Buyer Decision Process

We all make purchase decisions every day, but have you ever realized that so many processes are involved in making such decisions? The journey we go through before purchasing is the buyer decision process. Sometimes we make a quick decision before buying something, but sometimes we take months to make the right purchase decision. Ever wondered why? In this article, we'll explore the different types of buyer decision processes, the five steps involved in buying decision process and provide real-world examples to help you understand how it all works.

Buyer Decision Process Buyer Decision Process

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Table of contents

    Buyer Decision Process Definition

    The buyer decision process also called the consumer decision process, is a five-step process through which customers decide if they want to make a purchase or not. The steps are need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision, and post-purchase behavior.

    The buyer decision process is a five-step process in which a customer evaluates whether or not to make a purchase.

    It is important to note that the buyer decision process extends beyond the physical purchase.

    Buyer Decision Process in Marketing

    The buying decision process in marketing helps marketers understand the consumer's journey - how and why they made a purchase decision.

    It starts when the consumer recognizes a need for a product and extends until after they have made the purchase.

    Understanding this journey of customers, especially a target segment, is essential for brands to be successful. Marketers must understand and analyze the changes in the buying decision processes of customers as they may gain valuable insight. This might result in them changing marketing campaigns according to the new consumer trends.

    Understanding the buying decision process helps marketers design their marketing campaign to be recognizable and identifiable by customers so that they recall the product in their time of need.

    Five Steps in Buying Decision Process

    There are five steps in the buying decision process. It starts with the pre-purchase stage and ends at the post-purchase stage. The buyer decision process consists of the following steps:

    1. Need recognition

    2. Information search

    3. Evaluation of alternatives

    4. Purchase decision

    5. Post-purchase behavior

    The marketing department must take action to ensure they influence their customers and make a memorable impression.

    Need Recognition Stage

    Need recognition is the first step in the buyer decision process. In this step, the buyer recognizes a need or realizes that a product or service they require is missing. They may recognize this need either through external or internal stimuli.

    Internal stimuli include hunger and thirst, for instance. Marketers do not have much control here, as they cannot induce internal stimuli. The product's marketing must focus on generating an external stimulus through a successful campaign.

    Marketers must create brand awareness through campaigns and ensure that customers recall the brand during a time of need. The brand must be memorable and trustworthy among the target segment.

    Information Search Stage

    Once an internal or external stimulus prompts consumers, they start collecting information about possible solutions from various sources. Consumers also rely on past experiences with brands while making a decision. A brand must successfully provide its customers with all the information they want. Customers should be able to interact with a brand - e.g. leave reviews and comments for future customers.

    Evaluation of Alternatives Stage

    In this step, customers evaluate their options - different companies provide means to meet their needs. Marketers must convince the consumer that their product is superior to competitors'. Consumers compare the available solutions and opt for the best one that fits their situation. This decision may be based on price, additional features, or other product or service factors.

    Purchase Decision Stage

    Once the customer has all the information, they will finally decide to purchase one of the alternatives. Two main factors influence this decision: attitudes and unexpected situational factors.

    Attitudes refer to how consumers are influenced by other consumers' opinions (e.g., through word-of-mouth). If someone whose opinion we value were to speak in favor of a brand, our likeliness of purchasing from that brand will be high.

    Unexpected situational factors refer to unforeseen changes in any factors that may affect consumers' purchase decisions. These may include an unexpected price rise, better product benefits, etc.

    By this stage, marketers must have convinced customers that their product is the best in the market.

    Post-purchase Behavior Stage

    It is wrong to assume that a marketer's job is done once the customer makes a purchase. Knowing if the customer was satisfied or dissatisfied with the purchase is also crucial. The product or service will fail to meet the customer's expectations if the brand promises more than what it can deliver.

    It is vital to ensure that the customer is satisfied with the product's performance, as this is the key to building trust and a loyal customer base for the brand.

    What can impact the (before purchasing) decision-making of a customer?

    There are several factors that can impact a customer's decision-making process before making a purchase, including:

    1. Personal factors: age, gender, income level, lifestyle, and personality.

    2. Psychological factors: motivations, perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes.

    3. Social factors: family, friends, and social networks.

    4. Cultural factors: culture, values, and beliefs.

    5. Marketing factors: price, promotion, and availability, as well as the brand's reputation and image.

    Buyer Decision Process Example

    An example of the buyer decision process will help you understand the concept in more detail. Let us look into the journey of a customer - Samuel - who is planning to buy a laptop.

    1. Problem recognition: Samuel realizes the need for a new laptop when he notices that his current laptop's battery is weak and causing him inconvenience.
    2. Information search: Samuel collects information about various laptop brands by reading specs, reviews, and talking to friends and colleagues.
    3. Evaluation of alternatives: Samuel shortlists a few alternatives and evaluates their pros and cons to make the best logical decision considering other benefits and his budget.
    4. Purchase decision: Samuel may be influenced by people's attitudes and unexpected situational factors while making the final purchase decision.
    5. Post-purchase evaluation: Samuel engages with the brand based on his experience with the product. If the product meets his needs or exceeds expectations, he will be satisfied, but if it falls short, he will be disappointed.

