Influencing The Buyer Decision Process Online

Ecommerce is steadily on the rise. Traditional retailers are feeling the pressure from consumers changing opinions and preference towards shopping online.  As consumer’s preferences to where they shop change, so do their processes of how they shop. The old models of the buyer decision processBuyer Decision Process Model are being challenged as online retailing alters consumer’s behaviour towards purchasing.  According to Todd Wasserman’s article How Search Marketing’s Costs are Evolving in Mashable, “the full purchase path is now online”. In the three to four years previous, consumers were searching for information on products and purchasing online, however the decisions were still made offline with influence from word of mouth opinions from friends and family. However with the rise of social media, “people are going through the whole process online” using the opinions of other online consumers. So now, how do marketers influence these stages of the decision process now completed online?

The value of the search engines such as Google in the new
buyer decision process is already well documented.  We all now naturally turn to a search engine when seeking a new product, service or entertainment (Chaffey et. al 2009, p 506). Even if we already know the brand or company name, out of habit or ease, we usually still plug this into Google to by-pass typing in URLs. This search is usually performed in the consideration stage of the buyer’s decision process and it is a vital time to reach prospective customers. According to Brand New World in Chaffey (2009) 71% of people consider search engines important sources
on information when considering a product or service. This is why search engine marketing (SEM) “has become a fiercely competitive area of digital marketing” (Chaffey et. al 2009, p 506).

Wasserman however claims that although paid search marketing
is extremely valuable, it has for too long been separated from other forms of online marketing such as display ads. Display advertising is placing paid graphical or rich media units such as banner ads,Banner Ad Example within a webpage to increase brand awareness, familiarity and purchase intent (Chaffey et. al 2009, p 538). Wasserman advises that paid search marketing and display advertising should complement one another and be part of one cohesive strategy. He says that “they have to be designed to hit
consumers at various steps in the purchase funnel”.  Purchase FunnelFor example if a person is looking to buy a new pair of sneakers. The paid search marketing should be used as the beginning of the consumer’s search. The person has recognized the need for new sneakers but is unsure of what features they want. They may turn straight to the web to identify what features are available using a search engine (Chaffey et al, 2009, p 78). So if they type in ‘men’s street wear shoes’ the paid ad will appear in Google. However, display ads with prices urges to click through and
purchase should be used at the later stages in the process, when the consumer has completed the search and is ready to buy. The combination of these two mediums will help see the consumer through their buyer decision process.

This is by no means the secret to success.Wasserman points out that like all other areas of marketing, paid search marketing and display advertising is complex and involves a large number of variables. However in the same way that traditional marketing chooses different mediums such as radio, print, TV etc. to achieve different responses and influence consumers differently, online marketing too needs to as; what will be
effective when? What is the consumer thinking about when they are looking at my ad? More importantly, what action are we trying to get them to do? Then choose a type of online marketing based on those answers.


Chaffey, D, Ellis-Chadwick, F, Mayer, R, Johnston, K, 2009, Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice, 4th edn, Pearson Education Limited, Essex.

Wasserman, T, 2011, ‘How Search Marketing Costs are Evolving’, Mashable, viewed 3 October 2011,


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