Digital Marketing

The Buyer's Journey: What eCommerce Owners Need to Know

Patrick McCarthy

One of your most important tasks as an ecommerce owner is meeting your customers where they’re at. Regardless of who your customer is and how many of them there are, each one is at a particular stage of the buyer’s journey.

As a consumer yourself, you might be wondering, what do you mean by “buyer’s journey?” Isn’t it just a matter of knowing what you want and finding it? 

The word journey implies a more involved process, with a beginning, middle, and end, with potential roadblocks, forks in the road, or rocky terrain.

The buyer’s journey is certainly all of that and more, and as a digital merchant, it’s imperative that you know each of these steps and potential setbacks and opportunities to best support that journey.

Here is some key information you must know to meet your buyer where they’re at:

  • Who are they?
  • What drives their buying behaviour?
  • What psychological problem has them hunting for your particular product?
  • What practical problem do they have that motivates their hunt for your particular product?
  • What challenges are they facing or what objections do they have to buying in general and from you specifically?

In this article, we’ve mapped out the buyer’s journey and unpacked each stage. We’ve also included tasks for each stage to help direct your efforts. This information will help you better understand your customer, serve them effectively, and make the sale.

Stages of the Buyer’s Journey

Many marketing resources organise the buyer’s journey into three main stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. (These correspond to top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel marketing strategies and tactics). 

However, as ecommerce website specialists, we’ve noticed a missing component that is absolutely crucial to address: Desire.

So, just to highlight and unpack this critical point, we’ll start with what we consider Stage 2 of the buyer’s journey: Desire.

Stage 2: Desire

Desire or aversion is at the heart of pretty much every human behaviour, in particular our buying behaviour. After someone has become aware of what problem is driving them to consider a particular product, they need to want to find a solution. 

Let’s be real –– how many people do you know have problems and are perfectly okay to sit with them, without any real desire to actually address them because of the work involved? 

That’s why understanding desire is so important in the buyer’s journey. It’s the motivational force that propels them toward not just any product, but the right product. 

If a shopper has an authentic desire to find a sustainable solution, they’re going to ask real questions and expect real answers. They’re going to search more strategically. They’re going to compare products and read reviews and look critically at all the features and benefits of the products they find. And they’re going to draft a shortlist. 

When someone is motivated to do something, it changes the way they do it. And in this fast-paced world with oodles of options to assuage the oodles of problems we face, desire is a key asset in finding the right solution.

Stage 2 Goal: To support buyer’s research and evaluation by tapping into that core desire.

Stage 2 Actions: Lead generators, SEO, email, social media, blog posts, paid advertising, white papers, free trials, and more.

So now, let’s backtrack and look at Stage 1: Awareness.

Stage 1: Awareness

This stage requires a little less unpacking than Stage 2: Desire, but it’s also a critical aspect that requires explanation. 

Awareness is the first stage of the buyer’s journey because until a problem reaches our awareness, we don’t know it exists. 

You might be wondering, must your customer have a problem in order for them to make a purchase? The answer is both yes and no. Need and want are two closely related terms. While we addressed desire in Stage 1, it’s not completely different from need. The slight difference between them concerns awareness.

We’re typically aware of what we want. But beneath that desire is often a deep psychological need for something just below our level of awareness. That is, we may know what we want but have no idea what we need. Sometimes they’re the same; sometimes they’re different, but need always involves some pain point. Agitating that pain point is a primary way to bring it up to the level of awareness where it becomes a desire to seek a solution.

Stage 1 Goal: To incite the buyer’s awareness and engage their interest in your product.

Stage 1 Actions: Market research, keyword research + Stage 2 actions.

Stage 3: Consideration

Now your buyer has a clearer idea of what they need – and want. What makes them consider your brand? 

First of all, they’ve made a commitment to seeking a solution, so they’re considering a variety of options, ie. brands, while zeroing in on certain factors like price and your brand’s capability to appropriately address their needs. 

At this stage, the shopper is qualifying you. That is, they’re determining what sets your brand apart from others. 

Bear in mind, they still don’t know exactly what they want, but they have a good idea. Your task is to educate, highlight all the things they don’t know that they should know to make an informed purchase. 

You’ll also need to overcome any objections they have to buying from you versus a competing brand. Trust is essential here. Without earning their trust, you have no basis on which to persuade them that your product is the solution to their problem. 

Stage 3 Goal: To overcome any objections they might have to buying from you, specifically.

Stage 3 Actions: Benefits-focused video, expert guides, case studies, consultation, webinars, and podcasts. 

Stage 4: Decision

Now you’re on the buyer’s shortlist. This is the tipping point. All your hard work is about to pay off with a conversion. But it’s akin to reaching that home stretch in a marathon. You get lazy now and you lose. 

This final stretch requires as much persistence, if not more than, all the work leading up to this final stage. 

Get ready to hone your offer. Does the buyer expect to try your product before buying? Do they have access to and have they read reviews and testimonials? What final offer can you make to enhance the value keeping in mind that value isn’t just about price? It involves the entire buying experience, including post-purchase. 

Stage 4 Goal: To make the sales and implement tasks to retain the buyer.

Stage 4 Action: Product demos and comparisons, product reviews, pricing plans, free trials, testimonials, and other incentives. 

Stay One Step Ahead…

Once you’ve succeeded in converting a customer to a buyer, the next task is retention, which you want to weave into your immediate post-purchase marketing strategy. So always be thinking one step ahead of the game.

As ecommerce website specialists, specifically Shopify experts, we’ve helped loads of clients develop a marketing strategy that supports an effective and positive buyer’s journey. If you’re interested in learning more about how to apply these principles to your marketing plan, we offer a free, no-obligation strategy session. Contact us today to schedule a time. 

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