How to Easily Influence Consumer Decisions at the Purchase Stage
You did it.
You ran beautifully branded social media campaigns that caught your customer’s attention. You carefully educated them about the benefits of your product with fun interactive website content. You gave them social proof in the form of reviews and testimonials.
They’re ready to buy.
And thanks to your hard work, they’re ready to buy from you.
Pat yourself on the back. Pop the champagne. Your job as a marketer is over.
Or is it?
We don’t often think about marketing at the purchase stage of the path-to-purchase. After all, consumers want to buy your stuff by that time. What’s left to sell them on?
It turns out… quite a bit.
It’s not enough to just get them ready to buy -- you have to give them a reason to buy now. Otherwise, they’ll wait. And when they wait, doubt starts creeping in. “Is this actually the right product for me?” “Will this really work as advertised?” “Is this the best price I can get?”
And once that inner voice starts working in your consumer’s head, the risk of cart abandonment -- or your consumer making the purchase at a different retailer -- goes way up.
So what can we do at the purchase stage to reduce that risk and make the sale?
3 Factors That Influence Consumer Purchasing Decisions at the Purchase Stage
A lot of common advice about the purchase stage involves reducing friction and providing reassurance. Three of the most commonly suggested solutions are:
Ease of Checkout. You have to make it as easy as possible for consumers to buy, or they won’t. That can include omnichannel options like BOPUS, online inventory numbers for brick & mortar stores, or even just reducing the number of steps they need to take to checkout. For example, allowing guest checkout.
Trust. We typically think of trust in regards to credit card information security -- which is definitely important. But trust can also mean reassuring the consumer that, if necessary, they can return their purchase hassle free -- whether they’re buying in-store or online.
Social Proof. Whether online or in-store, the purchase stage is where doubts about whether the product will actually work creep in. Adding social proof like reviews or testimonials to your website can help reassure consumers that they are making a good decision.
All of these things are important. Studies have shown that improving the readability, usefulness, and trustworthiness of brands website content can help reduce purchase delays and cart abandonment.
But even if you win their trust and make it easy to buy, you can still end up with consumers that abandon their carts.
Because you haven’t given them a reason to buy now.
Why Urgency Matters
Creating a sense of urgency at the purchase stage helps to nudge consumers to buy now, instead of later.
Studies have shown that when consumers wait to buy (delay their purchases) their purchase intention (the desire to buy) also decreases.
We’re natural procrastinators. Unless there is a reason to do something immediately, we tend to want to “think it over” or “wait a few days” -- which can increase the chance of never making the purchase at all.
The traditional strategy has been to use sales or discounts to create urgency; offering limited time offers to drive people into the store, or online, to make a purchase before the price goes up.
The problem with this is… everyone does it. Discounts aren’t really a motivator anymore, because they’re almost always available. Consumers can get a similar discount from your competition if the sale ends at your store/on your product. And if there aren’t any discounts, consumers can just wait it out -- confident what they want will go back on sale relatively soon.
“If you’ve spent many years training customers to wait for your price promotions it’s very hard to get back to better profitability” -- Nancy Smith, CEO & Founder, Analytics Partners
Discounts don’t create product specific -- or retailer specific -- urgency; consumers can almost always get a deal on a similar product, or at a different store.
Instead of getting caught in a price slashing war with the competition, you need to create urgency specific to your store or product.
How to Create Urgency at the Purchase Stage with Game-Based Marketing
Game-based sweepstakes and contests can be useful at the purchase stage of the path-to-purchase because they create urgency that’s specific to your brand. Consumers can’t win a prize if they buy a different product or at a different store.
If you create a desire to win, consumers will take other actions (like making a purchase) to keep playing and increase their chances of winning. And because sweepstakes are short by nature, there's additional urgency to make that purchase before the contest ends.
Here’s how it works:
1. Create a Desire to Win
Contests and sweepstakes only work as a form of urgency if consumers are invested in winning. Game-based marketing is more motivating than a promotion that automatically enters you to win, because you have to invest both your time and attention into winning by playing the game.
And if consumers invest the time and energy into playing your game. it’s less likely they’ll abandon that effort and buy with your competition.
2. Reward For Purchase
After consumers are invested in winning, offer them extra chances to win when they complete actions that drive business goals. So to drive sales you’d offer them extra chances to win if they make a purchase.
I’m not saying a contest will prompt someone with absolutely no interest in your products to buy something (in case your bullshit detector was going crazy). But it can give customers who already know about your stuff and understand the benefits that final push to make a purchase. That’s why you include educational messaging in your promo -- so they learn about your stuff and are motivated to buy it all at once.
The Bottom Line
It’s not enough to just make it easy for consumers to shop.
People are procrastinators. If you don’t make it urgent to buy they won’t do it now -- and you risk losing them to the competition.
Game-based marketing can be a great tool to boost sales by combining educational messaging with a reason to buy. The nature of the sweepstakes and the investment of playing a game creates a sense of urgency that helps nudge interested customers towards the checkout.
This not only helps to drive a short term boost in sales (by supercharging the path-to-purchase) but can also set you up for the long term (by incentivizing email & loyalty opt-ins).
We’ll cover more on how you can improve loyalty with game-based marketing in the next (and final) post in this path-to-purchase series.