The buying cycle is an important concept for marketers to consider during the planning process - it is the journey the customer takes from the moment they recognize a need or want and end with a purchase. The buying cycle is an integral part of a successful marketing strategy and understanding each of the stages involved can help a company target their customers more effectively.
The buying cycle typically consists of five main steps: awareness, consideration, purchase, service, and loyalty. Each step should be treated as a distinct marketing target and as such, different techniques may be used in each stage to maximize effectiveness.
Awareness. This first stage of the buying cycle is the time when the customer becomes aware of the product, either through advertising or word of mouth. At this point the customer has identified the need they wish to fill and the product they think may meet this need, however they still have not made a commitment to purchase.
Typically, during this stage, a company will focus on their branding strategy or provide information about their product as part of an advertising campaign to ensure the product is top-of-mind for the customer. This will often include extensive use of television, radio and digital advertisements, however, more and more companies are finding success with more targeted solutions such as targeted emails, mobile applications, and targeted search engine advertisements.
Consideration. This is the stage where the customer decides to buy. In this stage they have narrowed down their options and have narrowed their choice to a few products. At this stage the company should focus on providing detailed product information and should use tactics such as online product comparison or reviews to help the customer make their choice.
The company should ensure that any information regarding the product, such as pricing, delivery, returns and guarantees, is easy to access, clear and understandable. It is also during this stage, particularly for more expensive items, that a salesperson may be employed to help guide the customer through the choices and ensure the customer is suitably satisfied with the product.
Become a Sales & Marketing Rainmaker
Learn valuable skills to win more customers, grow your business, and increase your profits.
Purchase. This is the stage where the customer actually commits to buying the product. At this stage the company should ensure that the process is as simple and intuitive as possible and that customers are guided towards making their purchase by a simple checkout experience - whether it happens online or in-store.
Again, it is important that customers have easy access to the information they need to make their purchase - such as any special offers or discounts, payment options and any additional services. This stage is also a great opportunity to offer upsells, such as additional products or services, as customers are in a buying state of mind and may wish to purchase more.
Service. Once the purchase is made the customer then enters the service phase. This is where companies should focus on building customer loyalty and turning customers into brand advocates. During this stage excellent customer service is paramount and companies should focus on providing customers with helpful aftercare, whether that is free advice on how to use the product, technical support or help with returns.
Loyalty. This is the final stage in the buying cycle and is the point at which customers become loyal regular buyers and ultimately brand advocates. In order to reach this stage companies must ensure that the customer is continually satisfied with the service and product, and should turn customers into regular buyers by providing incentives such as loyalty points or promotional emails.
These loyalty points can also be used to create further loyalty as customers can be given discounts or additional services for reaching a certain level of loyalty. This encourages customers to keep buying - and potentially recommend the product to others - and can have an extremely positive effect on the success of a business.