This is a tough subject to cover. There are as many ways to use customer purchase behavior as there are customers and potential customers, and as many customers and potential customers as there are people.
Figuring out buyer behavior in general is a huge task. First, you have to draw a difference between universal buyer behavior and any buyer behaviors that may be unique to your field, or even your site. We’ll talk about both in this article. Next, you need to know how different types of customers buy, so when you begin to research your customer base, break it into manageable segments and start by researching a single demographic.
Most of this stuff isn’t exclusive to this topic, by the way. As you’ve probably noticed, marketing as a whole is entirely based in psychology. The whole process is all about manipulating buyer behavior, and using existing trends in it to your advantage. So knowing this information might just help you in all your marketing efforts from now on.
So, let’s start with the most general form of it: The buying process.
Understand the Buying Process
The decision of what to purchase at any given time is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. In other words, what your customer is looking for depends on where they are in life and what basic needs of their have or have not been fulfilled. Common sense, really. No surprises there. But what many e-commerce vendors don’t realize is that no matter what the customer is buying and why, the buying process always goes roughly the same way.
First, a problem or need is identified. Next, the customer searches for information, either within their own memory or from some external source, about the best way to fill that need and what it will cost. Next, they’ll evaluate the alternatives in their mind and pick whichever one they think is the best. Then they’ll buy. Finally, they’ll evaluate their decision afterwards and make up their mind on whether it was a good purchase and if they’ll be making any more like it.
Now, you need to study how your customers go through each step of this process and figure out how you can better take them through it.
For example, customers tend not to think much about impulse buys, so if your business relies on these, you want to grease the sales funnel as much as possible by eliminating barriers to purchase. That means no logins, the bare minimum of information required, minimal copy, and as simple of a purchase process as possible.
For bigger purchases, customers will need more incentive to purchase, and therefore, a longer sales funnel with more copy and more guarantees that the product will be worth their money.
But despite the commonalities across all forms of buying, there will probably be some factors or behaviors unique to your industry, which is why you need to know a little bit more information.
How to Figure Out Your Customers’ Purchase Behavior
In order to get even more specific, you can plot out what you hope to be a typical interaction with your website. You can use what’s called a journey map. The name is fairly self-explanatory. It’s a map of your customer’s full process while interacting with your store.
Sometimes, this is easiest to figure out in reverse. What aren’t your customers doing? Is there a certain page that they generally aren’t looking at? You might be able to write that page off as a drag on your sales funnel, and deal with it accordingly.
From there, you can often look for commonalities. How long are people spending on your site before buying? That can tell you how much of an impulse buy your product is, or whether or not it’s the kind of thing customers have already made up their minds about before logging in.
One of the most important things you can find out is what triggers, visual or emotional, lead to customers buying in your field. Entrepreneur, and many other sites, have lists of potential triggers to consider.
Use Behavior in Marketing, Too
Your business’ image also factors heavily into the decision to buy or not. As Martin Lindstrom laid out in his first book, Buyology, studies show that Pepsi consistently scores higher than Coke in blind taste tests, but people prefer to actually buy Coke because of the legendary and iconic brand behind it.
So you need to craft an image that will appeal to your specific segment of the market, in order to facilitate the part of the process where they choose you over your competitors.
However, beyond just designing your image in a certain way, you should also be working on incorporating what you’ve learned into your retargeting. Especially if you can implement systems that will work with specific customers, instead of just everyone who performed a certain action. For instance, a grocery store could send customers an email with a recipe that uses an ingredient that their research shows that customer recently purchased.
You should also be using the results of your research to target certain blocks of your customers based on their past purchase behavior.
Learn to Better Target Ad Campaigns
A major pitfall many businesses succumb to while retargeting is to just show ads to anyone who looked at their products in the recent past. While this is sometimes effective, it’s painfully transparent. And in many cases, customers had no interest in buying that product in the first place, they were just looking at how much it cost, what people were saying about it, or any number of curiosity-based things.
A good idea instead, might be to come up with several different marketing strategies. For niche businesses, the best approach might be the opposite of the one listed above: develop a marketing strategy aimed at repeat customers and building brand loyalty among people who’ve already brought.
Bonus: Find Prospects Based on Buying Habits
This is a bonus because it’s not about your customers’ buying habits, but about the buying habits of strangers who may become customers. There are tools like BlueKai that offer marketers a third-party marketplace that will let them collect data on customers in their target demographics, letting them access past purchasing behavior, among other things. For example, you might want to search for people who’ve brought products related to what you sell, and run campaigns targeted specifically at those people, using the other data you learned about them to influence your writing style.
Purchase behavior is quite possibly more important than any other type of analytics you can track. It’s more important than pageviews or browsing behavior. You’re interested in the customers that will buy something, not the ones who will merely look and then go do something else.
Learning how to use buyer behavior effectively can help you with the entire process, from redesigning your website to building much more effective sales funnels to more effectively targeting products at the demographics that actually buy them. So make sure to pay close attention to this crucial aspect of analytics.
Any more suggestions? Any particularly interesting methods of determining customer behavior you can think of? Let us know in the comments.
Image: Laura Dinneen