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How to Understand Consumer Purchase Decision Process

Updated on October 4, 2015
Understanding how consumers behave is very useful
Understanding how consumers behave is very useful

Understanding the Consumer Purchase Decision Process

As buyers of goods and services we purchase items that were are in need of and in the process of doing that we make informed purchase decisions on whether to buy or not to buy. The buying decisions we make are not instant, spontaneous or done on the spot but instead are complex and involve a number of steps that comprise the consumer purchase decision process.

The Consumer Buying Process

The consumer buying process or simply the consumer purchase decision consists of six distinct stages that make up the whole process. One stage of the consumer purchase decision process leads to the next one until a final conclusion is reached by the buyer on whether to buy the product or not.

1. Problem/Need Recognition

The consumer purchase decision process starts with the problem or need recognition by the buyer of the goods or service. It starts with the buyer comparing between the actual state he is in to the desired state that he wishes for.


  • When for example a person is hungry he recognizes that he needs to eat food in order for him to do away with the hunger facing him.
  • Recognizing the fact that you are in need of running shoes which has been necessitated by your urge to run or participate in sporting activities
  • Recognizing the fact that you are in need of an umbrella which has been necessitated by your desire to get something that protects you from the rain or the hot sun
  • Travelling needs recognition which may compel you to think of purchasing a ticket and hotel accommodation.

2. Information Search

After the need or problem recognition the next stage of consumer purchase decision process is moved to. The prospective buyer would embark on information search about the products he needs and wishes to buy. Information search may be internal (which means the buyer relying on himself to find the products) or external. External information search involves the buyer trying to find more information from other sources regarding the product he intends to purchase. The buyer may seek the views of friends regarding the suitability of the products he intends to purchase. Advertisements promoting the product and reviews done by others may also provide sufficient information to the purchaser.

If the information search is fruitful the buyer would be more informed and would find it very easy to choose between alternative product answers to the needs he had before.

3. Evaluation of Alternatives

At this stage the buyer has a number of alternatives to choose from that can satisfy the need recognized or identified in stage one of the consumer buying process. Many determinants like quality, quantity, price, suitability come into force and the purchaser has to decide on what appeals to him the most. The choices are many but the consumer has a swift decision on the one to go for. A buyer may choose alternative A as opposed to alternative B because to him the former appeals more in terms of providing the right answer or solution to the need or problem identified in step one of the buying decision process.

4. Purchase Decision

After thoroughly evaluating the available alternatives the consumer has to make a purchase decision regarding on whether to buy the product in question or not. If no purchase is made the process stops here and is started all over again but if the buyer decides to purchase the product the next step of the buying decision process is moved to. By this stage the buyer must have made up his mind on whether the product in consideration is right for him or not and any decision made is after a thorough consideration and analysis of the general suitability of the product.

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5. Purchase

If the buyer makes up his mind in the purchase decision stage and settles on purchasing the product, the actual purchase where the buyer acquires the product in exchange for money takes place. The possession of the item now moves from the seller to the buyer.

6. Post Purchase Evaluation

This is the last step involved in a purchase decision process by a consumer. The customer or the consumer of the product may feel satisfied or dissatisfied depending on the performance level of the product. Satisfaction may be brought about by the product performing as the consumer hoped for and the opposite is true for dissatisfaction.

Sellers may offer warranties or after sale services to consumers as a dissonance reducing measure or offering more reasons as to why the consumer should buy the product.


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