The Purchase Journey – What Small Businesses Need to Know

Customers turn to the internet for answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. To grow your business, your job is to reach those customers with the right content at every stage of the purchase journey.

Want to make an impact in the consumer decision journey?

Who wouldn’t want for customers to see their product, choose their product, use their product, and are so satisfied that they become repeat customers? (Bonus if there’s real love for the brand!)

But in reality, the common purchase journey isn’t all that simple. It isn’t even linear. In fact, on any given day, potential customers are at different stages of the decision-making process.

Some already have existing knowledge about a certain topic and who the industry players are—they aren’t starting from scratch. Others, on the other hand, don’t.

Besides that, how customers progress from one stage of the purchase journey to the next is more complex these days than the ideal path of ‘see, choose, use and love’ mentioned above.

So what does that mean for you?

For the competitive edge, you need to be where your potential customers are. Moreover, you need to be a source of valuable information at every stage of the purchase journey.

That’s how you can maximize your impact – and play an important role – in customers’ decision-making.

The image shows complicated roads to depict how the customer purchase journey isn't all that simple. It isn't even linear.
Image via Unsplash

Understanding the purchase journey: Buyer stages

When it comes to content creation, many marketers still find it difficult to understand what is actually effective. They also struggle to create engaging content.

That’s because they often create content just for the sake of creating content – that is, without considering search intent, the purchase journey, or taking the time to develop a content strategy.

If you want to reach and appeal to your target market at decisive moments, you must first understand their needs and interests. Then you need to create relevant content for each stage of the buying process.

Stage 1: The customer becomes aware of a problem that needs to be solved

At this stage, a customer’s circumstances or environment – basically something or some situation – triggers them to realize that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed or a need that isn’t being met.

Their response is to research what they can do about it. They’re looking for information, so that they can solve their problem.

This involves visiting forums, looking at different brands, available products / services, and reading feedback or reviews.

Man standing in front of a vending machine, pondering his options
Image via Unsplash

Stage 2: The customer considers his alternatives

Once the customer has a better idea of the issue – that is, the need can be defined in more precise terms – it’s time to consider options.

Note that at stage two, the customer isn’t ready to commit to anything yet. Instead, this is where more detailed research takes place.

Customers will learn more about companies as well as the products or solutions on the market. You can also expect more detailed comparisons (including on price) as part of the evaluation process.

This stage is also where customers narrow down the list of alternatives to the top choices. In other words, those that will most likely work best or provide the right solution given specific criteria.

Stage 3: The customer reaches a decision and makes the purchase

Stage three is also known as the conversion stage.

Customers have done all the research they need to make a decision. They know what they want to buy, when, and where they’re going to buy it.

Consider that even though they’re decided, customers still want reassurance that they’re making the right choice.

That’s why, even at stage three, customers can continue to gather information that will alleviate any pre-purchase doubts.

Stage 4: The customer’s post-purchase experience

Now that the customer has made the purchase, it’s all about the post-purchase experience. That comprises after-sales support, delivery, the performance of your product / service, etc.

Make sure your customers are fully satisfied and don’t regret their decision to choose you because this stage is crucial in building loyalty. That means you need to continue providing valuable content even after you’ve landed the sale.

Related: Examples of content you can use for each stage of the purchase journey