Depending on where your customers are in the purchase and consumption cycle, they will be looking for different information for help reaching the next stage. To turn a high number of leads into customers, your website design must address every step of the cycle, or you risk sending a prospect who is willing to make a purchase straight to a competitor.
Stage 1: Awareness
Consumers enter the purchase and consumption cycle by realizing their need for a purchase. Initially, they are unsure as to what product they want, and may even be unaware that your particular product exists. To present your brand as a viable option, you need to design your website with SEO in mind. Utilizing relevant keywords, linking to reputable sources, and including meta tags are all techniques that will send your pages to the top of search engine results. However, black hat SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing, duplicating content, and using link farms, will ruin your reputation and kill your chances of making a sale.
Stage 2: Defining Needs
After having determined the need for a purchase, leads will start thinking about what exactly they need from a product. Show that you understand visitors to your website by publishing content that defines their problems and suggests possible solutions. To be successful, you should develop several buyer personas and target each in turn. Consider why each of these fictional users may require your products — from what problems they may be suffering and how you can provide a solution. A software company, for instance, could demonstrate how their products enable users to save money and improve productivity.
Stage 3: Identifying Alternatives
In these early stages of the buying cycle, users are unlikely make a purchase upon their first visit to your website. To avoid the loss of qualified leads, you need to nurture every prospect. At this point, leads are aware that your products are one potential solution to their problems, but there are still many other options on the market. You must use interesting and useful content to show prospects why these alternatives fall short.
The best way to achieve the above is by gaining contact information and sending out personalized content. Most users are unwilling to provide their email addresses without an incentive; however, you can often entice users with the promise of exclusive information that will help with the buying decision, a discount, or another type of appealing offer presented as a call-to-action (CTA) somewhere on your website.
CTAs must combine visual appeal with short, persuasive copy, ideally no more than five words. It should be clear exactly what users can expect to receive when clicking on the CTA. Place your CTAs at strategic points on your website, where they fit in but also stand out from the rest of the design.
Stage 4: Choosing a Vendor
The last stage in persuading buyers to make a purchase is to ensure that they do pick you. You have used content to explain why your products are better than those of your competitors — now it’s time to introduce your selection.
Product pages on your website should feature alluring descriptions and attractive photos along with all the information buyers need to feel confident in their final decision. It is important to incorporate branding in this point in the cycle to serve as a reminder why the consumer is choosing your company over any other. For instance, turn to your buyer personas to ensure you use the right voice and write in the same style as your blog content.
Stage 5: Placing the Order
At this point in the buying cycle, a consumer has come to the decision to buy but your sale is not yet secured. When you consider that, according to MarketingSherpa, 59.8 percent of potential customers abandon their shopping carts, you can see just how essential web design is at this stage. To become part of the 40.2 percent of success cases, you need to create an experience that encourages shoppers to stay on the page.
Firstly, use a linear checkout process, sending consumers through a number of individual steps without redirecting them to another page or sending them back to a previous step. Companies often fail to maintain the linear design when asking customers to set up a new account.
Another important feature of the checkout process is the form fields. If it is unclear exactly what information is required, users may feel frustrated and navigate away from the page. Terms like “address line 2,” for instance, are often confusing. To ensure you get your meaning across, add a description or example.
Stage 6: Paying for the Order
Your soon-to-be customer has now placed an order; you are almost at success. There is one last feature to consider in your website layout to ensure a sale: the paying for the product or service. The main reasons for dropping out at this stage are: limited payment options, a surprise increase in price due to shipping costs, and worries that the site is insecure. Luckily, you can solve all three with your design.
Coping with the first is the greatest challenge. Ideally, you want to offer consumers as many payment options as possible — Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and PayPal, for instance. However, as this is an issue only partially related to web design, it may be out of your control. In the case that options are limited, establish this early on, preferably on the product page. This will avoid wasting consumers’ time, which can cause a negative impression of your company as a whole.
Secondly, if you are unable to set a standard shipping cost and include the price within the product, mention possible delivery options on the product page. This will ensure that when consumers reach the payment stage, they will be prepared to incur a slightly higher cost than the price of the product alone.
Finally, assure consumers of the security of your site with text, badges, and icons, such as the classic padlock symbol. Only request necessary information, and if it may be unclear why you need certain details, offer an explanation.
Stage 7: Following Up On the Order
Once customers have placed and paid for an order, offer them an estimated delivery time. For goods or services that may be urgent or will have a long delivery time, consider allowing customers to track the process of their order. This is also beneficial for you, as it will result in return visits to your website. To increase the chances of customers using the service, allow them to track orders with a code alone, without the need to create an account.
Stage 8: Delivering the Goods or Services
Show customers you care about their experience with your company by offering the chance to rate your service and provide feedback. Keep this web form simple, once again only asking for the information you need. Limit to no more than five fields and ensure questions are easy to answer — mainly multiple choice questions or chances to rate on a scale of one to five along with a single box to leave comments.
Stage 9: Storing the Goods
After customers have completed the sale and received their goods, you want to ensure that they remember your business and keep your brand in mind for future purchases. You can use your web design to show that you care about your customers’ experiences by ensuring that they properly maintain their goods. Achieve this is by offering advice about storing goods on your website and direct customers to these pages after they receive their delivery.
Stage 10: Utilizing the Goods and Services
Obviously, it is important that buyers do much more than simply store their goods. By providing customers with continuous tips and advice, you can ensure that clients gain the greatest possible enjoyment and utility from your products and services. Your website should feature multiple pieces of content in a variety of formats, such as how-to guides, podcasts, and videos. This will set you up as a go-to source of information for getting the most out of products.
Stage 11: Maintaining and Upgrading
Frequently release pieces of content explaining the best ways to maintain goods and encouraging customers to purchase related products. Your website should remember clients’ previous purchases to offer them opportunities for up-sells and cross-sells.
Here are a couple examples:
- An Internet provider could seek an up-sell by offering an improved package, allowing users to add their phone to the bundle or to increase Internet speed, for instance.
- After selling a DVD player, a manufacturer could offer movies as a cross-sell.
Use product descriptions to explain how complementary products and services can provide additional benefits and play on customer satisfaction to push for an upgrade with extra functions, features, and capabilities.
Stage 12: Disposing of Old Goods
Lastly, web design must support buyers in throwing out old goods to make room for an upgrade. At a minimum, your site should feature content offering tips about safely disposing of items. If your company is able to remove old goods when delivering new products, this is even better. Inform customers of this fact around the time when products are becoming outdated through a notification on your website.
As you can see, website design plays an essential role in every stage of the buying cycle. Design not only helps you gain new customers, it also encourages repeat purchases. If you neglect any one of these stages, you will decrease your conversions, initial sales, cross-sells, up-sells, and overall ROI.