Mastering the Consumer Shopping Process Online: A Comprehensive Guide

Online Marketing: The Buying Process

When conducting online marketing, we often focus solely on the act of purchasing.  This strategy becomes problematic because buying is actually an entire process that a customer goes through psychologically before they decide to make a purchase. Business to Community has outlined 6 stages of the buying process and provides marketing strategies for each step of the customer buying process. Let’s review the common consumer shopping procedure on the internet and how you can optimize your marketing efforts.

Customer Buying Process & How to Use Online Marketing at Each Stage

Stage 1: Problem Recognition

Problem recognition is the beginning stage of the customer buying process. A customer identifies with a problem when they perceive their current reality as different from where they desire to be. Whether or not this problem exists, it provides an opportunity for online marketing professionals to show how their products or services can solve the perceived problem.

Shane Jones from Business to Community (B2C)  recommends that marketers “share facts and testimonials of what your product or service can provide. Ask questions to pull the potential customer into the buying process.” This type of information generates curiosity among customers to explore these solutions.

Online Marketing

Online Marketing for Problem Recognition

During the problem recognition stage, online marketing becomes a powerful tool for businesses to connect with potential customers. To effectively utilize online marketing strategies at this stage, consider these practical steps:

  • Keyword Research: Identify the keywords and phrases related to the problems your product or service solves. This will help your content appear in search results when potential customers are researching their issues.
  • Content Creation: Develop informative blog posts, articles, or videos that address common problems within your niche. Provide valuable insights, solutions, and real-life examples to capture the attention of individuals experiencing these issues.
  • Social Media Engagement: Utilize social media platforms to share your content and engage with your target audience. Pose questions and encourage discussions related to the problems your offerings can solve. Share customer success stories and testimonials to build credibility.
  • Email Marketing: Build an email list and send out relevant content and offers to subscribers. Tailor your emails to address specific pain points and showcase how your products or services can provide solutions.
  • Paid Advertising: Consider using pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on platforms like Google Ads or social media ads to target users actively searching for solutions to their problems.

By implementing these online marketing strategies during the problem recognition stage, you can effectively connect with potential customers and guide them toward considering your products or services as viable solutions to their needs.

Stage 2: Information Search

Now that a customer has identified their problem, they are ready to look for ways to solve it.  They begin to search for more information.  This is an opportunity for marketers to show that they are an industry leader and that their product/service is the solution. Create credibility and trust by “advertising partnerships and sponsors prominently on all web materials” B2C. Additionally, testimonials and success stories demonstrate your experience and customer satisfaction and make a lasting impression in a customer’s mind.

Online Marketing for Information Search

In the Information Search stage, where customers actively seek solutions to their problems, marketers can use the following strategies effectively:

  • Keyword Optimization: Target relevant keywords for higher search visibility.
  • Educational Content: Create informative content that addresses customer queries.
  • Partnerships and Sponsorships: Showcase these to boost credibility.
  • Customer Testimonials: Highlight success stories for trust-building.
  • Social Proof: Encourage reviews and ratings for authenticity.
  • Email Marketing: Share valuable insights and case studies.
  • Webinars and Workshops: Host engaging online events to establish expertise.

These strategies help position your brand as the solution provider and build trust with potential customers during their information search phase.

Stage 3: Evaluation of Alternatives

Online MarketingThe internet has made it easier for customers to do in-depth research and they do not want to purchase unless it is well thought out. They are going to look at your competition as well and compare their findings. B2C gives the example of how GEICO auto insurance uses this stage as an opportunity to keep their customers on their site by showing their competitors’ rates alongside theirs, even if the competition is cheaper, “This not only simplifies the process, it establishes a trusting customer relationship, especially during the evaluation of alternatives stage.”

Online Marketing for Evaluation of Alternatives

During the Evaluation of Alternatives stage, customers extensively research options and compare competitors. To excel in this stage:

  • Transparency: Provide detailed product/service information.
  • Competitor Comparison: Show competitor rates, fostering trust.
  • Reviews and Case Studies: Highlight positive feedback and success stories.
  • Instant Support: Offer live chat for quick queries.
  • Clear Distinctions: Communicate what makes you stand out.
  • Informative Content: Provide comparison guides and buying tips.

These strategies help you attract well-informed customers and increase the chances of them choosing your offering over competitors.

