4 Stages of the Buying Cycle

By
Dilara Basaran
October 7, 2023
0 min read
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According to Forrester analyst Lori Wizdo, in today’s landscape, buyers might be up to 90% in their buying journey without ever talking to a salesperson. 

Which means that while yes, focusing on your team’s pitches and improving their engagements with your customers is important, if your sole focus is that, you might be losing out on a big chunk of their thought process where you can influence the final purchase decision.

So, whether you're a business owner, a marketer, or a sales professional, thoroughly recognizing the journey that your customers take when making a purchase decision is key to enhance your overall strategy and ultimately boost your revenue.

While the specifics of what that journey looks like will vary for each business and industry, luckily there is an overarching framework that applies for all buying processes.

Today we'll discuss the buying cycle and its 4 stages in detail, and even explore how you can leverage Flowla to improve your buyers experience.

Overview of the buying cycle

In simplest terms, the buying cycle, also known as the customer buying journey, is a process that consumers go through when making a purchase.

It’s basically the road that leads your potential buyers to your company or your competitors.

Why is it called a cycle?

Because it can be a cyclical process as customers can repeat the cycle over and over again when they have new needs or desires. 

Understanding the buying cycle is like having a roadmap to guide your marketing and sales efforts. It can help you tailor your:

  • Strategy
  • Messaging
  • Content
  • and all customer interactions

to meet the specific needs and preferences of potential buyers at each stage of their journey.

By doing so, you will be improving your buyers' experiences, and increase your chances of converting leads into loyal customers.

What are the 4 stages of the buying cycle?

The buying cycle consists of four key stages, each of which plays a crucial role in guiding potential customers from the first step, all the way to loyalty.

While we will delve deeper into each one, let’s briefly go over them to give you a quick intro.

Awareness: This is the stage where your potential buyers become aware of a problem or need they have, or their desire for a product or service.

Consideration: In this stage, the buyer researches and evaluates various options to find the one that will fulfill their need or desire.

Decision: Here, the buyer narrows down their choices and makes a decision to purchase a product or a service.

Retention and Advocacy: After the purchase is made and as the customer continues to engage with the brand, they assess their satisfaction and may become a loyal customer or advocate for the brand.

Now, let's explore them in detail.

Stage 1: Awareness

The very first stage of the buying cycle is the awareness stage. 

Here, the buyer identifies a:

  • Problem that they need to solve
  • Need that either them or their business have
  • Desire for a product or service.

This process could be triggered by a variety of factors, for example a change in their circumstances, or simply an advertisement for a product or service that they’ve seen.

It is worth noting that customers at this stage are not necessarily ready to make a purchase - they might be simply looking for a solution, or any information to help them make a decision in the future. They may also not yet be aware of your brand or product.

Therefore at this stage, your focus should be creating awareness of your brand and solutions. Educating your buyers about:

  • Their problem or need
  • Potential ways to solve that problem
  • What to pay attention to when looking for a solution

are all very helpful ways to create awareness while simultaneously establishing your company as a credible source of information.

This can be done through a number of ways, like:

  • Advertising
  • Content marketing
  • Social media campaigns
  • Search engine optimization (SEO).

Stage 2: Consideration

Once customers are aware of their need or problem, they move to the consideration stage. Here, they are actively researching possible solutions, and comparing their different options that are available to them in the market.

They might be comparing the features and benefits of different products/services, and trying to find the right fit for their unique situation.

They are now probably aware that your brand exists and could be a potential solution to their problem or need.

Therefore, this is exactly the right time for your business to shine!

You should be providing them with helpful information they need to make an informed decision, but most importantly showcase your unique value proposition and how your solution stands out from the competition.

You should also try to understand your customer's perspective and provide information that addresses their questions, concerns, and doubts.

Some of the materials you can provide to do this are:

  • Product guides & specifications
  • Pricing information
  • Comparison charts
  • Customer reviews & testimonials
  • Case studies

Stepping up to support your potential buyers on this stage is critical, and if executed effectively, could sway their final decision in your favor against your competitors.

Stage 3: Decision

The decision stage is pretty straightforward: It’s where the customer narrows down their options and makes their final choice.

This is essentially the moment when all your marketing and sales efforts will pay off.

During their evaluations, buyers might factor in things like:

  • Cost
  • Overall quality
  • Convenience
  • Brand’s reputation
  • Their peers’ opinions
  • Customer reviews
  • Additional incentives offered by the brand

You can also make the decision stage a lot easier for your buyers by providing clear and easy to understand pricing information, and an excellent customer service throughout the buying process.

