Understanding the consumer decision-making process

The psychology behind the buying process

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Ben Alfrey

The decision making process that consumers go through has altered dramatically, with many more factors now influencing the ultimate decision that is made.

Consumers can now research product reviews, compare products and conduct deeper research more than ever since the inception (and subsequent evolution) of the internet. This has adapted further with the adoption of smartphones and these decisions are now being made on the move. As more B2B customers are under further pressure to make the right decisions for their company, understanding this process has never been more important.

Communigator shows us the seven stages in the consumer decision making process using the infographic below:

Consumer buying process

1. Need identification

The first step of the sales process is the consumer recognising that they have a need for a product or service. Today, there is a wealth of options that companies can choose from to facilitate this stage of the process.

This will often be caused by internal stimulus that triggers them to need the products, but more often than not you can help them identify their need and explain how they can meet it. This action is best taken towards a specific target audience. This is a key step in the marketing process and after this happens, the customer can then go on the buy the product.

2. Information gathering

Once the consumer has identified what they require, they can begin gathering information about relevant products or services. They will begin to gather information about a product or service to meet any predetermined criteria. There are many ways that consumers gather this type of information, including seeking out advertising material or potentially speaking to trusted people for recommendations.

3. Assess the alternatives

A consumer may evaluate different options and weigh the pros and cons of each after gathering the required information. The more important the decision, the more time spent in this stage. The consumer needs confidence that the decision they are making is both well informed and correct.

In the past, consumers have had to go to a physical storefront to discuss the products with staff, but now they go online almost instantly to view their options. In a sea of competitors, one way to stand out is to keep the consumer's attention. Know that they are going to be researching different products and services. Offer a web-page on your site that helps the customer look at the alternatives. This will establish credibility in your niche.

4. Going through the evidence

It is then time for the consumer to evaluate the evidence and determine which choice is the right one for them. Potential customers will always care about value, in spite of an option potentially costing more than they had budgeted for.

Some customers will look at review sites to determine which company has the best reputation among its customers. Marketers should be aware that excellent service and attentive customer engagement can prevent negative reviews.

5. Making a choice

Before this step, the customer has already evaluated many options concerning which product they are going to pick. This moment is crucial in the buyer's decision-making journey.

Marketers must realize that usually there are several people involved in the purchasing process.

Studies show that in the average buying process, there are 7 people involved!

81% of those people are going to be below the level of executive in their business. Marketing companies should target their advertising and sales energies towards mid-level workers.

6. Conversion

This is the point in the process where the customer actually purchases the product. Although it looks like this is a simple step, there are many things that could throw off the process – from any of the past steps on their purchasing journey. The potential customer could still pull out at any time and so marketers must make the buying process simple.

7. Reviewing the Decision

Marketers can relax a little more easily when this stage comes round, assuming they’re confident in the product or service that they’ve just sold. The sale has been completed and the team should go over what happened during the conversion process. This will help assess any potential shortcomings or issues along the way that can be ironed out for future prospects.

The customer purchasing process is an important process that is influenced by many things. Nowadays, consumers are heading online in much greater numbers to research and finally buy. Knowing the steps they take to make informed decisions, your marketing team can be with them every step of the way.

For a more comprehensive look at each stage of the buying process in a more visually-appealing format, click here and you can take a deeper look at the statistics behind such processes, providing you with a valuable insight into consumer purchasing behavior.