As a business owner, you need to familiarise yourself with specific steps your consumers go through before in deciding to buy your product or service. There are five necessary steps in the consumer decision-making process.
You are no doubt used to wearing many hats during your working day. Chief among them is that of the salesperson and marketer.
Periodically, in your roles as the chief salesperson or marketer for your brand, you need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. See your business from your customer’s perspective.
Studying your consumer behaviour is important. The knowledge you derive from studying consumer behaviour will help to make a positive impact on your business.
This article will help you understand the decision-making strategies or decision-making skills your consumers use in the complex task of purchasing your product or service.
What Is Consumer Behaviour?
Anyone who purchases products and services from the market for his/her own personal consumption is called a consumer. According to Business Study Notes, consumer behaviour is about understanding and studying individuals, organisation or groups of people and the process they go through while selecting, securing, using, and consuming a product or a service to satisfy the needs.
What Is Consumer Decision Process?
The consumer decision process refers to the decision-making stages that a consumer undergoes before, during, and after they buy a product or service. We also know it as the buyer decision processes, the buyer’s buyer journey, the buying cycle, buyer funnel, consumer purchase decision process, or buyer decision processes.
Despite how you call it, the vital thing to note here is that the typical customer passes through five decision-making stages or steps in their purchasing cycle.
The decision-making process can be simple or complex depending upon the opinion of a consumer over a particular product or service. Complex decisions may include comparing, evaluating, selecting as well as purchasing from a variety of products or services.
The typical process involves five stages. But researchers and organisations sometimes extend the purchasing process from a five-stage model into a seven-stage model.
So, please do not be surprised if you come across some articles mentioning seven stages rather than five. Regardless, these five processes are usually present in either model.
According to this article, the idea that consumers are always paralysed by an excess of choice is too simplistic – choice overload depends on the type of product or service being purchased.
The above article mentions a study that found that people demanded and preferred more choice when searching for and choosing a hedonistic’ product than they did for utilitarian’ products.
Hedonistic products are nice-to-have items that generate an emotional response and pleasure such as perfumes, designer clothes, jewellery, and sports cars.
As a business owner/marketer, it is your goal to get inside the head of your consumer. You want to figure out how the consumer makes decisions and how you can get them to make a decision to purchase our product or service.
From when your consumer develops a need or a want that they want to be satisfied it is your duty to guide them to satisfy that need or want with your product or service.
As a business owner/marketer, it’s your duty to use marketing-controlled information sources (e.g. radio, online ads, newspaper, television and magazines ads) to help educate your consumers about your product or service.
5 Step Decision-Making Process
The five steps in the consumer decision-making process are:
- Problem Recognition
- Search Process
- Evaluating Alternatives
- Selection Stage
- Evaluation of Decision
The Importance of the Consumer Decision Making Process
According to this article, the consumer buying decision process is a meaningful way to strengthen your company’s sales function. And develop a sales and business development strategy that will continue to keep your pipeline of prospects full.
The same article notes that it will help you understand and refine your customer journey. It provides you with an opportunity to develop evidence-based strategies and make data-driven choices.
The understanding of the above consumer decision-making process is precious for all businesses.
Understanding these stages in your business will help you identify internal stimuli or external stimuli you can use to make your product or service more enticing to your consumers.
According to Research Leap, Therefore, the knowledge of buying behaviour sheds light on the psychology of how consumers think, feel, argument and select among existing alternatives (e.g., brands, products, and retailers).
It also sheds light on how the consumer’s environment (e.g., culture, family, media) influences him/her. How consumer motivation and decision strategies distinct between products.
The same article notes that, from a marketer perspective, it is valuable to know about the consumer decision-making process.
It will help you to target your customers, improve your products or services, and understand how customers view your products versus competitors’ products.
There are two main factors to consider when developing your marketing strategy based on the consumer decision-making process.
Either the consumer knows of your brand and has your brand in mind when about to buy. Or they may have never heard of your brand at all.
These two factors will help you craft your marketing strategy for each stage of the consumer decision-making process.
Now let’s inspect each of these stages one by one. You can take a cue from each of these steps below and change them to suit your marketing efforts and make your customers’ journey a pleasant experience.
According to this article, the problem recognition or need recognition stage is the first and most crucial step.
If a consumer does not perceive a problem or need, they will not move forward with considering a product purchase.
