As specialists in SEO and Inbound Marketing, it is important to know the basic principles of the whole process of buying a product or service. Because much of the tertiary industry relies on this process of decision making, understanding the underlying reasons for why people buy stuff can be useful in marketing and business. In fact, this could even cause you to reconsider your own monetary decisions in daily life! I will attempt to simplify this through the example of Bob, a prospective buyer.
Stage 1: Awareness(Need Recognition)
The first stage of the whole journey is the awareness phase, where the prospective buyer is made aware of the need to buy a product or service. Needs can be internal or external. Internal needs are basic ones such as food, rest or shelter. External needs are influenced by the environment and society at large.
This is usually done in the form of advertising, which tries to convince people they need something to fulfil a desire they never knew they had. For example, after reading a short article about reasons to go hiking, Bob may feel that he needs to hike for the reasons found in the article. Good examples of exploiting the awareness phase will educate the audience while compelling them to take further action.
Successful advertising leads buyers into the next phase, which is the consideration phase, while unsuccessful advertising simply causes a lack of tangible action from the buyer. This stage is crucial, as it initiates the entire buying process in the first place. At this point, Bob is set on going hiking, but he realises that he needs equipment for hiking – aha, successful use of need recognition has induced the need for hiking equipment in Bob!
Stage 2: Consideration(Research and Evaluation)
The next stage involves information gathering. At this point Bob might think : “I need a pair of mountaineering shoes because my shoes are not suitable for hiking. Which pair would suit me best?” In this phase, the human mind will weigh up the list of factors which are relevant to the item/service and conduct research on suitability. This is known as the search phase. Technical information about the product or service will be scrutinised by curious buyers as they look for the right option for them. This is usually where SEO comes in, as buyers who know what they want will go online and search for those keywords, and the top searches will yield higher returns.
The second substage where the buyer weighs the different options is known as the evaluation phase. During this stage, advertisers often use different emotional or technical means to convince customers that their product is better than the competition. Common examples include the use of brand reputation, the bandwagon effect, celebrity endorsement and emotional appeals. For instance, Bob has done extensive research on all the hiking shoes available and has decided to focus on 3 brands.
However, because of a blog article he read reviewing hiking shoes, he decides not to opt for 2 of those brands and has made a final decision. Bob is satisfied with his choice and feels confident that he’ll soon be able to go hiking in the mountains.
Either way, differing reviews can be made between competing products, which is why good content tailored for the consideration phase is detailed, informative and allows the reader to feel like they came to the conclusion themselves despite the fact that it was already engineered from the very start. It is important to note that this phase is as dependent on the individual’s industriousness and curiosity as it is on good marketing, as a lazier consumer could just click on the first option he/she sees, while a hardworking buyer may consider visiting dedicated forums or blog sites to meticulously compare products.
Stage 3: Buying
This final stage is the most straightforward. Once a decision has been made, the buyer can purchase the product. In this stage, only extreme circumstances can alter the buyer’s destiny – either a financial disruption or persuasion by a close external entity(friend,family). In Bob’s case, he seals the deal and gets his new hiking boots, enjoying the satisfaction of the buying journey.
Stage 4: Post-Purchase
After the purchase, customers can express satisfaction or dissatisfaction which will affect ideas such as brand loyalty and feedback, which can be in the form of reviews. If Bob enjoyed his purchase so much that he foregoes Step 1 and 2 in the future when buying from the same company, then the consumer experience has been successful. A similar phenomenon would occur if Bob decided to give his new boots a 5-star review online and spread positive feedback about the product.
Now that you know about the stages in a purchase, you can use that knowledge to boost SEO rankings by targeting audiences that are still at stage 1 and 2, write reviews(stage 4) or simply reflect on your own buying habits.