Buyer Decision-Making Process and Its Five Stages

What are the major steps to the consumer (buying) decision process? Explain how a consumer may use these steps differently for a “convenience” purchase versus an important or large purchase (such as a car)

Behind the observable act of buying, there is an invisible five-stage procedure that customers follow when deciding to purchase a product or a service (Laermer and Simmons 22).

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Problem recognition is the first stage of consumer behavior and involves the consumer’s perception of the need. It represents the customers’ perception of the difference between the ideal and actual situations (Blackwell 41). If the difference is big enough, it triggers a decision to obtain a product or service to meet the need. The second stage is the information search and involves a customer’s search for value (Laermer and Simmons 27). This stage provides a good clarification of the options available for buyers. Information search could be either internal or external. In an internal search, customers scan their memory to recall earlier experiences with products or services. If the products are the things they purchase, the information is enough to make a choice (Laermer and Simmons 38).

However, if the information is not enough, the customer may end up making the wrong decision. In this case, the customer will opt for an external search of information from three main sources- personal sources (family, friends, and colleagues), public sources (customer reports), and marketer-dominated sources (advertisement, websites, and salespersons). After the information search, customers move to the next stage- evaluation of alternatives. In this stage, customers will be assessing the value of alternatives. A buyer will be trying to choose the most appropriate option about the need, amount of money available, and the taste. The fourth step in the decision-making process involves real buying, where the customers go for the product they feel is the best. Finally, a period of post-purchase evaluation follows the purchasing step (Laermer and Simmons 71). In this stage, the customers will be analyzing the product to determine whether it is useful or not or whether it satisfies the need.

Recognizing the Need

Depending on the item of purchase, customers normally display different patterns in using the five steps of consumer purchasing behavior (Laermer and Simmons 77). For instance, a customer will likely use the steps differently when buying a “convenience” product from what the same customer will do when making a large purchase such as a car. When purchasing a convenience item (a routinely purchased product like a hamburger or a soda), customers are likely to skip some of the stages. The customer recognizes the need (hunger or thirst) but will go right to the decision-making step, thus skipping the stages of information search as well as evaluation of choices. Besides, the customer will not make the post-purchase analysis because the product has been the routine source of satisfaction (Blackwell 53). In contrast, when making a large purchase such as a car, the customer is likely to undergo all the five stages. He is likely to spend much time on information search, and evaluation of alternatives before deciding to buy. Finally, the customer will spend additional time on the post-purchase evaluation. This is because the item is long-lasting and requires a large amount of money. Moreover, it is not the customer’s routine to purchase the item (Laermer and Simmons 71).

Example

When a working person, say a male aged 27 years, needs to buy a car, he is likely to spend much time when searching for information. He is likely to consider the specific need such as whether it is a sports car, an official car, or a present to his girlfriend. If the car is for his official use, then he will have to search for information from his colleagues at work to determine the best model, size, make, and other details. He will need to consider the amount of money he has at his disposal and the availability of the car (Laermer and Simmons 71). Since there are several car models in the market, the man will have to evaluate the type of car he wants.

He will decide whether he wants a Ford, Chrysler, Mercedes, a Toyota, a Rover, or a Fiat. Once he settles on a Chrysler, for example, he will then move to the next level, where he will be considering when and where to purchase the car. Once he has bought the car, he will be evaluating its use and importance against the need, amount of money he spent on the car, and reputation at the workplace. However, the situation is different when the same man bought a bottle of Coke this morning. Here, he could have gone direct to his favorite bar for a soda after realizing he is thirsty. He spends little time looking for the drink to take and probably after leaving the place, he even does not do a post-purchase evaluation.

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Differences in perceived buyer behavior between a 50-year-old man and a 23-year-old Asian woman

In studying customer-purchasing behavior, it is important to consider the effect of other factors on the decision-making process. For instance, factors such as motivation, personality, lifestyle, age, gender, beliefs, social class, peer influence, attitudes, and values-all play an important role in consumer decision-making behavior. Consumers differ in their background, age, social class, economic class, ethnicity, and race. In turn, these factors have a significant influence on lifestyle, personality, perception, and the ability to make decisions. They also have an impact on the need a customer recognizes and the entire decision-making process.

Example

In an example where a Caucasian 50-year old man and a 23-year old Asian woman are doing a purchase, it is possible to compare their decision-making process to reveal the impact of the above factors. Consider, for instance, an example where the two buyers are going for a car. First, both have recognized the need to have a personal car. The man will seek information from his wife, children, family members, and colleagues at the workplace (Schwartz 42). In contrast, the young woman is likely to seek information from her friends, social media, and colleagues. Secondly, the Caucasoid man will be looking for a car that will place him well in his social class- the working class and primarily the Caucasoid. On the other hand, the young woman will want a vehicle that will appeal to her class- the young, working women. Here, the gender factor is an important determinant of the way a buyer behaves. For instance, while the man will be looking for a vehicle that appeals to the needs of a man, the lady will try as much as possible to avoid a masculine product. While going to an automobile shop, the young woman will be looking for a product that will not only position her in her age and economic class, but also a position as a working woman.

Thirdly, the man, having been in the job for a longer time than the young girl, is likely to go for an expensive purchase, while the woman will be looking for a budget purchase (Shell 22). The availability of money or resources to purchase a product remains one of the most influential in customer behavior patterns. For a large purchase like a car, the amount of money at the customer’s disposal determines whether the purchase takes place or not. Assuming that the two buyers are going to an automobile shop, ethnicity, origin, gender, and background are likely to affect the availability of money to make the purchase. For instance, white people are more likely to have better employment opportunities than any other ethnic group in the United States. Besides, whites Americans are likely to have a stable source of income in terms of investment and inheritance than immigrants. In this case, while the man will go for a vehicle with a large carrying capacity and a large power horse, the girl is likely to go for the opposite because she does not have the money and the car is for her personal use since she has no children (Shell 26).

From the example, it is evident that age, gender, personality, social class, economic condition, and attitudes all affect how consumers make decisions when purchasing a product. The differences in the ethnic, social. and economic background is important in assessing consumer behavior in large purchases. It is also evident that consumer preferences differ with gender, age, peer influence, and popular culture.

Works Cited

Blackwell, Miniard. Consumer Behavior. London, UK: Thomson Learning. 2006. Print.

Laermer, Richard and Mark Simmons. Punk Marketing. New York: Harper Collins, 2007. Print.

Schwartz, Barry. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. New York: Ecco, 2008. Print.

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Shell, Ellen. Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. New York: Penguin Press, 2009. Print.

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