In economics 101 a "consumer" is defined as anyone who purchases services or products for their own personal 'consumption'.
Services and products are for sale, consumers are in the market to buy services and products, so it's just a simple matter of matching the two, right?
In actuality, consumer buying behaviour is a study all on its own.
Here is a simple "three stage" look at the Consumer Buying Cycle.
Determining where a consumer is in the buying cycle means, for you, a better understanding of how to effectively market to them.
For example, if the consumer is early in the cycle they may feel annoyed by too much attention and prefer peaceful browsing to get the information they need.
On the other hand, if a consumer is at the end of the buying cycle and has therefore done the research they know what they want. They are looking for information necessary to complete their purchase.
Of course, this "Consumer Buying Cycle" can also be applied to your online business.
Providing consumers with information in several ways allows them to get the details they need at the appropriate stage.
Awareness – Introduce your product or service by describing the pain point or problem that the customer might need help with or why they may need to purchase this product or service.
Contemplation – Provide detailed information on how your product or service can be a solution to the pain point or problem you introduced. Customer testimonials or customer product reviews are a great way to prove you have the solution.
Action – Provide information that reinforces the consumer's decision to purchase. Easy payment options, accessible hours of operation and customer service, store atmosphere.
A free trial or no-quibble returns are other options to help consumers purchase.
There is another interesting phase you should also consider. Post Purchase Dissonance or Buyer's Remorse. The consumers overall experience, pre, during and post purchase can impact on future transactions.
Reduce buyer's remorse by offering warranties, flexible returns/exchange policies, trial periods, post-sales follow up and accessible customer service options.