Differences Between a Consumer Buying and a Business Buying Decision Process
Businesses and consumers use different decision-making processes when buying goods and services, with businesses using more planning and guidelines and consumers often acting on impulse.
Understanding how businesses and consumers make purchasing decisions will help you create better distribution, marketing, and checkout decisions.
Needs vs. Wants
Businesses buy what they need, while consumers often buy discretionary items. If you sell to businesses, you will need to focus your marketing messages on benefits and values. If your product is a discretionary purchase for most consumers, you can send messages that appeal to desires. You might create an aspirational brand for your product, or you might associate your product with health, status, beauty, fun, or youth.
Planning vs. Impulse
Businesses are more likely to plan their purchases ahead of time — they usually operate on monthly, quarterly or annual budgets. Consumers are more likely to make spur-of-the-moment (impulse) purchases, or make reactive purchases (“I’m out of detergent”). Consumers also use the recommendations and referrals of others in the absence of product knowledge, according to ABC of Marketing.
Try to learn when your business customers make their choices during the purchasing decision process, which can be weeks or months ahead of their orders. Survey your customers to find out when they usually make the decision to purchase your product. This will help you time your marketing messages better.
You can also spur impulse purchasing by putting certain items at or near your checkout counter in your brick-and-mortar location, or serving pop-up offers on your website during the shopping or checkout process.
Businesses Use Procurement
Many businesses set up a procurement process that must be followed by all employees before they make a purchase. Some companies require employees to use only pre-approved vendors. If you are a B2B business, find out which of your customers or potential customers use procurement processes, find out who the purchasing agent is and find out what you need to do to get into their purchasing system.
Number of Decision Makers
Both businesses and consumers often make purchases in coordination with multiple people. In households, children often need to get permission from parents to make a purchase or ask the parent to buy something they want. Partners often buy items that the whole family will use, and they need input.
Managers at businesses might need permission from their directors or the accounting department. In some businesses, everyone needs to go through the procurement agent.
If you determine that people buy your product or service using multiple decision-makers, craft your marketing messages not only to motivate the final purchaser but also to help them persuade their partner or boss.
Businesses will usually do more research and have more expertise about your product or service, especially if it’s an expensive purchase, according to business consultant Ronald Brauner, writing at LinkedIn. Make sure business buyers can easily find technical information on your website.
Consumers who buy on impulse or because of aspiration will need more education as to your product’s benefits. Make sure you stress the perceived benefits of your products to these types of buyers.
The Purchasing Funnel
Just because a consumer has clicked on the “order” button on your website doesn’t mean you’re even close to making the sale, according to e-commerce experts Bolt. There are several steps to complete, and your potential customer can back out at any time.
The customer must confirm their shipping address, choose a shipping option, enter a credit card, validate the cost (including shipping and taxes) and possibly consider another offer you put in front of them during the process.
Analyze your website traffic to learn about sales funnel characteristics that apply to your business — and to see at which stage you lose most of your customers. This will help you see where you can make changes to your shopping cart checkout process.