Digital marketing – the buying decision process

Updated: November 17, 2021
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Digital marketing – the buying decision process

When people go about buying something – whether online or in-store – there is always a process to it. They typically don’t head into a shop with zero ideas of what they want to buy – they’ll do some research first. Maybe they’ll look at several different products before they settle on one, or they’ll look around at various competitors to get an idea of what to expect. 

More than likely, they will also talk to friends and family about what they want to purchase and why. Nothing is more powerful than their own social circles, after all.

At the end of the day, shoppers always have an adventure when it comes to finalising a purchase, and in digital marketing, this is even more the case. With online shopping and digital technologies easily accessible and on-demand through mobile marketing, consumers can browse in their own time and when it suits them most.

The journey is also more broken up than ever before, thanks to being able to scroll on mobile devices during commutes or in between coffee breaks at work. It’s no longer so smooth-sailing and straight forward and brands need to appeal to this. Which makes it super tricky to navigate without solid digital marketing covering all bases of your consumer buying decision process.

In this guide, we show you what to expect out of the consumer buying decision process involved in using digital marketing channels, what it means to your business and how you can adopt it in your own strategy.

Firstly, what is the consumer buying decision process in digital marketing?

Consumers form an impression of what they want and they will set out to learn as much as they can about that product before they make a purchase. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles, and this process has a name: consumer buying decision process (or buyer’s cycle).

When people learn about something new, they always become engaged, but that doesn’t mean they’ll become interested and then take action. They first need to learn more about the product or service itself and decide whether there’s a benefit to buying it. And those are the building blocks of the second half of this consumer buying decision process, which we will discuss further in this digital marketing article. 

By incorporating each of these phrases into your digital marketing, you’ll have a more strategic approach that’s destined for website traffic and increased sales. 

If you understand and capture this consumer buying decision process, you can also trigger the unconscious mind of your prospect, tapping into the very nature of human psychology. And that’s a powerful skill to have when you’re a digital marketing specialist. From there, you have complete control over the rest of the buyer’s cycle. 

How does the consumer buying decision process work for digital marketing channels? 

Let’s say you write an “ordinary” sales letter to promote a book you’ve written. You craft a compelling piece of copy for your digital marketing, designed to draw your reader into reading your sales pitch. 

Next, you will have them form an impression of what the book is about, relaying your narrative to them carefully. Finally, you will help him decide if they want to buy the book.  Whether you know it or not, you’ve used the buyer’s cycle to complete this digital marketing journey. 

When you put this down to simple dot points, it looks like this:

  1. Awareness: Consumers become aware that you exist but haven’t proven to be interested just yet.
  2. Interest: Consumers are suddenly intrigued about what you have to offer and whether it can help their everyday life or business.
  3. Trial: Consumers are willing to learn more about your brand and want a special offer or sneak peek into what their life would look like if they did make the purchase.
  4. Action: Consumers make the purchase and decide to buy your product or service, thanks to your previous marketing messages.
  5. Loyalty: After the purchase, you can keep engaging your consumers through channels like email marketing to ensure they come back to purchase once more.

In the following sections, we’ll examine what each of these consumer buying decision process phases means and how you can take advantage of them to reel in more conversions through your own digital marketing channels or efforts.

Consumer decision making process phase #1: Awareness

Awareness is the first step in the consumer buying decision process in digital marketing. This is the first time your prospect becomes aware of your existence and that presence is compelling enough for him to want to know more about your offering.

In other words, awareness is the beginning of interest. It is not enough to inform someone that ‘X’ is the hottest selling product on the market. You first need to capture their attention and tell them why they should care in the first place. And that’s where the power of copywriting comes into play for your digital marketing strategies.

For example, to hook in a prospect, writing a hard-hitting headline is the be-all and end-all. You need to answer a question that the target customer potentially has in their mind – whether consciously or unconsciously. You need to hook them in with a reason that they absolutely must care about what you have to say.

When this comes into play in the real world, it comes in the form of a scenario where someone reads an ad or piece of digital marketing and they’ve just become interested. But they’re not ready to do anything about it. The wording was enough to make them pay attention, and that’s something. 

Remember that this is the very start of the journey, so your prospects are not willing or interested in buying anything just yet. They aren’t convinced enough that making this investment is worth the time and money; they just know you exist. The rest of your digital marketing channels are then built on finding ways to entice them and convince them that their life is better with your product/service.

After a short time, they might find themselves thinking about it again and questioning what the ad was about. This is where awareness becomes interested. 

Consumer decision making process phase #2: Interest

In the consumer buying decision process, interest refers to the respective buyers who are still looking but have not yet made a purchase.  

If you understand how interest works in buyer’s cycles of your digital marketing, you will be able to create a lot more of it in your offers. This knowledge gives you the ability to dramatically increase the number of people who become engrossed in what you have to say. This, in turn, will turn up your response rate and lift the average amount of interest each person has in what you are selling. But it takes hard work to get to this point.

How does interest work in the buyer’s cycle? 