    Types of Buyer Decision Process

    The four main types of buyer decision processes are:

    • Complex buying behavior

    • Variety-seeking buying behavior

    • Dissonance-reducing behavior

    • Habitual buying behavior

    We can understand the types of buyer decision processes with the help of the matrix shown below:

    Buyer decision process Types StudySmarterFigure 2. Types of Buying Behaviour, StudySmarter Originals

    Complex Buying Behavior

    A type of buying behavior where the buyer is highly involved in the process, and the differences between brands are significant. This buying behavior is usually seen when the buyer makes a risky purchase, a purchase that involves a lot of money, or one that will impact their life significantly. In such cases, the buyer will have to research and gather significant information about the brands and products not to make a mistake in the purchase decision stage. Such purchases may be hard to reverse and involves higher than usual risks. Examples include buying a car or a house.

    Variety-Seeking Buying Behavior

    Such buying behavior involves low customer involvement but significant differences in brands. In such cases, customers switch between brands to try out different variations of a product. For example, switching from one brand of chocolate to another.

    Such purchases involve low risks. Consumers do not change brands because they are dissatisfied. They switch to experience variety.

    Other products that fall under this buying category typically include fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) like drinks, ice cream, dish soap, etc.

    Habitual Buying Behavior

    Habitual buying behavior involves few differences in brands and low involvement from the consumer. This buying pattern develops through passive learning.

    Consumers do not evaluate the brand or gather much information about it. Consumers already know the product and therefore are not highly involved in the purchase decision.

    For example, when you buy toothpaste and go back to the store to buy one more, you habitually pick out toothpaste from the same brand.

    Habitual buying behavior is not to be confused with brand loyalty.

    Dissonance-Reducing Buying Behavior

    This buying behavior is characterized by high involvement and low differences in brands, meaning that brands do not have many differences in the varieties they can offer. Therefore, consumers are not very focused on the brand. Consumers will, however, be very involved in the process, as such purchases are costly. One example could be carpeting the floor. Carpet brands do not have many differences regarding the number of features they can offer. They mainly offer differences in the designs and prices of carpets.

    After making the purchase, customers might experience dissonance with the product. This is because they hear about the benefits they might have missed out on from not buying from another brand.

    Dissonance in marketing is the phenomenon whereby a customer's expectations about a product are unmet.

    To avoid this, marketers must have excellent post-purchase services to help customers make sure they have made the right choice.

    The buying decision process is, therefore, the process that displays a customer's journey from before they make a purchase to their post-purchase behavior. Every marketer must thoroughly understand their customers' journey to implement the most effective marketing strategy.

    Buyer Decision Process - Key takeaways

    • The buyer decision process is a five-step process in which a customer evaluates whether or not to make a purchase.
    • The buyer decision process starts when the consumer recognizes a need for a product and extends until after they have made the purchase.
    • The buyer decision process consists of the following steps:
      • Need recognition,

      • Information search,

      • Evaluation of alternatives,

      • Purchase decision,

      • Post-purchase behavior.

    • Types of buyer decision processes:
      • Complex buying behavior

      • Variety-seeking buying behavior

      • Dissonance-reducing behavior

      • Habitual buying behavior

    Frequently Asked Questions about Buyer Decision Process
    1. What are the five stages of buying decision process?

    The buyer decision process consists of the following steps:

    • Need recognition

    • Information search

    • Evaluation of alternatives

    • Purchase decision

    • Post-purchase behaviour

    What is buyer decision process? 

    The buyer decision process also called the consumer decision process, is a five-step process through which customers decide if they want to make a purchase or not. The steps are need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision, and post-purchase behavior.

    Do consumers skip steps in the buyer decision process? 

    Yes, customers sometimes do skip steps in the buyer decision process. Customers might skip the evaluation of alternatives step if they are certain of their purchase choice. Customers can also decide to not purchase an item as a result of which, they will stop at the fourth step of the process - purchase decision. 

    How do business buyers make decisions in the buying process? 

    All purchase decision makers go through the following steps:

    1. Need recognition

    2. Information search

    3. Evaluation of alternatives

    4. Purchase decision

    5. Post-purchase behaviour


    They collect the needed information at every step of the process and decide if they want to move on to the next step or terminate the decision-making process. This will also depend on the customer's involvement and differences in brands.

    How important is research to the buying decision process? 

    Researching the product you plan to buy is a very important step of the purchase decision process. This is because this is the step where start collecting information about the product from various sources. Customers will evaluate the alternatives based on the information they obtain from their research which will ultimately help them make their purchase decision. Therefore, research is very important to make sure the customer makes the right purchase decision.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    The buyer decision process starts with need recognition and stops with the purchasing decision.

    Marketers can influence internal stimuli.

    High involvement and few changes in brands lead to:

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