Understanding customer purchase behavior and using it to your advantage

Motivating customers to put your product in their shopping cart by matching marketing messages to the steps of the purchasing process.

By Jasmine Williams

Defining the specific demographic details about your target audience is important for creating an effective marketing message and for determining the best platforms to use when delivering that message. However, as unique as target audiences may be, most purchases occur more or less in a very similar way. When you understand customer purchase behavior, you may be able to refine your efforts for increased profitability.

The buying process has multiple stages. Exploring each one in greater detail is important if you want to leverage the benefits in your favor.

Identifying the problem

‘For a consumer to make a purchase, they must have some need to fulfill. Some will make impulsive purchases because they see an immediate need for a product. Others may purchase items for basic survival, such as for food or beverages. There are also secondary needs, such as the need for transportation or gas for the car so the consumer can commute to work and run errands.

To maximize the benefit associated with this step in the buying process, you must understand what drives your customers to make a purchase. More than that, your marketing message should make the potential end user aware of how their need would be satisfied if they owned your product.

For example, the GoPro marketing campaign relies on their customers as loyal advocates who, essentially, become their sales team. They create content, share it online together with positive reviews and, possibly, hashtags. The company then only needs to highlight the best moments in real people’s stories. This joint effort generates new users and leads to more profit without too much effort.

Searching for information

The next step in the buying process is a consumer’s quest for information about your product and that of your competitors. Some may seek information from friends, neighbors or co-workers. Others, however, may turn to consumer reviews or base their buying decision on the reputation of the brand in general.

To maximize the benefit of this step in the buying process, you must understand who your target audience is and how they gain information about your brand. Then, you must focus on improving your image in this area and promoting your brand so it comes to mind immediately when a need for your product develops.

Evaluating alternatives

After getting information about your brand or products, consumers generally will explore alternatives. They may look at factors such as warranty information, price, availability, reputation and more.

If a customer is loyal to your brand, they may be inclined to shop with your company over the others when all factors are equal or closely equivalent. You may be able to foster loyalty by providing great customer service and by creating marketing that highlights the advantages of your brand over the competition.

Deciding to make a purchase

In most cases, the buyer will then decide to buy the product that seems to offer the highest quality for the price or that better fits their needs. While this is a stage when the sale occurs, it also may be a stage when the consumer walks away from the buying decision and chooses to do something else (e.g. to get more information, wait for a better price, opt for a new brand on the market, etc.). Your product should be readily available, such as through a quick online search and a single-click purchase.

As mentioned, some consumers make an impulsive buying decision without conducting research. They may see a great deal on a product or have a fear of missing out on an opportunity that they may not feel will be present in the future. These are typically easier targets for a company.

On the other hand, those who are in the business of selling luxury or antique products must understand that their target audience may want something that is original or that very few people have or can afford. They want to feel special, they crave the envy of others. To encourage a sale at this stage in the process, you must understand what is driving the sale and appeal to that element.

Post-purchase decisions

The sales process continues after the purchase has been completed. After using your product, the consumer will evaluate it and determine if it lives up to their expectations. Your marketing should not be so exaggerated that the consumer is disappointed with the real thing. Likewise, the product should be high quality so the consumers do not feel ripped off.

You want your consumer to love the product and to write a glowing review. You also want the consumer to become a loyal customer and to spread the word to others. If you notice any type of dissatisfaction, it is imperative that you take steps to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

Your primary focus when creating marketing messages may be to generate sales, but you can see that your messages should be tailored to different aspects of the sales process. When you focus your attention on each of these steps, you can generate more effective marketing that is more likely to produce the results you desire.

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Jasmine Williams covers the good and the bad of today’s business and marketing. She was rummaging through her grandma’s clothes before it was cool, and she’s usually hunched over a book or dancing in the kitchen, trying hard to maintain rhythm, but delivering some fine cooking (her family says so). Tweet her @JazzyWilliams88.


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