Multiple factors can be influencing buyers as they consider a purchase.
Many individuals believe that after the buyer pays for the item, the sale is complete. However, there is no single decision-making stage that is not crucial for influencing consumer behavior. Companies must maximize profit by carefully monitoring each step of the purchasing process.
A consumer does not simply decide to purchase. They are influenced by a variety of circumstances when it comes to their purchasing habits.
Many companies focus on specific optimizations – enhancing checkout, enhancing client acquisition via SEO or PPC, for example – without a broader view of the overall picture.
The best way to optimize a customer journey and utilize user-generated content to enhance it is first to understand each stage. Here is what you need to know about the decision-making process of shoppers.
What is the Consumer Decision Making Process?
Consumers must first determine their needs, obtain information, evaluate alternatives, and make a purchase decision.
Economic and psychological variables influence consumer behavior, influenced by environmental elements such as social and cultural values.
The consumer decision making process is how consumers become aware of and define their wants; gather information on the most effective ways to meet these needs; analyze various available options; make a purchasing decision, and evaluate their purchase.
Consumer decision-making is a complex process that encompasses everything from problem identification to post-purchase activities. Each consumer has unique everyday needs, and it is these needs that influence their purchasing decisions.
Decisions can be complex, involving comparing, analyzing, selecting, and purchasing various products based on a consumer’s view of a particular product.
This enables marketers to differentiate their products and services from competitors by comprehending and addressing the fundamental problem of the consumer decision-making process.
While it is critical for any organization to understand the consumer decision-making process, eCommerce businesses have a unique chance to optimize it.
As online shoppers generate a greater volume of data than brick-and-mortar shoppers, online retailers can use this information to develop precise conversion techniques at each stage.
Stages of Consumer Decision Making Process
Consumers’ purchase decisions are referred to by various terms, such as buyer journeys, buying cycles, buyer funnels, and consumer purchase decision processes.
However, these terms refer to the same thing: the customer’s trip when making a purchase.
Thus, the following is a breakdown of what occurs in each step:
- Need recognition (awareness): This is the first and most critical stage of the purchasing process, as every sale begins with a buyer being aware of a need for a product or service.
- Customers want to learn about their options during this time.
- Alternatives evaluation (consideration): This is the stage at which a consumer compares options to select the best choice.
- Purchasing decision (conversion): At this stage, purchasing behavior transforms into action – the consumer is ready to buy!
- Following a purchase, consumers examine if the investment was worthwhile, whether they will suggest the product/service/brand to others, whether they would purchase again, and what feedback they would provide.
Following are consumer purchasing stage examples that illustrate how each step works in real life and how your eCommerce company can maximize results at each level to demonstrate how these stages play out in real life.
1. Understanding the Problem
It is the first stage in the consumer decision-making process to recognize a need for a product or service.
Recognizing a need, whether internally or externally triggered, results in the same response: a desire. Once consumers identify a market, they must gather knowledge to determine how to fulfill that desire, which leads to step 2.
With an estimated 3.5 billion searches performed daily on Google, search engines are almost usually the first port of call for your clients when they experience an issue.
This also provides you with an excellent opportunity to obtain a thorough insight into your clients through keyword research.
However, at this stage, how can you influence consumers? Because internal stimulation originates within and includes basic instincts such as hunger or a lifestyle change, your sales and marketing efforts should be directed toward the outward stimulus.
Consider the following scenario: you operate an electric scooter rental business and are looking to expand into a new market.
If your keyword research finds that customers in this market commonly search for terms such as “electric scooter safe?” and “how to avoid colliding with an electric scooter,” this could indicate that safety is a significant worry for potential customers in this market.
Create a complete brand effort to increase brand recognition and awareness––you want people to recognize and trust you. Most essential, you want them to believe they have an issue that only you can resolve.
These customer search results assist you in making critical strategic decisions regarding how to fulfill your customers’ demands best. Using this search data, your organization may, for example, promote the safety features of your product in marketing campaigns.
Example: Search for a new camera
Consider this: Why would someone begin looking for a new camera? Most likely, their current camera is no more extended operating correctly, or they simply desire a more excellent camera.
Perhaps they are anticipating a vacation. Or maybe they want to gift the camera to their sister, who recently gave birth to her first child.
How is this related to a physiological requirement? Simple. Without a camera, they will be unable to chronicle memorable occasions; hence, they have an emotional urge to save these memories to make them joyful rather than sad.
This emotional need is the situation’s internal stimulation. While a camera is not a life-sustaining necessity, it does satisfy a fundamental emotional need.
What happens after a need is identified? They immediately begin searching for a solution! Which gets us to the next stage of the consumer journey: information discovery.
2. Search for Information
When a consumer perceives a need and begins looking for a solution, you must be there to assist!
And, more importantly, where do customers typically seek answers today? Google!
The customer has established that they require a product to satisfy a specific need after an information search. Additionally, they are constantly seeking information about potential solutions.
