Customer Purchase Process

Purchasing is a process for customers

If you are making animated marketing content you need to know where in the customer purchase process this content will feature. Understanding the process, will help you to understand exactly what needs to be in the video, and how to approach the content for that stage, so that it is as effective as it can be. This is sometimes called the ‘customer purchase lifecycle’.

There is a process to customers purchasing a product online. They don’t ‘just buy on a random whim’. Before getting to understand this process there are two things you need to know. Your customer, and your niche. How well do you actually know these?

Create an image of your ideal customer
Create an image of your ideal customer

How well do you understand your Customer?

Don’t make assumptions about your customer, find out about them. You can’t develop “know, like and trust” if you don’t know them. Neither can you help them if you don’t know what they are about.

If you really know your customer you will be able to design a video that is the right tone and style for your client.

Who is your customer?

You can’t promote to an audience before you know who they are:

  • Make an avatar of your ideal customer, what is their age, culture, give them a name, and find an image of what they could look like. Ideally think of someone you know who is your ideal client.
  • Direct all your communication to this avatar. How would they like you to talk to them, do they like chatty and informal, are they intellectual and fact driven, what kind of language do they use?
  • What are the highest life values of your customer? Family, Money, Health, Career, Legacy, Peers? Life values do change at different times of our life, according to need and circumstances.

What problems do they have?

  • Don’t promote what you THINK they want. What you think someone needs, and what someone actually wants, are often two very different things.
  • Find out what your customers actually worry about, what are their difficulties?
  • What is your customer’s pain?

What do they often purchase?

  • What kind of things do they like to buy?
  • Promote what they are actually looking for.
  • Do they like new things or best value things?
  • Do they shop for the joy of shopping or for need?

Why are they purchasing online?

  • Is it due to price, deliverability, access, is it a digital product?
  • Where and how else could they get these products?

Where are your customers

  • If you have an online business with a digital product you may not even know where most of your customers actually are. So use Google analytics to find out where your customers are.
  • Use translations from a native speaker through online freelance sites, rather than Google translate, because it will sound more natural and believable.
  • Use localisation, make it appealing to that culture. Be aware of the local festivals, holidays and customs.
  • Use International E-Commerce forms, and use Geotagging for things like Amazon shops. These will take the user to the equivalent product in the Amazon shop in their country.
  • Have International delivery and returns policies

How do they like to communicate?

  • Will they need to phone?
  • Email or messenger?
  • Do they use social media, if so which social media channels do they use?
  • Are they visual learners, academic, active or audio oriented? Will they prefer to get information from video, writing, podcast, or by doing.

What kind of animation style would attract their attention?

Not everyone will like the same kind of animation as you do. You need to know the kind of imagery that the client is attracted by. Look at your avatar and think about what kind of animation they would respond to.

  • Funny cartoon
  • Quirky animation
  • Sleek and sophisticated motion graphics
  • Typical explainer video or whiteboard animation, infographics
  • High budget stop motion puppet animation
  • Educational 3D models and recreations
  • Something curious to get them thinking
Is your niche a tasty treat?
Is your niche a tasty treat?

How well do you know your niche?

Here are 5 questions that you need to be able to answer about your niche:

  • Do you read regularly about your niche?
  • Can you effectively communicate with others in your niche?
  • Do you understand the customer issues?
  • Can you see pro’s and con’s for each customer situation?
  • Do you understand the core problems in your niche?

One key point about your niche, do you really like it? For online marketing you need to generate a lot of content, and this is where your customer will be able to see just how excited and passionate you are about your niche area of interest. Are you just in it for the money? Or are you an enthusiast? Or are you just very good at it?

Animation is particularly good at explaining complex ideas, in fact any ideas. So if you really know your subject, animation will be the best way to describe it to your customers.

If you can’t make the videos yourself, or you are not a visual person, than you will need to be able to educate your animator. You will need to really help them to understand the ideas you are trying to explain so that they can find the right imagery to explain it. It’s their job to visualise for you, so let them do that. There may be some back and forth exchange for them to make sure that they have understood correctly and have developed the right tone, and this will need to be budgeted for.

One of the key purposes of staying updated in your niche is to keep your eye on the competition. You need to be one step ahead of the game, your need to be up with what your competitors are doing.

The customer purchase process is a journey

The Online Journey

Buying online is not a simple process of seeing something and buying it. As a business owner you need to know the process a customer goes through, and that will involve the difference between ‘selling and marketing’ too. Here are some points to consider when thinking about how people buy online:

  • Customers rarely buy on 1st contact
  • Typically there are 7 points of contact
  • Customers buy from people they trust
  • They exchange Money for a Solution or Improvement
  • They will check out reviews
  • Most customers can see through scams

There are 6 phases that an online shopper will typically go through in the process of buying online. You might encounter a customer at any one of these points, and the further along the buying cycle the quicker it is to make a sale.

The animated videos they will see at each of these stages are different. They will have different scripts and they will each have a different purpose.

1. See Phase

This is the passive phase of seeing lifestyle ambitions and products placed in desired settings. This is where customers see what other people have or are doing and they start to want the same. This is where desires are instilled. It’s found on social media, TV, magazines.

