In the contemporary world, free access to a large amount of information transformed customers from passive buyers to active consumers searching for the best ways of satisfying their needs. Therefore, social media have become a significant factor influencing customers’ choices since these technologies supply people with relevant data throughout the entire decision-making process. This paper will analyze how social media affect customers at each stage of their path to purchase by the example of people deciding to go on vacation.
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The customer decision journey consists of five steps: information gathering, consideration set, preference, purchase, and post-purchase. At the first stage, a person realizes his or her need and starts to search for the existing ways of satisfying it. As for people planning to go on vacation, social media may be the cause of their emerged want. They are exposed to such incentives as their friends’ photographs in social networks or blog content related to traveling (Fotis, 2015).
Social media have also changed the way people search for the available options. Before the era of the internet, customers used to consult official travel guides, but now the main sources of information are “TripAdvisor … followed by Facebook, and Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter” (Varkaris & Neuhofer, 2017, p. 8). Thus, social media play the most significant role at the stage of information gathering.
After searching for the available options, customers come up with a consideration set. At this stage, they continue to look through social media to find evidence that will confirm or disapprove of their choices. As for people planning a vacation, they may search for other customers’ reviews of travel destinations, hotels, and transport companies. The news distributed on social media concerning the political or economic situation in the country of destination may also influence the consumers’ decisions.
After studying all the options in the consideration set, customers decide on the best-suited variant. At this stage, which is called preference, people deciding to go on a holiday start planning their exact itinerary. This step transitions to the next one, purchase, during which customers book tickets and prepare for the future trip. According to Fortis (2015), people often use social media to share the news about their choice “to show-off, to express feelings and emotions, to seek utility, or simply for fun” (p. 278). Thus, at the stages of preference and purchase, social media also influence people.
The final stage is post-purchase, during which customers evaluate their experience and share their opinion with others. Again, social media give an excellent opportunity to write a personal review of goods or services, which then will influence other people’s choices. Regarding people returning from their vacation, they are likely to post pictures from their holiday and share their impressions with their friends. If the travel experience was negative, reporting it on social media may be regarded as compensation for the customers’ expectations that were not met.
In conclusion, it should be said that social media have a significant influence on people during their decision-making process. They affect customers’ behavior at all stages of the customer decision journey. Social media also serve as a platform for sharing the experience after a purchase, which should be taken into consideration by goods producers and service providers. Reviews of other people nowadays mean more than companies’ advertisements, so it is crucial to be aware of the reputation of the organization in social media.
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Fotis, J. N. (2015). The Use of social media and its impacts on consumer behaviour: the context of holiday travel. Web.
Varkaris, E., & Neuhofer, B. (2017). The influence of social media on the consumers’ hotel decision journey. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology, 8(1), 101-118.