Consumers again rely on internal and external elements and positive and negative past contacts with a product or brand when conducting their research.
They may study online sources such as Google or customer reviews at the information stage or browse choices in a physical location.
Following that, the customer is attempting to determine which of the competing solutions is the most appropriate.
Amazon has almost wholly automated this process by allowing users to conduct comparison shopping without leaving the platform.
To that end, we suggest that this stage of the consumer decision-making process is necessary for the subsequent stage. That is, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of several possibilities.
As a brand, your role is to provide potential customers with the information they want in the hopes that they would purchase your product or service.
Create a funnel and determine the types of material that will be required. Establish a reputation as a reliable source of knowledge and information.
Another critical tactic is word of mouth––because customers trust one another more than they trust businesses, incorporate consumer-generated content on your websites, such as customer reviews or video testimonials.
Example: Searching Cameras
Now that the consumer has recognized the need for a new camera, it’s time to resolve his issue. You must be visible to the consumer who is looking for a solution at this time.
A consumer may be looking for the following:
- 2020’s best cameras
- Which camera is the best value for money?
- Which cameras get the highest ratings?
The amount of information a consumer needs to look for is determined by his prior knowledge of potential solutions and the intricacy of accessible options.
For instance, suppose someone is shopping for a camera as a gift and is unsure of the type of camera or the features he needs.
He will require more information than someone who is already sure of the type of camera he wishes to acquire and is simply looking for the correct product and purchase method.
The amount of searching required is entirely situation-dependent and can vary significantly.
What is the process of getting information to customers? The data are compiled from internal data (their prior knowledge of a brand or product) in conjunction with external data from friends and family, blogs, press reviews, etc.
The most critical approach to improve your online business during the need recognition and awareness stage is to ensure that you appear in search results — and that what the consumer sees has an impact.
Optimization strategies for the research stage
First, ensure that your eCommerce storefront is optimized for the keywords that are important to your company. Our comprehensive guide on eCommerce SEO can be found here.
Once you’ve mastered the art of SEO strategy, you’ll want to ensure that your results are well optimized for conversion.
During the research stage, user-generated evaluations might assist you in increasing brand recognition. Indeed, it is one of the most effective methods.
By improving the likelihood of your store appearing in search results for long-tail keywords, reviews can aid in your store’s visibility.
Reviews benefit SEO by providing a consistent source of keyword-rich, relevant content for your online business.
Therefore, when someone opens their laptop and begins their search for a new camera, evaluations will assist you in being there:
Review-based businesses notice an increase in search traffic. You can use reviews in Google Rich Snippets and Product Listing Ads to increase the credibility of your listing when a customer conducts a Google search.
Businesses that include reviews in their search results stand out!
3. Consider Alternatives
At this stage of the consumer decision-making process, prospective customers have established criteria for the characteristics of a product they desire.
They are now comparing their future selections to comparable alternatives.
After the consumer has conducted research, it is time to examine their options and determine viable alternatives.
At this point, buyers are familiar with your brand and have been sent to your website to decide whether to purchase from you or a competitor.
Alternatives may include reduced prices, more incredible product benefits, product availability, or even something personal as color or style variations.
The objective of your marketing materials should be to convince consumers that your product is better than the competition.
Prepare to overcome any objections––for example, during sales conversations, familiarize yourself with your competitors so you can respond to queries and compare benefits.
Consumers make purchasing decisions based on which available options best meet their goals and limit the risk of making a poor investment. They will ensure that there are no better alternatives.
Their assessment is influenced by two significant characteristics:
- Features, functionality, cost, and ease of use
- Subjective: Attitudes toward a brand (based on previous experience or input from past customers)
Example: Compare shopping of a camera
If you’re a camera retailer or manufacturer, your goal during the contemplation stage is to persuade clients that your camera is the best option.
And the most efficient approach to accomplish this is to keep them on your website for an extended period of time and find ways to earn their confidence.
Consumers will first consider your camera’s objective attributes. Is it equipped with all the features I desire? Is it simple to operate? Is it financially feasible?
Then comes the subjective evaluation: Do other people believe it has all the attributes it should have?
Has anyone else who purchased it reported frustration with the process of learning how to use it? Is it widely regarded as a good value for money?
You only get one chance – to make the most of it. Naturally, your website must be informational, your prices are competitive, and your value proposition is obvious.
However, if you are identical to competition in every manner, it is the word of prior consumers that will differentiate you.
Optimization strategies for the contemplation stage
Utilize reviews and user-generated content samples on your website at this stage to promote engagement and client trust.
You should include reviews on your home page to see content from previous customers immediately.
Additionally, you should include reviews on your product pages so that visitors seeking information can see reputable input from previous buyers.
Additionally, incorporating reviews into a home page carousel lowers bounce rates while increasing time spent on the site and page views.
This increase in involvement enhances the possibility that shoppers will discover more about your store and depart with a favorable impression of your brand.
