Content for Each Buying Stage of the Consumer Purchase Cycle
With every shopping experience, consumers go through a purchase cycle that includes distinct deliberations, decisions, and actions. Savvy marketing or blog-post content writers must understand each stage of the cycle to sync product copy with the impulses and logic of the consumer.
Every purchase cycle consists of at least four basic stages:
- Awareness of need or desire
- Consideration of options and alternatives
- Purchase of product
- Post-purchase loyalty to the product or brand
This cycle starts with triggers—external events or internal desires that signal the inclination to buy. For example, a simple external event may be an outdated or broken product that needs replacement. A simple internal event may be a consumer’s fond recollection of an item that is now a rationale for purchasing a piece of memorabilia.
This post maintains the straightforward, basic structure of the cycle to give marketing and blog-post content writers the essentials for creating copy that attracts consumers at each buying stage.
Some Initial Notes About the Purchase Cycle
The traditional version of the consumer buying cycle is driven by “push” factors. Push factors use media-based marketing and sales content that make passive consumers aware of a need and convince them that their brand’s product meets that need.
Today, digital marketing efforts turn consumers into active participants. That means consumers have almost full control over the content they read or hear. Their knowledge of a product and how that product will solve their problem or meet their need comes from what they “pull” from content.
Where and how consumers interact with content are called touchpoints. These touchpoints have exploded across “new channels, devices, applications, and more.” That means the consumer purchase cycle can be quite lengthy, leading marketing experts to describe it as a “consumer journey.”
How Marketing and Blog-Post Content Writers Should Approach the Consumer Journey
Writers must look at the consumer journey through the eyes of consumers by:
- Anticipating consumers’ needs, expectations, and desires during each part of the journey
- Understanding that product-purchase “triggers” can be emotional, psychological, intellectual, spiritual, or physical—and determining how specific products may fill any one or all of these dispositions
Failure to consider how different consumers interact with the touch-points of their purchase journey risks undermining the key stage of the cycle—the actual purchase.
Awareness of a Problem or Need
The awareness stage includes active touch-points and passive touch-points.
With active touch-points, consumers gather information from existing sources such as friends, family, the internet, and social media.
Marketing experts understand the importance of passive factors, too. These come from consumers’ recollection of products or brands from sources such as advertisements, news reports, or even everyday conversations.
Many experts call this substage of the awareness phase familiarity. What it also entails, however, is the phenomenon called brand awareness— the names of companies most heavily associated with specific products. Think of Bic, for instance, and you think of reliable, everyday pens.
Brand awareness is so important that experts say, “Brands in the initial-consideration set can be up to three times more likely to be purchased eventually than brands that aren’t in it.”
So how does the savvy content writer compete against “brand awareness”? One way might be by writing creative title tags and meta descriptions. If these are in line with consumer personas and trigger points, you will attract consumers during their internet-search touchpoint in the consideration stage.
Consideration Stage—Winnowing Down Toward the Purchase
Consumers engage in a host of actions to narrow down their purchase choice. They gather information, compare products, analyze practicality, and consider the emotional appeal. They may also Google, with 72 percent of buyers using the site at this phase.
And as consumers turn to the web, it’s clear how important it is to have good copy and content. Advice and guidelines for writing effective marketing content are available from respected, eminent websites. They are essential touch-points for all content writers.
Here are four fundamental rules that apply to content in the consideration stage. Your copy must:
- be authentic and authoritative—even it is alternatively playful, lighthearted, or humorous.
- describe how a product fixes a consumer’s problem or meets his or her wants and desires.
- describe all of the features of the product and how each one provides a benefit that works toward solving a consumer’s problem or meeting wants and desires.
- paint a picture of the product—the consumer must visualize what it will be like to have it in his or her hands.
One other factor involved in the consideration stage is the existence of “push” marketing come-ons. These include promotions, discounts, website tools, return policies, and warranties, among others. Content writers should remember to mention these or make sure they are visible on the site.
Consumers want something extra whenever possible, and a push factor may move them toward a purchase decision.
Keep the Consideration Stage of the Cycle Simple
Some of the expert purchase-cycle paradigms add another “Preference/Intent” stage after the consideration phase. This consists of an “emotion-logic” struggle between the desire for and the practicality of a product. Dozens of other paradigms also comprise other considerations buying substages. They are defined by words like affinity, engagement, intimacy, application, interaction, advocacy, and bonding.
One look at images from a simple Google search of consumer purchase considerations shows how complex a purchase cycle is, let alone just the consideration stage.
Content writers should simply remember that consumers are on a “journey.” In the consideration phase of the cycle, consumers must be able to find out what they need to know as easily as possible. They use internet copy as one touch-point to winnow down all available options—towards the inclination to buy.
The consumer has now narrowed down the choices to one product and is ready to buy.
One factor that might stop consumers from the purchase is the difficulty of buying the product itself. CTA purchase buttons or credit-card, shipping, and delivery fields that are difficult to navigate make a purchase harder.
These factors are beyond the control of the content writer. (Although veterans are apt to voice their opinions about them.) The goal of content writers at this stage is to be sure that their copy is flawless. It must be easy to read and comprehend and the grammar and spelling must be perfect.
Likely, consumers will give the product and its copy one last glance-over and read-through. If they like what they see, they will re-justify their purchase and feel no buyer’s remorse.
The Purchase Cycle Starts Re-Circulating with Post-Purchase Touch-points
Consumers who buy products from e-commerce sites become marketing resources. They are likely to buy other products from the site they trusted when they began their initial consumer journey, or they will purchase the same product again as the need arises.
More important, they are likely to share their journey. They could share on social media, for example, imparting the logical, research-oriented aspects of their experience. They may also share their gratification and satisfaction with both the purchasing process and the end product itself.
This post-purchase “advocacy” is one step toward building brand loyalty. Part of that building process is the marketing content on the site itself, as well as the title tags and meta descriptions that directed the consumer the site in the first place.
However, all of these buying stages of the purchase cycle were predicated first on the consumer persona and triggers—or on what Atticus told Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.”
For most of his career, TG has written or edited white papers, journal articles, and evaluation reports to support Government policy that seeks to better the lives of disadvantaged people in the United States and throughout the developing world. He has also shifted gears to the ecommerce venue, writing hundreds of product descriptions in such fields as computer components and digital devices, power tools and accessories, home and garden products, and dozens of other product categories.