Google “the buying process” and you’ll find many different models illustrating the stages involved in making a purchase. A consistent feature of each model is the information gathering/research/assessment stage. Determining the right product to suit your needs is a natural step prior to any purchase, and that will always be the case. What has changed over the past couple of decades is how people gather their research and assess their options.
People now swipe before they buy
Whether they plan on buying online or from a brick ‘n’ mortar location, shoppers turn first to their computers to conduct research. In fact, even when they are on-site at a store, many will whip out their iPad or smartphone and swipe at the touchscreen to find the information they need to qualify the potential purchase.
The larger or more important a purchase, the more time is spent gathering and analyzing information. Because there is such an abundance of information online and it is so easily accessed, the research stage of the buying process has become much more significant. This just-in-time knowledge is having severe ramifications on how marketers successfully reach out to consumers.
Referrals no longer rely on friends
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Friends and family used to refer to a relatively small group of trusted people that you saw frequently. Thanks to social media, “friends” now number in the thousands, and connecting with them is easy. We may know very little about some of these friends, but we seem to trust their judgment.
But why stop at the opinions of those we are virtually linked to? If Betty in Texas writes about her terrible experience with a new BBQ we may decide not to buy it. So a potential purchase can be shot down by some women we have never met… Betty may not even exist for all we know. According to research from Bazaarvoice, 84 percent of Millennials say user-generated content has at least some influence on what they buy. And for Boomer, that stat is 70 percent.
People are tuning out broadcast ads
Radio, TV and print advertising still play a significant role in promoting to a mass audience, but over the past decade more and more people are using technology to customize what they listen to, watch and read. Satellite radio, PVRs, Web browsing, and many other on-line information formats are typical these days; and most do not have advertising.
Not only are traditional ways of reaching out to consumers becoming less effective, but many consumers are becoming less tolerant of being told what to think and what to buy. They are adapting to the relatively new ability to quickly source a large amount of information at precisely the moment they need it; and they seem to enjoy the freedom that just-in-time knowledge affords them.
Yes, this is why inbound marketing tactics and content generation strategies are all the rage now. They directly address how consumers approach buying and seek to educate and influence at the critical phase of the process. What are your thoughts on the changing trends in how consumers shop?