Your animated video here might be along the lines of just making your customer laugh. Or creating a lifestyle association with your product. Maybe telling a memorable story that associates a very specific higher life value to your product or service. The highest life value of your ideal client can be explored in an emotional way through storytelling and association with your product or service in animation at this stage. No selling at this stage. In fact trying to do a hard sell here will have a detrimental affect.

One good way to capitalise on this phase if you are a small enterprise is to piggyback off a large brand’s campaign. In other words write blogs or make videos directly related to something in your niche that is being seeded by a large brand. For example a new ad campaign on TV, a documentary or feature film just released at the cinema, celebrity news, world news. Brand awareness is already being done for you at great expense, so you can follow it up with blogs and social media comments, because people will already be searching for more on these topics. Use keywords from an ad campaign of the same or related product to find the people who are interested in your product.

2. Research Phase

Nearly all research will be done online, and some may be done through asking around their personal networks. Of the online research almost all will be done through reading blogs and watching YouTube videos.

At this stage your animation needs to be educational. Again no selling at this stage either. Infographics, and explainers that are aimed at helping the client through education. 3D CGI is very good at providing detailed information too. This is the stage where you can go deeply into the nuts and bolts of your product, service or idea behind what you do, not with a view to selling, but purely to give lots of useful information to your client. Education is everything at this stage.

If you have given them lots of helpful information, customers may be interested in going on a mailing list to continue to find out more at this stage too. They may follow your social media channels, and browse through other parts of your content. Make sure you link to related blogs at useful moments, and put useful links in your YouTube videos. Playlists are particularly good here too, so that clients can get even more related information.

It’s also an opportunity for you to find out more about what people are interested in (customer research). You can glean this for Google an YouTube analytics. Comments are an excellent way to find out more about clients. You can also follow them back on social media so you can see what their concerns and interests are.

3. Decision Phase

Potential customers will be reading reviews on blogs sites, to compare and contrast products for them, and to find personal experiences of these products. They will be reading feedback on the selling sites, and they also look for negative or debunking reviews to warn them of potential scams and rubbish products.

You must build trust by being honest. At this stage animated video can be an honest review with screen casts of the product if its digital. Testimonials from past customers, and honest feedback work well. Animated comparisons between products, with pros and cons. Remember to include what the product is not and doesn’t do too. At this stage the customer is looking for this kind of information, so if you don’t give it to them they will go where they can find it. A decision is the process of choosing, between one thing and another, or between doing something or not doing it. The customer needs to be experiencing choice at this stage.

4. Purchase Phase

This is when the customer is ready to buy, and they know what they want to buy. At this stage they will buy and they won’t be dissuaded easily, so it’s just a matter of where they buy from. At this stage they are looking for ease of purchase and delivery, maybe the cheapest price too. This is the ‘selling’ part of the selling vs marketing distinction.

To get these customers you need to use product name keywords in your video title and blog post title, because that is what they will be searching for by this time. Although these are the best customers, they are also the hardest to find because they have usually bought already from whoever guided them through the purchase lifecycle, often from the decision phase.

Animated videos at this stage are directing customers where, when and how to buy. It might offer them a discount voucher code, or a countdown to buy at a reduced price, or recommend a good place to buy from. They also need to know they have made a good choice and reiterate the benefits. Often there are upsell videos too, so once they have committed to one purchase, offer them addons to develop the usefulness of the product.

5. Share phase

Here they share their purchase with the world. This links them directly back to the see stage, but now their aspiration has been fulfilled, and they are proud to share what is perceived as a step up the ladder, or a step closer to living the dream, or simply being part of a wider community of people who they relate too.

This phase is typically done on social media, so make it easy for them to do as soon as they have completed the purchase. It is also done by word of mouth, as the product is incorporated into someone’s daily life. This is where branding is crucial.

Animated videos for this stage need to have a lot of branding, all the way through. They are celebratory and give a sense of belonging. They can be super short too, as their main use is to be shared on social media. For this they need to be eye catching.

6. Long Term Customer Phase

It is four times easier to sell to an existing customer, so stay connected. E-marketing and social media are great for this, but make sure you keep giving value, and have more for them to buy.

Animation here may be similar to the see stage videos. Stories are a great way to get people wanting to watch, they are more memorable, relatable and have emotional content. They also support your customers highest life values.

The interesting thing is that most of the time a customer will filter out the videos and content that they are not ready for. So a customer at ‘see phase’ will not notice a video aimed at ‘decision phase’ and so on. However it is important to also understand that some customers can move rapidly through the process, whereas others can take several months. This depends on both the product and the customer.

At the end of the purchase process customers will feel great!
At the end of the purchase process customers will feel great, so let them share this feeling!

Analyse an example online journey

Map out your customers journey to you. In fact map out your own purchasing process, what gave you the idea to buy something in the first place? Where did you find out about it, what made you want to buy it?

Be completely honest here, because good marketing will make you feel that it was all your idea in the first place, you weren’t influenced by any one and you haven’t been sold to. That is good marketing, you have to get under this, to see what really worked on you. What words, what phrases, what solutions were they offering, what hopes did it give you?

