5 steps that buyers go through to make decisions

make-decisions_599A successful marketing highly depends on understanding the decision making process of your customer. The more you understand this process, the better you can align your marketing strategy with it.

The following are the steps a typical customer goes through to make buying decisions:

Step 1: Do I Want it
The first step is when a customer expresses some interest in a product. This interest can be captured using a spectrum between two extremes; desire and need.

• Soap is a “Product of need”
• A diamond ring is a “Product of desire”
Most products fall somewhere between these two extremes and the customer feels a mixture of desire and need for them. What makes this interesting is that this is not always clear, even to the customer.

Step 2: What do I Know About it
Once a customer recognizes his desire or need in purchasing an item, he will search for information so he can make a decision.

There are two sources of information:

Internal. The customer searches his past experiences about products, brands, quality of service, places to purchase and so on to make a decision. This is usually enough for purchasing regular items such as bread or a razor.

External. When internal research is not adequate, obtaining further information becomes necessary. The customer is careful not to make mistakes based on his previous experiences. As a result, he is likely to use multiple sources of information such as the internet, family and friends, product reviews, customer reviews, brand strength and even directly from sales and marketing people before making a decision.

Step 3: Is it Value for Money
Having gathered enough information, the next natural question before being able to make a purchase decision is to see if the product is value for money.

Several questions are explored:
Is the product worth the money as advertised? Customers can be very sensitive to price. While at a certain price the purchase may seem daunting, at half the price, the purchase might become straight forward.
o Example: “Does the mobile phone really show that it is worth this much?”

• Does the product satisfy my need for what I end up paying? Regardless of whether the product is worth its price the customer needs to know if his money is well spent when he purchases it.
o Example: “Is it worth upgrading my mobile phone with another one which has just got a better camera?”

Step 4: Is it For Me
Next, customers want to know if the quality of the brand, product’s appearance, style, prestige, price, social perception, etc. matches their own styles. Effectively they want to know what this brand represents:

• “Would I be comfortable to be seen with this product?”
• “Would I be happier when I own this product?”
• “What would others think of me when they see me with this product?”

Step 5: When and Where to Buy
Having explored the brand and decided that it is suitable or acceptable, a customer still needs to consider two more pieces of information before proceeding with the purchase.

1. Where Should I Buy it From?

Decide and buy. This decision is straight forward when the buying location is the same as the location of the purchase decision. For example, a customer can decide to buy a new frying pan in a shop having explored all the available models in the shop and thought of the brands and styles all in relation with his needs. He can then decide on the ideal choice and proceed to purchase it.

Research, think and decide. Alternatively the customer may decide to carry out further research on where to purchase an item. For example, a customer can discover a book in a bookshop and then decide to buy it online where he might get the same product cheaper. The convenience of buying it there and then may overcome the desire to save a bit on the cost and the eventual wait to get it delivered as opposed to having it immediately.

2. When to Buy?

Impulse Buy. Sometimes it is straight forward to decide and buy. Items bought frequently or trivial products are usually decided on the spot. Examples include buying wine, toothpaste, printer papers, etc.

Non-Impulse Buy. Some purchases require a decision on when to make the purchase. This is usually applicable to more significant purchases such as buying expensive gadgets, a car or a house. The customer needs to decide on his available funds, job security, new product releases and also market conditions before deciding to proceed with a purchase at a certain time.

In each of the steps explained above, the customer can be influenced using appropriate marketing techniques. These techniques with examples will be explored during our Marketing Skills training coming up April 23, 2016.

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