Let’s examine it in detail. When someone is “aware” of an offer, they are just learning about it. They have no real interest in what you are selling, they just happened to come across your ad while going about their everyday life. 

But, they are NOT yet interested. Not yet.

To generate enough interest in what you’re selling, you need to have worked on your potential customers beforehand, including demographics and personas. This part of your digital marketing provides you with enough to understand what appeals to them most. You should know what their pain points are and then be able to target these in this phase. At the end of the day, having a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour will impact digital marketing of any kind.

If you really want to go into more depth, a great way to learn more about this ’emotional need’ for your target audiences is to create a simple buyer’s journey map. This is simply a visual map of your prospects’ various emotional states as they move from awareness of your product or service to the point where they are ready to buy (action).

In this digital marketing map, define what your prospect is thinking and feeling during each of the phases we are discussing in this article. By doing this, you force yourself to actively put yourself in their shoes and take the time to understand what their pain points are and how you can potentially solve them. It will also help you to refine your interest stage so that you can relay messaging that caters to this emotional need.

 A great way to initiate interest is also to use digital marketing methods like lead nurturing. Digital marketing experts can also streamline this process for you, helping you to segment your customers according to the messages you relay to them (i.e. through e-mail marketing) and allowing you to follow them through the buyer’s cycle visually.

When you’re a brand trying to understand where your leads sit in your digital marketing pipeline, this kind of insight is crucial. It can also mean the make or break for your campaign. In the second half of this guide, we will also discuss the importance of using data and insights in your own research, before moving on to building out a ‘trial’ stage.

Consumer decision making process phase #3: Trial

Think of this stage of digital marketing as giving them a taste of what it would be like if they did purchase your product or service. What would life be like for them?

When a buyer is starting to think like your product or service could be what they need, they’re interested. But they haven’t yet converted because they need to be further enticed. In this part of the buyer’s cycle, this is where ‘trial’ comes into play, and often includes a special offer or – well, trial run – entice them to test it out then hopefully purchase it by the end.

Therefore, in this stage, the buyer is really just starting to become aware of you and your offering and is beginning to ask himself questions about buying what you are selling. This is also where copywriting and headlines really start to count beyond a surface interest level. At this point, you’re telling them why they can’t live without what you’ve got to offer.

If you’ve done your job properly, this will be the point where your headline starts to burn itself into their brains and they begin to ask questions like:

“Do I really want to own this?”

“Is this worth the money?” 

“How much does it cost?”

“Do I have any other options”

“Can I get a better deal someplace else?” 

Think of them as interested but undecided.  They have formed an idea in their minds about how much they are willing to pay for what you are selling and they have a sense of urgency about getting it. Sometimes they may have even started to make a mental list of the pros and cons of it all, too. 

So what better way to help them to make up their mind than to offer them a special deal they simply can’t resist? By doing this, you’re also stopping them from heading over to a competitor or sussing out whether they can get a cheaper option. Finally, you’re allowing them to see a glimpse into what you offer and what they can expect by using or buying what you’re pitching. It’s a chance to see why they can’t live without your goods.

Consumer decision making process phase #4: Action

The “action” portion of the buyer’s cycle is formed when a person decides he or she wants the item or service and is ready to purchase it. This is also known as “buyer intent”. 

What happens at this point is that the person will form an “intention” to purchase the item or service. And then, s/he will talk with others about the item or service and discover additional information about it. This will help him or her to form an even more concrete “intention” to buy. 

Then, finally, after all this information has been evaluated, if all is good (and hopefully it will be), then the person will initiate the process of making a purchase.

Ultimately, when a buyer enters the action stage, they are ready to invest in what you have to offer. But your work isn’t done yet. Here is where it’s time to start focusing on closing the deal. This is where you begin to craft your irresistible sales message. 

Buyers are always needing that extra reason to convert and in the action stage, you release this final ‘teaser’. When a buyer is about to make a purchase but is sitting on the fence, you can get him over the line by reaffirming their decision. 

Just like the ‘trial’ phase, you can offer him an “exclusive deal” or some other compelling reason for him to jump over that fence and become a customer. Remember, at this point, you are now working on a “frozen brain” that is in the midst of actually investing. You’re the final voice of reason for them doing so. 

Tip: Create a “sticky” sales message somewhere in the body copy of your website or sales pitch. This will help your customers remember the key points of your sales message and be able to grab ahold of them whenever they are having buyer’s remorse.

Anchor the sales message with benefits. Benefits are what you get (they improve the quality of life). Benefits remove objections (there were good reasons before, but they are stronger now because you’ve got your prospect on your side). Benefits remind buyers of why they want the thing you are selling. Benefits create emotional attachments (they make your prospect feel warm and fuzzy inside).

Finally, infuse your sales message with proof. This is what you see, hear, feel, touch and smell. If you can provide it, you remove all doubts and questions in your customer’s mind. If you can’t provide physical proof, find out if there is some other way you can provide “emotional proof”. 

You want your customers to feel they have discovered “THE” secret to having a happy, fulfilling life. They’ve found a magic pill that gives them the exact formula they need to achieve total contentment. 

