5 Realities Driving Customer Buying Decisions

Whether shopping online, strolling through stores or browsing social media, it’s fair to say that the path to purchase is unlike what it used to be. So what shapes customer buying decisions? And more importantly, how can merchants better understand a customer’s path to purchase so they can boost store sales?

The Buying Decision Process

The customer buying decision process is an experience that customers go through to identify what transactions they will make. The process begins when the customer recognizes they have a need/want and ends after the customer makes the purchase and considers if the purchase truly meets their needs/wants.

Also viewed as an analysis of products and services, the path to purchase includes the consideration of numerous variables such as iterations of products to choose from, where to purchase from, and how to purchase. At its core, this process analyzes the cost of goods, the convenience of the buying experience, as well as satisfaction in the entire shopping journey.

As you reflect on your own preferences concerning what and where to buy, what stands out the most? Where have you shopped that has been most memorable? And why do you return to one retailer versus another again and again and again?

The path to purchase is not a straight road that steers all customers in one direction. Retailers need to be aware of and understand the various retail realities that impact customer buying decisions. Here are the top five.

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1. Convenience

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Convenience means different things to different customers including what they want, where they want to buy it, how they want it delivered to them, and how they plan to pay for it. What is most important for retailers to understand is that convenience is becoming increasingly important for consumers.

Retailers need to narrow in on their unique consumer and identify what their customer’s preferred choices of convenience are, and then appeal to those preferences throughout the buying process.

So what does “convenience” mean to your customers? Is it incorporating BOPIS into your store strategy, welcoming technology-based payments into your payment options or creating a customer service strategy that stands out among your competition? Whatever it is, be sure to make convenience a priority when strategizing your customer communication, customer marketing, and customer service programs.

2. Engagement  

Let’s face it – customers shop for both purpose and entertainment. Whether it’s because they need a new pair of jeans or because they want a new pair of jeans, the reality is that customers appreciate being entertained along the way.

This can come in the form of delivering insightful product information, entertaining brand knowledge, humorous social media content, supportive in-store customer service, friendly online chat-bot conversations and even through email marketing, text messaging and in-store events.

Ultimately, the goal here is simple… connect with the customer. Yet make no mistake, it’s not so easy to accomplish. Keep your customer’s attention by making your efforts to support them in every touchpoint of their buying process one worth paying attention to.

Suggested reading: 5 Ways Chatbots Can Enhance Customer Experience And Increase Sales In Retail

3. Options

Customers like options at every touchpoint of their path to purchase. From where they discover products – such as via traditional websites, social media, email marketing, advertising, and even publicity – to the models that feature the products they are exploring to the type of payment options they can choose to pay for their purchases, variety if key.

Shipping options, including free as a possibility, remain an important factor for online retailers who want to attract customers. As you aim to engage customers on their buying journeys, also aim to offer variety along the way so that no matter what matters to them most you provide options for them to choose from.

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4. Trust

Customers have more access to brands than ever before, and, ultimately, more access to what others think about a brand. From gaining peer feedback via review sites such as Yelp or even a retailer’s own website that offers testimonials to having chats with strangers on social websites about their questions about a product or brand and more, consumers have access to and seek product and retailer insight from external voices to help navigate their purchase decisions.

Because of this, it’s critical retailers confidently deliver exceptional service so that their reputation follows them positively wherever their customers choose to speak about them.

Additionally, retailers must also offer connectivity from their online touchpoints and in-store contact details at all possible sites that offer reviews of their business. Because these contact details and connectivity touchpoints can help lead consumers in the brand’s direction, they should be accurate and easy to find.

Last, if something goes amiss, make sure your customers know how to get in contact with you for support (and other questions).

5. Price

Surprise. Surprise. Or not.

Yes, price matters. But it’s not just the cost of products that drive customer attention but rather, the cost of products and the experience of buying them that collectively impact customer attention.

Keeping this in mind, consider how the price points of the products you sell align – or not – with the buying process customers experience in your unique store. Additionally, compare these experiences with your competitors and the same products being sold. When you look at these details from these perspectives, does the price fit both the experience and product?

Final thoughts…

As retailers, it’s essential to have a critical eye on every step of the customer buying process. From where their search for a product begins to the interactions they have with employees at your store to the buying options they get to choose from to the way they prefer to physically connect with products and so much more… every detail matters. And while that isn’t new news, how you interrupt the details just may make all the difference between your store and another being where customers ultimately choose to spend.

About the author:

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Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the Founder of RetailMinded and the author of Retail 101. She is a frequent contributor to The Today Show, Forbes and is the Spokesperson for American Express’s Small Business Saturday. Reyhle is recognized as a Top 10 retail thought leader from Vend and a retail “futurist” for IBM. Reyhle is also the Co-Founder of the Independent Retailer Conference.

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