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 Understanding The Customer Decision-Making Process

Kate William

8 min read

In a clothing store that you frequent, one day, 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 and purchase as quickly as possible. 

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

Who would you say, of these two buyers, put the most thought into their purchases? If you are tempted to answer Shopper B, we must ask you to think again! In reality, every average buyer goes through a detailed process of deciding whether to purchase an item. It is then up to a company to understand the customer decision-making process of their target audience. 

We shall see below that there are a few common steps within the decision-making process that a consumer goes through. A company then designs its marketing strategies to address each of these stages. 

Now that we have spilled the beans on this process, are you wondering how to get in on it? If so, stay tuned with us as we delve deeper into a customer’s purchasing decisions! 

What Is The Customer Decision Making Process?

Do you also believe that the only important part of a sale is when consumers hand over their money? If you do, we are here to tell you that this is not entirely true. Yes, the exchange of goods and services that occurs at this stage is quite crucial. However, it is only one rung on the mighty ladder of sales and marketing. 

If you are a jigsaw puzzle enthusiast, you must 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 model, as we shall now see, works similarly. At its surface, this process is quite simple. The buyer’s decision-making journey begins with them understanding that they have a need that must be fulfilled. Then, they go searching far and wide to find the services and goods that will help them satisfy their wants. Finally, they locate their options and choose one that is most likely to please them. This is what they shall then evaluate and purchase. 

How a company understands this process – the bread and butter of all brands – can make or break them. This is why all successful brands have to spend tens of thousands of their revenue on advertisements and events that address each stage of the consumer behavior process.

What’s more, each stage of the decision-making process reveals crucial information about a buyer. In today’s Internet age, every company has multiple channels that let them understand their customers. 

5 Stages of Consumer Decision Making Process

Before we even begin scratching at the surface of how to influence the consumer decision process model, we need to understand what it consists of. To make things more simple for you, we have broken down this process into five individual steps. Let’s have a closer look!  

1. Recognition Of A Need

Someone once said that necessity is the mother of all inventions. This rings true in every human interaction, even the consumer behavior process.

Almost all purchasing decisions begin with the recognition of a problem or a need. In response to this lack, a customer then decides to go looking for an item to buy. So, as a company, if you can map out when or why your target audience feels this need, you can address it with your goods and services. 

2. Searching For A Solution

The second step in the consumer decision-making model is the research stage. No matter how impulsive a buyer is, at least some thought goes into buying an item. Customers may set their standards of comfort, convenience, affordability, and other qualities when searching for what they want or need. Your job as a marketer is to create and sell products that hit these marks. 

3.Understanding The Available Alternatives

At this stage, your customers have done their research and decided what they need to fill the gap they feel. They have now put down a set of criteria to judge the available options in the market. Using this as a benchmark, they will evaluate, mark, and put away every review, advertisement, and marketing campaign they see. 

importance of getting more reviews customer decision making process

4. Selecting What’s Best

Before finally purchasing something, buyers often 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 need to be addressed in the customer decision process. Once that is done, they purchase one of the brands available to them. 

5. Evaluating The Final Decision

Finally, the customers begin using the purchased product and evaluate it. Here, buyers often concern themselves with questions like these – Is the product worth the cost? Is it something worth recommending to others? Will I ever want to purchase this again? And so on. 

A negative experience can lead to them completely forsaking the brand, and positive experiences can turn them into lifelong loyalists.

3 Factors That Affect The Consumer Decision Making Model

The customer mind, like most things in the Universe, is an elusive entity. No feat is as hard as charting a course into the depths of a buyer’s thoughts. Nevertheless, many researchers have tried to study the factors that affect the decision-making process in consumer behavior.

Here, we have made an attempt to list some of them down: 

1. Sociological Conditions 

Since no individual can thrive in a complete vacuum, many social and cultural factors affect every decision we make. The friends we keep, our family structures, the language and culture we grow up with, our generational history are all factors that affect the consumer behavior process.

To illustrate this better, let’s imagine a scenario where a buyer wishes to purchase a camera. There is no lack in the number of companies that manufacture photography equipment. However, it is unlikely that all these brands would get an equal chance to directly reach out to a buyer and establish a trustworthy relationship. So, the buyer turns to the people and culture they trust to find a brand that suits their needs. 

To capitalize on such factors, a company must create a brand image that appeals to individual societies and cultures. This is probably one reason why local brands tend to have higher percentages of trust within a community. 

