Consumer Buyer Process Vision One

A simple purchase? It’s not as simple as it seems

Brands and retailers have gone to great lengths to make the transactional side of the buying process as simple as possible for their consumers – online shopping, contactless payments and free delivery all help to make the experience smooth and seamless.  It all just feels easy.

But is there such a thing as ‘a simple purchase?’

The real consumer buying process is involved, emotional and complicated.  Even when a decision feels impulsive, quick or easy, it’s never a simple case of ‘I want it – I’ll buy it.

In fact, there are a number of stages that lead to every individual purchase – and even some crucial stages beyond it. So, what’s really going on inside the consumer’s head?  At Vision One, we dig deeper to truly understand the importance of each of these critical points:

  • What triggers a consumer’s need to be?
  • What influences their decision to pick one product or brand over another?
  • What drives them to actually go through with a purchase?
  • what affects their decision to keep, or return, what they’ve bought?

As well as being fascinating questions in their own right, each forms an essential stage of the consumer buying process – a unique combination of factors that can make or break a sale.

And for marketers?  Understanding the consumer buying process can give you the insight you need to positively influence decision making, and increase the likelihood of a sale, at any stage of the consumer buying process.

Let’s explore each key stage in turn.

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Understand shoppers and markets Research Vision One
Identifying The Need

Sometimes the customer’s need for a product or service is clear and obvious.  If a coffee machine breaks down and is too expensive to repair, or a car suffers a terminal failure in a large cloud of smoke, the need for a replacement is self-evident.

But more often, a need has to be stimulated.  A brand has to find the right message to inspire or persuade the consumer to buy – some sort of incentive or aspirational cue.  Perhaps because it will make their life better, or save them money, or because they will feel they’re missing out if they don’t have it.

Knowing what will arouse interest at this early stage can be a game-changer for your marketing, enabling your brand to be an influential voice at the very start of the consumer buying journey.

Exploring Options

Having decided that there is a need to buy, your customer will now begin to research their options.  Some will scour the internet for reviews or will look to aspirational sources for confirmation that the options they are considering are reputable, on-trend or perhaps just interestingly different.  Others might ask those they know for recommendations.

This evaluation stage presents another key opportunity to engage with your potential customer – it’s the part of the buying process where they are most receptive to advertising and promotions. It’s also at this point where you, as the marketing team, really need to know what your consumer wants to hear.  Which messages will cut through and resonate?  Which will connect with them on an emotional level? What will position your brand as the sound, credible choice?

The Decision To Buy

Once the need has been established and the most attractive option chosen, does the customer then go ahead and make the purchase?

Not necessarily.

The transaction may still not happen for a number of reasons.  The money earmarked for payment may be needed for a more pressing purchase.  The customer may change their mind on whether they really need to go ahead.  Or it may simply be that the moment passes.

Again, this is a time when the brand needs to talk to the customer, to remind them why they wanted the product or service in the first place.  An incentive to buy now may be effective in pushing the deal over the line.

The Purchase

Then the actual transaction takes place – this is the point where you need to make the process as easy and straightforward as possible. The priority here is not to allow anything to slow or hinder the purchase as it goes ahead – don’t give your customer any reason to get frustrated or change their mind at the last minute.  If you lose someone at this stage, you’ve thrown away all the work you’ve put into getting them through the buying process

After the purchase

You might feel like your work is done – you’ve got them through the consumer buying process and the transaction is complete.  But it’s not always over once the sale is done.

Customer returns continue to rise – as an example, it’s typical for 30-50% of fashion bought online to be sent back – so brands and retailers need to work hard to keep the buyer happy so that they hold on to the sale.

It’s often about ironing out any after-sales issues and reassuring the customer that they made the right choice.  This helps to develop a relationship and brand loyalty – increasing the potential for future sales.

If the customer still wants to return the item, it’s important to make the process quick, reliable and seamless – a poor experience can mean a catastrophe of negative online reviews and you’ll likely lose a customer for life.

It’s all about insight

Truly understanding the intricate nature of the consumer buying process can be game-changing for your business. Digging deep to reveal what really makes your customers tick – to really understand what is driving their thoughts and choices – provides a fascinating level of strategic insight that can transform your marketing activity and drive real growth.

If you want to truly understand what makes your customers tick – if you want real, meaningful, strategic insight – chat to one of our Vision One team. It’s what we do.

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