The five stages of the B2B buying process include Problem Recognition, Information Gathering, Solution Evaluation, Purchasing, and Post Purchasing. There is no denying that the more you understand your customer behaviour and what is going on in their mind, the better you are at identifying the problems faced by them in the process of purchase. From here, brands can apply the right marketing strategy and approach to boost their branding effort, gain loyal customers and encourage customer retention.
In this post, we detail the five stages of the B2B buying process so that you can achieve your brand objectives.
Table of Contents
Stage 1: Problem Recognition
Every consumer’s buying process starts with the customer encountering a problem and looking for solutions.
Problems can appear in a number of ways. Some shoppers start to notice the signs of problems before they happen. A retailer, for example, may notice that their business is slowing down, especially during the current pandemic, but they’re not sure what the exact problem is or how to solve it.
In other cases, the problem will be more straightforward. For example, an office worker works from home, and she’s experiencing back pain. She recognises the problem she’s facing and is now looking for a new office chair to fix it.
As a business owner, you should ask yourself these questions to understand your customers’ needs:
- What incidents or scenarios make people look for your products or services?
- What methods do you use to generate demand for your products?
- How can you show people their needs and that you can meet them?
A purchase cannot take place without the customer recognising their needs. Identifying customer needs is an essential step for every business.
Stage 2: Information Gathering
Once the customers recognise their problem, they will start searching for solutions. For example, the office worker dealing with a slow computer will start looking for software improvements or a new laptop to speed things up. They might start researching on Google, social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), or online marketplaces (Lazada, Shopee, etc.) to find products or services to solve their issues. They will then compare all the offerings available.
Your objective at this stage is to get your brand on your target customer’s radar. There are few ways you can do that.
Leverage Google and Be Seen First
When we look for product ideas and information, we usually start by searching on Google. The same goes for consumers, making Google the best place to look for solutions.
Ensure that your brand is the top result for relevant search queries on Google. For your brand to rank first, you’ll need to do some extensive keyword research, use SEO, and employ other marketing tactics.
First, you need to figure out the terms and phrases potential customers are searching for on Google. Optimise your website accordingly using SEO, user experience design, website design, and more.
Next, craft content or ad campaigns with the keywords your target audience uses. You can also consider writing a great article about solving computer slowness and guide customers on what they should do to speed things up. Explain how your product or service will solve their issues.
Work with Your SEO & SEM Teams
Ranking first in Google’s organic search results is not a simple task. Many brands invest in internal SEO teams or collaborate with marketing agencies. However, these brands also spend money on search engine marketing (SEM) to ensure higher visibility than their competitors.
Many brands bid on keywords to have their page rank in the top four on Google. SEM marketing teams are already knee-deep in SEM and PPC (pay-per-click) strategies. They know how to rank your website highly with optimised costs. Talk to your SEM team to find the keywords people search most that are related to your brand.
If you’re planning to change an aspect of your customer purchasing process, SEM and SEO professionals could be a big help. These people will assist you in determining what is best for your brand by analysing your audience and the competitive environment. From there, you can develop your SEO or SEM strategy.
Use Online Marketplaces Like Lazada or Shopee
Online marketplaces are another platform where people research what they want to buy, especially if they want to compare prices, product features, and offers. Online marketplaces play an important role in the consumer buying journey.
Adopting an online marketplace is one of the best business strategies to establish a strong presence and brand visibility. The most famous platforms in Malaysia for business-to-customer retail are Lazada and Shopee. If you are in the export business, you may consider Alibaba or Amazon to reach the global market.
Create product listings on these websites or platforms and optimise them for searches. For example, let’s say you sell healthcare products on Lazada and Shopee. Start by creating a product listing with attractive and relevant product titles and descriptions.
Amplify Your Social Media Efforts
Most people in Malaysia spend their time on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. They will search for solutions on social media platforms, including looking for information and products.
Social media ads refer people to products or services they recently searched for. Machine learning algorithms recommend the right product or service to users based on their recent activity. Sometimes, you may feel that Facebook knows you better than your girlfriend or boyfriend!
If you want to get your brand on your target audience’s radar, create demand, and persuade customers that your product or service meets their needs, don’t ignore social media. Implement social media ad campaigns in the information-gathering stage to increase brand awareness. That way, your brand will be on customers’ lists of the solutions.
Stage 3: Solution Evaluation
After doing their research, customers will usually make a shortlist of brands or products that meet their needs. In this stage, they look at specific solutions to their problems.
