Definition: Buying Process
A standard process that corporations and individuals progress through (in order) when purchasing a product or service. Also known as the ‘Buying Cycle’ or ‘Purchase Process’.
The Purchase Process:
This process typically consists of 5 major steps:
1. Need/Problem Recognition or Identification – This is the initial stage where an individual comes to the realization that she has a problem (or opportunity). It is only once an individual recognizes a problem that she can start looking for a solution. This stage cannot be skipped, and is always the first stage of the process.
Eg. a. Current headlights too dim
b. Need to replace burnt out headlight, wants to upgrade
c. Sees other cars with HID Lights, thinks they are cool & wants to learn more
d. HID Lights recommended by someone they trust
2. Information Gathering/Determination of Alternatives – This is the 2nd stage of the purchase process where an individual now begins to look for solutions to their problems or to the opportunities that they’ve identified. There are often more ways than one to achieve the given objective.
Eg. a. How can I make my headlights brighter?
b. What are the benefits compared with stock headlight bulbs?
c. What are HID Lights?
Role of the Internet in Stage 2:
In terms of the internet, it dramatically improves an individuals ability to find alternatives and information about most of those alternatives. Perform a search for “brighter headlights” and you’ll be presented with at least 378,000 results.
3. Assessment of Alternatives/Alleviation of Risk –
The 3rd phase of the process is the Assessment of Alternatives with an eye to reduce risk, and maximize the probability the objective set forth is satisfied. The more complex and costly the possible solutions, the more questions that have to be asked and answered. Each alternative is assessed in turn.
a. How hard is it to install?
b. What are the problems / potential risks?
c. Are they legal in my state?
d. Which brand should I buy?
e. Can I install them myself or should I go to a professional?
f. Which service provider should I use? Where are they located?
Role of the Internet in Stage 3:
In terms of internet marketing, potential purchasers will look for recognized brands online, or anything within a website that suggests stability and credibility such as:
a. Security crests
b. Partnerships with recognized brands
d. Consumer feedback and opinion
e. Site quality
4. Purchase –
The 4th phase of the buying process is in making the actual purchase. Now that the individual has decided what alternative they will go with because it offers the best perceived combination of goal achievement and minimization of risk … they purchase.
5. Post Purchase Evaluation –
This is the last phase of the Buying Cycle and once again it involves the individual asking themselves a series of questions, but this time the questions are designed to help the individual learn from his/her mistakes.
a. Review installer
b. Review products
c. Sharing experiences
d. Sharing pictures
e. Recommending to a friend
Ultimately, an individuals satisfaction with a purchase, and their likelihood of becoming a brand advocate, will be based on the perceived results relative to expectations. Did the purchase exceed their expectations, merely meet their expectations, or fall beneath expectations? If it exceeded expectations, you’ve got a brand advocate. If merely met, the individual is likely brand neutral. If the purchase falls below expectations, then you’ll likely have a ‘brand basher’, spreading news of their negative experience in as many places as possible.
Role of the Internet in Stage 5:
Once again, the internet plays a tremendous role in spreading both the brand advocate and brand basher messages. Blogging and micro-blogging (eg. Twitter) make it possible for people to share their experiences with hundreds (even thousands) of others with minimal effort. At the same time, these post purchase opinions often remain online indefinitely, leading to a sudden rise in the need for ‘online reputation management’ services. This of course means that a firm’s ‘brand message’ is no longer carried by the firm … its now carried and diseminated by their clients. So its entirely up to a company what message clients carry forward about their brand … all they have to do is manage client expectations, so that they can be exceeded!