Consumer Purchase Process in a Web 2.0 World

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The Doc Searls Weblog wrote:

Get down & dirty about coming clean

Shel Israel is testing The Intention Economy with a query about washers and dryers. For the next couple of weeks, we will want to know everything about washers and dryers.

Shel is pushing the existing framework of what is called the "consumer purchase process".  The consumer purchase process is taught in B-schools and marketing degrees to explain how people go about buying things.  The phases look like this:

  1. Need Recognition = person identifies a need
  2. Information Search= person discovers potential solutions
  3. Evaluation = person compares solutions
  4. Purchase Decision = person acquires a solution
  5. Cognitive Dissonance = person uses solution and evaluates decision

Today, we use web browsers and search engines for #2, #3, and often times #4.  That, in itself, was a powerful transformation of the marketplace.

With the advent of the read/write web, we now use blogs and wikis to share our post-purchase experiences (#5) with others, thus greatly influencing the search and evaluation activities (#2 and #3) of people earlier in the process.  I’m sure many of you are immediately thinking of Jeff Jarvis’ influence on people considering Dell products.

What Shel is trying to demonstrate is how our online presence, and the tools and services we use to manage that online presence, can further enhance the purchase process, starting with information search.

He’s asking for help from the LazyWeb, but at some point the LazyWeb can and should be more automated.  Here’s how I’d like to see it happen:

  • What if Shel could enter his questions into a search engine, and request a feed of matching content for 2 weeks?
  • Better yet, what if the search engine subscribed to Shel’s blog, and automatically slipstreamed relevant information into a permanent RSS feed just for Shel, based on the things Shel writes about and asks for?
  • What if Shel could rate the information returned, so that the query/queries could be refined over time?
  • What if Shel could indicate that he’s ready to purchase, dramatically changing the search results from information providers (manufacturers, magazines) to potential sellers (distributors, retailers).
  • And once the purchase is made and indicated, the search results feed should once again change to provide information that supports and enhances the purchase experience (user groups).

For lack of a better term, I’ll call this a "Purchase Process Feed Engine", which produces a feed of information that dynamically changes its content depending on where you are in any given purchase process.  Obviously, a purchase process feed will be more effective for big-ticket items (e.g. washing machines, cameras, computers, cars, and houses) that have long time-spans for each phase.