Stage 4: Purchase Decision

“At this point, the customer has explored multiple options, they understand pricing and payment options and they are deciding whether to move forward with the purchase or not” B2C. In a perfect world, customers would know what they wanted and would make the decision quickly and easily.  But even after careful research and a comparison of different products and brands the customer can still walk away.  It is then that the marketer can “remind customers of why they wanted to make the purchase the first time” B2C and reaffirm their product/service’s ability to solve the problem that was identified in Stage 1.

We may have all heard and said the famous, “Let me think about it and I will get back to you.” Instead of looking at this as a defeat, again, marketers can create an opportunity to use follow-up emails or phone calls to remind customers how their solutions can be of benefit to them.

Online Marketing for Purchase Decision

In the decision-making stage, customers are close to making a purchase decision but may hesitate. Marketers can:

  • Reiterate Value: Remind them why they wanted your product.
  • Address Concerns: Handle objections through follow-up emails or calls.
  • Create Urgency: Offer time-limited promotions.
  • Personalize: Tailor communication to their needs.
  • Showcase Success: Share testimonials to build confidence.

These strategies help customers overcome hesitations and make informed choices, increasing the chances of a successful sale. 

Stage 5: Purchase

The customer has decided to purchase! The conversion is complete. Or is it? Again, the customer can still have an out. This is one of the most critical points in a marketing strategy. B2C highly suggests over-viewing your buying process, “Is it complicated? Are there too many steps? Is the load time too slow? Can a purchase be completed just as simply on a mobile device as on a desktop computer?” These are all important questions that if the answers are not optimal, can make or break the deal. 

Online Marketing for Purchase

In the Purchase stage, the customer has decided to buy, marking a pivotal moment in the marketing process. However, it’s important to ensure the conversion is smooth and hassle-free:

  • Streamlined Process: Review your buying process for simplicity. Eliminate unnecessary steps and minimize complexity.
  • Mobile Optimization: Ensure that purchasing is as easy on a mobile device as it is on a desktop computer. Mobile-friendliness is crucial for today’s consumers.
  • Load Time: Speed matters. Optimize your website’s load time to prevent customers from abandoning their purchases due to slow performance.

By addressing these factors during the Purchase stage, you enhance the overall customer experience and reduce the risk of customers abandoning their transactions. A seamless and user-friendly process can make all the difference in closing the deal successfully.

Stage 6: Post-Purchase Evaluation

Congratulations! The purchase has been made and everyone is happy. The process then concludes with a post-purchase evaluation.  The customer will then decide if they like your product are not.  If they are dissatisfied, they may ask for a return. Do not take this as a failure, instead take this thought:

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”- Bill Gates

Use this as an opportunity to learn how to make your brand more effective. Asking for reviews and sending follow-up emails or special promotions are ways to create a positive relationship by continuing to establish your brand’s trust and increasing the likelihood of a returning customer.

These six steps are geared to help marketers better understand the whole process behind a purchase. Understanding these steps and implementing a strategy can increase customer conversions and lead to lasting satisfied customers.

Online Marketing for Post-Purchase Evaluation

In the Post-Purchase Evaluation stage, the customer has completed their purchase, and it’s time to assess their satisfaction. Here’s how to navigate this critical phase:

  • Customer Feedback: Encourage customers to provide feedback and reviews. This insight is invaluable for improving your product or service.
  • Returns and Dissatisfaction: Understand that dissatisfaction can lead to returns. Use these instances as opportunities for improvement rather than failures.
  • Customer Engagement: Maintain a positive relationship by sending follow-up emails and special promotions. This shows your commitment to customer satisfaction and can encourage repeat business.

By following these steps, you demonstrate your dedication to improvement and customer-centricity. This holistic approach helps in creating satisfied customers and building trust in your brand.

Why You Need a Shopping Experience Expert

If your business caters to online shoppers, having an expert to enhance the customer buying journey is crucial. This is why web design plays an important role in how consumers shop online. If a user struggles to make an online purchase because of a technical issue, the problem stems from your web page, not your product.

At ITVibes, we specialize in creating outstanding online shopping experiences. Our e-commerce solutions are designed to make purchasing online easy and enjoyable. We focus on designing user-friendly online stores that load quickly, provide simple shopping cart navigation, and meet the needs of your unique internet users.

Whether you need help optimizing your current shopping experience or are just starting, we’re here to help. 

Partner with ITVibes for Your E-Commerce Website

ITVibes specializes in Brand Management, helping clients develop a trusted name in their industry through eye-catching web design, development, and quality content writing. We’ve worked with various industries and have developed e-commerce websites of all sizes. Whether you have one singular product or over 10,000, our team is ready to simplify how your customers buy online.

Contact us today to learn more about how our services can give you a better edge in your online marketing strategy.