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The customer buying cycle is made up of six key phases. We used to call it Research > Selection> Purchase> Use> Evaluation> Recommendation. Now, HubSpot suggests we use the terms Attract > Convert > Close > Delight. Although different words, they both mean the same thing.
It doesn't matter what the customer is buying, they always go through this cycle. Understanding the customer buying cycle is critical to your success when it comes to Inbound Marketing.
Your understanding this model will help you in managing the relationships you have with your customers. Consumers are able to navigate through each of these phases online. Today, most consumers perform at least one of these phases online and are increasingly moving to performing the majority of these activities online.
The cycle begins with the research or attract phase. During this phase, consumers endeavor to find as much information as necessary to make them feel comfortable regarding the products of interest. This phase includes understanding features, comparisons, and costs. Many times, consumers search the Internet by keywords looking for product explanations, reviews, and ratings to assist them in becoming informed.
The next phase is Selection/Convert. This is the phase where, based on the information gathered in the research phase, the consumer makes a value-based decision regarding which product to purchase and from what vendor. Many businesses make the mistake of assuming that the selection is cost based. However, this is completely false. Consumers make their selections based on perceived value. A customer will select a higher cost product over a less expensive product if the perceive the value of what they are buying is high. Another consideration that impacts the consumer's decision is the vendor. Many consumers have a particular affinity toward one vendor over another.
The third phase is Purchase/Decision. Consumers perform this step online more often than business realizes. However; certain products consumers still, and perhaps always will, feel more comfortable purchasing from a brick-and-mortar location.
The next two steps are Use followed by Evaluation/Delight. Based on the consumers experience of using the product, they make an evaluation. Usage involves not only the function of the product (what it does) but also experience (how it got done). Online support tools help to increase the user experience. Based on the consumer's experience they evaluate the products. A product that may not function as high as expected might still receive a high evaluation if the experience is high.
The final step is Recommendation. This is the most important stage of the lifecycle for business owners. Your products and services live and die based on recommendations. It cost more to retain a customer than it does to keep a customer. A consumer may only a few people about a positive experience, but they will tell many more about the bad experiences. Now on the internet disgruntled consumers can blog your business to death.
Understanding each phase of the customer buying cycle and putting together a strategic plan to address each of them will have a tremendous affect on your business.