Stage management: Understanding the steps of the consumer buying process

Research shows most customers go through the following stages before actually getting out their wallets to purchase a product or service
by: Custom Toll Free , May 23, 2017

As marketers continue to drill down into how best to engage with key customers, they’re taking a closer look at what happens at each stage of the buying process — in the real world, not just theoretically — when it comes to different customer segments.

Thanks in part to technology tools that can narrow down how customers are likely to react at each stage, marketers these days need not rely so much on experience and intuition to form strategy.

Research shows most customers go through the following stages before actually getting out their wallets to purchase a product or service. Here, we’ve also included suggestions as to how savvy marketers can best engage with consumers at each step of the process.

1. Diagnosis of a problem: The consumer recognizes that some aspect of his life or situation is different from what he wants it to be, making it a “pain point” (i.e., opportunity) in the eyes of the marketer.

The marketer’s role: Sometimes consumers don’t immediately recognize their own pain points, in which case you’ll need to suggest possible scenarios that create a need in the consumer’s mind, following up with suggestions as to how they can be solved. One way of doing that is through content marketing that explains your product’s benefits through facts and testimonials.

2. Search for information: The customer recognizes the “problem” and begins researching possible solutions by way of print, visual, online media or word of mouth.

The marketer’s role: This is where you reap the benefits of your previous efforts to publicize your business and establish yourself as an authority in your field. A number of elements can influence consumers at this stage, including whether they’ve heard of your brand, whether they remember your ads, whether they see you as credible, whether they’ve heard or read positive reviews about you, etc. Strategies to optimize those elements might include conducting effective multichannel advertising, taking steps to increase your search rankings and/or becoming a Google Trusted Store.

3. Comparison shopping: Today’s customer conducts more pre-purchase research than ever before; this is the stage in which he compares your offerings to those of your competitors.

The marketer’s role: Since you know this is coming, you can keep customers from looking too far afield by anticipating their concerns and explaining on your website why your products compare favorably. Some businesses go so far as to post graphs comparing their products with others, even if their competitors outrank them in certain aspects. That’s a bold move, but can save customers time while acting to encourage their trust and loyalty.

4. Deciding what to buy: Having considered the pros and cons, the customer makes the call whether to buy from you or not.

The marketer’s role: At this point you should pull out the stops to remind him of why he considered buying from you in the first place, providing copious information about the benefits of your brand. Don’t give up if he walks away; instead, consider follow-up emails that could change his mind or encourage him to buy from you next time. Common reasons why customers change their minds after deciding on a purchase? Negative attitudes of others they find influential, situational or life changes and the perceived risk of making purchases.

5. Purchase: The customer buys something.

The marketer’s role: Ensure your online buying process is as simple as possible so all customers who come your way have an efficient, effective experience.

6. Follow-up evaluation: The customer is either pleased with his purchase or second-guesses his purchase and experiences buyer’s remorse.

The marketer’s role: At this point, it’s a good idea to reinforce his smart choice of buying from you via follow-up emails that thank him while minimizing any dissonance or regret he may feel. Perhaps send him suggestions for utilizing the product and/or a survey asking him to rate aspects of his purchase for future reference. Any complaints should be addressed at once to reinforce loyalty and prevent the customer from sharing his perceived bad buying experience with others.

Talk to Custom Toll Free about how it can tailor your marketing plans to each step of the customer buying cycle.

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