To buy or not to buy, that is the question… The customer journey

What pushes a prospect to make that buying decision?

Guaranteed it’s not a deluge of SMSes punting a product or endless pop-ups on a website coercing them into pushing that ‘BUY NOW’ button. Funny thing about making a purchase, no-one or nothing can make a prospect hit the ENTER button, they have to want to.

The mere fact that they stand hovering, considering their options means that something brought them to where they stand now, considering whether or not to buy, right?

You see, short of telepathy, no company can ever fully understand what that final push to purchase is all about, so they need to cover every option to ensure that the decision to buy falls on their side of the decision-making fence. But how?

Well, the secret to ponder on is that the decision to buy started way before the prospective customer was seen loitering on your doorstep, with the backstory going something like this.

Picture the scene…

She wanted an autumn coat, but not any coat. The one that stayed pinned in her mind’s eye was one that she’d seen in a movie starring Cameron Diaz, she recalls. The star had looked so elegant, so sophisticated and kinda sexy, all rolled into one, with maybe a dash of excitement and adventure as the cut had been tailored, yet edgy.

So, standing now in front of this incredibly tastefully designed shopfront, staring at the range of coats on display, she was envisaging herself in each of them, picturing herself twirling with carefree abandonment on the pavement, kicking autumn leaves as she’d seen Ms Diaz doing in that movie. (It was Cameron Diaz, right? Not too sure, but the woman had looked amazing, nevertheless.)

She recalled how for the past few weeks during her spare time (and, if the truth be told, even during the odd time at work) she’d trawled every fashion page online, every blog that had Cameron Diaz mentioned in it (it was Cameron, I’m sure it was). She’d read every celebrity article in which the star appeared, and she’d even tried to recall the name of the movie to see if she could get a screenshot of the star frolicking in the awesome coat. All to no avail.

She’d even resorted to looking through print media, buying fashion magazines, something she’d not done in years, what with the internet. In fact, she’d been pleasantly surprised at how many printed journals were available and made a mental note to consider buying magazines in future, as there had been something almost nostalgic about turning pages and smelling the printing ink.

Her research had come to naught, until there, in an online apparel newsletter that she had subscribed to on a whim, she’d seen this fantastic storefront that she now stood tentatively before.

She realised however, that standing, just looking was not going to help, she needed to see for herself if any of the selection of coats would fit her criteria and be the one that Cameron (it was her, right?) was wearing…

Purchase considerations

So, back to the original question: What would tip a customer over into making the purchase decision? Unless our heroine has interacted or engaged with the company online, through a survey, promotional emails or more, how can anyone/salesperson understand her needs, desires or what she is actually looking for in a coat, what her touch points are; what that image is in her head?

Bearing the hypothetical narrative in mind, here are some points to consider:

  1. If our heroine found a similar coat, would she buy it?
  2. What would influence that choice, given that it was not her exact criteria?
  3. Would she enlist help from the floor assistants?
  4. If she did, how would her interaction with them impact on her purchase?
  5. What influence would her friends play in her decision? (Chances are, she’d photograph it and send an image to her bestie.)
  6. How would the price affect her choice?
  7. What if she found the coat and it was the wrong size?

Each of these factors (and there are more, believe me) impact on the customer’s buying decision and come into play along the customer journey. For now, we’ll focus on the immediate encounter in the store and the potential service minefield.

How service influences purchase

If her interaction with a salesperson is fraught with miscommunication, a lackadaisical attitude or an absence of product knowledge or concern for her choice — coupled with an approach of merely making a sale and getting the prospect to buy — in all likelihood, our heroine is going to walk away from the outlet, sans coat and somewhat irritated.

Knowing a customer’s cut-off price is also something that can only be gleaned by an attentive and engaging salesperson without creating discomfit and, unless approached delicately, will have the customer on their back foot, so to speak, maybe creating unintentional embarrassment?

When experiencing an uncomfortable or unpleasant situation, it’s a sad fact that many people baulk at complaining in person as they’d rather steer a wide berth around ‘making a scene’. But beware if our heroine is a keyboard warrior with thousands of fans; then potentially, your business is in trouble as her influence could impact on an important sector of your market.

And you’ll never know until that tweet goes viral. Are you willing to risk it through poor service?

On the other hand, despite our heroine having researched into the wee small hours hunting for her coat, an empathetic, informed salesperson could possibly persuade her to take a similar coat and maybe even suggest she put it on and have a pic sent to her bestie for approval? So too, if the coat was out of stock, looking farther afield to other branches for the item could keep the prospect, and convert her to a satisfied customer.

And, even if our heroine walked out of the shop empty-handed, her recollection of her attentive service would remain with her and who knows, maybe bring her back at another time to relook other items available, maybe even with her bestie.

Summary

Potential customers have done their research, they have compared apples with apples and cashmere with Alpaca. 

Don’t make the mistake of talking down to them, imposing your opinion or choice on them and, if there is one parting shot to share, it would be to advise salespeople to be authentic, and everything else will follow.

And no, it wasn’t Cameron Diaz it was Julia Roberts — I think…

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