Today we talk about the purchase cycle and decision points that your customer goes through in the digital age. I’ve put together a mindmap of the purchase cycle that will help visualize what we cover in the show. What started me down this path was a great post by Paul Burani at SearchEngineWatch.com on Comparison Shopping and the Pursuit of Trust. He had a great graphic on this post but I wanted to expand on it a bit.

Part 1

Part 2

MindMap referenced in Podcast… the Purchase Cycle mindmap.

In this first part we cover the first 4 steps to the purchase cycle:

Need/Want

When someone first realizes they need a service or product or that they want a service or product.

Product Awareness

[social_quote duplicate=”no” align=”default”]The value of your offer always has to out weight the cost before any action will happen. [/social_quote]It should be mentioned that both need/want might easily be in the same space as product awareness. For instance, an example I will use throughout this series is the Livescribe 8 GB Echo Smartpen. I didn’t realize I wanted this pretty cool pen device until I saw it recently. Sure I had a need but it’s more of a want at this point.

In product awareness we also cover the questions that someone is asking themselves. What does it do? How does it do it? What will it do for me? That last one you could consider the most important question that needs to be answered in the awareness stage.

Pursuit of Alternatives

Search has changed this step drastically. In a search people wonder “what are the options”. I break this down to three core options that people find. Product options (more on this in the podcast), category options (products or services like this one), or non-category options (for instance, 02instead of the the Livescribe 8 GB Echo Smartpen, I could just use a pen and my iPhone to record meetings).

Validation of Alternatives

This is huge in today’s world. We break validation into three core groups.

  • Social Circle – Family, friends, work, social media
  • Consumer Opinions – Reviews, blogs, social mentions, forums
  • Editorial Content – sites like consumer reports, nextag.com, comparison sites, or sites like CNET.

All three core validation categories play a role in the purchase decision. In the podcast I go into more detail how to break these down and how these play a role in today’s digital landscape.

Purchase Options

Search once again plays a role. Your customer is looking for the best price and a trusted source of purchase. One huge element that often goes unmentioned is immediate gratification. We go back to my example of theLivescribe 8 GB Echo Smartpen.

My options are to purchase at a storefront (BestBuy for instance) or online (Amazon.com). While the product manufacturer could probably care less where I purchase I know BestBuy and Amazon would care. In the podcast we cover some ideas on what a company could do to entice me to purchase with them.

Transaction of Business

Not much to say here but this is an important step as it plays into both the purchase options and the next element which is broadcasting experience.

Broadcast Experience

We all do it. We share our experience with a product or service. We break this down into three main categories.

  • Initial Purchase – The sharing of this experience and the first impression. You might also review the seller in cases like Ebay.
  • Initial Experience – If you have ever owned an Apple product you know what it is like to first open that box. We talk about the initial high and the service review in depth in the podcast.
  • Usage Experience – Here customers share within the social space and with product/service reviews. This usage experience can be a day, a week, or literally years. For instance I am still sharing with people the microphone I use to record this podcast. Samson SAC01UPAK USB Microphone and Podcast Package is a product I’ve shared for years now.

While we have broken down these into steps or a cycle often times these overlap quite a bit. For instance the Broadcast Experience of getting great service or an awesome product will drive product awareness. Product awareness will give awareness to other alternatives through the search of alternatives.