There are different stages of the buying process. An understanding of that is extremely important. Is it the initial solution of the research stage? How fast does it move? Or are they in a selection stage considering their options? Or do they know exactly what they want and they are refining their choice based on price, service, etc.? These are all things that you need to understand and integrate into your digital strategy.
The consumer buying process has undoubtedly been revolutionized by technology. Now, everyone is plugged in and hooked up. Consumers can research products, analyze, and make better, more informed decisions within minutes – and, typically, all of this happens before they’ve even made first contact with the business or product in question. In other words, people are relying on their digital networks.
This revolution has made the world a much smaller, more easily accessible place and, as a result, it has also made the competitive environment for businesses to attract and retain customers a rapidly changing and continuously challenging one. Understanding how consumers think, react, and make their buying decisions will make or break your company. But without a little more direction, you’re probably thinking that this all sounds far too overwhelming to be given much contemplation. Have no fear: we’ve got your solution nailed down to just three short paragraphs.
Before we even get into your customer, let’s talk about you. Does your company have a clear, concise concept? Not every company is cut out to be an Amazon.com. Instead of trying to halfheartedly cover a gamut of products or services, clearly define your strengths and your product/service offering. To determine what type of customer you want to attract, you need to define who you are in the digital landscape.
The traditional consumer buying process consists of six steps:
- Problem recognition
- Information search
- Evaluation of alternatives
- Purchase decision
- Post-purchase evaluation
The digital buying process is the same as the traditional one, just on steroids. Consumers usually give a gracious thirty seconds when reviewing a website, and if they can’t find a quick solution to their “problem,” they move on. The first thing a suave product-provider such as yourself needs to know is how to both attract potential customers to your site and how to keep them there long enough to offer a solution without making them work for it (i.e. searching around your page).
So we, as digital marketers, tie the traditional buying process together through three very distinct buckets that allow us to better understand buyer intention:
- Awareness (Research)
- Evaluation (Refinement)
- Purchase (Purchase)
By understanding which customers are in each phase, we can also more accurately identify the costs of attracting them and moving them through the remainder of the sales funnel.
Let’s consider an example using the wine market:
In the first bucket, we have someone searching merely for “Pinot.” In the second bucket we have consumers looking for “Sonoma Pinot.” In the final bucket, where consumers are quite clear about what they want, they may be searching for something like “Sonoma Pinot under $50.”
Naturally, fewer queries are being made for the types of words in bucket 3, however these customers are the ones who are ready to buy, so if you want to get the sale, you’d better be ranking for these words.
Conversely, keywords in the awareness bucket will be more vague, but have a higher search rate. These customers could be looking for a lot of things. However, if you at least have some presence in the rankings, you could influence their decision making.
Knowing what you do, now, you need to present your products and business as clearly, concisely, and as easily navigable as possible for those in each bucket. You may have all your ducks in a row, but what is the use without being easily identifiable? To successfully compete in this rapidly evolving digital landscape, your digital strategy needs to be aligned with what your consumers want and expect. If your online presence doesn’t identify with their needs and wants, they’ll quickly pass you by.