2. Personal Factors

Although their society and culture may influence a buyer, they can still have personal thoughts and choices. Therefore, buyers may also consider factors like their age, income, likes and dislikes, personality, and more, that affect their choices. 

To address these concerns, your brand can carry out a quick survey that lets you know what kind of people are likely to buy your product. This can then be weaponized to improve upon the features of your goods and services. 

3. Psychological Reasons

Buyers are heavily influenced by factors such as motivation, perception, beliefs, and emotions. As humans, it is hard for buyers to separate emotions from a purchase they make. And so, a brand that capitalizes on its consumer’s emotional stimuli can better influence the customer decision-making process.

Navigating The Customer Decision Process

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 would be effective amongst your target audience? 

Well, we shall let you in on a secret here – it all boils down to the decision making process in consumer behavior. To properly apply the science of marketing, you must first understand the members who make up your audience.

Although they seem too uniform on the outside, how they choose a brand like yours is nuanced. So, tapping into the information behind each of their decisions will help you understand your target audience’s purchasing behaviors. 

You do not always need hardcore data to understand your buyers, although that is a good starting point. Regardless, to aid you in this mission, we have compiled a few ways that will let you gain a deeper appreciation of your customers’ decision making processes.

1. Engage Your Customers From The Get-Go

The best way to improve your customer engagement is through word of mouth. There is no one a customer trusts more than other buyers like them. So in the first step of influencing the consumer decision process model, bombard them with honest reviews of your brand. 

7 simple ways to get more reviews customer decision making process

As most companies do today, this is best achieved through an online presence. So, use your websites and social media pages to let buyers read user reviews. 

2. Ask Them All The Right Questions

Next, deploy the most trusted weapon of marketing – customer feedback surveys. But if you have ever been roped into answering such surveys, you may have noticed how many of them appear too drab. So when it is your turn to ask the questions, make sure you Ask The Right Questions

Here are a few ways you can make your questions more exciting:

#1 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. This can ultimately help you understand the customer decision process of your target audience.

#2 Ask Them About Their Needs

Ever wondered what it would be like to put your consumers at the centre of your marketing strategies? If you have, we have the answer for you! When your marketing revolves around the needs of your buyers, your brand will fare better.

To understand their needs better, you may ask them questions such as these – What are the biggest problems you face? What can be done to alleviate them? What are some issues that you want to find solutions to? What is stopping you from making progress right now? 

By gathering these answers, you shall have discovered a treasure trove of data that helps you build your brand image.

3. Don’t Stop The Conversations Just Yet!

At regular intervals, keep your customers engaged with your brand. You can do this through timely feedback surveys, relevant advertising campaigns, and other methods that quickly respond to changing market trends.

Here’s a customer service questionnaire created using SurveySparrow…

You can sign up for free and start creating such engaging feedback/customer service surveys that can influence the customer decision-making process.

Let’s take the example of the recent debacle at the Suez Canal in Egypt. When the mighty Panamanian cargo vessel, Ever Given, got stuck in the canal for a few days, it hit the headlines in almost all the countries. Jumping on this bandwagon, many brands took the time to design advertisements that referred to these recent global events. 

In doing so, they could keep their brand images relevant and continue conversing with their buyers about their needs. All such interactions with the buyer shall influence their consumer decision process model.

4. Bring In The Big Guns

In the end, we are all governed by our emotions. Having these formal and informal conversations with your buyers establishes a personal connection with them. This, in turn, can affect the decision-making process in consumer behavior. The more you showcase a social and user-friendly side to your brand, the bigger of a household name you shall become. If that does not spell success, then what could? 

Winding Up…

Over the years, it has become increasingly clear that a buyer is far from being a rational entity that makes careful economic decisions. Indeed, it is possible to influence and modify the customer decision-making process through intelligent advertising campaigns and marketing strategies. 

However, this does not mean that an advertisement alone will bag you their attention and business. A company will also need to follow through on the perks and benefits that they promise. This is especially important since user reviews and word-of-mouth advertising remain some of the most crucial marketing forms. 

Continued research into behavioral economics reveals that no set path connects the problem recognition phase to the final purchase. However, it does show that none of these stages is exempt from having emotions attached to them. Therefore, the success in understanding a target audience lies in studying the thoughts and feelings behind their decisions. To do so, a brand must work backwards through the customer decision process and identify the various forces at play. 


Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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