Buyer Decision Process
The stages of the Buyer Decision Process
The buyer decision process represents a number of stages that the purchaser will go through before actually making the final purchase decision. The consumer buyer decision process and the business/organisational buyer decision process are similar to each other. Obviously core to this process is the fact that the purchase is generally of value in monetary terms and that the consumer/business will take time to actually assess alternatives. For FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) the purchase decision process tends to be shorter/quicker, and for habitual purchase behaviour or repeat purchases the decision process is short-circuited.
The stages of the buyer decision process are the recognition of the problem, the search for information, an evaluation of all available alternatives, the selection of the final product and its supplier (of course services are included) and then ultimately the post-purchase evaluation. Let’s have a look at each stage and offer a quick explanation of what it's all about, and then let's apply it to an organisation to help us work out what it's all about.
Stage one is the recognition of the particular problem or need and here the buyer has a need to satisfy or a problem that needs solving, and this is the beginning of the buyer decision process.
Stage two is where we begin to search for information about the product or service. Buyers here begin to look around to find out what's out there in terms of choice and they start to work out what might be the best product or service for solving the problem or satisfying any need.
Stage three sees the evaluation of the available alternatives whereby the buyer decides upon a set of criteria by which to assess each alternative.
We buy or select a product/service/supplier at stage four. Individuals or teams of buyers make the final choice of what to buy and from whom to buy it.
Interestingly the process does not stop at the point of purchase because there is a stage five called the post-purchase evaluation. The process continues even when the product or service is being consumed by the individual or business. So if it doesn't meet your needs or solve your problem you can take action to improve the product or service. Your actions at this point might inform other potential buyers who would be keen to hear about your experiences – good or bad.
Let's look at an example based upon buying a new smart cellphone. The first stage is likely to be that you have a need for communication or access to the Internet, or problem because you cannot interact with friends using social media. The value added by products such as Android, iPhone or Windows phone and others should satisfy your need or solve your problem. So the second stage is where you speak to your friends and surf the Internet looking at alternatives, which represent stage two - or your information search. As a buyer you might visit a local cellphone store and speak to the sales staff to help you complete stage three, i.e. your evaluation of alternatives. Stage four is the selection of product and you go and make your final decision and buy your smartphone from a local store or using an e-commerce website. Stage five involves your post-purchase evaluation whereby you use the phone and have a positive, negative or mediocre experience of the product. If it doesn't satisfy your needs you take action and more importantly you'll tell others of your problems. If you're pleased with the product, you will tell your friends and this will influence stage two (their information search) when they decide to buy a cellphone.
Remember that organisations and businesses also go through this process and that teams of individuals contribute to the decision-making process. This is called a Decision-Making Unit (DMU).