Oftentimes, buyers tend to go with their gut feeling when it comes to taking action. To appeal to this, you need to show them that you can be trusted and that they can be comfortable working with you. If you have testimonials to be your sense of proof, this is where they really come into play. You just need a reason to top off that final piece of the purchase decision-making process and give them peace of mind. 

Can you be the voice of reason when they’re struggling with hurdles in their own journey? If you can, how can you prove this to them? 

The final stage: loyalty

If you managed to make the sale and convert a prospect into a customer, then you’ve already come a long way. But the process isn’t over yet. Imagine if they continued to come back time and time again as a loyal customer that sticks to your brand forever. Wouldn’t that be nice? 

To create brand loyalty, your online marketing campaign needs to relate to consumer attitudes and engage them frequently. Just because you landed their sale doesn’t mean you should abandon them entirely, so it’s important to reach consumers after they’ve long invested in your business.

In fact, it’s at this point in the buyer’s journey where most companies totally lose sight of their customers. It’s at this point where many businesses fall into complacency. They think that just because someone has bought something from them once, they’ll always come crawling back. 

This is not the case.

Customers become loyal to brands that provide them with frequent, useful and valuable communications. And those communications should be timely, personal and relevant.

For example, one of the best ways to stay in touch with your customers is via a monthly newsletter via e-mail marketing. Consider sending one out every month, even if it’s just a few paragraphs describing what you’ve been up to in the last few weeks. Create content like a high-value blog or a video and include it in your direct marketing or e-mails.

You might also have seasonal occasions to cater to – like Christmas or ongoing birthday milestones that you can take advantage of. Using your e-mail marketing or mobile marketing to touch base with your previous customer engages them to remind them that you’re always there to serve any other moments or issues in their life. Maybe they purchased something from you for themselves and now they need to gift someone with something they can trust – perfect, your product might be just what they need. 

Rinse, repeat.

If you choose to go silent after converting your customer the first time, you’ll quickly lose them due to them forgetting about your brand or just a lack of interest in what you have to say. You got their money and that’s what you cared about the time, right? No. You need to be the brand that’s always there for them, even after you made the sale. That’s the difference between a really successful brand and one lacking a connection with their target audience. 

The research you need to do as a brand

When you’re trying to establish a solid buyer’s journey, there’s some initial research you need to go through first. As we mentioned previously, creating a roadmap of emotion for your prospects is a good way to do this, but deeper levels of insights will get you even further. 

For example, you need to know exactly why you’re targeting these consumers in the first place and whether they’re event ready to make a purchase. You also need to know where to target them (which is something your content strategy is built upon). 

No amount of direct response copywriting will help you here if you don’t know how to plan out and better understand the buyer’s cycle that relates to your brand in the first place. In the next few points, we’ll touch briefly on important things you need to consider in your own research phase.

Understanding the situation your prospects are in

Not everyone is ready to just jump in and make a purchase. Everyone is going through their own things in life, and your brand needs to be respectful of that. For example, consider recent COVID-19 lockdowns in specific regional areas. If you’re targeting an event to an audience in a postcode that’s not legally allowed out, this is probably inappropriate. 

Beyond your product and pricing, you need to understand the actual circumstances of your audience right then and there. Conducting research into current digital marketing trends will also help you to scope this out and understand whether a specific online and conventional advertisement us appropriate for the time.

Your budget

Unfortunately, you don’t have an infinite budget and either does your prospects. If you have a smaller amount to work with, marketing all out in the first phase won’t get you very far. Spread your budget for your marketing across all phases of your cycle.

Competitors

It pays to know what your competition is doing. Keep tabs on their marketing efforts – whether SEO, social media marketing, PPC or something else – and make sure you’re also active in these spaces. Also, keep eyes on what phases they are using across each platform and assess whether you’re doing it better or not.

Analytics

Data is everything. If you already have insights on hand, use them to power up your buyer’s cycle before you dive into it. Check up on the resources you have available through Google Analytics or platforms like Ahrefs or SEMrush. Know what you’re working with and when to use it and this will go a long way to the success of your overall campaign and generating brand awareness. Understanding consumer behavior, customer satisfaction and overall marketing strategy performance is crucial.

 It’s important not to forget about the buyer’s cycle

Marketing is hard as it is, and when you don’t have the formula to follow, it’s even more of a minefield. By sticking to the tried and proven buyer’s cycle, you’re giving your efforts a marketing strategy that is designed to work. When you fall short, you can assess which stage of the cycle your prospects were falling out on, and then work towards improving their experience at that point in time. 

At the end of the day, if you’re not getting traction from your buyer’s cycle, you need to sit back and assess your overall marketing or product offering. Maybe you’re targeting the wrong audience or your offering isn’t competitive enough. What can you do to tweak your model so that you’ve got the upper edge on competitors? 

If you’re struggling with this part of the process, our team at EDGE can help you power up your strategy so that it’s more aligned and ready to engage. Get in touch with our digital marketing experts now for help you can trust. 

Mira
Mira -
Head of Paid Media
1300 558 659 - www.edgeonline.com.au

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