As a smart business owner or marketer, you must always strive to create a “need,” i.e. need recognition in your customer’s mind for your product or service. Your task is to present your brand as the best choice.
Your task as a business owner or marketer is to study the purchase behaviour or buying behaviour of your customers and take advantage of every purchase situation to move your target customers along the buyer’s journey.
Use marketing automation to assist your consumers through every stage of their customer journey. Consumers have short attention spans, so using marketing automation is essential in the need recognition stage and throughout the purchasing decision process.
It is the second step and an essential step. As the name implies, the information search process is the pre-purchase stage where the consumer searches through internal and external sources, both online and offline.
The consumer gathers information on the various products or services available that solves the problem they have recognised in the previous stage.
The Internet and search engines have done a lot to assist consumers in their information search. These days, consumers use the Internet to do their primary research and use Google as their primary research tool.
Therefore, it is the duty of business owners that they do all they can to take advantage of these technologies to create brand awareness for their business online.
According to this article, in this stage, lots of consumers turn to Google since it’s the biggest search engine online that consumers go to by default to search for solutions of their problems.
The same article mentions that in April 2018, Rand Fishkin shared that Google properties own over 90% of all searches.
These statistics emphasise the need for business owners to optimise their content to appear in search results. But it is not enough to appear in search results alone. For optimum results, you need to optimise your content to appear in the top 10 positions of search results.
During the information search stage, the consumer may consider any past and present experiences they or their family, friends or peers might have had with a brand.
The third step. Through the previous step above, the consumer would have identified several alternative products or services that could satisfy their needs.
The next step is the alternative evaluation. The evaluation of alternatives stage is when the consumer takes their time to test all the options available in the market to satisfy their needs.
At this stage, the consumer evaluates their different options based on factors such as price, quality, quantity and value-added features.
They weigh their choices against comparable alternative products, services, or brands in the market.
Every consumer wants to find the best option. They do their best in managing risk by taking their time in evaluating alternatives.
They need to know that they have found the best deal or consumer choice possible to satisfy their needs. This stage is critical for risk management and to help the consumer arrive at the best logical conclusion for their purchase decision.
It is at this stage that the consumer takes the final decision to purchase the product or service. According to Kotler, Keller, Koshy and Jha (2009),  the final purchase decision can be disrupted by two main factors: negative feedback from previous customers and the level of motivation to comply or accept the feedback.
This negative feedback might include things like the word of mouth of previous customers, customer reviews/consumer reviews, the vendor’s reputation, input from family friends, peers, and the warranty duration of the product. It might also include the convenience of the location of the vendor and any time pressure associated with the purchase of the product or service.
Evaluation of Decision
The final step is the post-purchase evaluation stage. It is the final stage which, according to a Business Study Notes article, the consumer tests or analyses the purchased product. They assess the usefulness of the product, satisfaction delivered from the product, and the value of the product concerning the need fulfilment of the consumer.
In the post-purchase evaluation stage, as described here, if a customer discovers that the product/service has matched/exceeded their expectations, they will probably become a brand ambassador/brand evangelist. Influencing other potential customers in their stage 2 of their next customer journey, boosting the chances of a future purchase.Every consumer wants to find the best option. They do their best in managing risk by taking their time in evaluating alternatives. Click To Tweet
The article notes that if the customer finds that the product or service does not match or exceed their expectations, it will cause negative feedback. If this happens in the search process stage, it can halt a potential customer’s journey towards your product or service.
Any post-purchase regrets or experience felt by the consumer for purchasing your product or service is what we call buyers’ remorse or cognitive dissonance.
The study of your consumers’ post-purchase behaviour can go a long way in helping you craft programs that can help you build or improve brand loyalty.
As you can see from the five steps in the consumer decision-making process, our understanding of this process goes a long way in making our sales and marketing effort more productive.
It is worth mentioning that the more expensive the product or service, the more complex the consumer decision-making process becomes. So you need to take this into consideration in your business model.
So there you have it. These are the five steps in the consumer decision-making process. As a business owner, you must create the best experience possible for your targeted consumers. It will help you develop a loyal customer and brand evangelist.
As you have seen, the consumer decision process is complex. Do you need any further clarifications? Do you need someone to help you iron out any kinks in your customer journey? Do you need help to find your target audience in a saturated marketplace? Click here to schedule a meeting with me. I’ll be glad to help.
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