Are you interested in how people buy products and why they buy them? Have you ever wondered how social media messages influence a shopper’s buying choices? Wouldn’t you want to know your consumer’s buying behavior so that you can effectively use your marketing strategy to reach out to them?
We all go through a decision making cycle when we need to buy something, and this is the buying process we inadvertently follow while we shop. So, the five stages of the consumer buying process start with:
- A need for a certain product or the identification of the reason behind wanting to buy it.
- Once the need to buy something is identified and recognised, we go online and look at all the choices and alternatives available.
- After looking at all the information online, it is run through filters like price, functionality, features, etc. by which we evaluate which product fits our parameters best.
- After this evaluation is complete, and the product had been through our rigorous appraisal, we decide to purchase the product.
- Now that we have the product we needed, we then evaluate it after purchase with our experience of the product. If the product is amazing, we recommend it to our friends and family as it has given you an amazing user experience, while you would refrain from it if your experience is a negative one. In the meantime, you provide feedback to the company and review it online. But do you sit and wait for some kind of magic to happen, or you move on to another product after refining your decision making criteria? Isn’t this what all of us do on a regular basis?
While consumers are taking this buying process to evaluate a purchase, don’t you think brands need to leverage social media and make sure they walk the consumer through this journey effortlessly?
Today’s consumers are smart and tech savvy and combine search and social media to fuel every decision. 75 percent of Facebook purchasers said that they asked for their friends’ advice before buying, and 81 percent of shoppers say that posts from their friends on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook directly impact their shopping decisions.
The social share of an online product will drive an average of $2.04 in direct revenue to an online retailer, while a high product rating will increase the likelihood of completing a purchase for 55% of consumers, and consumer reviews are significantly trusted nearly 12 times more than descriptions that come from a product manufacturer. [Source : Addshoppers.com]
4 out of 10 social media users have purchased an item online or in a store after sharing or favoriting it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. Amazing right? Wouldn’t brands want to leverage this now?
How can the power of social media influence the consumer’s buying process?
Since social media is so powerful and promises great results, let us now map a consumer’s buying processes to social media brand activities to leverage its power, and walk beside the consumer through his/her decision making journey.
1) Identification of the need/requirement or problem recognition process
Social media activities must include brand exposure and awareness through creative, innovative and engagement building activities which should be done with a non sales approach. You could run a campaign using Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest which would entice your audience to engage with you and actually create that need for them.
2) Information search and consideration phase
This is the stage when a consumer is looking for their choices and if any of their circle of friends have any recommendations based on his/her need. This is followed by the advantages of each of the options, which is when we push information or provide more information to influence the consumer’s opinions which are in line with his/her need.
Using social media, you could drive feedback from over all the channels and drive positive feedback into the loop which would entail publishing blog posts on owned properties and guest blogs, reviews of sites, participating in forums and engaging on other social properties.
3) Evaluation of the choices
This is an important phase where a consumer needs to be reassured that they are making the right choice and want to make sure that they have considered all the parameters before purchasing the product.
Social media can work wonders here when influencers and advocates can publish testimonials about the products and write recommendations about the product. A blogger outreach program along with an influencer engagement program would be the best activity, making the consumer sure of his/her choice, creating a positive sentiment.
4) Purchasing decision
After being reassured about the product and looking/ reading (experiencing) about the positive sentiments through the outreach programs in the online world, the consumer then buys the product after being convinced about their choice based on the parameters.
5) Post purchase behavior which evaluates if the product actually worked for the consumer
Once the product is sold, it doesn’t mean that it’s off your head, right? The customer would still be wondering if the product actually lives up to his/her expectations, as well as wondering about the type of customer service he/she would expect from the brand. Brands can use Twitter or Facebook for real time after service support along with respective teams contacting the consumers on a periodic basis for any trouble with the product.
Another innovative way to do this is would be to set up a microsite which would house all the FAQs about the product, features, functionality etc. where all the consumers who purchased the product could interact/help each other (brand moderated) on the microsite enabling the growth of a community – which is the essence of social media.