Buyer Decision Process: 5 Stages of Consumer Buying Decision Process

The buyer decision process (or customer buying process) helps markets to identify how consumers complete the journey from knowing about a product to making the purchase decision.

Understanding the customer’s buying process is essential for marketing and sales.

The buyer decision process will enable them to set a marketing plan that convinces them to purchase the product or service for fulfilling the buyer’s or consumer’s problem.

Consumers go through 5 stages in taking the decision to purchase any goods or services.

Buyer Decision Process - 5 Stages of consumer buying decision process

  1. Problem Recognition.
  2. Information Search.
  3. Evaluation of Alternatives.
  4. Purchase Decision.
  5. Post-Purchase Evaluation.

When making a purchase, the buyer goes through a decision process consisting of 5 stages.

Clearly, the buying process starts long before the actual purchase and continues long after.

The marketer’s job is to understand the buyer’s behavior at each stage and the influences that are operating. The figure implies that consumers pass through all five Stages with every purchase.

Let’s explain all 5 stages of the buyer decision process.

1. Need or Problem Recognition

During need or problem recognition, the consumer recognizes a problem or need that could be satisfied by a product or service in the market.

Problem Recognition is the first stage of the buyer decision process.

At this stage, the consumer recognizes a need or problem. The buyer feels a difference between his or her actual state and some desired state.

This could be a simple as “I’m hungry, I need food.”

The need may have been triggered by internal stimuli (such as hunger or thirst) or external stimuli (such as advertising or word of mouth).

2. Information Search

Once the need is recognized, the consumer is aroused to seek more information and moves into the information search stage.

The second stage of the purchasing process is searching for information.

After the recognition of needs, the consumers try to find goods for satisfying such needs. They search for information about the goods they want.

Consumers can get information about goods from different sources.

  • Personal sources: This includes family, friends, neighbors, acquaintance, etc.
  • Commercial source: This includes advertising, salespeople, dealers, packaging, display, etc.
  • Public sources: This includes mass media, consumer rating organizations, etc. they also become confidential to provide information.
  • Experimental sources: This includes handling, examining, using, etc. Such information becomes decisive and confidential.

3. Evaluation of Alternatives

With the information in hand, the consumer proceeds to alternative evaluation, during which the information is used to evaluate” brands in the choice set.

Evaluation of alternatives is the third stage of the buying process. Various points of information collected from different sources are used in evaluating different alternatives and their attractiveness.

While evaluating goods and services, different consumers use different bases.

Generally, the consumers evaluate the alternatives on the basis of attributes of the product, the degree of importance, belief in the brand, satisfaction, etc. to choose correctly.

4. Purchase Decision

After the alternatives have been evaluated, consumers decide to purchase products and services. They decide to buy the best brand.

But their decision is influenced by others’ attitudes and situational factors.

5. Post-Purchase Evaluation

In the final stage of the buyer decision process, postpurchase behavior, the consumer takes action based on satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

In this stage, the consumer determines if they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the purchasing outcome. Here is where cognitive dissonance occurs, “Did I make the right decision.”

Consumers go through the 5 stages of the buyer decision process in deciding to purchase any goods or services.

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