Let’s face it – there are many marketing tactics that boost conversions. However, to make your marketing effective, leveraging the customer’s buying cycle is the key to a successful online business.
Understanding a customer’s buying cycle is how you can have the right marketing for a successful commerce site.
Online Buying Cycle
The online buying cycle is very similar to the original buying cycle; however the key difference is the online buying cycle occurs online. Because it is online; many ecommerce sites and brands will utilize social media platforms and email marketing as marketing tools to help market and sell to consumers and generate leads back to their ecommerce site. The buying cycle and online buying cycle will go through the five stages of closing a sale.
5 Stages of the Customer Buying Cycle
You can look at a customer buying cycle as a customer’s purchasing cycle. ;Many customers go through stages during their purchasing process to educate themselves before they either make a purchase. There are five stages that you have to consider:
Awareness is the first stage in a customer’s buying cycle when customers realize that they have a problem that needs a solution. ;
A company will be able to reach the target customers given the right marketing strategies and campaigns.
For example, a customer is trying to lower plastic waste from water bottle usage. A customer then sees an ad for a water filter. The problem the customer is facing is met with a solution and now the next stage of the customer buying cycle begins.
This stage is where the prospect is considering their options and ;your company can provide multiple solutions for a customer. As an ecommerce site, this is where your marketing, sales team, and products come in.
In this stage, you can provide detailed information to explain how your product will help solve their problem. To go back to our example, once the customer clicks the ad and lands on your site, you can list the benefits of the water filter, such as cleaner water, more cost effective than buying bottled water, and gives you a good boost in health. ;Once the customer understands that this product is what they need to solve their problem, ;they will move onto the next stage.
In this stage, a salesperson aims to earn the trust of potential customers. Whether you tap them emotionally or logically, this is the time where a salesperson convinces the potential buyer that their product is the best solution for their needs. You can accomplish this through reviews from existing customers, highlighting the benefits of the product, or through a social media campaign that creates a feeling within the customer. Once the customer is convinced and has seen proof that the product works, we move on to the next stage.
At this point, your customer is ready to purchase the solution for their needs. While your customer is in this stage, you need to ensure that your pricing is reasonable and you make the buying process as simple as possible.
When the customer purchases, that is not the last step in the customer buying cycle. You don’t want the customer to be a one-time buyer. You will need to manage the customer’s relationship with your site to make them a returning customer. ;Maintain contact with the customer on their problem solving journey to make sure ;that the product works properly and that they are satisfiedThe purchase is just the start of a relationship with a customer; building a relationship ;keeps them in the buying cycle.
5. Re-purchase (Renewal)
The final stage of the buying cycle is repurchase of your product or service. This is where you manage your relationship with the customers. In the previous stage, we touched on the importance of making sure that the customer and seller have established a good rapport ;since this will encourage the customer to repeat business . To get to repurchase, it’s imperative that the customer is happy and satisfied. In addition, in this stage, you can ask ;a customer for a review or a testimonial on how this product or service helped them with their needs.
Create Targeted Content for Each Stage
Now that you know the breakdown of the five stages of a customer’s buying cycle, it’s time to start making the most of it. To get started, you need to answer the questions which are related ;to each stage. But how do you know what your customers are searching ;for to gather information? The answer lies in search queries.
;Look at this example:
- “flat screen tv” – This is a generic term that customers in the Awareness or Consideration stage use. “compare flat screen tvs” – The desire to compare products indicates this customer is further along in the cycle, such as the Consideration or Preference stage.
- “sony 42” lcd” – This a very specific product query indicates that a shopper is much further into the buying cycle, now likely evaluating prices (right before the Purchase stage).
The next step is to create content that moves customers closer to purchase. For example, look for keywords that are related to the Awareness and Consideration stages. Using the previous example, you can provide a guide to selecting the perfect flat screen TV.
For the Preference/Intent stage, leveraging customer testimonials, providing specification sheets and telling your brand story will help push prospects closer to the Purchase stage, which is the perfect time to utilize a PPC ;ad with text that entices them to buy. To LeadL them towards Repurchase, you can send monthly newsletters with helpful tips and tricks . That way it will keep your brand on the top of their minds.
Make Content Available Through the Right Channels
Of course, the content you share is fully dependent on the product you offer and the profile of your customers, but there are basic commonalities on how to market in each stage of the buying cycle:
- Awareness: For the majority of ecommerce sites, this is all about being found via search engine marketing, particularly PPC and SEO.
- Consideration: Once customers find you in search engines, keyword-tailored landing pages are essential. . You can also use comparison charts that highlight the key selling points to help you stand out from the competition.
- Preference/Intent: Your website should do the talking here, especially your product descriptions and overall branding. This is a critical stage to capture contact information.
- Purchase: Get your coupons and discounts out there, whether it’s through your PPC ad text, a pre-sales email, or social media .
- Repurchase: Keep in contact with your customers via scheduled emails, social media, and personal outreach. Your customers are your best growth opportunity.
Create a Meaningful Customer Buying Cycle
While it’s common for online business owners to always focus on the sale, it’s important to remember that your flock of customers are scattered across the field. By herding them through the right gates using your marketing, you’ll be able to enjoy a much more dependable customer pipeline.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in July 2011 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.