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Capture your customer: How to market at every stage of the buying cycle

In a world where we are increasingly spending time online, brands need to meet their customers’ needs at every point of their buying cycle.

Engaging with customers from the moment they become aware of your brand, through to their purchase phase and beyond is crucial in driving sales.

Identifying each of these buying phases and understanding how your digital marketing activity applies to each stage will allow your brand to have multiple touchpoints with your customer.

Here are the five key phases of a customer’s buying cycle and how digital marketing activity can be applied at each stage:

1. Awareness

This stage in the buying cycle is usually triggered by the customer becoming aware that they have a problem to solve or a need to fulfil, and realise they have to look for a product or service to address that need.

For example, if someone’s car breaks down they will become aware that there is something wrong with the car but they may not yet know how to solve the problem.

Another way a person can become aware of a product or service is if someone introduces it to them and brings it to their attention. For example, a cosmetics-loving woman shows her friend a new brand of lipstick she’s been using. The friend has not before heard of this lipstick brand but shows an interest in it and becomes aware of the product for the first time.

Through digital marketing activity, a brand can make a consumer aware of their product or service by running regular advertisements that target their ideal customer. The customer may not engage with the ad, but they become aware of the brand name, its product or service.

Awareness can be an important part of creating new markets and encouraging audience members to become interested in a product or service.

Activities effective at triggering awareness include outdoor and display advertising, direct mail, radio, public relations, digital banner advertising, social media advertising, competitions, networking and word-of-mouth.

2. Research

The research phase is where a consumer has identified that they have a problem or a need and actively search for information to solve it.

In the scenario where the person’s car broke down and they’re aware that they need to enlist the services of a mechanic, they may do a Google search for local mechanics or ask their peers for a recommendation. Or, if the car is old and has been giving them grief for some time, they may do some research into buying a new car.

In the research phase, consumers may also take no action. The research they conduct may inform what they need to do to solve their problem, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll follow through and act on it.

The example of the woman who is interested in the new brand of lipstick her friend introduced her to may go online and find information about the product but may not follow through and purchase it.

From a digital marketing perspective, it is in this research phase where there is an opportunity for brands to build trust with prospective customers.

Through digital content, such as information on your website, educational articles or social media posts, your brand can answer questions consumers may have about your product or service, and explain how it can solve a problem or need.

Examples of marketing activities that targets this stage include blogs, search (SEO), social media activity and advertising, display advertising, paid search (AdWords), print collateral, trade shows, forums, networking and word-of-mouth.

3. Consideration

The consideration phase is where consumers go beyond researching and start to evaluate options for making a purchase.

This may include narrowing down their research to only a few products or services they are considering, assessing whether the product or service satisfies their requirements and justifying and quantifying its value. All of this allows the consumer to develop internal buy-in.

For the car example, the consumer may have decided that they’d like to buy a new car instead of putting up with the old one that keeps breaking down. They’ve spent time researching cars and have narrowed it down to brands and models of cars that fit within their budget and requirements.

In digital marketing, this is where a brand might want to hone in on product-specific information such as detailed feature descriptions, quality product photography or video demonstrations.

This will allow a brand to talk about price points, inclusions, and the benefits of buying your product or service over another (e.g. your points of difference).

Marketing activities to help lead customers toward a purchase include remarketing, email newsletters, landing pages, paid search, display advertising, social media activity and advertising, search marketing (SEO), special offers price points, value propositions and promotions.

4. Purchase

Here, the customer has settled on the type of product or service they need and they’re ready to make a purchase. They may still be choosing between brands or specific product features, but they are certain that they want to commit to the purchase.

Factors that may influence the purchase phase could include a consumer choosing between three different brands of small cars, or three different shades of red lipstick. Price points, product testing or customer service may influence whether the customer makes the purchase.

The purchase phase is often when most brands put their efforts into marketing, through advertising specials and offers, AdWords listings on product-specific search terms, landing pages or having an e-commerce presence. While it is important for brands to focus on marketing in this phase, it only makes up one part of the customer’s buying cycle.

As you can see, buyers have gone through a long process before even getting to this stage. So, if your brand can have as many touch points as possible along the customer’s buying journey, there’s a much greater chance that your brand will be considered in purchase phase.

If your product is way out of the ballpark of what the customer has settled on, it’s too late for your brand because it’s not within the consumer’s consideration set.

In the purchase phase it’s still important to make sure your brand’s processes are good, particularly in the digital space. If you are selling products via an online store, ensure it is working well and that the checkout process isn’t confusing. If you operate a physical shop, ensure you have well-trained staff who know how to service customers.

Purchase can be influenced by landing pages, sales teams, channel partners, ease of purchase, special offers and promotions.

5. Retention

How do you ensure that your customers are happy with the products or services they have purchased? This is the question brands should be asking to address a customer’s retention phase.

A lot of brands end a transaction with a customer at the purchase phase and they don’t think about the customer again.

There are many ways that digital marketing can be employed to keep in touch with a customer post purchase phase.

Capture their email address so you can add them to your monthly email newsletter, invite them to like your Facebook page or re-target them with online ads. You may even want to send them a link to a survey where they can evaluate their purchase experience and pass on valuable information that you can use to improve your brand and customer experience.

This gives brands an opportunity to continue the conversation with their customers which could transform them into a repeat customer or a brand advocate, where they recommend your product or service to their peers. And there is nothing more valuable than a recommendation from a trusted peer.

It’s also easier and more cost-effective to get repeat business from an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one, making retention an important phase in the customer buying journey.

Examples of good retention activity include remarketing, referral programs, rewards programs, email newsletters, social media, blogs, print newsletters, cross-selling and promotions, good customer service, after-market support, client events, product forums, encouraging user reviews.

Be there at every part of the customer buying cycle

In any marketing mix, a good starting point is to identify how you can have a touch point with your customers at each of these five buying phases.

It is equally important to identify where you may have weaknesses across any of these phases so you can improve your marketing activity in the areas that lack.

If you’d like to find out more about how your brand can have more touch points throughout your customer’s buying cycle, get in touch.

Assemblo can assist with all aspects of digital marketing, from content creation to social media to online advertising. Call us on (03) 9079 2555 or send us details via the contact form below.

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