How is your customer buying?Sometimes the simplest exercises can be the most useful.

For the next few minutes, be a secret shopper. Put yourself in the shoes (or at the keyboard) of a prospective customer. How old are you? Where do you live? What is your financial picture?

Now put yourself in the buying process. Shopping is more than just the act of handing over a credit card. There are many, often subconscious, decisions and impressions that are made before and after the purchase. For each of the stages below, take notes on your impressions:

  • How do you see your company at each step of the process?
  • How do you see the competition at each step of the process?

Problem Recognition

What are your major worries? What is the problem you are trying to solve? What are your main concerns? What is of value and what signals real risk? (Using Google’s keyword tool, you can find related phrases and their popularity.)

Information Search

Where do you go for information? (If you need a local solution, include common location terms in your search.) What sites, blogs, sources came up while doing a search on the terms above? What well-known resources might you turn to for more information? Any trade journals, conferences, experts, magazines or newspapers?

Evaluation of alternatives

Where do you go for a recommendation? Who is a trusted resource? What rating sites are important? What companies have a lot of reviews or mentions?

Purchase decision

What might help you feel more likely to buy now rather than wait? Would you be influenced by a limited-time offer coupon or discount? Would you be more likely to be interested if the purchase were bundled with free shipping or installation? Can you get through the purchase process easily or do you need to wait for a response? For online checkout, do you need to click through several screens and disclose lots of personal information? In a brick and mortar store, does the store layout and sales clerk make your shopping experience more pleasant and efficient?

Postpurchase behavior

Now that you have your purchase, are you motivated to relate your experience? Where might you complain or review? Would anything incent you to pass on the word to friends and family? How are you connected via social media?

Now that you have your secret shopper notes, what can you do to insert your company into the buying process? Share in the Comments section below.

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