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How Social Listening Can Help Brands Understand the Consumer Decision-Making Process

Regardless of industry, context and target audience, the customer decision-making process is a vital part of marketing for all brands. Never to be underestimated, it can make or break your brand and drastically affect who buys your product.

Traditional surveys were once the only method to gain reliable consumer-insight. However, brands can now treat online conversations and exchanges as an enormous focus group. By listening to mentions on social media platforms, review sites and forums, brands can harvest rich insights to help them gain a holistic view of the customer experience purposes, which, in turn, will help build a customer journey map and create a strategy. 

The 5 Steps of the Consumer Decision-Making Process

Customer Decision Making Process

1. Problem or Need

Virtually all purchases are driven by a need, whether real (e.g. buying food to not be hungry) or emotional (e.g. buying a trendy jacket to look cool). The first and most important step of the customer decision-making process is when the consumer becomes aware of and identifies their need. Before brand awareness can happen, marketers need to fully grasp this need and how their product or service can meet it.

2. Information Search

Once a need or want has been identified, consumers need to do research to make an informed decision about what to purchase. Many things can come into consideration at this stage. For instance, past experiences with brands, recommendations from friends and family and reviews on websites related to the product.

At this point in the customer decision-making process, a more solid idea of what they are looking for is developed including criteria and expectations. You want to be seen as a trustworthy and reliable source and make sure your product shines through in the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), the discovery and awareness stage.

3. Evaluating Alternatives

The customer will compare and contrast a potential product or service with alternative products or services to weigh up which one is better. During this stage, many factors can come into consideration. For instance, customers tend to look at a product’s value for money, pricing, style, design, features, availability, delivery costs and options. Likewise, appropriate marketing material is needed to persuade and sell your product.

Social media and other people’s opinions in the form of reviews can be a powerful tool. Unfavourable reviews can destroy trust and good experience and have the ability to tip and dissuade someone from making a purchase. Social media listening is a good way of finding out what people are saying and offering you insights. Testimonials and what people say on social media play an integral role in the customer decision-making process and can make or break your brand.

Consumer Decision-Making Journey - Evaluating Alternatives

4. Purchase Decision

After researching and comparing products, and considering each brand’s online reputation, the customer will then decide. Brands which have considered all parts of the customer decision-making process, stand a better chance of being picked.

5. Purchase Evaluation

Once they have tried out the product, the last part of their journey is forming an opinion about the product. At this part in the process, the customer will compare it to their pre-established criteria and see whether the product managed to fit their needs. They may share their experience in the form of a review or social media post.  In turn, positive mentions feed back into the customer decision-making process and can influence others into deciding whether to purchase a product or service.

Contextualising Your Target Customers

When targeting any consumer, you have to understand their context and mindset to develop a successful marketing strategy. Different cultures, countries, age groups and communities, factors and priorities may affect the consumer decision-making process. Having a clear understanding of cultural values, familiarities and what is appealing at the time can enable you to market yourself properly in international contexts. 

Building up your brand reputation and trust with customers in new markets can often rely o a positive online presence. Favourable reviews and mentions on Instagram and Facebook shed light on what your business is about to new consumers. Conducting the right research in each country and context and understanding social media value in the consumer decision-making process can do wonders for your brand.

Understanding Influential Factors in Decision Making

The more information and data you have on your target audience, the better you will be able to target them. Knowing whether they are e.g. young parents, outdoor enthusiasts or middle-aged couples will enable you to target them more efficiently. Being more precise and understanding the pain points of these individuals can lead you to discover influential factors in the decision-making process.

An in-depth analysis of specific audience behaviour will reveal what matters most to them, in turn, allowing you to tweak or build upon your current marketing strategies. This information can be vital, as it can reveal potential pitfalls or new, lucrative opportunities open to your business.

Every Customer Decisions Making Journey is Unique

For every industry, service, culture and even product, the customer decision-making process will be unique. Applying the same journey to all of your products, or presuming it will be the same in the UK as it is in Singapore, could mean losing out on possible conversions. Since each journey is different, it is essential to investigate thoroughly each market and audience you intend on targeting. Moreover, your brand must embrace social listening as a way of understanding the consumer’s perspective.

Gathering data based on what real customers are talking about is a fantastic way to develop the customer journey. An evidence-based approach allows you to analyse data quickly and make informed decisions when creating or tweaking your marketing strategy. Social media is one of the best ways to understand customer behaviour, opinions and influences, thereby making it an essential tool for brands to utilise. 

To find out how our team of native-speaking in-market social listening experts can offer insight into the decision-making process of your target consumer groups, don’t hesitate to contact us