critical questions and make adjustments. If the purchase process is too difficult, revenue can easily be lost.
Post purchase evaluation
Just because a purchase has been made, the process has not ended. After a purchase is made, it’s inevitable that the customer must decide whether they are satisfied with the decision that was made or not. They evaluate.
If the consumer is not satisfied in that case he or she will be disappointed. Otherwise, if he or she is satisfied than they will be delighted to repeat the purchase.
It is usually said that a satisfy consumer tells about the product to 3 people and a dissatisfy consumer tell about the product to 11 people. Therefore it is the duty of the marketer to satisfy the consumer.
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However, even if the customer is satisfied with his or her decision to make the purchase, whether a future purchase is made; your brand is still in question. Because of this, sending follow-up emails that thank the customer for making a purchase is critical.
Hence, dissatisfaction can be reduced or avoided if you try these below mwntioned:
1. Congratulating consumers for the right choice to justify their decision
2. Sending booklet to guide for effective use of the product
3. Inviting suggestions from consumers
4. Managing complaints by effective counseling and after-sales services
5. Informing about changes made in the product
Close informal relations with consumers can yield valuable information. Remember that a dissatisfied consumer is more important than a satisfied one as his every problem regarding the product reveals a ready suggestion. Marketer must welcome complaints and tackle them carefully for the brighter future.
In summary, customers will always compare products with their previous expectations and will be either satisfied or dissatisfied. Therefore, these stages are critical in retaining customers.
A customers prior engagement can greatly affect the decision process for similar purchases from the same company in the future. If your customer is satisfied, this will result in brand loyalty.
On the basis of being either satisfied or dissatisfied, it is common for customers to distribute their positive or negative feedback about the product to others. This may be through reviews on website, social media platforms or word of mouth to prospective customers.
Companies should be very careful to create positive post-purchase communication, in order to engage customers and make the process as efficient as possible.
Thus, consumers buying process is a journey from recognizing a problem to actually solving the problem through a customers reaction to purchasing from you. The entire process is very meaningful to the seller.
The process reflects most of the factors affecting consumers.
Therefore, marketers must study the buying process from consumer’s viewpoint and companies must take certain steps to support consumers in each stage to buy its product.