The five stages of the consumer decision making process include; Problem recognition, information search, information evaluation, purchase decision, and evaluation after purchase. This is just a general model of the consumer decision making process and it emphasizes that the buying decision making process starts before the actual purchase and continues even after the purchase. It also encourages the marketer to focus on the complete buying process and not just on the purchase decision.
1. Problem Recognition
Consumers recognize a problem as a need or want. Of course, the most frequent problem occurs when consumers realize they are out of the product. For example, when the gas tank gets near empty, or you run out of lunch meat for your sandwiches, or when your car is due for maintenance. Problem recognition also occurs when a consumer receives new information about a good, service, or business. New fashions, for example, can make people recognize that their current clothing is not in style or up to date. Different circumstances can change and force a consumer to recognize a major buying problem. A stay at home mom who returns to the work force may need a new wardrobe. A first year college student may need a personal computer. A recently retired couple may now have the time and money to take a European vacation.
2. Information Search
Consumers search for information that is helpful in making a purchasing decision. They may get this information in one or in many ways. Marketers are interested in the major information sources that consumers use and the influence each has on the final purchase decision. Consumer information sources typically fall into four groups:
- Personal sources;
- Commercial sources;
- Public sources; and
- Experience sources.
The consumer receives the most information from commercial sources. these include advertisements, salespeople, catalogs, newspapers, and manufacturer-supplied direct mail. However, the most effective influence often comes from such personal sources as family members and friends. Effective marketers try to identify the information sources and their relative influence on customers. This means asking customers how they heard about the product, what sources of information they turned to, and what influences each source of information had on their purchase decision. This consumer information helps marketers plan advertisements, select information to give to customers, and choose other marketing techniques to meet consumer needs.
3. Information Evaluation
Follows the information search. During this stage consumers usually compare products with respect to their various features and benefits. They may compare product brands, styles, sizes, colors, prices, and related services. They may also compare products at various stores. They consumer may also evaluate the importance of certain information. For many consumers, perceived reliability is extremely important. For others, price, ease of operation, related services, or prestige may be paramount. Other information may be more important to consumers when evaluating services. While vacation, traveling, for example some consumers may want to only stay at the Hilton, while others are more prone to lodging at the less expensive locations. Consumers generally evaluate goods and services by the features or benefits that are important to them. Retailers and other marketers often try to influence the type of criteria that consumers use in their product evaluations. They frequently use ads that compare the features of their products with those of their competitors.
4. Purchase Decisions
At this stage in the consumer decision making process, consumers have recognized a need, done some research on the product, and evaluated available alternatives. They are now ready to make a purchase decision, the actual buying of a specified product. Many factors influence the purchase decision. These include the cost of the product compared to how much money the consumer can afford to spend, the opinions of family or friends, and the sales and services policies of the marketer. Some customers may wish to try a product before making a major purchase.
5. Evaluation After Purchase
After customers make buying decisions, they often continue to evaluate them. Post-purchase evaluation occurs when a customer seeks reasons to support a purchase decision. retailers use the term buyers remorse to describe a customer’s second thoughts after a purchase. Marketers use the term cognitive dissonance to refer to post-decision doubt that a customer has about an original purchase. This doubt stems from an awareness that in reaching a particular buying decision the individual may have rejected certain attractive alternatives. Doubt is created when the motive for buying the alternative overshadows the actual purchase. Marketers take positive steps to reduce cognitive dissonance and to help buyers feel good about their purchases. Successful marketers know that a satisfied customer is an excellent advertisement for the company and its products. They try to fulfill their customers needs and wants. Customer oriented practices usually result in customer recommendations, called word of mouth advertising, and customer loyalty and repeat business.