Some businesses also offer:

  • Discounts
  • Free trials
  • Special offers
  • Personalized recommendations

and other incentives to nudge the buyers in their direction.

But there’s another critical thing you need to be aware of: Friction.

Making the buying process as smooth and straightforward as possible, with clear instructions, call to actions, and easy-to-use online forms or payment gateways is crucial to ensure your potential buyers favor you.

No matter how much value you provide, not having a seamless and pleasant buying experience will be a main blocker that stands in the way of your revenue.

Stage 4: Retention and advocacy

You thought the buying cycle concluded with the purchase?

Think again.

But also, you’re not alone.

In fact, many businesses focus so much on acquiring new customers that they completely overlook the importance of onboarding and retaining existing ones. 

But retention is an extremely critical part of the buying cycle, not only because it’s a lot cheaper than acquiring new customers, but also because a happy customer can bring a lot of business.

Satisfied customers can turn into brand advocates, spreading positive word-of-mouth and attracting new customers through referrals.

The retention and advocacy stage is basically where you:

  • Build and nurture long-term relationships with your customers
  • Ensure customer satisfaction
  • Encourage repeat purchases
  • And facilitate brand advocacy

There are many many different strategies to ensure you are turning newcomers into fierce advocates of your brand. 

  • Providing excellent customer service
  • Personalized offers
  • Loyalty programs
  • Personalized communication and suggestions

are just a few ways to support your customers during the fourth and final stage of the buying cycle.

Let’s look at a few of those strategies more closely.

Excellent customer service: This could look like fast responses to your customers’ inquiries, easy and fair refund policies, a thorough welcome & onboarding so they acclimate to your product or service well, and proactive, clear communication both before and after the purchase.

Follow-up surveys: Conducting surveys with new clients can help you get valuable feedback and understand buyer satisfaction, which will not only help you improve your solution, but also demonstrate that you have your customers’ experience always in mind.

Creating a community: When it comes to building brand advocacy, social media can be an incredibly powerful tool. By engaging with your buyers on social channels and sharing user-generated content, you can create a sense of community and encourage your customers to spread the word about their positive experiences with your brand on their own too.

Referral incentives: Finally, you can always offer incentives for customers in exchange for referrals to their network. This could include discounts, special offers, or extra services for both the referrer and the new customer.

How can I leverage Flowla to support the buying cycle?

Remember when we mentioned how friction could stand in the way of your revenue?

Now imagine you had a magic wand that made friction disappear from your entire pipeline: That’s Flowla!

Flowla can help you provide an impeccable experience for your customers, and engage them in every stage of the buying cycle, from the very beginning, all the way to post-sales.

Awareness & Consideration

To support those in the awareness and consideration stages, you can unite all the valuable information and education materials in one place, and present them in a neat, digestible, and pleasant format that prioritizes your buyers’ convenience and experience.

A flow can help you tell the perfect story about your business with the help of a wide variety of media, ranging from documents and videos, to dashboards, slides, website embeds and more.

Flows can also be instantly and automatically customized with your buyers’ brand colors and logo for a more personal feel, and you can further tailor each flow with your buyers’ unique situation, problems, and needs to deliver more targeted messages.

Decision

You can leverage Flowla to support your buyers in the decision stage by providing a streamlined, step-by-step buying experience that puts them in the driver seat.

They can visually see what buying from you looks like, situate themselves within that journey, know what to anticipate, and take the actions they need to with ease.

Storing all relevant materials, like proposals, legal documents, login links, and even DocuSign forms in one place creates a frictionless, convenient process that will make you stand out from the competition.

Retention & Advocacy

Did you know that a lot of Customer Success Managers use flows as a client portal to manage their entire relationship with their customers, from onboardings to QBRs?

You can unite all their special offers, from loyalty programs to referral campaigns and personalized recommendations in one place so they never lose track of anything, and set them up for success to be loyal advocates of your brand.

Bonus: With our Google Forms & Jotform integrations, they can fill out your follow-up surveys right inside a flow too!

Leverage insights to improve your processes

Flowla’s detailed insights enable you to track customer interactions, and see what pieces of content your buyers spend the most time on.

With that actionable data, you can then smooth out your entire buying journey, and increase conversion rates as well as improve customer satisfaction. Learn more about insights here.

Ready to improve your buyers’ journeys with Flowla?

Let's explore how you can leverage flows for your business with a short call.

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