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The Customer Decision-Making Process: 4 Things You Ought to Know

Kate William

6 min read

In a clothing store, you encounter two distinct kinds of shoppers.

There’s Shopper A, who’s impulsive and picks up random items off the rack to try on as quickly as possible.

Then, you have Shopper B. This individual takes their time and carefully reads through all of the labels before pulling a piece of clothing to try on.

Of these two buyers, who would you say has put the most thought into their purchases? If you are tempted to answer Shopper B, think again! In reality, every customer goes through a detailed process before deciding to purchase. So, here is what you need to know about the customer decision-making process.

Customer Decision-Making Process: Decoded

If you believe that a sale is when consumers hand over their money, we are here to tell you that it’s not true! Yes, the exchange of goods (or services) at this stage is crucial. However, it is only one rung on the mighty ladder of sales and marketing.

Recall your own thought process when you had to buy something: a car, perhaps, or new furniture. You considered your needs, did some research, reviewed your options before taking a call. This is the consumer decision making process, and once you understand it, you can optimize it.

If you are a jigsaw puzzle enthusiast, you know how every piece contributes to the final big picture. Regardless of how small or inconsequential the part may seem, it can complete the larger image if it fits into its place.

The consumer decision-making process, as we shall see, works similarly. What’s more, each stage of the process reveals crucial information about a buyer. How a company understands this process – the bread and butter of all brands – can make or break them. At SurveySparrow, we often use survey forms because they are easy to track, share and compile information.

You can try it for free here.

The Customer Decision-Making Process in 6 Stages

Before we learn how to influence the buying process, we need to understand what it consists of. To make things simple, we have broken it down into 6 individual steps and the actions you need to take. Let’s review.

Customer decision making process in 6 stages: awareness, research, evaluation, decision, review, opinion

1.) Need Recognition (Awareness)

  • Necessity is the mother of invention. So the first step in the consumer decision-making process is need.
  • Almost every purchase decision begins with a need and its recognition.
  • In response to this lack, the customer decides to look for a solution.

Action: Map out when or why your target audience feels this need so that you can address it with your goods and services.

2.) Searching For a Solution (Research)

  • No matter how impulsive your buyer is, they always put thought into choosing their options.
  • These choices are subconsciously fed by their feelings and interactions with brands.
  • What’s more, your buyers set their own standards of comfort, affordability, and other qualities while researching their options.
  • This influences the kind of information they seek.

Action: Understand the channels they use and give access to this information.

3.) Understanding The Alternatives (Evaluation)

  • At this stage, your customers have done their research and decided what they need to fill the gap.
  • They have also made a set of criteria for what they want in the product or service.
  • Using this as a benchmark, they evaluate, mark, and put away every review, ad and marketing material they see.

Action: Customer reviews are your best friend. Put them at the forefront of your landing page, social media and marketing.

importance of getting more reviews customer decision making process

4.) Selecting What’s Best (Decision)

  • Your buyers perform a quick comparison of the options available to them.
  • Which product is within their price range, what qualities appeal to them, which is the more convenient option?
  • These are all questions that you need to address in the first three stages of the process. Once that is done, it’s checkout time!

Action: Optimize your purchase experience so that you don’t lose customers before purchase.

5.) Evaluating The Decision (Review)

  • The customers begin using and evaluating the product.
  • Here, your buyers will  ask questions like these – “Is the product worth the cost?” “Is it something worth recommending to others?” “Will I ever want to purchase this again?”

Action: Reach out to the buyer post-purchase. This increases the likelihood that customers will buy from your brand again.

6.) To Buy or Not to Buy (Opinion)

  • Consider this the Decision after the decision. Here’s where buyers decide to stick with your brand or look for a better option.
  • Based on their experiences, customers will feel compelled to share their opinions about the product.
  • Through this, they can influence other people’s purchase decisions.

Action: Respond to reviews, both positive and negative. With this, you can close the feedback loop and improve your product/service accordingly.

The Customer Decision-Making Process: 4 Steps to Help You Influence It

If you are a fan of theories, we have one for you right here.

According to marketing theory, the advertising campaigns you run for your brand forms the backbone of its image. But how do you know what campaign will be the most effective and when?

Well, we shall let you in on a secret here – it all boils down to the consumer decision-making process. So, tapping into the information behind each of their decisions will help you understand your target’s purchase behavior. Online searches are a huge part of this process, and give your company unique opportunities for conversion strategies at each stage.

To aid you in this mission, we have compiled a few ways to gain insight into your customers’ decision-making processes.

#1. Engage Your Customers From The Get-Go

There is no one a customer trusts more than other buyers like them. So, in the first step of influencing the consumer decision process, shower them with honest reviews of your brand.

As most companies do today, use your websites and social media to showcase user reviews. You can also take it to the next level and be brutally, hilariously honest.

7 simple ways to get more reviews customer decision making process

#2. Ask Them All The Right Questions

Next, deploy the most trusted weapon of marketing – customer feedback surveys. If you have ever been roped into answering such surveys, you may have noticed how many of them appear just drab.

So when it is your turn to ask the questions, make sure you ask the right ones. Here are a couple of tips to make your questions more exciting:

  • Keep them open-ended: If your questions are direct but open-ended, it lets your customers voice their thoughts with more ease. Rather than pigeonholing their ideas, you can let them explore broader avenues.
  • Ask them about their needs: Ever wondered what it would be like if your buyers became your marketing strategists? Surveys can be a treasure trove of ideas for your next campaign, product or even a new business line.

#3. Don’t Stop the Conversations

Let your customers keep a constant tab on what you’re up to. Even something as simple as a product update or a behind-the-scenes can engage them well.

Also, not everything needs to be about the company – just check out this cute release note from Slack!

#4. Be Human

While data drives most purchase decisions, emotions also matter.

Personalized formal and informal conversations can create deeper connections with your buyers. It shows them that there’s more “human” to your brand than they realize. This, in turn, influences the consumer decision-making process.

3 Factors That Affect The Consumer Decision Making Model

As mysterious as the mind may seem, there are three factors that affect the decision-making process for most consumers – including you.

Sociological Factors

Social and cultural factors affect every decision we make. Our friends, our family, our culture,  our generation – all of them can affect our purchase decisions.

Example: Buying a camera. There are plenty of companies that manufacture photography equipment. However, will the buyer choose to buy from the big brand store or will he shop from his cousin’s store just down the street?

Personal Factors

These include factors like age, income, likes and dislikes, and personal style. They can also influence attitudes towards certain products or brands.

Example: Your choice of social network. If you’re a Gen Z or millennial living in the US, you probably don’t care about Facebook. But you can’t ignore it either – because your parents are on it.

To tackle this factor, your brand can do pilot surveys to understand your people better and which of them are likely to buy your product. Then you can weaponize this data to improve your goods and services.

Psychological Factors

Did you know that buying lunch for a client can make you more persuasive? There’s strong evidence that psychological factors, like motivation, perception, beliefs, and emotions, can affect consumer decision making.

Example: Buying a coffee. If you have gone to a Starbucks, you know how good you feel when you get your coffee cup with your name on it.

That’s because as humans, it is hard for buyers to separate emotions from a purchase. So what’s the lesson here? Consistently deliver personalized ‘wow’ experiences for your consumers.

Winding Up

A word to the wise: there is no set path between the first stage of need recognition to the final purchase. However, all of these stages have emotions attached to them.

That’s why it is possible to influence the customer decision-making process through smart conversion campaigns and experience management. With a constant process of feedback,  your brand can work backwards through the process, identify the various forces at play and predict your buyer’s interests – all the knowledge you need for a successful sale!

Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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