Does your marketing strategy consider the entire customer buying process? Consumers tend to take a variety of actions before making a purchase, and marketing to potential customers in various stages of the buying process is a best practice.

Here are some tips to help auto parts and accessories companies market to consumers at key points during the typical consumer buying process.

The Customer Perceives A Problem

The first step in your customer’s journey goes something like this:

  • “My brakes are squealing”, or
  • “My car isn’t as fast as it could be”, or
  • “My truck doesn’t sit high enough”, or
  • “My car doesn’t portray my personality the way I’d like it to.”
customer's first stage of buying is perceiving a problem

These are all problems that the customer perceives, some more pressing than others. If you’re going to sell a customer at this stage of the buying process, you need content that helps the consumer better identify their problem and then offer solutions. Often times, this comes down to keyword research and content marketing.

Typically, consumers are asking questions that start with “Is”, “Should”, “Does”, and “Why.” You can use keyword research tools like Soovle to identify the exact questions consumers are asking, but you can also check forums, Facebook groups, and other social media platforms for common questions.

Finally, you want to create content and advertising that addresses the question and then offers an answer. “Are your brakes squealing? Here’s what you need to know.” Etc.

The Customer Is Searching For Answers

Once a consumer identifies a problem, they usually search for a solution. Sometimes, this search will last days or weeks. Sometimes, this search lasts only a few minutes.

Either way, consumers looking for answers frequently use a “search engine” to find them (go figure). Therefore, to market to consumers in the “looking for solutions” stage, you must rank highly in search engine results.

Ranking highly on search engines requires:

  • Relevant, valuable content: videos, blog posts, or other original content that addresses subjects relevant to those seeking solutions
  • A trusted website, as defined by a website with lots of links, engaged fans on social media, press mentions, etc.

To learn more about search engine optimization (the act of improving your website’s rankings), be sure to download our free SEO guide here.

Consideration and Justification

A customer who a) has identified their problem and b) identified solutions is in the ‘consideration’ stage. They’re looking at their options and figuring out which option(s) make the most sense. Their searches in this stage typically start with “Which” and “Why”, but obviously the search formats are all over the board here:

  • “Which tire brand is best?”
  • “What does wear rating mean?”
  • “Michelin vs. BF Goodrich”

etc.

Often times, winning over the consumer in the consideration phase takes some old-fashioned selling:

  • Your content needs to address the question, and then offer an answer that highlights the benefits of your product
  • Your content needs to offer proof of your product’s supremacy, via things such as testimonials and 3rd party reviews
  • Your content needs to explain that the consumer can’t go wrong by choosing your product, which means you need to offer a money-back guarantee, a generous return policy, a price match policy, etc.
Nothing like a good sales meme.

If a customer is considering your product on your site, they’re looking for both proof that your product is good and justification for “taking the leap” when they buy. Marketing to these consumers is all about instilling confidence in your product’s quality, reliability, durability, and value.

A Note About Pricing

Too often, price is viewed as a make or break aspect of marketing. While it’s true that pricing impacts consumer behavior, it’s also true that the impact pricing has on a consumer’s decision is overrated.

In fact, most consumers don’t care about price at all – they care about value. Consider the iPhone, which has a price ranging from $400 to $1,000. Any number of decent Android phones can be had for $200 or less, and yet the iPhone outsells nearly all it’s lower priced rivals. Why?

Answer: People pay a substantial premium because Apple has done a great job building value in the iPhone.

Obviously, Apple is a bit of a unicorn, but the point is that consumers aren’t nearly as price driven as they may appear. If we’re talking about a set of running boards that will be mounted on a brand new $40,000 pickup, do we really think the customer cares about buying boards that cost $399 vs. $599? The customer can clearly afford either option, so the key to selling them the running boards is to build value.

The Purchase Stage

Once a consumer is ready to buy, the next step is to make the process as painless as possible:

  • Make sure the checkout process is easy. Keep the interface simple, make sure it works on all kinds of devices, and make sure it’s fast.
  • Avoid surprises. An extra charge for shipping can kill a deal if the customer isn’t expecting it.
  • Once the purchase process is completed, keep the communication going. Inform the customer when the order is on the way, thank them for their business, etc.

Additionally, it’s important to make sure consumers can find products on your website by part number and/or SKU. Check your website search to make sure that a SKU or part number search works the way you expect it.

Finally, Let The Customer Reinforce Their Decision

Always ask customers for feedback

Once a customer has made a purchase, your last marketing task is to give the customer a chance to reinforce their decision:

  • Ask them for a review right on the confirmation page. People are often inclined to leave a 5 star review immediately after buying, as it serves a need to confirm their decision.
  • Give the consumer a chance to brag about their purchase. Make it easy to share the purchase decision on social media. Offer them a chance to send you a photo or upload something to Instagram or Facebook, etc.
  • Give the customer a free gift. A couple free stickers, a free pen, or even a free t-shirt is a great idea. People love free stuff, and the surprise is incredibly reinforcing.
  • Congratulate the customer on their smart decision making. It might seem a little over the top, but a quick “congrats” message from one of the key people at your company is a great way to make customers feel good about their purchase.

The more you can do to reinforce the decision to buy, the more likely your customer will become an advocate for your product.

Summing Up

This article leaves the impression that consumers proceed in a straight line from perceiving a problem to looking for solutions, to comparing and justifying, to buying. This is often the case, but not always.

  • Sometimes, consumers skip from perceiving a problem to reinforcing an impulsive purchase.
  • Sometimes, consumers spend money without a clear understanding of the problem they’re trying to solve.
  • Sometimes, it’s all about product value.

Whatever the specific process, it’s important to understand the different stages consumers can find themselves in. That way, you can tailor your marketing to be as inclusive as possible.