Understanding the Online Buyer’s Journey

The different methods that people are using to make purchases has undergone an evolution over the past 10-15 years, primarily due to the exponential growth of Internet-based commerce. It is a natural and logical progression to address the fact that with this change in how consumers purchase goods and services, your sales approach should also be analyzed and modified accordingly.

The main difference that the Internet has made with respect to inbound sales is the amount of information that is now readily available to the buyer. A wealth of pertinent research on their next purchase is just a click away. In short, the roles of the buyer and seller have almost completely changed positions. Let’s explore the subject of the inbound sale (the online buyer’s journey) in detail, and how it should be used to shape your business’ sales process.

Understand Your Customer’s “Journey”

Before the Internet, salespeople constructed their processes around their own needs and wants, as opposed to those of their customers. Now the roles are reversed. The salesperson needs to better understand the buyer and what they’re looking for in their next purchase.

A typical online buyer’s journey from start to finish when purchasing a product consists of three primary phases: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. Each of these three phases is summarized below:

  • Awareness: In this initial stage of the online buyer’s journey, customers pinpoint a need they have or a goal they are trying to reach before deciding on whether or not to take immediate action on resolving their need or accomplishing their goal. It’s helpful to remember that every customer has a plethora of other needs and goals that are competing for their attention. This is why understanding your customer’s word is pertinent in your ability to create content that helps them stay focused on resolving their current need or goal, and the benefits they will experience for doing so.

 

  • Consideration: In this middle step of the online buyer’s journey, your potential customer has isolated their need or goal and has made the decision to resolve it. During this phase, your potential customer searches for information to support their decision, and considers the various options and solutions available to them to satisfy their need or to reach their goal. This is when providing your potential customer with the right kind of product and service information is most critical in helping build their trust and preference in purchasing from you.

 

  • Decision: This is the final step of the online buyer’s journey where the sale is either made or lost. Your potential customer has  decided on the type of purchase they need to make and is ready to buy (hopefully from you), and the transaction is either completed or abandoned. Shopping cart abandonment can occur for many preventable reasons including lack of transaction options, last minute surprise costs, difficulty navigating through your point-of-sale system, field errors, or lack of visible security assurances. When you consider the work it takes to attract a potential customer and earn their trust in making a purchase from you, losing them at the point of sale is a costly issue that requires careful and urgent analysis.

 

Formulate a Sales Process Contingent on the Online Buyer’s Journey 

The first step in understanding your online buyer’s journey is taking the time to understand your customer by carefully creating buyer personas using data collected from research and past customer interactions. The more you know about your potential customers, the better you’ll be able to understand the needs and desires that drive their purchasing behaviours.

After you have gained a thorough understanding of your potential customer’s journey, building a sales process based on their journey is the next order of business. In the past, traditional sales teams formulated this process first, but this is not so with the role reversal that we’ve covered. Inbound sales teams first must fully understand their customer’s wants and needs and then act accordingly. In the process, salespeople and their customers develop a better relationship as opposed to the past model, where the two parties were often at odds with one another. The result is better customer retention and repeat transactions.

Making the Sale

Given that a great deal of the power in the sales process has changed hands, the inbound salesperson really acts as a guide to answer any questions about the product or service the customer may have before purchasing. This doesn’t mean that the role of the salesperson is diminished; this is far from true. Instead, a more productive, meaningful relationship develops between the salesperson and the customer since the customer is bound to feel better about the process.

Beyond the Sale

The Inbound sales process shouldn’t end following the sale. A key tactic here is to make a point of engaging your satisfied customer. This can be done in several ways including conspicuously displayed social media share buttons and carefully timed prompts asking your customer to leave a review, sign-up for new product announcements, or share what they love about their new purchase via their own social media platforms. This is where traditional sales and inbound sales are similar. What company would not want a happy customer spreading word-of-mouth positive advertising about their brand? The good news here is that with the ubiquity and speed of communication via social media, it takes far less time for a satisfied customer to relay to their friends and family what a great experience they had with your company! Including a strong post-sale follow up strategy will help keep your customers coming back to you when they have another need that you can resolve.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us  at McAllister Marketing. McAllister Marketing is a full service marketing company that specializes in inbound marketing and customer attainment and retention strategies.

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