What are the stages of the buying decision process?
Ans. Philip Kotler presents a five-stage model involving consumer buying decision process. The five-stage model of consumer buying process is stated as follows.
The above mode and other steps in consumer buying decision process are explained as follows:
1. Problem/Need Identification: The consumer buying process begins with the identification of a problem or a need. This identification may come from internal stimuli (such as hunger, or desire to look good) or an external one (such as a TV ad, suggestion from a friend).
When consumers recognize a need, the inner-drive to fulfill the need is called motivation. Therefore, marketers must find out what motivates their customers so that they can appeal to those motives. In order words, marketers must have a good knowledge of buying motives.
2. Information Search: When consumers identify a need, they may look for information about how to satisfy it. A consumer may look for information from five general sources:
Internal Sources – by recalling from memory, if he/she has satisfied a similar need in the past.
Group Sources – by consulting other people like family members, ‘friends, and others.
Marketing Sources – through sales people, ads, packages, and so on.
Public Sources – through media publicity, reports of research firms, etc.
Experiential Sources – by experiencing products, i.e., by handling them or by consuming or using them. For example, a consumer may taste a particular item of fast food, and if he likes it, then he may make a purchase decision.
3. Listing Alternative Brands: A consumer may list out a few alternative brands that are available in the market. The brands may be listed after collecting necessary information from various sources. The information of alternative brands may include:
4. Evaluation of Alternatives: Based on the available information, consumers identify and evaluate ways to satisfy their needs. A consumer would identify the products or brands that would satisfy his/her needs or solve his/her problems, and then evaluate each brand/product against certain criteria such as features, price, reputation of the company, after-sale-service, and so on. Consumers try to identify the product that will deliver the greatest value.
5. Attitude: After evaluation, the consumer may develop an attitude towards the product. Attitudes are individual feelings and beliefs that would largely influence the consumer behaviour. The attitude may be positive or negative. If the consumer develops positive attitude, the buying decision process will continue.
6. Trial Purchase: In case of certain products like FMCG brands, consumer may purchase the product on trial basis. He will then evaluate the performance of the product, whether or not it matches with his expectation.
7. Purchase Decision: Once the consumer has narrowed down the possible alternatives to just a few, he/she may make a decision to purchase. The consumer would decide whether to buy, and if so, then what, where, and when to buy. Consumers may also postpone or forgo purchase decision, if none of the short-listed alternatives meets his/her needs.
8. Post-purchase Behaviour: Marketer’s job is not complete with the purchase decision by the buyer. Marketers must monitor:
Post-purchase satisfaction: Customer may be satisfied or dissatisfied with the purchase. Customer satisfaction takes place when product’s performance matches with customer expectations. The customer is dissatisfied when product performance is below customer expectations. He is delighted when product performance exceeds customer expectations. Marketer’s must obtain feedback on customer satisfaction level, and try to maintain or enhance it (with the help of communications including publicity, advertising, and so on)
Post-purchase actions: A customer who is satisfied with the product may develop brand loyalty. He may even become brand evangelist and spread good word about the product to his friends, relatives and others. But if the customer is dissatisfied, he may return the goods, or stop further purchases and may warn others from purchasing the product.
Post-purchase use and disposal: Marketers must also monitor the use and disposal of the product. Marketers must use communication tools like advertising and techniques of sales promotion to increase the frequency of purchases.
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