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Helping the buyer to buy

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By Senior Lecturer Alan Charlesworth, Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism

One of the most significant developments the internet has brought to marketing is to give impetus to marketers' objectives, shifting from helping the seller to sell to helping the buyer to buy. Prior to the internet, manufacturers helped retails to sell products. They built brands. They advertised on mass media platforms. They provided point-of-sale promotional material. Buyers would see the adverts, recognise the brands – and go to retailers to make a purchase… their final decision being ‘guided’ by the salesperson who may well have earned a commission for that advice.

Credits cards and a wallet

The internet changed that… though some companies were slow to realise it. Perhaps some still haven’t? 

21st Century consumers don’t expect manufacturers and retailers to do them the favour of selling them whatever products they have to sell. Modern consumers want to choose the products that are best for them – not have that choice made for them by the sellers. They expect to be facilitated in their shopping (some might say ‘research’) for the product that best meets their wants and needs.

They expect the product that will meet their needs to appear at the top of search engine results pages (SERPS). They expect to see personalised advertising for that product. They expect that sellers provide information on the product: how it works, how to use it… but not sales patter – genuine information. They expect that retailers will offer the best deal – and price comparison sites that encourage retailers to stay on their toes with regard to competitive prices. 

However, the biggest aspect of this phenomenon has nothing to do with the marketers. It comes from the buyers themselves. It is what is referred to as ‘consumer generated content’. It is what buyers have to say about their purchases – predominantly on review sites and social media platforms of all kinds.

The best marketers embraced this 360 degree shift. They provide information. They encourage reviews. They also – and maybe this is the consumers biggest gain from this whole internet malarkey – improved their products (particularly services) to ensure excellent consumer reviews. 

Apart from the retailer who could not care less about their customers, it’s a win-win situation for buyers and sellers.

A male doing online shopping at a laptop

Footnote: I have record of me referring to 'helping the buyer to buy' going back to the late 1990s. I'm not a particularly original kind of thinker – I'm sure I didn't invent the concept. But where did I get the phrase from? An online search shows the phrase is not commonly used (and the oldest reference is 2004. That it is not popular on the web suggests it pre-dates the internet – maybe I picked it up in my sales days? It is a salesy-kind-of-notion. 

I’ll end by saying that I really do believe in the notion of helping the buyer to buy. If the marketer makes available everything the customer needs to make an informed purchase decision, then if they decide to buy your product, they are more likely to be satisfied by that purchase. Hmmm – perhaps I did invent the phrase after all? 

Alan Charlesworth is a Senior Lecturer and has been involved in what is now referred to as digital marketing as a practitioner, consultant, writer, trainer and educator since 1996. Alan also writes about and consults on the phenomenon commonly known as the Digital Transformation, a subject that transcends marketing into all aspects of business and management. Read more about his teaching and research interests and studying Business and Management at the University of Sunderland.   

Published: 12 October 2018