Understanding the Consumer Buying Process

Marketing’s overall objective can be narrowed down to “reaching a target audience at a moment that will influence their decision making.” It’s why the televisions at Best Buy are turned on and displaying amazing, true-to-life images…or why Amazon presents personalized product recommendations to consumers browsing the site.  

These moments when consumers can be influenced are a part of what marketers call the consumer buying process. The term describes the 5-step, scientific process that almost all customers go through before making a purchase. Understanding this journey is vastly important for both a business’ sales staff and those involved in the development and execution of a marketing strategy. The five stages of the consumer buying process include:


  1. Problem/Need Recognition

The consumer buying process begins when a problem or need is recognized. For example, someone planning to attend a nonprofit’s gala will likely identify a need for a tuxedo or evening gown. 

Businesses also oftentimes try to sway consumers into believing they have a need for a product or service—like protein shake advertisements plastered to the wall of a gym or previews before movies.


  1. Information Search

Once a need or problem is recognized, a consumer will seek out information about products or services. This search for information can include conducting an online search, watching videos online, consulting with family and friends, or visiting a store or dealership. Sometimes this search will last minutes, and other times, consumers will seek out information for weeks or months.

During this stage, it’s important your business’ website pops up at the top of online search results.


  1. Evaluation

After a consumer has identified a problem or need and found possible solutions, they are now in the “evaluation” stage. They’re weighing options and trying to make sense of the information they’ve collected. To win a consumer over during this stage, it’s important your website provides:

  • The key benefits of your products/services and how they compare to competitors’
  • Proof of your brand’s advantage (e.g., reviews, testimonials)
  • Peace of mind – Do you offer price matching? Do you have a guarantee? What’s your return policy?

Consumers often justify a purchase through confidence in a brand’s reliability and value.


  1. Purchase Decision

Once a consumer has evaluated his or her options, it’s time for a decision to be made. At this stage, he or she can still easily walk away from making any purchase.

To ensure that doesn’t happen, your marketing and website must make it easy for a potential customer to find or get in contact with your business, and customer service must be a top priority. Urgency in marketing messaging at this stage in the consumer buying process helps as well (e.g., “limited time offer”).

If a potential customer does walk away from a sale, there are always tactics, such as retargeting ads, that can help reel them back in.


  1. Post-Purchase Use & Evaluation

The consumer buying process doesn’t conclude when a purchase is made. Customers are evaluating whether they’re satisfied with their decision.

Even if a customer is pleased with the purchase, there is no guarantee there will be a future purchase. Incorporating a follow-up survey and “thank you” eblast into a marketing strategy can help build that customer loyalty.


Market to Consumers at Every Stage

A purchase doesn’t just happen. Often, there is a great deal of time and effort put forth before a consumer makes a decision. If you want to win over your target audience, it’s important to have marketing tactics in place at every stage of the buying process.

Got questions? Contact the Baer Performance Marketing team to learn how we can help streamline your prospective customers’ journey.