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

Kate Williams

Last Updated:  

30 May 2024

9 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 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! 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.

What is Customer Decision-Making Process?

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, exchanging goods (or services) at this stage is crucial. However, it is only one rung on the mighty ladder of sales and marketing.

Recall your thought process when buying a car, perhaps, or new furniture. You considered your needs, researched, and reviewed your options before taking a call. This is the consumer decision-making process; 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. Moreover, 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 make tracking, sharing, and compiling information easy.

You can try it for free here.

6 Steps in Customer Decision-Making Process

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 six 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 needed.
  • Almost every purchase decision begins with a need and its recognition.
  • In response to this lack, the customer looks 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.
  • Their feelings and interactions with brands subconsciously feed these choices.
  • Moreover, your buyers set their 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 researched 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, and which is the more convenient option?
  • You need to address these questions in the first three stages of the process. Once that is done, it’s checkout time!

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

5.) Evaluating The Decision (Review)

  • The customers begin using and evaluating the product.
  • 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 form the backbone of its image. But how do you know what campaign will be the most effective and when?

We shall tell you a secret here – it all boils down to the consumer decision-making process. So, tapping into the information behind 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.

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

#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 appear drab.

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

  • Keep them open-ended: If your questions are direct but open-ended, it lets your customers voice their thoughts more easily. Rather than pigeonholing their ideas, you can let them explore broader avenues.
  • Ask them about their needs: Have you 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 – 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 Process

As mysterious as the mind may seem, three factors 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 buy from the big brand store, or will he shop from his cousin’s store just down the street?

Personal Factors

These include 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 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.

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.

Importance of Customer Journey Map in the Decision-Making Process

The Customer Journey Map is a vital tool in understanding and enhancing the customer decision-making process, and platforms like SurveySparrow can play a crucial role in developing and refining this map. Here’s why:

  1. Visualizing Customer Experience: It helps map out every interaction customers have with your brand, which is crucial for influencing their decisions.
  2. Finding Pain Points: SurveySparrow helps identify where customers face issues, allowing you to improve these areas.
  3. Personalized Strategies: It aids in creating tailored marketing and sales tactics based on customer feedback.
  4. Boosting Customer Retention: Continuously collect feedback to enhance aspects critical for keeping customers satisfied.
  5. Guiding Product/Service Development: Use insights to align your offerings with customers’ needs and wants.
  6. Making Better Decisions: A clear view of the customer journey leads to more customer-focused business decisions.

Tools to Use to Better Understand the Customer

  1. Customer Surveys and Feedback Forms: These are direct ways to gather information about customer preferences, experiences, and expectations. Tools like Google Forms make designing and distributing surveys easy.
  2. Social Media Monitoring: Platforms like Hootsuite or Sprout Social enable businesses to track what customers say about them on social media. This helps in understanding customer sentiment and identifying trends.
  3. Analytics Tools: Tools like Google Analytics provide insights into website customer behavior, such as pages visited, time spent, and conversion rates. This data is crucial for understanding what attracts and retains customers.
  4. CRM Software: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems like Salesforce or HubSpot help track customer interactions, manage customer information, and analyze customer data to understand buying patterns and preferences.
  5. Market Research Tools: Platforms like Nielsen and Statista offer market research data to help businesses understand broader market trends and customer demographics.
  6. User Experience (UX) Tools: Tools like Hotjar or Crazy Egg allow businesses to see how users interact with their websites. This helps in optimizing the website design for a better customer experience.
  7. Email Marketing Tools: Services like Mailchimp or Constant Contact can be used to send targeted emails to different customer segments, and their analytics can provide insights into customer engagement.
  8. Focus Groups: Conducting focus groups can provide qualitative insights into customer attitudes, beliefs, and desires, which might not be apparent through quantitative methods.
  9. Net Promoter Score (NPS): This tool measures customer loyalty and strongly predicts business growth. It’s simple and provides direct feedback on customer satisfaction.
  10. Competitive Analysis Tools: Understanding your competitors through tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs can also provide insights into what customers in your market are seeking.

Each of these tools serves a different purpose, and the choice depends on the specific needs and goals of the business. Combining several approaches often yields the best results in understanding and satisfying customer needs.

How can SurveySparrow Help Create a Good Customer Journey Map

SurveySparrow can significantly aid in creating a robust customer journey map by leveraging its comprehensive suite of survey and feedback tools. Here’s how SurveySparrow can help:


  1. Collecting Customer Feedback: SurveySparrow allows you to design and distribute various types of surveys (e.g., NPS, CSAT, CES) across multiple channels (email, web, social media). This capability helps gather detailed feedback at different touchpoints along the customer journey, providing insights into customer needs, preferences, pain points, and satisfaction levels.
  2. Segmentation and Personalization: The platform supports advanced segmentation, enabling you to categorize responses based on demographics, customer behavior, and other criteria. This segmentation can help identify distinct customer personas and tailor the journey map to different audience segments, ensuring more personalized experiences.
  3. Engagement Analytics: With SurveySparrow, you get access to real-time analytics and reporting features. These tools help analyze customer engagement and feedback, identifying trends and patterns that can inform adjustments to the customer journey map. Understanding how customers interact with your brand across various stages allows for more effective journey optimization.
  4. Automated Workflows: Automation features in SurveySparrow can trigger specific actions based on survey responses. This functionality can be used to automatically address customer issues, gather more information, or guide customers through different stages of their journey, improving the overall experience and satisfaction.
  5. Integration Capabilities: SurveySparrow integrates with CRM, marketing, and sales software. This integration allows for seamless data flow and a unified view of the customer journey across all touchpoints. By linking feedback directly to customer records, businesses can create a more cohesive and detailed customer journey map.
  6. Interactive and Engaging Surveys: The platform’s ability to create highly engaging and interactive surveys increases response rates, ensuring that you collect more comprehensive data. Engaging surveys can capture more nuanced feedback, enriching the customer journey map with deeper insights.

A word to the wise: there is no set path between the first need recognition stage and 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 brilliant conversion campaigns and experience management. With a constant process of feedback,  your brand can work backward 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 Williams

Product Marketing Manager at SurveySparrow

Excels in empowering visionary companies through storytelling and strategic go-to-market planning. With extensive experience in product marketing and customer experience management, she is an accomplished author, podcast host, and mentor, sharing her expertise across diverse platforms and audiences.

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