Let’s return to our example of the person dealing with a slow computer. They will evaluate all the information gathered from their research. Then, they will start evaluating whether they should contact an IT expert, purchase new software, or purchase a new computer.
Product positioning plays an important role in influencing customers to select your brand as their best choice. You need to figure out why users should choose you instead of your competitors, what your unique selling points are, how your customers will benefit, and more.
Optimise Your Product Descriptions
A unique and compelling product description is important for describing your merchandise and enticing people to buy. People cannot feel or touch your product through an online store, giving product descriptions an important role in convincing your customers. You must use the right keywords and insert attractive copy that’s relevant to your audience.
Make the text scannable by using short paragraphs, headers, and bullet points. Highlight important points or messages in bold text. It makes people recognise the important points about your product and match it to their needs.
Remember, don’t write product descriptions that read like an article. Short, simple, and straightforward copy will allow people to quickly and easily understand your product.
Use Attractive Images
Having great-looking visuals in online stores will increase customer curiosity and the likelihood of clicking on your product. Use high-resolution product images in your product listings. Show your product from every angle and all its features.
Visually show your product’s functionality, how to use it, and in which conditions. These images will create a clear image and understanding of your product, even though customers won’t be able to feel or touch it.
Add Q&As to Your Product Listings
Adding Q&As to your online store or product listings allows customers to understand more about your product. No matter how well you describe your product, shoppers will always have questions.
List out all the frequently asked questions and provide answers and solutions. You can collect the questions from your sales team to answer common or general questions.
Leverage Ratings and Reviews
Nearly 89% of consumers worldwide read reviews before buying products. Not having authentic reviews on your site will definitely hurt your conversions more than you think.
People read through reviews to evaluate a seller’s trustworthiness. Give your customers the best experience possible by keeping all ratings and reviews organised and easy to read.
And don’t discount negative feedback—showcasing your pros and cons will make customers feel confident and trust your reviews.
Let your customers read all your positive and negative feedback. Smart customers will evaluate the comments and consider all factors involved.
Stage 4: Purchasing
When customers reach this stage, they’re ready to get their credit card out and buy a product from you. You need to ensure that the checkout experience is smooth because you do not want to lose them at this stage.
Optimise the order link flow and make sure the process is as quick and painless as possible. It’s best if customers can checkout directly without filling in a lot of information or getting stuck on the checkout page.
Allow customers to check out as guests when buying products from your site. It will avoid making customers feel unpleasant or having trouble filling in all their personal details before checkout. You can ask them to create an account after they complete the purchase by telling them the benefits of having an account with you.
Guest checkout is the best way for first-time customers to buy from you quickly and simply, as well as reduce your bounce rate.
Pre-Fill Shopper Details Whenever Possible
If your shopper is an existing customer, pre-filling forms with their information can make the checkout process easier. It reduces the complicated process of shoppers entering their information again before checkout.
You can also provide alternative information for them to select, such as the person or delivery address. It is convenient for shoppers and allows them to checkout easily
Stage 5: Post-Purchasing
Congratulations! You have successfully converted potential leads or browsers into buyers. Now it’s time to gather feedback to ensure shoppers continue to be your customer. You also can learn more about their shopping behaviours and any space for improvement for your product.
Ask for Ratings and Reviews
Ask for reviews from your customer. You can use email marketing tools to set up automated post-purchase emails to request shopper feedback. You can even provide them with an offer to persuade them to provide their valuable feedback. You will also receive many reviews in your online store.
Try to make the review process simple. Using a five-star rating system allows shoppers to provide short and simple feedback.
Encourage Repeat Purchases
You don’t want people to buy from you just once. You want to encourage repeat purchases by regularly keeping in touch with great content and promotions.
Email marketing is a long-term marketing strategy to consider. Scheduled follow-up emails with membership benefits or birthday promos to connect with your customer. You can always send newsletters when you have a big promo or great content. But remember, spamming customers with a few emails a week will annoy them.
Remarketing ads from Google or Facebook will also allow you to retarget existing customers. Tell them about supplementary products or other products they could use with whatever they bought in their last purchase.
This post describes the five stages of the B2B buying process in great detail and action that can be taken by businesses to attract and reach the customers. In other words, it details what goes around in the customer’s mind before and after making a purchase. In today’s competitive business world, the sweetest results are for businesses that act quickly according to customer behaviour and preferences. We hope this post inspires you to understand your customers more and come out with innovative solutions that meet what they want.