This is part 2 of the “consumer decision making process”
The consumer decision making process are the various stages a consumer goes through before they actually purchase a product, and includes: Need Recognition, Research, Evaluation / Comparison, Purchase and finally post purchase evaluation. The time between initial research and purchase is referred to as lead time. The lead time can vary between products and industries based on the cost, importance, emotional involvement of the product.
In the first part, I covered: Need Recognition and Product Research; which you can read about here: The consumer decision making process – Part 1
Evaluation / Comparison
In this stage, the consumer has now narrowed his options down to two or three brands and has to make a decision to purchase from one of these. Decision can not only be influenced by internal factors, but external factors as well, such as reviews and recommendations especially from friends. Facebook encourages people to check-in and leave reviews of different products or brands that you have experience with. Other industries have other larger review sites such as Zomato for F&B or Trip Advisor for hospitality. These reviews can be shared onto Facebook to promote ‘good vibes’ of your brand. For others who are more price sensitive, it is at this stage that offers can be used to encourage purchase. Facebook provides an ‘offer’ ad type with a ‘buy now’ button which can be used to advertise an offer. In my experience however, a click to website ad type also works very well with offers as it is less direct and encourages people to find out more about the offer first rather than encouraging them to buy directly.
If you have your potential consumer’s email addresses, then a Facebook re-targeting campaign can be done to promote the offer to only those who were interested previously and visited the website. While an offer can be promoted to everyone, by being selective the conversion rate can be potentially higher.
Example – Emirates provides an offer with its Skywards points to encourage people to redeem and book – Now you need only half the usual number of Skywards Miles to make your next great escape.
Finally the customer is ready to purchase the product. This can be done on the website on in-store depending on the set up. Social Media can play a part of the purchase process in a few ways. The content to be posted in this stage is quite similar to Evaluation. This can be offers but with an added incentive such as a social media discount, or creating FOMO, or by re-targeting offers to previously interested customers.
Post- purchase Evaluation
Just because the customer has purchased the product that does not mean the process has concluded. In fact post-purchase is one of the most crucial stages as it determines whether your customer would be a one-off or a loyal one. While other factors such as brand, or product quality can have an impact, the company also has a role to play. Once the purchase is done, the company can follow up with them to check on customer satisfaction, they can actively encourage people to leave reviews on Facebook and to rate their product. While this can be a risk, in case of a bad product review, it does open an opportunity to engage the customer in solving their problems, get product feedback, replace the item if needed and get a positive review. In fact many people turn to social media to vent and voice their complaints if they are not satisfied. They might not always do this on the brand’s page, therefore it important to invest in a social media monitoring service which can pick up brand mentions from across any social channel giving the company an opportunity to engage and satisfy any unhappy customers, or find satisfied customers whom they can convert into potential brand ambassadors. Because of the dependency to use social media for customer service, brands must ensure they have adequate staff to reply to any complaints, or have a dedicated social channel purely for customer service. Well defined response times should be in place and monitored. Facebook now offers the ability to advertise and interested persons can reach out via Facebook messenger with any queries, if this is the case brands must be able to reply either in real time, or within 24 to 48 hours depending on the urgency and lead time of the product. Facebook provides analytics on response time, the number of messages received and the time taken to respond. All these can be used as KPI’s for customer service. If a customer is happy with their overall experience, they can be converted into loyal customers, which in essence means that, the next time they might want to pick up a similar product either they will stick to their chosen brand or skip the first two stages and go directly to evaluation and purchase, thus reducing the lead time and the time and investment required to convert a customer.
Example – If you see any Emirates Facebook post, their comments are filled with a combination of customer complaints as well as positive stories, yet they make sure that every comment is liked or responded to in a professional and orderly manner.
Once you have a better understanding of the purchase funnel, the next question is how would you determine on which stage your customer base is on. There is no clear cut answer to this question as the stages are not as clearly defined. People can move up and down the stages as they get more information or are targeted by more ads. Some industries tend to have distinct purchase periods, such as hospitality has a peak in winter and low in summer; others are consumed so often and quickly that they don’t have defined purchase periods. The more information you have the easier it is:
1) Sales data – look at previous sales data to determine peak purchase periods
2) CRM – your CRM will host customer purchase history, frequency of purchase, repeat purchases etc. all of which can be used to determine any trends
3) Google search – search trends can be used as an indicator of when interest in certain products starts to pick up. It is necessary to first conduct keyword research to fond the keywords associated to your product / brand, which can then be monitored.
4) PPC – If you are running PPC campaigns it can also be a very good source of information to map out your lead time. The keywords used in PPC tend to be across the entire funnel, from generic (which is at need recognition) to keywords associated with offers and sales (evaluation) to brand specific offers (purchase intention). The number of impressions of these keywords determined the frequency of the searches, so by therefore monitoring impressions over time, a time graph can be used to determine when customers go through the different stages.
It is important to keep in mind that the above is only an indication and would not guarantee that these are definitive stages.
The decision making process is an essential part of any marketing activity and is absolutely the most basic and one of the fundamental places to start when investing in a marketing plan and / or a social media strategy.