Here’s a problem: you’re getting a lot of traffic on your website but not many people are making a purchase. In fact, you’re getting so many hits on your website and so few purchases that you’re now wondering whether there’s something wrong with your product or service. Believe it or not, this is a very common scenario. The recommended solution to this scenario is conversion optimisation but that is similar to building the 16th floor before laying down the foundation for the building. The foundation, in this case, is the customer purchase cycle on your website.
Revisiting the Customer Buying Cycle
In an earlier post about the customer buying cycle, we focused on defining the concept. We explained a number of key concepts there such as the relationship between the customer, your business, and the buying cycle as well as the four key phases of the buying cycle i.e. conception, research, consideration, and conversion. As mentioned there, it is important to realise that the buying cycle comes in many forms. The most basic form is Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.
Each of these three elementary three stages can be broken down into multiple mini-stages like we did with our explanation of the cycle. Some businesses even add a fourth stage to the basic concept of buying cycle – Advocacy. The Advocacy stage is very desirable but very difficult to achieve primarily because of the effort, time, and resources involved. Besides, it also tends to be organic in nature, which means it works best when it occurs by itself.
For the purpose of this post, we’ll continue with our previously described customer purchase cycle. We’ll also ignore the additional Advocacy phase because the success of the Advocacy phase depends on the effectiveness of the previous three phases.
Customer Purchase Cycle Phase 1: Conception
Optimising the conception phase is all about giving potential buyers clarity of thought. This phase generally corresponds with an individual becoming aware a problem or a set of problems. As the individual becomes aware of the problem he starts looking for solutions. However, at this stage, he isn’t entirely ready to ‘purchase’ the solution. Here, he’ll look for all sorts of solutions and consider a wide variety of aspects such as the degree of their effectiveness.
This is why the best way to optimise this stage of the customer purchase cycle is to focus on the problems that your product or service may be able to solve. Through the lens of these problems, you need to empathise with your target audience i.e. understand and recite their pain points back to them. This will help the target audience relate to you and, thus, begin trusting you.
In a nutshell, the best way to optimise the Conception phase of the customer purchase cycle is to not only present your business as an expert in your field but also gain trust by showing your audience that you understand them.
Customer Purchase Cycle Phase 2: Research
After establishing trust by describing the problem and showing that you understand how the individual feels, you can go about giving solutions to the problem. People look for solutions after they realise that they can do something in a better way or even that they have a problem that they can solve. However, when they’re looking for solutions, they’re very sceptical of businesses trying to push their services or products.
This is why the solutions you provide need to be centred on the individual’s needs i.e. the quickest and easiest way of solving the problem. This may be difficult for some businesses as the natural tendency is to hawk one’s own products and services as a solution to a problem. The trick is to give genuine options as that strengthens the trust created earlier. With the trust in place, converting the individual into a paying customer becomes easier in later stages.
Effectively, the best way to optimise the Research phase of the customer purchase cycle is by exhibiting integrity so as to strengthen the trust that you gained earlier. Ideally, by this stage, you want your prospective buyer to start relying on you for information. The more they do this, the more primed they will be to buy from you.
Customer Purchase Cycle Phase 3: Consideration
The Consideration phase is when the individual starts considering specific solutions in terms of how useful each of them is to his specific problem or situation. You can view this phase in multiple ways i.e. people compare various solutions, people make shortlists, people finalise from their shortlists etc. Regardless of how you view this phase, the bottom line remains the same.
People want to know about your product or service. They want to know how it solves their problem. They want to know how it makes things easier for them. They want to know about the features and benefits of the product or service. The key thing to remember at this juncture is that your potential customer is no longer exploring. He knows what he needs and he knows what is available in the market.
In essence, he is informed. So, you need to treat him as such too. You should focus on the best aspects of your product or service and try to explain how it is better than any free options that the potential customer may have as well as your competitors. There are various aspects you should focus while you’re trying to optimise this phase of the customer purchase cycle.
You need to focus on the functionality of your product, its reliability, its compatibility, its customer support system, refund options, costs, and even delivery logistics. You also need to try to capture personal details of the customer so that you can try to persuade him in person.
Customer Purchase Cycle Phase 4: Conversion
This is the final phase of any customer purchase cycle. Regardless of how detailed or how simplistic your customer purchase cycle is, you’ll always find the Conversion or Decision phase at the end of it. As the name suggests, this is the phase where the trigger is pulled. So, the best way to optimise this phase is to make sure that nothing comes between the trigger and the finger. You want to make it so simple that a simple breath results in the pulling of the trigger.
Generally, this means two things – pushing the customer through the purchase process swiftly and with minimal fuss. You don’t want multiple steps in the middle. You don’t want to put obstacles such as not enough payment options. You don’t even want them to wait too long for a page to load. You want it as simple and quick as you can make it. The holy grail of this phase is the single click checkout process. It will require you to do a lot of backend acrobatics but it will be worth it.
You will also need to pay a lot of attention to your business’s abandonment issues. This has nothing to do with the daddy or the mommy but it does revolve around the shopping cart. A large percentage of people who add products to the shopping cart, don’t check out with it. This is known as shopping cart abandonment and how well you deal with it is under the purview of optimising this phase.