Build a better bar by understanding the customer buying process

by OBC Media | Published November 25, 2015

consumer buying processCustomer engagement feels like an art because human beings and their personalities are involved.

But at the end of the day, it’s a science, and we’re lucky to have decades of consistent research results that teach us some tried-and-true facts about how customers make their decisions. Integrate these facts into your day-to-day bar management, and you’ll find yourself getting repeatable and measurable results. Here’s how you should take advantage of technology to help you address the five stages of the consumer buying process.

Stage 1: Need recognition.

The key to using need recognition to influence how you operate your bar is to understand that this need will trigger differently for different people. The space where bars and restaurants have the most competitive edge is their value as a “social need”. If a person simply wants to purchase the food or alcohol available at your bar, there are likely many alternatives for that. But your customer service, decor, atmosphere, and the particular way you assemble ingredients into unique food and drink will give you a competitive edge that make past customers “need” to visit you, and potential new customers want to give you a spin.

Stage 2: Information search.

Speaking of those new customers, the best way for you to become a solution to their need is for you to be “discoverable”. In all the ways people search for bars and restaurant, are you representing yourself. Be attentive to your social media accounts, and make sure you take control of your review profiles. Did someone have a bad experience? Message them publicly an pledge to make amends. When the next person encounters that review, they’ll see your careful management of the situation, and will be more likely to give your establishment a chance.

Stage 3: Alternative evaluation.

Because information is so abundant, you’ll be hard pressed to prevent the people who might choose you from choosing someone else. The best way to win out when potential customers are evaluating alternatives is to make sure you’re promoting all the things that make you unique. Do you have a great craft beer selection and a killer whiskey selection? Be sure to tout both of those attributes in all of your marketing and promotion.

But beware, sometimes you want potential customers to visit their alternatives. Know what you do well, and seek those customers who are more likely to be satisfied with what your serving. Because every interaction can turn into a review – good or bad – pairing yourself with the right customers makes it more likely they’ll be great mouthpieces for attracting a future flock.

Stage 4: Purchase decision

Getting customers through the door is an amazing feat, but what will they buy, and how long will they stay? Being attentive to your presentation – from the order of items in your menu to the hierarchy of bottles on your shelves and the order of your beer taps – can affect your customers’ behavior once they’ve decided to spend some time with you. Always be testing and optimizing to deliver the right presentation and set the price points with the highest perceived value.

Stage 5: Post-purchase behavior

It costs seven times as much to get a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. That means you should be thinking of ways to encourage repeat visits – and increase the lifetime value – of customers who have already been in to see you before. Do this by offering price breaks for their loyalty, delivering customer service that makes them feel special, and connecting with them beyond the bar or restaurant so that you can bring them back into the fold at the most opportune times.


Taking advantage of the customer buying process is easy with the right technology. To learn more about how to apply technology and build a better business, contact us to talk about your goals.