This is one of the very best exercises to help you understand the customer purchase process. Especially if you trace one of your own purchase processes in your own niche.

What is your own online purchase process?
What is your own online purchase process?

Customer Touch Points

As noted before there are on average about 7 touch points for a customer. A touch point is any time the potential customer sees your product or service. This could be an advert on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, a billboard, a flyer, an online blog review, a marketing email, a friend chatting about it. The more memorable the touch points the better, which is why adverts often try to make us laugh, or get angry, or react in any way.

Animation is a great touch point medium, because people tend to watch it. They do this because its more likely to be entertaining and easier to watch.

The first touch point they won’t remember, they may even dislike the product when they first see it. The next touch points also won’t appear to make much impact, but an unconscious feeling of familiarity will start to develop. By about the 5th or 6th touch point they will possibly remember seeing it before, but not necessarily, however what will have happened is that they will feel a deeper feeling of familiarity and this is what will blossom into trust by about the 7th touch point if your contact is indeed offered with integrity.

When you have mapped out some of your own purchase cycles it’s easier to put yourself in your customers shoes. List the touch points that you found in your journey, which ones do you remember? At a push can you now remember seeing this product before but writing it off or forgetting about it?

The most important thing about touch points is to Give Value at each one. Make each touch point as impactful as possible. What kind of value can you give to customers at each point? It’s up to you but here is a list to get you thinking:

  • Little pearls of wisdom (quotes on social media)
  • Make them laugh (funny YouTube videos)
  • Make them feel heard/interesting (leave comments)
  • Make them feel understood (animated stories based on their highest life values)
  • Help them to make something (how to videos)
  • Educate them (free eBook, infographic videos)
  • Inspire them (success or overcoming adversity stories)

Don’t forget to use your analytics and link trackers to make sure you are keeping track of which touch points are getting the most views.

Make each touch point a gift for your customer!
Make each touch point a gift for your customer!

In Summary

Get to know your customer. I mean really, find them and talk to them, spend time with them and study their online habits.

Keep learning about your niche, keep you eye on your competition.

Study the 6 phases of the online purchasing process. What content do you have for each phase of this journey? What additional things do you need to be making?

Analyse one of your own online journeys. What where the touch points for you?

What customer touch points do you have for you customers? Which ones are working best?

I hope this has helped you to understand the online customer purchase process. Please leave your comments below if you have enjoyed this article, if you have anything to add, or if you have any questions.

Thank you.

Lucy Lee


  1. Hi lucy thanks for this very extensive overview of the importance of understanding your client. Yes many people think if they have a product they can just post it online and it will sell. Very little thought goes into trying to understand the customer. When it doesn’t sell they cant understand whats wrong. Anyone that follows your advice on this post will do much better at reaching their customers. Thanks for sharing

    • Thank you Abbas. In fact I would say that blogging is helping me to understand my customer base, and especially when people leave comments, because it shows me what concerns they have and what areas are most important to them. Business is never about product or service, its all about understanding people and helping them to achieve what they are trying to achieve. Thank you for your comment, understanding customers is the first priority of any business. 

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I am getting ready to launch a new campaign and will be using some type of video/animated video to advertise.  This is going to be a tremendous help in developing it.

    I have been thinking only about what “I” want to get out of the presentation and not what my “audience” wants.  I was doing it all wrong.

    I am going back to the drawing board and going to reverse engineer it starting with “who am I targeting”.  Thanks again.

    • Thank you Terry! Yes it’s all about the audience! All forms of animation in fact is always all about the audience. What are the audience getting from this. It took me years (believe it or not) to really understand this! So yes, please go back to the drawing board and start with the audience! Thank you so much for your comment.

  3. Wow Lucy. I learned a ton from this article. I am just now starting my own online business and I am just now realizing how analytical you have to think to do this thing right. I must admit that I am a bit intimidated by how thoroughly you detailed the 6 phases of the customer cycle. Knowing that you need to develop content that addresses customers at all stages of this cycle is going to be a lot of hard work. But I am so glad you broke it all down!

    • Hi Stone, thanks for the comment. Yes there is always so much more to any endeavour than first meets the eye! But you don’t actually have to do everything all at once. That can be overwhelming. For some, its a good strategy to concentrate on the purchase phase for example. When people have already become aware of the solution, and have done their research elsewhere, and are simply looking for the best place to buy. These people will be searching for ‘cheapest place to buy [product name]’ or ‘discount vouchers for [product name]’ and many people develop websites just targeting this stage of the purchase cycle. Later they might start to broaden out to facilitate people in an earlier stage. Just start where it feels easiest for you. Thank you for your comment, glad the article was helpful for you. 

  4. I’m new to the animation end of marketing and this site is very informative for someone like me with no experience at all. For the purpose of reading your other articles about animation I’ve bookmarked this page and I plan to read more as I become better informed about animation marketing. Great information and thanks for posting. 

    • Thank you John, I am so glad that you have book marked this site to help you get started in using animation for marketing. I will be adding many more articles and reviewing products that can absolutely help you to make effective animated marketing videos for your business. Thank you for your letting me know!

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