Why Does the Consumer Decision Making Process Matter to Your Business?

Posted on January 21, 2022 | Updated on January 17, 2024

The consumer decision-making process determines whether or not someone purchases something from you. Whether you’re a startup, a mid-sized business, or a marketing professional, it is crucial to your success. 

The consumer decision-making process is complex. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) leads to new expectations from buyers. Companies are under increased pressure to understand the customers and buying behaviors.

Around 61% of customers say the product’s quality will drive their purchases in 2024. However, another 18% state they consider whether buying the item does anything good for society. Knowing at what point people relate to a brand’s message helps companies know what to say and when to say it.

What Is the Consumer Decision Making Process?

The consumer decision-making process involves five stages a person goes through when deciding whether to buy a product or service. 

Stage 1: Recognition

This is the most important stage of the buying process. Every sale starts with the customer becoming aware of their need for a product or service. Many companies have numerous options for facilitating this stage of the process. The key to taking this action is creating a specific target audience and addressing them with your goods and services. Sometimes, it is because marketing influences them. Other times, internal motivations — feelings like hunger, impulse, or a fear of missing out — cause it to happen.

Companies must understand which pain points drive people to seek a solution. What are the emotions behind the problem? For example, someone who wants to buy a new car may have a problem with their current car breaking down all the time. However, the emotion behind their need is fear of being late to work and losing their job or feeling unsafe when broken down.

Stage 2: Research

The research stage happens when someone searches for information on what they want to purchase. People rarely skip this step. Approximately 63% of consumers research their options online before making a decision. Once they find all available options, they look for testimonials, reviews, comments, social media posts, and product tests. 

Typically, their choices are fed subconsciously by their feelings and interactions with brands. Your buyers will set their standards on comfort, certain qualities and affordability while researching their options. Understand the channels they use and publish information–so they can learn about your brand’s products and services.

Stage 3: Comparison

At this stage, the consumer is aware of the different solutions available and begins collecting information on how to solve their needs best. They’ll evaluate the different alternatives. This stage is more prominent for those who sell online. After all, 82% of e-commerce customers compare product prices before making a purchase. They look at quality, features, costs, availability, and reviews to see which brand they prefer.

Customers have completed their research and decided which gaps they need to fill. Additionally, they created a set of criteria for what they want in a product or service. So, customers are comparing their options to make the best decision at this stage.

To tackle this step, customer reviews and social proof will help tremendously. Be sure to highlight those features everywhere–including your landing pages and social media.

Stage 4: Purchase Commitment

Finally, the customer behavior turns into action–where consumers make the purchase. Some aspects that will influence their final decision are the price range, appealing attributes and which is most convenient for them.

The best way to land the sale is to optimize the purchase experience. Creating a seamless checkout process will prevent the loss of a deal before the purchase is final. 

If the consumer likes what they see during the comparison stage, they move forward with the purchase. Once they finally decide on a specific brand and product type, they commit to it. At this point, they either finalize it online or go to the store in person. 

Stage 5: Post-Purchase Evaluation

The final stage in the consumer decision-making process is post-purchase evaluation, where the person decides if they are pleased with what they bought. They compare their expectations to reality, considering whether or not their needs were met to determine how satisfied they are.  

After the customer makes a purchase, they will consider whether the item or service is worth it. Buyers will ask specific questions such as:

  • Is the product worth the cost?
  • Is it worth recommending to others?
  • Will I want to purchase this item again?

Consider reaching out to them when you want to understand the buyers’ feelings after a purchase. This process will increase the likelihood of customers buying from your brand again. 

Understanding the consumer decision-making process is crucial for any business. Many companies can optimize their business processes by understanding the data that consumers generate. 

3 Primary Factors Affecting the Consumer Decision Making Process

As complex as the mind may seem, only three explanatory factors affect the consumer decision-making process.

1. Sociological Factors

Social and cultural factors can affect the everyday decisions people make. Friends, family, culture and generations are significant and can affect the findings on our purchases. 

For example, suppose you are purchasing a new computer. Many brands sell this product. However, the buyer can make their purchase decisions based on the recommendations of friends and family.

2. Psychological Factors

Motivation, perception, emotions and beliefs are psychological factors that influence consumers’ decisions. One example would be to buy a coffee at a local coffee shop instead of the Starbucks down the road. Some people prefer to buy locally because they feel better supporting small businesses.

As humans, it’s challenging to separate our emotions from the purchase. Most of the time, consumers will buy because it makes them feel good. So, how can you influence these factors? Delivering a personalized customer experience and tapping into their emotions is the best approach. 

