Conversion is a term used in eCommerce to describe converting a “shopping” customer into a “buying” customer. Conversion is the goal of every marketer, but for many marketers, the way to convert customers is ever elusive and ever-changing.

buying decision

What causes a customer to make the decision to purchase? What causes a customer to have second thoughts and abandon a shopping cart or leave the site without making a purchase? How many times does a customer need to see your product or service before they make a decision to purchase from you? What do you need to communicate? When? How? How often?

So many questions.

Customer behavior may appear mysterious. But consider this; getting to know your customers requires the same techniques for getting to know anyone or anything. You  have to work at it!  There is no substitute for studying your customer’s behavior to understand how they choose make to purchases.  There are many valuable sources of information such as U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.  Below, we have summarized the process a customer may experience when deciding to make a purchase.

What Drives Purchasing Decisions?

1. Solving a problem.

It starts with a problem or a need. The Customer has a situation which requires action to resolve. The solution may be to acquire a product or a service. Products include things or consumables. Services include information and expertise that the customer does not currently have. The customer may also have a perceived or real urgency to find the solution. This level of urgency greatly influences buying behavior.

For example, Mary (a potential customer) woke up to find that her refrigerator has stopped working overnight. She has melting food in the freezer and a work presentation to prepare for that morning. Mary’s purchase decision-making is influenced by multiple factors: urgent need and limited time to research. Mary will either return to a seller that she has used in the past or one that was referred to her by someone that she trust.  She may make a decision quickly, even though it is a large purchase.  Most consumers do not like to be in this situation. Mary limited her research around brands that she can easily find positive customer reviews for.


2. Research and comparison.

Ibuyng decisionsn a different scenario, let’s say Mary is planning to replace the refrigerator that her parents gave her because she can now afford a better one. In this case she will spend more time on research, visit several sites, compare pricing and features, talk to friends and co-workers, visit multiple appliance stores, talk to sales people, and so on.

Mary will inquire about brand reputation or whether there have been complaints against a brand or a seller.  She may also visit sites such as Google Trusted Store for additional assurance of her purchase choices, and to generate additional options for consideration. She may even look for coupons, free shipping or delivery, and other freebies. This process could take days, weeks or even months.


3. The decision to buy.

Some purchasing decisions are influenced by the environment (peers, culture, media).

What pushes customers to make a decision with so much information and options out there?  The truth is that Mary’s next refrigerator purchase may be decided by what her neighbors have or if HGTV is currently suggesting that people are buying refrigerators with bottom freezers because it’s the hip feature in modern kitchens. Mary may begin to spend time imagining the new refrigerator in her home based on  images that she sees on websites or in magazines. Mary may ultimately base her decision on the personal interaction she has with a salesperson, or based on the knowledge and helpfulness of a service representative that she speaks to.  Purchasing decisions are often made because of trust that a customer feels toward the seller.

Move the Customer

As a marketer, you must anticipate how you can meet your customers where they are, and interact with them to find out what they need, when they need it, and why.  You will have to put in the time to try different things to build a relationship, and trust, with the customer.  For example, you can create landing pages containing simple questions about how a customer will use your product or service.  This information will help you craft messages and design experiences that will move customers to conversion.

What have you learned about your customers?  How are you achieving conversion?  What pushed you into conversion on your last major purchase?  Please leave your comments below.

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