Join Drew Boyd for an in-depth discussion in this video How consumers buy, part of Marketing Foundations: Understanding Consumer Behavior.
- Consumers buy products and services in a systematic and almost predictable way. Even when they're not consciously aware of it. As a marketer, the better you understand their buying process, the more effective you'll be in promoting and selling your products. Customers follow a distinct set of steps when buying anything. That process may take a matter of seconds, such as an impulse purchase in a store, or it may take a matter of months, such as the purchase of a new home or car.
Typically, those steps are as follows. First is the need recognition phase. This is where customers realize that they want something. That can be triggered internally. For example, if a customer is thirsty, that will trigger a need for some type of beverage. But it can also be triggered externally, through advertising or other stimuli. If a customer sees a TV commercial for a cold soft drink, or perhaps sees a group of people drinking it, those could stimulate the customer to want that same drink.
Now, the need recognition step is very important, because without it, there won't be a sale. The next step is information search. Once customers feel a need to have something, they start gathering information about solutions for that need. They get information from a wide variety of sources, including commercial advertising, internet search, while shopping in a store, and most importantly, from other customers. This is a critical step, because this is when a customer is most receptive to your marketing message.
Once a customer gathers information, they go to the next step, which is to evaluate the alternatives. Customers make choices based on two things. What features are most important, and which brand does the best job in delivering those features. Customers will make head-to-head comparisons between your product and the competition. So it's critical that you give them a complete picture of how your product will best satisfy their needs.
Eventually, the customer will narrow their choices down to one brand, and they'll go to the next step, the purchase phase. Buying a product may take a matter of seconds, such as buying a soft drink in a vending machine, or it could take months, that might involve negotiations, financing, training, or perhaps installation. Complex, expensive products usually take a lot longer to buy than your everyday consumer goods you'd find in a grocery store. You might think that the buying process ends here with the final purchase.
But there is one last step called the post purchase behavior phase. Once customers start using the product or service, they compare the results with their expectations. Did the product work as expected? How did the product make them feel when they used it? This phase is also critical, because customers will share their experiences, good or bad, with other customers. And with the way information spreads through social media, that can be really helpful or hurtful to your marketing campaign.
Something else can happen at this phase that a marketer needs to be aware of. It's called buyer's remorse. Customers might start having second thoughts on whether it was a good idea to buy the product. They start to wonder, "Gee, did I pay too much?" Did I really need this product? Was there a better alternative out there that I should have bought instead? Great marketers know they have a role to play at each step of the customer buying process.
They know where these steps take place, when they take place, and who's involved. With these insights, you're ready to develop effective marketing programs.