Selling in Stages - The Consumer Journey

July 01, 2020
Selling in Stages - The Consumer Journey

Have you ever considered what goes through a consumer’s mind before they even reach the stage of making a decision to purchase a product?

While it can sometimes seem that purchases are made on impulse, all consumers have generally been through a decision making process to come to a conclusion that their purchase is necessary and helpful to them in some way. First created by John Dewey, the buying decision process involves 5 progressive stages that a consumer advances through during the purchasing procedure. Understanding each of these phases is important to improve and develop a strong marketing strategy.

So, let’s look at each stage:
1. Problem recognition
This may seem an obvious first step when you take a moment to sit back and think about it. If there is not a problem that a person feels needs a solution, they are not going to take a particular interest in any products or services that look at creating a solution to that problem. For example, someone is not as interested in looking at new phones if they have recently upgraded their plan, but someone who has broken their phone is definitely considering what options they may have in order to get themselves back into action.
2. Information search; At this stage, a person has recognised that they have a problem that needs solving, and then seek out information to obtain details of what options are available. This is where they could use a range of methods including word of mouth, printed media, online searching, or other methods that they believe will be useful in gathering together details of what options are available. This could also include returning to a useful source that has been previously used that offered reliable and worthwhile information previously, so does not always have to include researching new unknown alternatives.
3. Evaluation of alternatives; During this process, the customer is processing all the information that was obtained during step 2 in order to determine what they see to the best alternative that solves their initial problem in the best way. It may involve testing and trialling some alternatives in order to assist the decision making process.
4. Purchase decision; Following investigation into alternatives, a customer will then reach a decision about the product or option that they believe is the most suitable. The purchase will then follow, but still has the possibility of being disrupted before this does occur. A change in circumstances, or further information from other sources such as a product review or feedback from a friend, can result in the purchase not progressing. If this occurs, they can return to stage 2 in order to seek out more information and reassurance before coming to a final conclusion, or may just hold off on completing the purchase until a more appropriate time occurs.
5. Post-Purchase Evaluation; The buying process does not finish with the purchase, but continues through to the evaluation of the purchase once the individual has the opportunity to fully use the product of service that they have purchased. If they have a positive experience of it meeting their expectations, it can streamline the information search stage at step 2 for future purchases. However a negative experience can result in seeking out other alternatives, or even sharing their negative feedback which can affect the process for other potential customers, and therefore represents still a very important part of the purchasing process.

While an individual customer may not be aware that they are going through these particular stages, understanding these can result in a better strategy when considering our marketing opportunities. By providing an opportunity for an individual to be considered at each stage of the process, a business then respects that each purchase made is a deliberate and purposeful one, and reminds us at the very start that the purpose of each and every business is to provide a solution that is designed to assist and improve someone’s life…a message that can sometimes get lost in the busyness of running a business.

We will be looking into each of these stages individually in more detail during future articles, and how we can consider some marketing and promotional opportunities that arise at each of these stages.