Monday, June 22, 2009

The Importance of Social Media in the Post-Purchase Evaluation Stage

SCStephen Collins over at Acidlabs, by his own admission, is “inclined to go off on a ranty diatribe” and posted a very thought provoking post about how social media is not actually about selling something. He admittedly states that social media isn’t actually about selling anything, mostly, and that he means “marketing ultimately focused on getting people to buy stuff. Not on changing opinion, not on awareness. It’s a deliberately narrow definition for the purposes of this post.”

The narrow definition is fine for his post, as he has openly admitted that he is not a marketer, and instead his skills lie in communications. So maybe he isn’t aware of some of the thinking that is fundamental to marketing (when it is done properly).

However, he has highlighted that a lot of people in marketing and sales forget about the whole process and focus a lot on the sale – just focus on the steps up to the exchange of cash for product. However, saying the SM isn't about selling stuff It is like saying that the telephone isn’t about selling stuff. That would be true as the telephone it is a communication tool but that would be too narrow a view. The telephone, used skilfully and appropriately with a well thought out strategy, absolutely can sell lots of stuff. Put it in the hands of an Indian telemarketer and you will get lots of pissed off people.

Social media is no different. We’ve all seen the snake oil salesman.

What Stephen’s post did get me thinking about was the buyer decision process. Don’t friggin groan with “here Oyster goes with bloody theory again!” … the theory has much more academic rigour and history behind it than some bloke sitting in is study telling the world how marketing is (that’s not a dig at Stephen by any means. Just some marketing blogs in general)! I’ll be quick on the theory though …

The diagram below shows the 5 stages that a consumer goes through when making a purchase. I disagree with Stephen, using his narrow view of selling as a transaction, that SM isn’t about selling stuff. Totally depends on your business and goals but the underlying point, for me anyway, is about contributing and adding value to the consumer. And that is why I think that it is the 5th stage is where I think that social media has the most potential.

Post-purchase evaluation - Cognitive Dissonanceimage

The last stage is post-purchase evaluation. It is the situation where you have bought something but then have second thoughts about the purchase. It is known as “cognitive dissonance”. It is where you think “maybe I could have got it cheaper”, "maybe I should have kept looking for a better option”, “maybe I shouldn’t have spent that much” “what the hell am I gonna tell my wife?” etc

A lot of marketers forget about this stage but is is just as important as the others. In fact, it is here that brand loyalty can be cemented and re-purchase guaranteed. It can also stop a consumer changing their mind and returning the product (if that is an option).

Marketers need to continue to work after the purchase to reinforce that the consumer has made the right decision and that it fits their needs. It is here that social media can be a seriously dominating force. Here’s an example …

I need a new mountain bike. I went to the shop the other day “just to look” but ended up talking to the salesperson and ended up walking out having put a deposit down on new bike. But I felt guilty that I had made an impulse decision (I was always getting a new bike but hadn’t planned on it that day). It went down like a lead balloon with Mrs Oyster.

My mate also needs a new bike. He’s been talking to lots of shops and looking at lots of bikes and found a cracker. Then I got jealous cause he got a better bike and a better deal than me. So I asked him to ask the bike shop how much we could get off if we bought two bikes together.

Now I am getting a different bike. Purchase lost to shop number 1.

The point is that the bike shop I put a deposit down with has put in zero effort into the post-purchase evaluation stage. Surely the tell tale signs are there because I only put a deposit down (despite having the ability to buy it on the spot if I wanted). In fact they positioned lay-by as a way of making me feel comfortable to committing.

They could have kept the purchase if they had of put some effort into the last stage. They could have collected information such as twitter name, Facebook profile and even email. They could use these to introduce me to their MTB blog or podcast (if they had one, I wouldn't know, haven’t heard from them since) and told me about user reviews and forums for the brand and model I bought. They could have used the channels to make me feel that I had made the right decision. Plus ore and more people have blogs where they can share their experiences, good or bad.

Instead I will get my deposit imageback and get a better deal elsewhere (here’s a pic of my soon to be new bike).

Connecting with me through social media would have also given me the impetus to tell others about my purchase. It is often in this space where your friends and family say “yeah that’s cool, great buy” where you feel you have made the right choice. It can be as simple as them saying “well done on saving $300” (how the hell do they know how much I could have really saved or whether it really is a great purchase?”).

Social media could have got me hook, line and sinker and made me a loyal customer to the shop. It is exactly the thing that could have helped me change my opinion (and others) and helped built awareness.

Do your customers exhibit any tell-tale signs (like only putting down a deposit) where you could use social media to reinforce their decision? Should you be connecting with people more post-purchase by using social media? … and I don’t mean the boring “thanks for picking ABC for all our needs” or just following them on Twitter.

Do you have any great examples of companies that do the post-purchase evaluation stage well in the social media space?


Mandi said...

If only I'd read this 90 mins ago when I could have just copied half your post into my preso instead of writing it from scratch.

My thoughts differ slightly though. The reason social media is so important to the sales cycle is that the buyer process is evolving. Rather than comparing facts, purchasing decisions are becoming more about opinions. They're putting down the fact sheets and logging into a forum for a personal recommendation.

In a B2B world, it's even more crucial. You now have the opportunity to listen and converse with all stakeholders in the purchase process when previously the BDM spoke with maybe one contact. You also had to wait for that person to recognise a need and be motivated enough to do something about it before you even got a look in. You now have the ability to create an army of brand and product advocates, establish your staff as thought leaders and develop a community of leadership.

Without fostering the post purchase evaluation you wouldn't have an opinion/recommendation to leverage. You may have to work hard for it, indifference is just as detrimental in the age of invisibility.

Daniel Oyston said...

@Mandi, I agree. Nice comment and thanks. I understand that we can’t really look at the steps in the buyer decision process in isolation, as you said, it is evolving. The evolving point is well made especially when the communication tools available are more one-to-many rather than traditional one-to-one.

I was really just focusing on post-purchase because a) a lot of other marketers are just focusing on pre-transaction and b) I think post-purchase is the most neglected and also the stage with the most potential.

Sorry, I couldn’t finish the post earlier … I had house duties!

Mandi said...

I do agree, most marketers/sales teams/entire companies like to give up once they've got the sale when it's their best opportunity to win another.

Next time I'll let you know my deadline - no excuses! :-)

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