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Purchase process in e-commerce – how to reach the customer?

There are many ways to describe the path a customer takes in the buying process. Its understanding is crucial in sales. Only with a thorough understanding of the motivations driving potential customers will the salesman be able to properly prepare the sales process. All this in order to match it to the expectations of the audience and… sell as much as possible.
Read our guide to find out:

What is the customer’s journey?


What elements does the purchasing process consist of? A lot depends on the customer – everyone may go through the purchase path a little differently, depending on the decisions made along the way, but there are some common points that we find in each option.

For the purposes of this article, we have adopted a somewhat simplified process, consisting of six main and two optional steps – each of which we will describe in detail.

  • Main steps
    • Step 1: identify the need
    • Step 2: search for a solution
    • Step 3: check alternatives
    • Step 4: purchase decision
    • Step 5: purchase
    • Step 6: purchase evaluation
  • Optional steps
    • Step 7: return to the store
    • Step 8: active promotion

Step 1: identify the problem


To begin with, before the thought of a purchase even enters the customer’s mind, he or she must notice a problem or need. A simple example to visualize this step could be… breaking the screen on your phone. A customer who has had such an accident faces a problem – he is unable to use the phone he needs: at work, to contact relatives or to use various applications on a daily basis.

If you run a store with smartphones and smartphone accessories, you can already prepare for this moment of the buying process: set up a blog, and in the posts published there, answer the questions customers may have in such situations. “What should you do if the screen on your phone breaks? “Screen replacement – is it worth it?” and similar topics can draw traffic to your site at a later stage – when a customer is looking for a solution to their problem or a way to satisfy a need.

Step 2: search for a solution


When a phone is no longer usable, there is a need to solve a pressing problem. To this end, the customer begins to ask questions, and your company should be the answer. So the user starts looking for a solution on the Internet. If you have prepared your store well for this moment, you may be able to make the customer skip step three.

Users who get to your store quickly enough and find solid content and meaningful suggestions for solving a problem will gain trust in your brand. This is why it is so important to create expert content, not advertising content. Suggesting solutions, not products to buy. If you sell new phones and do not provide repair services, do not keep silent about this possibility. Tell the potential customer about the alternatives. If you don’t, you will lose credibility. On the other hand, when a visitor comes across specific answers to the questions he or she has asked, and with them gains information about your products or services, you can be sure that he or she will at least consider buying from you.

This is a good time to consider launching a retargeting campaign. It will come in handy when the consumer moves to step three and starts looking for the most favorable alternative. If your proposal is displayed to him at the right time, you will end up in the leading position of the race.

Step 3: check alternatives


Let’s assume that the customer has already decided not to repair the phone – instead, he wants to equip himself with a new camera. In this case, what can give him a headache is how many different models are available on the market. But let’s skip this aspect – let’s focus on what a customer who is determined to buy a particular product can do.

It is obvious that at this point there will be a comparison of product prices. Although the differences in smartphone prices are often not large, the consumer’s choice is still likely to fall on the cheapest offer. Recent data shows that up to 97% of online shoppers check the price first and compare it with other stores.

Store reviews are next in line. A suspiciously low price will make the customer want to make sure first that the store they are about to send money to is reliable. That’s why reviews of the store – delivery time, quality of service, etc. – are so important. Once a potential customer decides he can’t place his trust in a particular store, he will return to search.

What most often turns people away from a store are bad reviews, a small number of reviews and, finally, low credibility. So make sure that people who search for your store online feel that they have come to the right place. You will achieve this through real reviews issued by customers.

Step 4: purchase decision


There comes a moment of decision – this is the moment when the choice falls on your store or on your competitors. If a customer chooses your services, it means you still have a lot of work ahead of you. However, if he chooses to compete, the work involved in “recovering” a potential one will be only slightly more.

Step 5: purchase


Did your work bear fruit and a customer placed an order with your store? This is great news, but it means that the real work is just beginning. You have acquired a customer, but a great deal depends on how you treat them.

Let’s go back to our example of buying a smartphone. The customer adds the product to the shopping cart and then proceeds to the further stages of order processing. What he encounters in this step is of great importance.

The process of finalizing a transaction can be simple and enjoyable, or it can cause huge problems for visitors. It’s up to you to make sure your purchase is as easy as possible. There are many methods to help achieve this – it is worth trying at least a few of them:

Step 6: purchase evaluation


Between the purchase and its evaluation from the buyer’s perspective, there is only one thing going on: anticipation. It also has a huge impact on the final assessment. The seller, however, has his hands full at this time. He has to complete the order, pack it, secure it and ship it – all in the shortest possible time.

Once the goods reach the customer, it’s time to take stock. If the products turn out as described, and the package is properly secured and arrives on time, the buyer will be satisfied. But does that mean he will want to share his impressions with the world? Not necessarily.

If you want to increase the chances of receiving a positive comment or review on Google, there are several actions you can take, such as offering a discount on your next purchase for posting a review or inserting a handwritten message in your package thanking you for your purchase and inviting you to share your opinion of the store. In a word: anything that makes your store stand out positively from the rest increases the chances of a good rating.

Step 7: return to the store


If you have maintained professionalism in all the other steps and given your best, the customer may return for further purchases. While the smartphone example is unfortunate (we don’t often buy new phones, after all), it’s not unlikely that in search of a camera for a child or other family member, a customer will decide to return to your store.

You can also try… to encourage the customer to come back for more purchases. An email informing about a discount on phone accessories, a text message informing about new models available in the store, or a message about a seasonal sale (related to vacations or Christmas) – such actions do not require much work, and can bring concrete benefits, such as another order.

Another option is to launch a loyalty program that will give the customer a specific, measurable reason to make their next purchase with you.

Step 8: active promotion


This step is the least frequent – the road to it is very long and there is no way to expect to get many active promoters on a daily basis. However, this does not mean that you should give up trying to get them.

An active promoter is a customer who, after a purchase, is satisfied enough to decide to recommend your store – to friends, family, colleagues. Such a person is almost the Holy Grail for a retailer. Her selfless commitment and honest feedback will help you attract more customers and significantly shorten their path to purchase.

Remember: every additional customer can become a promoter of your store! Fulfill every order as if the future of your company depended on it.

Summary


The customer path from new to returning (or even active promoter) is long and winding. Your job is to trace, analyze and understand this process, and then do your best to make this crossing easier for the customer. An engaged vendor is a mutual benefit. The consumer gets a good experience and an enjoyable buying process, while the retailer can expect to gain a regular customer.

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