Consumer Buying Behavior: Understanding Five Stages Of The Buying Process
If you can't identify what stage of the buying process potential customers are in, you might as well be flying blindfolded. Consumer buying behavior is a complex mix of emotional reasons for buying and psychological and social imprints. But there is a set pattern to the buying process – whether the purchase is something simple like an apple, or complex like a car. The better you understand consumer buying behavior, the more effectively you can leverage your small business marketing in all stages of the buying process.
What Is The Buying Process?
Let's examine consumer buying behavior and break down the buying process. I'll also identify important information and marketing materials consumers are searching for in each stage.
1) Identifying A Need Or ProblemAt the first stage in consumer buying behavior, a person begins to recognize a problem or desire. If the problem or desire is complex, such as a losing weight, most of the person's focus will be on understanding their situation. Using weight loss as an example, your marketing materials at this stage would need to focus on answering very general questions, such as "how to determine healthy weight?"
2) Searching For A Solution To The ProblemAfter a problem or desire has been identified, the consumer begins searching for a solution. At this stage of consumer buying behavior, there may not be a past experience to guide their information gathering. So, again, using personal weight loss as an example, multiple solutions may be identified at this time such as buying the latest diet plan book, purchasing a new treadmill, or joining the local gym. Your goal at this point in the buying process is to get your product or service in front of the consumer. Make them aware of your solution.
3) Evaluating OptionsOnce the consumer understands his or her situation and has gathered research on possible solutions, the buying process enters an evaluation period. The consumer now starts to take a close look at specifics, such as the company providing the solution, the brand name of the product, and the features and benefits of each solution. Branding and product differentiation are extremely important tools of persuasion during the evaluation stage.
4) PurchaseAfter a comprehensive review of solutions and specific products and services, the consumer makes a purchase decision. At this point in the buying process, supporting information needs to be provided to reinforce the decision to buy. Depending on your product or service, you may need to provide different payment options or billing terms.
5) Evaluation Of The PurchaseWe're all familiar with buyer's remorse. It is crucial to building strong relationships with customers and encouraging repeat purchases that you not only provide a positive purchase experience and after sale support, but that you strengthen the buyer's perception that they made the right purchase decision. After sale customer support and follow-up is vital at this stage in consumer buying behavior as is continuation of your small business marketing for cross-selling and strengthening your brand image and online branding.
Marketing To Each Stage Of The Buying Process
Consumer buying behavior is a complex beast. But, no matter what the purchase, every consumer follows the above buying process when making a purchase. As a small business owner, you need to become skilled at identifying which stage a potential customer is in, and then providing relevant marketing materials to bring them one step closer to purchasing from you. And just as important to successful sales, start analyzing where and when potential customers drop off your radar. Knowing when prospects leave your buying process will help you pinpoint what marketing materials you need to improve.