As a business owner, you need to familiarise yourself with the 5 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 to see your business from your customer’s perspective. It will help you make more of an impact on your business. In other words, you must study your consumers’ behaviour.
What is consumer behaviour?
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 are called Consumer Behavior.
Whether you call it buyer journey, buying cycle, buyer funnel, consumer purchase decision process or any other terminology, the vital thing to note here is that the typical customer passes through five decision-making stages or steps in their purchasing cycle.
The five process model can sometimes be extended to seven process model by some researchers and organisations. So please do not be surprised if you come across some articles mentioning seven stages rather than five. Regardless, these five processes below are usually present in either model.
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 as well as 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 providing 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 several things you can do to make your product or service more enticing to your consumers.
According to Research Leap, Therefore, the knowledge of buying behaviour sheds the light on the psychology of how consumers think, feel, argument and select among existing alternatives (e.g., brands, products, and retailers), also how the consumer’s environment (e.g., culture, family, media) influences him/her, additionally, how consumer motivation and decision strategies distinct between products.
The same article goes on to note that, from a marketer perspective, it is valuable to know about the consumer decision-making process to effectively target customers, improve products and services of a company, and understand how customers view products versus competitors’ products.
There are two main factors to consider when developing your marketing strategy based on the consumer decision-making process. It’s either the consumer is already aware of your brand and therefore has your brand in mind when they are about to make a purchase, or on the other hand, it’s possible that they 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 take a close look at each of these stages one by one. You can take a cue from each of these steps below and modify them to suit your marketing efforts and make your customers’ journey a pleasant experience.
According to this article, the problem recognition stage is often recognised as the first and most crucial step in the process because if a consumer does not perceive a problem or need, they generally will not move forward with considering a product purchase.
As a smart business owner or marketer, you must always strive to create a ‘need’ in your customer’s mind for your product or service. You must introduce a marketing automation process to assist your consumers through every stage of their customer journey.
As the name implies, the 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 is a suitable solution to the problem they have recognised in the previous stage.
The arrival of the internet and search engines have done a lot to assist consumers in their information search. 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.
At this stage, the consumer may consider any past and present experiences they or their family, friends or peers might have had with a brand.
Through the previous search process above, the consumer would have identified several alternative products or services that can satisfy their needs.
The next step according to this article is alternative evaluation. The evaluation of alternatives stage is when the consumer takes their time to evaluate all the options available in the market to satisfy their need. At this stage, the consumer evaluates their different options based on factors such as price, quality, quantity, value-added features, and so on. 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 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 decides 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 other customers and the level of motivation to comply or accept the feedback.
This negative feedback might include things like the vendor’s reputation, input from family friends, peers, the warranty duration of the product and the convenience of the location of the vendor and any time pressure that may be associated with the purchase of the product or service.
Evaluation of Decision
It is the final stage which according to a Business Study Notes article, the consumer evaluates or analysis the purchased product, the usefulness of the product, satisfaction delivered from the product, the value of the product concerning the need fulfilment of the consumer.
In the evaluation stage as described here, if a customer discovers that the product or service has matched or exceeded the promises made and their expectations they will likely become a brand ambassador or 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 goes on to note that if the customer finds that the product or service did not match or exceed the promise made and their expectations, it will result in negative feedback which, if inserted at the search process stage above, 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 known as 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 our consideration of the above 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 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 customers’ journey. It will help you develop loyal customer and brand evangelists.
Do you need any further clarifications? Do you need someone to help you iron out any kinks in your customer journey? Click here to schedule a meeting with me. I’ll be glad to help.
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