Customer Buying Process

What influences our customers to buy products or services?

The customer buying process is a complex matter as many internal and external factors have an impact on their buying decisions.

Many customers do not spend much time thinking about the purchase of low value products which are bought on impulse i.e. chocolates, travel essentials etc. Companies, therefore, will need to think of ideas that will encourage customers to buy on impulse from them instead of their competitors e.g. attractive packaging.

On the other hand, when customers buy high value products or non-impulse products, they often go through a set process, which will be discussed in today's course.

Problem / Need Recognition

What is a Problem or Need Recognition?

At this stage, the customer finds out what the problem / need is and identify the product / service which is required.

Problem/Need-recognition is the most important step in the buying decision. Without knowing what the need is, a purchase cannot take place. This need can be triggered internally (i.e. hunger, thirst) or externally (i.e. advertising).  Only when a person has fulfilled the needs at a certain stage, can he or she move to the next stage. The problem must be within the products or services available; it's how the problem must be recognized.

How do you decide which particular product or service to purchase? It could be that your Blu-Ray DVD player stops working and you now have to look for a new one; otherwise you will not be able to play your Blu-Ray films so you have a problem or a new need.

1. What can you do (as a service staff) to help your customer at recognizing his/her needs?

Information Search

What is Information Search?

Once a problem is recognized, the customer search process begins. They know there is an issue and they’re looking for a solution. This is the buyer's effort at searching the internal and external business environments to identify and observe sources of information related to the focal buying decision.

The field of information has come a long way in the last forty years, and has enabled easier and faster information discovery. Consumers can rely on print, visual, and/or voice media for getting information.

Thus, for example, if the problem / need is pet food, your customers will look for pet food; if it’s a new toy for his/her pet dog, they start looking at toys for dogs – it’s fairly straight forward.

2. How can you ease the process of the "Information Search" for your customer as a service staff?

Evaluation of Options

What happens when a customer Evaluate their Options?

At this stage, consumers start to consider different products / brands based on different product traits, and whether these can deliver the benefits that the customers are seeking. 

Just because you stand out among the competition doesn’t mean a customer will absolutely purchase your product or service. In fact, customers want to be sure they’ve done enough research before making a purchase. Because of this, even though they may be sure of what they want, they’ll still want to compare other options to ensure their decision is the right one.

One factor that heavily influences this stage is the customer’s attitude: liking or disliking a product / service, moving towards or away from it. 

Involvement is another factor that influences the evaluation process. For example, if the customer involvement is high, then he/she will evaluate a number of brands; whereas if it is low, only one brand will be evaluated.

3. Why do you think it is important for a customer to evaluate his / her options before making a purchase?

Buying Decision

What is the Buying Decision about?

This is the fourth stage, where the purchase takes place. At this point, the customer has explored multiple options, they understand pricing and payment options and they are deciding whether to move forward with the purchase or not. That’s right, at this point they could still decide to walk away.

This final purchase decision can be disrupted by two factors: (1) negative feedback from other customers and (2) whether the customer accepts the feedback or not. For example, after going through the above three stages, a customer may choose to buy a certain brand of Pedigree pet food for his cat. However, because his good friend, who is also owns a pet cat, gives him negative feedback, he will then be bound to change his preference. 

Another way that the decision may be disrupted could be due to unanticipated situations such as a sudden job loss or the closing of a retail store.

Actual Purchase

What makes up a successful Purchase?

Even at this stage the purchaser could change their mind and select a competitor product or cancel the purchase altogether. 

The job of the seller is to ensure that the purchase process is simple and effective.  A long queue, impolite sales staff or complicated sales process can all dissuade consumers from buying. Even if a consumer buys on this occasion a negative buying experience could stop them buying in the future. Therefore sellers need to make the buying process as simple and enjoyable as possible to safeguard this and future purchases.

4. Given that it is not guaranteed that a customer would buy from you, what can you do to encourage a successful purchase from Pet Lovers?

Post-Buying Behaviour

What happens after making the purchase?

Ever have doubts about the product after you purchased it? 

Research shows that this feeling is a common post purchase behaviour. Every business clearly want their customers to feel proud of their purchase, so that they will purchase from them again and recommend them to family and friends. 

Do not think that because a purchase has been made, the process has not ended. In fact, revenues and customer loyalty can be easily lost. After a purchase is made, the customer must decide whether they are satisfied with the decision that was made or not. They evaluate.

If a customer feels as though an incorrect decision was made, a return could take place. However, even if the customer is satisfied with his or her decision to make the purchase, whether a future purchase is made from your brand is still in question.

On the basis of being either satisfied or dissatisfied, it is common for customers to distribute their positive or negative feedback about the product. This may be through reviews on website, social media networks or word of mouth. 

5. How would you ensure that a customer of Pet Lovers will leave a positive review of your products / services?