The 5 Gates Leading to a Purchasing Decision (and How to Open Them)

If you want to make more sales on your website, you need to influence your visitors to make more purchasing decisions with your brand. But before a customer makes a purchasing decision, they must go through a specific sequence of steps, overcoming a key obstacle at each stage of the process. Learning to overcome those stages, throughout the sales funnel, could help you maximize your conversion rate.

Gates of Decision Making

It’s helpful to think of each of these key phases of the decision-making process as gates; at each gate, a customer has a choice to walk through, or abandon the process altogether. Making the gate easy to open, or better yet, opening the gate for a consumer, will greatly increase their chances of following through with the sale.

These are the main gates you’ll need to address:

  1. Understanding the product or service. First, people need to understand what the product or service is. If they don’t understand what you’re selling or why your brand exists, they’re going to leave the site. If they’ve never heard of your service before, they need to first understand how it works and what it’s meant to accomplish. To move past this gate, you’ll need to offer onsite FAQ content or publish offsite work that promotes your service; for example, relatively new ridesharing app Uber offers a help page to explain how its service works to new customers.
  2. Evaluating the need. Next, customers are going to contemplate whether or not they actually need to purchase your product. If they feel the solution isn’t right for them, or aren’t sure whether it’s worth their investment, they may bail from the process. Your best option here is to provide your users with content explaining if and when a solution is right for them. For example, Mr. Rooter offers a page explaining to customers when it’s appropriate to call a plumber.
  3. Reviewing the price and competition. Once a customer decides they need or want a product, they’ll begin the research phase, hunting around for the best price, evaluating whether that price fits within their budget, and looking at the competition. You have a few options here, including offering detailed information on your competitors, and offering discounts and promotions that make your products more affordable. For example, Semper Solaris offers customers a list of subsidies and incentives available to purchasers of solar panels.
  4. Trusting the brand. Just because you’re offering a decent-looking product at a fair price doesn’t mean customers are going to trust you. For established brands, this isn’t much of a problem, but new online stores face the burden of creating that trust from scratch. You can do this by offering honest reviews from real customers, speaking to your brand’s high-quality standards, and/or guaranteeing the final quality of your work. For example, though the brand emerged before online sales were popular, Craftsman tools are well-known for their lifetime warranty on all their products.
  5. Questioning the timing. If customers trust your brand, know they want your products, and are willing to pay for them, the final gate to overcome is one of timing; if left to their own devices, customers may procrastinate making the final decision, and may delay their purchase indefinitely. The best way to overcome this is instilling a sense of urgency in your customers with temporary deals or discounts, or by convincing your audience that they have to act now. For example, Amazon’s Gold Box deals are always temporary, pressuring customers to make a decision now, rather than later.

Continued Optimization

If you want to keep increasing your conversion rate, you can’t settle for your first batch of onsite changes. Rely on user behavior analytics and similar tools to track how your customers are engaging with your content, and where they’re abandoning the process; if you see one gate holding up a disproportionate volume of your traffic, you know where to focus your next changes. There’s always more to learn about your customers, and always opportunities for more changes, so don’t let complacency make your online sales growth turn stagnant.