A Seller’s Guide to Buyer Behavior – Part 4: The Evaluation of Alternatives

Posted on: March 15, 2022

In this series, we’re working through the five steps in the buying process. Understanding how consumers come to a purchasing decision helps to create a profitable marketing plan. The third step (after identifying a need, and doing research), is evaluating alternatives.

With some research done, the buyer begins evaluating options based on their personal decision-making criteria. Decision-making criteria are the factors that are most important for the particular decision to be made. When purchasing clothes, the criteria might include:

  • Fabric (cotton preferred)
  • Colour (pastels preferred)
  • Cost (no item over $50)

Other factors have more to do with your company than the items being sold. For example:

  • Environmental (has good practices)
  • Diversity (in staffing, models; has a unisex category)
  • Delivery (free and under two weeks preferred)
  • Returns (no hassle)

While the criteria differ from person to person, target markets often share at least some of these, so, as we’ve said many times before, knowing your existing customers and ideal target market is tremendously helpful.

The buyer doesn’t likely have a score sheet or even a check list. But when they start narrowing down their options, their criteria come to mind, and they’ll go back to each site to check for the information they need. For example: They’ve whittled down their sweater options from seven to three. They know that one is made from cotton, so they go back to check the other two. One is not cotton, and the other doesn’t say. Based on this, their decision is now made. The cotton sweater gets bought.

The same applies to factors regarding your company. The buyer notices that there are women of all shades and sizes modeling on Site A. That reminds them that they want to support companies that embrace diversity, so they check the other sites again.

Trends also have influence, and we’re not just talking about fashions. For example, environmental stewardship is now a significant factor for buyers, particularly younger adults. Community support and charitable work are similar criteria that can sway a decision.

So, how do you use this information about buyers in your marketing? Find out as much as you can about the buying criteria applied to what you sell (services included). Then, address those factors on your website and in your advertising. Include full descriptions of items: colour, fabric, size and fit, washability, etc. Mingle your values with your offerings in your advertising, like, “100% Egyptian cotton, ethically sourced.”

On your narrative pages (like About), tell shoppers what you stand for, what you believe in, and how you demonstrate your values.

Remember that a purchase is based on a decision, and you need to provide enough information for that decision to be made, and the message that will tip the scale in your favour.

More Articles in this Series: