The final purchase of any product only reflects a small part of the process that is involved in the buying decision by the user. The consumer buying decision process describes the series of events that occur before and after the consumer purchases a product or service. This process is part of the consumer buying behavior that defines the preferences, attitudes and decisions of the consumer in the marketplace. Each stage plays a role as a crucial determinant of the final purchase decision (Solomon, 2011). In this regard, this essay will identify the consumer buying decision process and its role in determining the success of marketers.
The recognition of the problem (need) is the most important step in the buying process. This occurs when there is a gap between the situation the consumer is in and the desired position, for example, a thirsty person who wishes to feel less dehydrated. It is important to note that not all needs that are identified in this stage will end up as a purchase. The consumer will pick the need when the gap is perceived as being vital (Perner, 2016).
According to Solomon (2011), the difference between the actual and desired situation occurs as a result of three cases. First, the current situation has stagnated whereas the ideal situation has been altered. Second, the ideal situation has stagnated, but the actual situation has changed over some time. Furthermore, there can occur cases where both the actual and ideal situations have changed. The need can be stimulated by either an internal or external stimuli. An internal stimulus is a psychological need such as hunger that is directly felt by the consumer. An external stimulus occurs as a result of exposure to an external factor such as advertising.
Once the need has been identified, the consumer will seek information on the various means through which they can satisfy their need. The amount of information that the user will find will largely depend on the complexity of the buying decision that he has to make – buying a watch requires less information when compared to the purchase of a car. There are two types of information that will guide the judgment of the consumer during this process – internal and external information (Ratneshwar, Mick & Huffman, 2003).
Internal information is the data that the consumer already has. This can be from experience with the product or the opinion they have created the brand. Such type of information will suffice for the purchase of cheaper and fast moving consumer goods such as food. On the other hand, external information is received from family, friends, official sources, the press and other customers. Ultimately, the consumer will pay more attention to his internal information and the feedback they received from family, friends, and other buyers.
With the information collected, the consumer will start evaluating the alternatives that are available to him. This will allow the consumer to pick the most suitable product that is in line with his needs. During the evaluation, the user takes into account various aspects. This includes the objective characteristics of the productive (the functionality and features) and the personal (brand) aspect too. In every market, each consumer attributes a different level of importance to each feature. This plays a hand in the final difference in the final consumer decision (Perner, 2016).
Ultimately, the consumer will recollect the information that they collected along with their brand perception to evaluate all the features, to rank eventually the alternatives with are more likely to satisfy their needs.
In the final evaluation of alternatives, the consumer will subconsciously come up with an evoked/consideration set (Lee, 2011). This is a collection of products which are most likely to be purchased. The consideration set is created in tandem with an inept set. The latter is a collection of products that are least likely to be purchased. This is probably due to having a poor perception of the brand or due to an unfortunate experience. The third is a set of inert brands which the consumer has no specific opinion about is created for reconsideration if the chance arises (Perner, 2016).
The solutions that the consumer selects during this stage will also vary. The variations occur depending on the impotance of the purchase to the consumer or their level of involvement. For everyday purchases consumers usually have fewer solutions under consideration. The products in each category also varies depending on the disposable income of the particular consumer.
The consumer will arrive at their final purchase decision once they have evaluated all the available and appropriate solutions to their problem. The final decision will be tied to the information that the consumer had collected, the product features, and the perceived value based on what the consumer believes to be the most important (Solomon, 2011).
However, according to Perner (2016), it is also important to note that in the marketplace other external factors will come into play. This are factors that are not directly tied to the solutions provided by the products. This includes factors such as the preferred shopping platform of the customer, availability of promotions among competing retailers, past shopping experience, and the terms and conditions of sale across retailers. It is not uncommon for consumers to change their prefferd solution due to a poor past shopping experience with the retailer selling the product.
After purchasing the product the consumer, over time, will do an evaluation. This evaluation will be based on the original need that the consumer identified in the first stage. In the end the consumer will create a perception based on whether they believe they made the right decision making the purchase. The consumer will develop a sense of satisfaction or dissatisfaction according to how well the product or service satisfied their needs (Ozer & Gultekin, 2015).
This experience will influence the future decisions made by the consumer during the similar buying processes. In case the consumer has a positive experience they will minimize the number of solutions that they consider during information search and the evaluation of alternatives. It is at this stage that consumer brand loyalty is generated. If the consumer is alternatively dissatisfied with the product, they are likely to include the product in the evoked set during their preceding evaluations (Solomon, 2011).
This stage is especially important for marketers dealing with products that require less involvement. Consumers also tend to share information with others who are conducting their information search. It is now easier for consumers to share their brand perception online making this an increasingly crucial consumer decision for marketers. After sales services are also put into consideration by customers across many industries (Ozer & Gultekin, 2015).
Factors that Influence the Decision Making Process
The type of decision in the decision-making process
Depending on past experience and knowledge some consumers may be able to make quick or slow decisions on the product that is most suited to solve their needs. In this case, the level of involvement describes the amount of information that a consumer may require before making a purchase decision or the importance of the need. It is more common to find a high level of involvement among people who are making a first purchase as opposed to a person who is buying a replacement (Solomon, 2011).
When I was looking to purchase a replacement laptop recently I realized that I had a much easier time making a decision as opposed to a close relative. This was due to a number of factors that came into play. I have had numerous past experiences with making similar purchases in the past as opposed to the relative who was making their first laptop purchase. I had more information than them on the particular matter and I was able to provide them with a lot of information during their search for information. Additionally, I was only interested in buying a laptop to handle a few minor tasks whereas the close relative was looking for a laptop to use in their new photography business. Their level was involvement was higher than mine.
Motivation and values
Motivation is the processes that lead to the behavior of people under various circumstances. In the buying process, this occurs when the consumer identifies that they have a need that they have to satisfy. This can be a utilitarian or hedonic need. Motivation can be described by the strength of the pull that it exerts on the consumer or the way in which the consumer will attempt to reduce the tension that the need has on them (Ozer & Gultekin, 2015).
Whenever I am looking to purchase a clothing item I tend to prefer items that can satisfy as many needs as possible. It should serve more than an aesthetic purpose and I am more motivated to buy clothing items that are functional as well. Furthermore, I avoid purchasing such items from manufacturers that have had any past links to child labor due to my strong beliefs on that subject. This is not related to the quality of the service the product will provide me, but a restraint I placed due to my values.
The power of attitudes
The attitude of a consumer describes the feelings and beliefs that they associate with a certain brand or company. The attitude of a consumer has an onerous effect on how they will react to the presentation of the brand as an alternative during their buying process. According to Ratneshwar, Mick and Huffman (2003), the attitude of a consumer is increasingly becoming the most important factor that most consumers put into consideration. This is especially true for products that require low involvement from the consumers.
When I eat out, I always ensure that I make all my purchases from trusted brands with no past safety issues. Food safety is a very delicate issue. Trusted and popular brands tend to have the best safety records, are more concerned with the materials and the processes that are involved in the production and preparation of the food. In this regard, I prefer to eat in a few selected places that I believe are the best for me and with the highest safety standards. This is because of the attitude that I have created around certain brands.
The type of message
The type of message that the brand sends plays an important role in the final consumer buying decision. The consumer will take into account the message that they believe the brand is sending. Certain products such as luxury items are purchased with the intentions of sending out a certain message. Consumers purchase products that go in line with their lifestyle and general outlook (Lee, 2011).
I attempt as much as possible to use recycled products to show people the importance of conserving the environment. As a result I prefer to buy items to manufacturers that show that they are aware of the importance of taking care of the environment. In case I am comparing two products that will provide me with a similar solution, I will take into account the brands approach to environmental conservation.
Issues related to purchase and Post-purchase activities
The experience that the consumer goes through during and after purchase with a certain product will influence their likelihood of using the same product to fulfil a similar need in the future. In this case a satisfactory product experience will eliminate the need for any unnecessary checks for alternatives and information by the consumer when faced by a similar problem in the future. Furthermore, the consumer will be able to use this information to influence the purchase decisions of other consumers during their information search (Ozer & Gultekin, 2015).
In the past, I have a very pleasant experience using Apple devices and I usually prioritize their products whenever I want to purchase similar devices. This is after buying a laptop manufactured by them that I used for years without experiencing any major issue. This created brand loyalty that leads me to associate good quality with the company.
The family and culture
The buying decision of consumers is always influenced by social factors such as the family and culture. Impulse buying is a significant aspect of shopping in the United States. According to Lee & Kacen (2008), factors such as the mood of the consumer and the presence of others has an influence on impulsiveness. Furthermore, the trait of being impulsive depends is largely influenced by family and culture influences the situational factors.
Growing up I was taught to become less impulsive due to family influence. I put a lot of consideration and thought before making even the purchases that require a very low level of involvement. I am now very unlikely to make impulse purchases because of my strict adherence to a shopping pre-planned shopping list. For most other consumers, it is not an uncommon practice to make impulse purchases.
To conclude, the final purchase of a product is only one part of a much broader and complex consumer buying decision process. The consumer buying process is very important for every brand. The typical consumer usually goes a series of events before and after the purchase of a service or a produce. The five stages involved in the consumer buying process is the problem recognition, information search, alternative evaluation, purchase and the post-purchase behavior. It is important to note that each stage in the process will defer across different consumers and also across different product purchases.
Lee, J., & Kacen, J. (2008). Cultural influences on consumer satisfaction with impulse and planned purchase decisions. Journal Of Business Research,61(3), 265-272. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2007.06.006
Lee, P. (2011). The Effect of the Country-of-Origin Image, Product Knowledge and Product Involvement on Consumer Purchase Decisions. CBR, 10(08). http://dx.doi.org/10.17265/1537-1506/2011.08.004
Ozer, L., & Gultekin, B. (2015). Pre- and post-purchase stage in impulse buying: The role of mood and satisfaction. Journal Of Retailing And Consumer Services, 22, 71-76. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2014.10.004
Perner, L. (2016). Consumer Behavior: The Psychology of Marketing.Consumerpsychologist.com. Retrieved 25 March 2016, from http://www.consumerpsychologist.com/
Ratneshwar, S., Mick, D., & Huffman, C. (2003). The why of consumption. London: Routledge.
Solomon, M. (2011). Consumer behavior (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.