What is the buyer decision process?
The buyer decision process is defined as the decision making method of a consumer involved in a market transaction. In other words, it is what your customers are thinking and feeling when they buy your products.
Why should you care?
As a seller, one of your primary goals is to increase your profit. To make more money, you want happy customers. So, you need to think like your buyers and understand what they want in the purchasing process to keep them satisfied. Consider what consumers think before they buy a product. This will allow you to refine your marketing strategies and create successful advertisements. You also want the entire purchasing process to be a positive experience for buyers. Simply making a high-quality product is never going to be enough. A good purchasing experience will not only ensure customer loyalty, but also the communication of good feedback to other potential customers.
The Five Stages
To make things easier, the buyer decision process has been broken down into five stages (James Engel, David Kollat, and Roger Blackwell, 1968). Today, this simple model continues to be developed upon and helps you decipher the thoughts and feelings of consumers. Let’s get started.
1."Recognition of Need" — buyers realize they need your product
Consumers first need to become aware that they need to purchase your product. There are three types of needs experienced by a consumer. The first is a functional need: a product will serve a practical purpose in the buyer's life. The second is a social need: a product will allow a consumer to fit in or show his or her status. The third is a personal need: a product will result in personal fulfillment for the buyer. Figure out which type of need applies to your customers and play off of it when you advertise. For t-shirts, buyers' needs will most likely be social or personal.
Something needs to trigger this recognition of need. We can refer to this “something” as stimulus, and it can be internal or external. An example of an internal stimulus is hunger. A consumer is hungry, he realizes his need for food, so he buys a hamburger. An example of an external stimulus is an advertisement. A consumer views a TV commercial for Nordstrom, he identifies his need to go shopping, so he purchases a shirt.
As a seller, you can have a lot of power over the external stimuli. With good advertising, you can convince consumers not only that you're selling a great product, but also that they need to have it. It always helps to create a sense of urgency with your marketing. Advertise with phrases like "Limited Edition!" or "On Sale for Two Days Only!" to attract customers and grab their attention.
2."Information Search" — consumers research their options for purchase
After consumers realize they need a product, they will begin their research. They will hunt to find the best version, brand, or seller of whatever product they need to have. Again, this stage can be categorized into internal and external. In the internal search, buyers will refer to their memories and previous experiences with a company, brand, or product. If they can remember personally having a good experience with your brand, they will most likely buy from you again.
In the external search, buyers refer to two things: other people and advertising. Unless you know everybody, you’re going to have a hard time controlling how your product is being marketed by word of mouth. Buyers ask their friends and family for advice, and it's out of your hands what is said about your product. (If you follow some of our advice in this post, then friends and family will pass on positive reviews!).
Luckily, you can still have a lot of control over presenting your brand or product. Through great advertising, you can make your product stand out during the buyer's external search. Utilize a variety of advertising mediums: newspapers, local ads, television, radio, and social media. A word of advice: social media is often the least expensive and the most effective. Don’t underestimate its power!
3. "Evaluation of Alternatives" — consumers compare each option
Buyers will then divide what they found in the information search into three distinct sets. The evoked set contains all the options they’re considering for purchase. These are the brands or products with good reviews and marketing. The inept set includes all the items that the buyer will definitely not purchase. The buyer discovered a lot of negative feedback surrounding these products during the information search. Lastly, the inert set is made up of options on which the buyer has a neutral stance.
As a seller, you want to outshine all your competitors and make your product stand out in the evoked set. How can you do this? Through even more advertising. If you’re using niche marketing (which you really should be), try to understand your niche. Consider their location, interests, and hobbies and then ask yourself what they would like to see in an advertisement. Which medium would be the most effective? What feelings should your ad evoke? How can you immediately draw your niche in? Getting a feel for the identity and values of your niche is the first step to triggering their recognition of need. You want them to see a relatable ad and feel confident that your product is the best fit for them.
4. "Decision of Purchase" — consumers select one option and buy it
Buyers will go back and forth between phases two and three until they reach their final decision. Ultimately, there are two factors that will stop a purchase. The first is negative feedback. No one wants to buy a product if he or she hears bad things about it or reads a bad review. You can easily avoid this sticky situation by producing a good product and making sure that each of your customers is satisfied. The second factor is a customer’s lack of motivation to purchase. Here is where that sense of urgency becomes essential. All the way from phase one to phase five, never let buyers doubt that they need your product.
One thing to keep in mind is cognitive fluency, which is a fancy term for how hard it is for someone to complete a mental task. When buyers reach this stage, they’re mentally exhausted from all of their research and analysis of different products. Now, they just want to buy their product in a way that’s familiar, easy, and quick. Luckily, the GearLaunch team ensures that the purchasing and shipping processes are simple for your customers. When it comes to advertising, it is your responsibility to make what you’re offering clear to buyers. This way, there won’t be any surprise difficulties when they begin the actual purchasing process.
5. "Post-Purchase Behavior" — consumers react to the product they receive
Ultimately, a buyer will receive a product and will either be happy or feel regret. Buyer satisfaction results in customer loyalty and positive feedback. There will be a shortened information search for the next purchase, for a buyer will recall this positive experience with your brand and most likely purchase from you again.
It’s important to avoid cognitive dissonance, when consumers regret or feel doubt about what they bought. Our next post will contain helpful tips for How to Avoid Buyer's Remorse and Keep Your Customers Happy.
Check out our infographic below for a quick review of the buyer decision process.
Now that you know how to influence the buyer decision process, you're ready to build your own ecommerce business. Set up a GearLaunch campaign today.