The Key to Improving Holiday Retail Sales: Understand the 4 Stages of Customer Behavior

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Location Traffic Shares What Retail Businesses Need to Know about Digital Marketing to Increase Sales Next Holiday Season

Disappointed in holiday sales for 2012? Digital marketing provides a wide range of opportunities for learning how to improve. The earlier a company prepares for next year, the better.

Disappointed in holiday sales for 2012? Digital marketing provides a wide range of opportunities for learning how to improve. The earlier a company prepares for next year, the better. The key is to meet customer needs at each stage of the buying process. These concepts from Location Traffic, an internet marketing and business consulting company in NJ, can help.

The Research Stage.

The first step for most potential customers is understanding that they have a problem that they need to solve. For example, someone might wonder, “Is this amount of back pain normal?” To answer this question, they start researching different types of back pain and conditions, and then they start to look for solutions to their problem by seeking out information on various treatments. It is important to note that at this time, most people want a breadth of information and a number of options, rather than honing in on a particular product.

The goal at this stage should be to create content that informs and solves problems, instead of making a hard sell for a product. Potential customers will be most interested in educating themselves by:

  •     Reading blog posts
  •     Downloading white papers
  •     Reading review sites
  •     Following subject matter experts
  •     Visiting industry forums
  •     Subscribing to industry newsletters
  •     Searching with broader, problem-oriented terms

The Evaluation Stage.

Once potential customers have done their initial research into ways to solve their problem, they will begin narrowing down their choices by:

  •     Watching videos of specific products and brands
  •     Downloading more technical white papers and product specs
  •     Attending webinars
  •     Seeking product reviews
  •     Searching by using more detailed, vendor specific terms
  •     Joining vendor communities to discuss products
  •     Participating in demos and free trials

At this point, they are more receptive to “the sale,” so it’s okay to start incorporating information in marketing content that is specific to a product and brand. Also, consider moving from a casual tone and a brief overview of information to something that’s more professional, in-depth, and even technical. Even when doing this, remember to always focus on how the product can solve problems. Otherwise, a hard sales push may drive customers into the arms of competitors.

The Decision or Purchase Stage.

At the end of the evaluation stage, a digital marketing campaign can really make the argument that the product is the right choice for the consumer based on specific information. A call-to-action may not only convince people to buy, but do it now. Obviously, still avoid selling so hard that it alienates people, but it’s important to give them every opportunity to complete the actual purchase rather than put it off.

An important part of the marketing process at this stage that too many companies ignore is the actual sales process. How easy is it for people to buy the product? Making this process too complicated can turn off people and make them decide to go with another company—so really think it through.

The Satisfaction Stage.

The key is to ensure that this doesn’t become the Dissatisfaction Stage. Basically, this stage deals with how customers feel once they have the product in their hands and start using it. Does it solve their initial problem? Does it do everything it promised?

This stage should also incorporate how the customer feels about the service they received and the brand overall. Because of this, it’s important to follow up with customers after their purchase to provide ongoing support, if required, and to ask what can be done to make them more likely to purchase again in the future.

Clearly, the number and type of stages vary depending on both the product and who it’s being marketed to, but the goal should be the same: Content can and should be shaped to address the target’s need during every stage in the sales cycle.

About Shepard Morrow

Shepard Morrow is the head of Location Traffic, an internet marketing and business consulting company in Pennington, New Jersey. He developed his unique approach over 15 years in the internet marketing industry and from his experience in running retail, wholesale, and internet businesses. By working directly with owner-operators, he develops business strategies that put the wealth of data available through internet marketing to use, enabling his clients to grow their companies and spend more time working on their business, not in their business. Learn more at LocationTraffic.com.

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