The Consumer Purchase Cycle
Manufacturers and retailers alike need to know where, when and how to connect with consumers along their purchase journey—and understand that winning the sale is not the final destination. Understanding the post-purchase journey and what a consumer’s experience is after the point of sale is equally critical for the tech industry, as these steps ultimately lead the consumer to return.
CTA’s recent white paper, The Virtuous Purchase Cycle, illustrates the cyclical nature of technology consumption: we research and buy a device, use it and ultimately dispose of and/or replace it with a new one. While each product purchase journey generally follows the same trajectory, we see four basic buyer steps leading up to the post-purchase phase, each intrinsic to the sale of virtually all consumer technologies.
Step 1: Requirements: essential versus desired tech
Across audio, health and fitness, wireless and accessory product categories, cost is often a determining factor of whether a technology is something the consumer needs (essential) or something they would like (desired). Important factors that determine how consumers perceives a tech product as ‘essential tech’ versus ‘desired tech’ come from their attitude toward the tech, its features and market trends.
Step 2: Conducting research
Most consumers conduct their tech product research in-store. With the rise of mobile wireless devices, we are seeing a new trend with in-store research—an amalgamation of hands-on research and accessing online information via mobile devices while in the store.
Step 3: Consumers’ purchase influencers
Friends and family play a big role in the consumer’s decision to make a purchase. Since friends and family are, in most cases, not with shoppers at the time of purchase, we can infer that consumers are assessing products by asking friends and family about their satisfaction and the performance of the products when they see them using the tech devices.
Step 4: Purchase location: decide where to buy
Across all tech categories, convenience and best price determine where a consumer chooses to purchase their product, but how convenience is perceived varies among consumers. Some find in-store purchasing convenient due to the ease of speaking with a salesperson. Others enjoy the convenience of online shopping, enabling them to easily compare and contrast products and make a purchase without leaving the house.
After the Sale, Post Purchase Behavior
After the sale is made, behavioral paths diverge, and some journeys end with a return or refund. CTA dug deeper into post purchase behavior in the Consumer Technology Post-Purchase Behavior Report which delineates the epilogue of the buying experience.
The study found post-purchase satisfaction is high (94 percent) across the more than three-dozen product categories surveyed, with audio (98 percent) and health and fitness (97 percent) purchasers exhibiting the highest satisfaction with their product.
More than half of consumers registered their product with the manufacturer, either at the time of purchase or afterward; across all product categories, registration is the most common action taken at the time of purchase. In the post-purchase stage, consumers are eager to discuss their new technology by either writing an online review, telling a friend or family member, or posting pictures or videos to social media.
Few consumer tech purchasers buy installation/setup service after the sale. Among those who do find they need help with installation cite the time involved, needing more than one person, or that the install was more difficult than anticipated. Retailers should verify with customers that they understand the set-up requirements and procedures.
Forty percent of consumers say they typically buy extended warranties. Only a handful of consumers filed a warranty claim within the first year of ownership, but those who did reported complete satisfaction with the outcome.
Happily the percentage of consumers returning a product was very low. Among the most common reasons for returns: the product did not work as expected, the consumer purchased similar/multiple products and decided not to keep that particular one, and the product did not work out of the box.
When it’s time to dispose of tech products, consumers recycle (24 percent), put into storage (24 percent) or give away their products (22 percent). Notably, the percentage of consumers either putting their old tech into storage or throwing it away is relatively high, which may indicate consumers are unsure how to properly dispose of tech items. Retailers should promote recycling options in their stores or their local community. The CTA website, GreenerGadgets.org, provides a nationwide list of eCycling locations searchable via zip code.
To re-engage with consumers beyond the point of sale, manufacturers and retailers should follow up after a given period of time to ensure consumers are satisfied with their purchases or require any further assistance, remind them of extended warranty coverage offerings and, depending on the device, proper tech disposal methods.
Now more than ever, service before, during and after the sale is not only vital to building loyalty, but essential to putting customers back on the path to purchase.
CTA’s Consumers’ Journey to Purchase reports and the Consumer Technology Post-Purchase Behavior Report is available for sale at store.cta.tech.