3. Personal Factors

Personal factors include age, income, likes and dislikes and unique style. It also contains certain feelings towards a specific product or brand. 

For example, maybe you’re a mother with two young children. You care about what ingredients are included in certain bath products, so perhaps you like to buy from brands that sell organic products only.

It’s important to understand your audience when addressing this factor. Creating surveys and asking your audience to participate is the best way to improve your goods and services. 

Why It Matters To Understand the Consumer Decision Making Process

By understanding the consumer decision-making process, your business can identify new marketing opportunities. It’s essential to align marketing efforts with customers’ purchase decisions by knowing and understanding their needs. 

The consumer decision-making process impacts your revenue. It also affects brand awareness, customer retention, and people’s perception of your business. Although many business owners and marketers focus on the end goal — the sale — the journey is just as important.

After someone views marketing material and enters the need recognition stage, they go to search engines, review websites, social media apps, and e-commerce platforms to materialize their desire into something they can buy — meaning your presence in these places determines how likely you are to make a sale.

Most people spend days deciding whether or not they want to buy something. For instance, beauty, fashion and home shoppers research products for at least two weeks before making a purchase. Many businesses don’t realize they could influence consumers’ decisions in that span to boost their sales.

Ultimately, your involvement in consumers’ journeys plays a significant role in your brand awareness and customer loyalty. Even if your initial marketing is successful, ongoing, active effort is still crucial for success. 

Once you have the power of knowledge–and their best interests in mind–you can use that to persuade potential or existing customers to buy from your brand. 

Additionally, brands that understand the consumer decision-making process can drive the customer experience, creating more revenue than their competitors. 

The consumer decision-making process also allows marketers to fill in the market gap by identifying product solutions, giving small businesses a competitive advantage.

A good customer journey mapping strategy can enable businesses to understand customer expectations and desires. In turn, companies will have the opportunity to offer more appropriate services and products at each stage of the customer journey.

Techniques for Influencing Consumer Decision-Making

Once your marketing efforts successfully interest someone, there’s still so much left to do. Here are tips, techniques, and tactics to help you influence the consumer decision-making process and boost your sales.  

Make Your Product a Need

While you can’t reliably influence consumers’ internal motivations — emotions or feelings — you can control their external motivations. Using well-placed advertisements and organic marketing, you can subconsciously make them want your product or service. 

Consider using tactics like hyper-personalization and customer personas to identify and appeal to the people who have a use for your business. Once you improve your brand awareness and reach, you can make consumers recognize your products or services as a need. 

Become the Standard

Consumers research products to make their vague “needs” more tangible. For example, someone who wants new grilling tools might look at different materials, sizes, features, and reviews until they realize they want a magnetized stainless steel set with serrated edges. 

If you provide specific details, feature descriptions, and measurements on every product page, you can appeal to consumers while they’re still undecided. If you have a big enough impact, they’ll compare their subsequent searches to yours — giving you a competitive advantage. 

Showcase Happy Customers

Most people aren’t looking for the cheapest option. Rather, they want the one with the most value. They often look at comments and testimonies to see if others think a product is worth buying. In fact, 70% of e-commerce consumers read up to six reviews before making a purchase. Reviews essentially act as free advertising, so you should always display them. 

Another helpful tip is to look at your competition’s product reviews to identify areas for improvement. If two businesses are similar and one consistently outperforms the other, then gaps exist — comparing customers’ testimonies can reveal what those gaps are.

Simplify the Checkout Process

Making the checkout process more straightforward is essential. After all, 70% of e-commerce consumers abandon their carts instead of committing to a purchase. Consider using attention-catching colors, interactive design, and helpful notifications to improve the commitment stage in the consumer decision-making process. 

Reach Out Post-Purchase

The post-purchase stage is arguably the most important because it impacts retention and reputation. If you ensure your product meets expectations, you’re more likely to gain repeat customers. In fact, 46% of consumers say they’ll pay more for something if they trust the brand. 

Your work isn’t over even after you complete a sale. Consider sending surveys to confirm satisfaction and ask how you can improve. Additionally, consider including personalized thank-you notes or using custom packaging to build a relationship with the customer.

Influencing Consumers’ Decisions Is Worth It

Keep in mind that there’s no set path between the awareness and the final purchase stages. However, it’s important to note that each step ties into the customers’ emotions. When placing yourself into the customers’ hands, you can influence their decision-making.

Constant feedback, working your way backward through the process, identifying various factors at play and predicting your buyers’ interests–are all you need to make a successful sale.

While the consumer decision-making process is very involved, it’s an important — and often overlooked — aspect of business. Even if your marketing material succeeds, you must still guide people through their pre-purchase journey. 

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