Understanding the Purchase Cycle




Understanding the Purchase Cycle

Posted By: Ben McCoy
Posted In: Branding, Internet Marketing, Web + Interactive Solutions

When defining a website, it’s important to consider the “Purchase Cycle” users go through when seeking out a product or service online. The Purchase Cycle helps us think like a consumer and make sure the website we’re creating meets their needs at different stages to help solve their problem.


Questions to Consider

Before we consider the Purchase Cycle, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions.

  • What are your customers looking for? What is the problem they’re looking to solve?
  • What do they need to know about your brand and your solution?
  • How can you break information down for users so that they find what they need at each stage of the Purchase Cycle?
  • How do you ‘convert’ a customer? Or rather, how can the website drive prospects to initiate a transaction (or conversation) with your brand?


The Purchase Cycle

The Purchase Cycle breaks down into 5 basic steps. And once you’ve considered these questions, you can start thinking about how it applies to your brand and website.

Step 1: Identifying the Problem

Most people don’t realize they have a problem until it’s staring them in the face. And more often than not, they don’t know where to start in finding a solution.
Enter Google.

Step 2: Information Gathering

When people don’t know what they’re looking for, they use short, unspecific keywords as a way to start gathering information about what they’re problem is and what potential solutions might be out there to address it.

For example, somebody looking to start cycling might start with the keyword “bicycles.”

Step 3: Research & Needs Assessment

As people gather and sifting through more and more information, they’re able to better identify a potential solution and narrow the search to focus on their individual needs. As a result, their ‘keywords’ or ‘keyword phrases’ become longer and more specific.

For example, our bike shopper might start using search terms like “steel road bicycles.”

Step 4: Decision Making

Eventually, people have gathered enough information to feel comfortable knowing what their problem is and have identified a likely solution. Now they need to figure out how to acquire it and their keyword phrases become even longer and more specific.

For example, our new (and possibly over ambitious) bicycle enthusiast might use the following search term:

“custom steel road bicycles in minneapolis, mn”

Step 5: Conversion

Finally, your prospect has (hopefully) identified you as a potential solution provider and is ready to engage with your brand. So how do they do that? Can they purchase directly from your website? Do they need to find one of your locations? Or is there another mechanism for them to use?


Purchase Cycle Variants

It’s important to note that the Purchase Cycle is different for different brands. Somebody shopping for a bicycle is going to solve that problem differently than somebody seeking out a scholarship or grant. So Purchase Cycle considerations for a bike shop will be different than an online retailer. And the Purchase Cycle for a non-profit or service-based organization would be different than those of any retailer.

So again, it’s important that every brand first consider the questions presented in the introduction of this article in order to figure out how the Purchase Cycle applies to them.



The Purchase Cycle is a valuable concept to consider when defining a website because it allows brands to think more like their customers and address their needs first. Like any business concept, it won’t give you the all the answers or guarantee success, but does provide a helpful guiding light.


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Bicycle Theory is a brand marketing company located in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN. Bicycle Theory provides strategic and tactical brand marketing services, including Web design and development, Internet marketing, brand strategy, and identity building.

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