You spend the time, effort, and money to create a website for your business in order to increase sales.
But many business websites don’t actually succeed at this very basic goal.
The reason is that many business owners — and lots of website designers — don’t understand that the decision that leads a customer to purchase is actually a process.
The 5-Stage Purchase Decision Process
The chart below describes the 5-Stage Purchase Decision Process that customers use to make purchases:
All purchasing decisions begin with a recognition of a need or a problem. For many purchases, these are as basic as “I’m hungry,” or “I need a new pair of shoes.” Sometimes the need or problem is a lot more complex: “We need a new house” or “My business is struggling and I need help to fix it.”
This is why it is vitally important to market to a niche: it is our problems that drive us to make purchasing decisions!
What problem does your company solve? Is this obvious on your website? If it isn’t clear or obvious, what can you do to make it clear?
Once aware of a need or problem, the customer then proceeds to gather information. This process can be so short as to be nearly instantaneous, or it can take months, or even years. The time and effort invested in information gathering varies by the customer and by the need, problem, and product involved.
If the need is one that has been experienced before, such as hunger, there is much less information gathered than if it is a brand new problem. Likewise, problems that have inexpensive solutions (like new shoes) will require less information than problems that have more expensive solutions (like a new car or home).
Customers can gather information from many different sources, including family, friends, advertising, salespeople, television, or by personal experience.
But one place that most people go to find information about their problem or need is the Internet.
People use the Internet to:
- research options
- read reviews
- research the businesses behind the solutions
Most people distrust the traditional marketing materials put out by manufacturers. Instead, they use the Internet to seek out “unbiased” information that they can use to help make better decisions.
On your business website, “unbiased” information is information that helps your customer to understand the causes of their problem, become better educated consumers, and to understand what your solution will do for them.
Is your website content answering the questions your customers are asking? How can you help your customers to be better consumers? What concepts do they need to know in order to see your solution as superior?
Evaluation of Alternatives
Once the research is done, it is time to evaluate the options. The extent of evaluation will depend on the seriousness of the problem, the price of the solution, and the customer’s own degree of perceived relevance and personal importance that accompanies the choice.
As the evaluation process is internal to the customer, there isn’t much that a business can do to influence it at this point. One of the choices will win out and if your business has done its job right, that one choice will be yours.
Once a decision has been made, it is time for the customer to exchange hard-earned cash for the solution to his problem.
The business that will get his money will be the one that he has determined he can trust to provide the best solution and the one that makes the actual buying process as easy as possible.
Because it is still possible to lose a sale even when the customer has decided your solution is the best, when the buying process is complicated.
Does your website lay out the buying process in easy to understand terms? Are your hours clearly listed? Do you describe your payment options? Do you make it easy to get questions answered?
The final stage is the post-purchase evaluation of the decision:
“Does this product actually solve my problem?”
“Was the buying experience a positive one?”
“Can I trust the company to stand behind their product?”
“Now that this company has my money, are they still interested in my problem?”
And, “Did I spend my money wisely?”
These kinds of questions are common as the customer evaluates the success of their purchase.
When a customer experiences regret following a purchase, it is known as buyer’s remorse.
As a business, you can help to mitigate the likelihood and/or severity of buyer’s remorse by:
- ensuring that customers purchase the correct solution for their problem by providing educational materials prior to the sale.
- providing top-notch customer service during the sale.
- offering followup customer support to answer post-sale questions.
- staying in touch with customers after the sale.
Many businesses operate as if this process ends at the Purchase. But the Post-Purchase Evaluation is where you turn a one-time purchase into the building blocks of a successful business. As satisfied customers are more likely to tell their friends and to do business with you again.
Does your business stay in touch with customers post-sale? What followup systems do you have in place? Can they be improved?
The more you understand the process that your customers use to make a purchasing decision, the more your website can be a trusted source of information and advice. And the more your customers visit your site, the more they will be exposed to the offer for your solution, and the more sales you will make.