The Internet’s Role in the Buying Process

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At any point in time, consumers are within one or more buying stage of a product or service. As the Internet became readily available to more users, it also influenced decision making. Check out how the Internet affected the consumer’s buying process.

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Stages in the Buying Process

There are six identified stages in the buying process, and these are as follows:

  1. Recognize the need. Whether it’s a new item, a replacement, or an upgrade, at some point the consumer recognizes the need to purchase something. This is where the buying process starts. Take for example, a family who’s looking to replace their 10-year old television set with a slim LED model.
  2. Search for information. The consumer would then search for all the information necessary to make a decision. What brands are available? What models are available? How much does it cost? Is it user friendly? What are the critics saying? What are the current users saying? This could include visits to stores, asking sales people, reading print ads, checking out websites, even asking friends.
  3. Evaluate options. At this point the consumer would weigh the pros and cons of each available option and narrow down the choices based on select decision factors.
  4. Choose and buy. The consumer would arrive at a decision, and proceed with the purchase.
  5. Use and evaluate. The consumer would use the purchased item, examine if it does lives up to the information provided about it (such as ad claims) and perhaps provide feedback about the experience. Feedback may either be through recommendations to friends, posts on social media, or product reviews.
  6. Dispose. After some time the consumer would decide to let go of the item, either by selling it off, throwing it away, or keeping it unused in a storage somewhere. If the consumer decides to replace the item before or after disposal, then the buying process starts all over again.

Each stage has no definite time frame; it all depends on the consumers, their access to information, and their decision making factors. The buying process for huge purchases such as real estate or vehicles could span months, years, and even decades, while simple purchases such as food or clothing could be completed in a few minutes.

 

How The Internet Changed the Buying Process

With search engine technology, consumers are now able to access information with just a few keystrokes. This allows businesses to create targeted advertisements that are served only to users who show interest.

Keyword driven organic and sponsored search results

Keyword driven organic and sponsored search results

 

Before, information may be accessed either through traditional ads (print, TV, radio) or by going from store to store and checking out the display. Now, with a few clicks and some reading online, consumers can already evaluate the different options available to them, and find out all the details they need to know without having to talk to a sales person.

Comparison between multiple options are made easier

Comparison between multiple options are made easier

 

Even product reviews from actual users are readily available to potential buyers, helping them choose wisely and steer clear of any exaggerated claims.

Product reviews and ratings let consumers know which ones to choose and which ones to avoid

Product reviews and ratings let consumers know which ones to choose and which ones to avoid

 

In this digital age, several businesses have set up online shops allowing purchase transactions to be conducted online, eliminating the need to physically go to the store.

E-commerce sites such as Amazon.com lets consumers purchase with a simple click

E-commerce sites such as Amazon.com lets consumers purchase with a simple click

 

Social media has encouraged sharing and interaction between consumers and brands. As consumers use the purchased product, they share their experience and evaluation through social networking sites, forums, or review boards. This serve as feedback to the brand and additional information for potential searchers (those who are currently at stage 2).

Consumers can leave reviews after purchasing to help inform future buyers

Consumers can leave reviews after purchasing to help inform future buyers

 

The Internet also provided consumers with a means to connect with potential buyers should they decide to dispose through selling.

Sites such as eBay allow users to sell off their used items to those looking for a bargain

Sites such as eBay allow users to sell off their used items to those looking for a bargain

 

While the buying process still consists of the same stages, Internet search opened the doors to information and online transactions. Loads of information is readily accessible, letting consumers choose from a wide range of options and purchase methods and allowing them to make well informed decisions faster.

 

If you own a brick-and-mortar business and sell products and services through physical transactions, you can still take advantage of online search. By establishing an online presence, you are already providing information about your business to potential customers, and encourage them to visit your shop. Using targeted ads would definitely increase your chances of being recognized, generating interest, and getting sales.

Is your business searchable online? Expand your reach through pay per click ads. Contact us now to talk about how we can help you promote your business.

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