Additionally, reviews assist in initiating travel to other product pages. Ensure that you collect reviews for diverse products to boost click-throughs from category pages to product pages.
Additionally, community questions and answers are another effective forms of user-generated content that can assist shoppers in resolving their concerns, leaving them with no excuse not to purchase from you.
4. Purchase Decision
This is the moment the consumer has been anticipating: the consummation of the transaction.
Consumers should reach a rational conclusion about the goods or services to purchase after gathering all relevant facts, including comments from prior customers.
Now it’s time to talk money. This is the stage at which clients are prepared to purchase, have determined where and what to buy, and are ready to whip out their credit cards.
However, hold on! Not so quickly. At this point, you can still lose a customer. This is when the purchasing experience is critical – it must be as simple as possible.
If you’ve done your job correctly, the consumer will perceive your product as the superior alternative and purchase it.
For instance, abandoning checkout to purchase a camera.
Assume your prospective customer reaches the checkout stage of his transaction and changes his mind: What happens if the recipient wishes to receive a different camera?
What if this camera lacks a critical feature that the recipient desires? Is it difficult for the recipient to return the camera if it does not fit their needs?
This shopper is almost certainly going to ditch his cart and return to the research stage. Perhaps he will return to your site, but maybe he will not. Your objective at this point is to get him to finish the purchase immediately so you don’t lose him for good.
Optimization techniques for the conversion step
Numerous businesses display evaluations on their checkout pages. If done right, this can be pretty effective. You should prioritize creating trust but avoid diverting the customer’s attention away from the transaction.
If you wish to display custom content during checkout, use context online rather than customer images or product reviews, ensuring that the thoughts are not clickable.
You want to concentrate on developing trust, not on being distracting.
5. Post-purchase evaluation
Consumers reflect on their most recent purchases during this stage of the consumer buy selection process.
They consider their feelings about it, whether the purchase was a wise investment, and, most significantly, whether they will return to the brand for future purchases and recommend it to friends and family.
At this stage, you should have a post-purchase strategy to increase the possibility of buyers engaging with your business in the future.
Return customers account for approximately 1/3 of a store’s overall revenue, so don’t lose out on this highly lucrative potential to boost your eCommerce conversion rate by converting shoppers into repeat purchasers.
This stage of the consumer decision-making process requires both the consumer and the supplier to reflect. As a seller, you should make the following assessments:
- Was the purchase a match for the consumer’s specified need?
- Is the buyer satisfied with his or her purchase?
- How are you going to maintain contact with this customer?
Bear in mind that your responsibility is to ensure that your customer has a great experience with your product.
Following up on a transaction may involve follow-up emails, discount coupons, and newsletters to urge the customer to make another purchase.
You want to build long-term relationships with your consumers, and in an age where anybody can post an internet review, it’s more critical than ever to keep them pleased.
For instance, soliciting comments and promoting repeat purchases.
The buyer has already made a purchase from your company in the camera example and is analyzing it. This is typically the point at which they will post a review regarding their experience.
This is also when people are most engaged with your brand, and they are more receptive to techniques that foster long-term engagement.
At this level, you want to ensure that customers purchase again and that they leave UGC that benefits future purchases.
Optimization techniques for the conversion step
While your consumer may post a review on their initiative, they are significantly more likely to do so if you request one.
Inquiring about consumers’ experiences in a post-purchase email provides insight into your performance and provides you with great user-generated content to use to attract new clients.
It’s critical to keep in mind that clients have already provided you with something precious: their money!
As a result, you don’t want to ask for too much input while requesting it. To encourage customers to give reviews, make it as simple as possible for them to do so:
Additionally, you can use this email to cross-sell additional things. According to data from more than 2,000 businesses, 27.5 percent of customers who see advertised products in post-purchase review request emails convert – and these are valued customers.
Following the transaction, this is an excellent opportunity to market your loyalty program. Because loyalty programs are meant to incentivize purchases, customers who participate consistently generate a higher lifetime value than those who do not.
Why Does Pricing Matter to Consumer Buying Decision?
One frequently asked question by eCommerce brands is how consumers weigh pricing in their purchasing decisions.
When consumers evaluate a product, pricing is undoubtedly a significant issue. However, it is about the price of the goods; it is about the total cost of the purchase.
Assume your cameras offer good value for money, are reasonably priced, and have favorable reviews. What happens when your clients reach the checkout stage and discover that your shipping costs are prohibitively high?
Rather than proceeding with the purchase, they intend to check the shipping costs for the other cameras they were contemplating. And what if one of them provides complimentary shipping? You risk losing the consumer.
You don’t want shoppers to be startled by unexpected charges at the checkout. Calculate taxes and delivery expenses before reaching the final step.
The more upfront and transparent you can be with your price, the more likely you are to close the transaction.
If you want to convert a potential consumer into a brand champion, it’s critical to establish trust and maintain engagement throughout the process.
User-generated content is a very effective way to increase brand awareness, emphasize the best features of your products, and ultimately increase your bottom line.