What Is the Consumer Buying Process?

The consumer buying process is the path a customer takes as they decide to purchase a product. The process begins the moment a consumer determines they need something and includes how they feel after the purchase.

The entire consumer buying process has a wealth of marketing opportunities, and our guide will show you how to harness those to get in front of your target audience.

What Are the Stages of the Consumer Buying Process

There are five main stages of the consumer buying process, starting with the need for a product or service and ending with the individual having what they need.

1. Recognizing a Problem That Requires a Resolution

Most people don’t like spending money for no reason, so the first step in the consumer buying process is realizing they have a problem. These problems typically relate directly to a need or a want. In some cases, the problem ties to a need and a desire, such as requiring transportation to get around. A buyer needs a vehicle, but they likely have a list of wants they hope to get in the purchase.

2. Searching for Information 

The next step in the journey is looking up information for a product or service to solve their problem. The consumer may turn to brands they are already loyal to, but if they can’t find what they need, they will start to look elsewhere. Consumers tend to search online and ask people they trust for suggestions. 

Information gathered during the research process may include:

  • Previous interactions with a company
  • Convenience
  • Product/Company reviews
  • Descriptions
  • Prices
  • Quality
  • Availability 

Of course, the amount of research done will vary depending on the need and potentially the cost of the product or service. Researching a food delivery service differs significantly from looking for a new car. 

3. Narrowing Down Choices

Now, it’s time for the consumer buying decision process. The potential buyer has all the information they need and will narrow their choices. Through all the information gathering, they better understand what they really want.

This stage typically includes comparing availability, prices, features, and other factors to eliminate choices. 

4. Making a Purchase

After all that research and comparisons, it’s time to finally make a purchase. 

5. Evaluating Post-Purchase Feelings

This last step is often undervalued in the overall consumer buying process. Most people consider the journey complete once a customer makes a purchase, but that outlook fails to consider the future relationship with a consumer.

This step allows a customer to compare their expectations with what they received, the quality of the product or service, and the convenience and/or service level of the purchase process. Depending on the consumer’s expectations from the information gathered, the client will be happy or unhappy with their purchase.

How Can You Use the Consumer Decision Process to Your Advantage? 

We’ll break down how you can use the consumer buying behavior process to your advantage step by step.

1. Problem to Solve: Improve Brand Awareness

If you want to catch the attention of potential customers when they realize they have a problem that your products or services can solve, you need to improve your brand awareness. Brand awareness refers to how well-known your business is, and you can make improvements in various ways.

Maintaining Consistency on Social Media

Using the same imagery across platforms creates a uniform look for your brand, making it easier for people to recognize at a glance. Businesses with consistent branding have 33% higher revenue than those that regularly change the look and feel. 

Posting on various social media platforms will get more eyes on your brand. When someone interacts with your brand on social media, it often shows up for people within their network — expanding your reach.

Improving SEO Rankings

Search engine optimization (SEO) strategies make your website more accessible to find through search engines. The best way to achieve this goal is through the use of highly searched keywords. By optimizing your website, product/service descriptions, and ads with the proper keywords, you’re more likely to appear when a consumer searches for a solution to their problem.

Using Ads

Investing in digital paid ads ensures that your company information appears in search results and on social media platforms. Targeting ensures that the ads get in front of people with specific characteristics or habits, such as those who have interacted with competitor sites or are in specific physical locations.

Increasing Communication Outreach

You need to connect with your customer base regularly to ensure they’re still aware of your brand. With so many things competing for their attention, it’s easy for customers to forget you. Increasing outreach through social media, automated emails, and other forms of communication can reduce that risk.

2. Searching for Information: Make Descriptions Clear

When a person is searching for information, the process of finding you must be as easy as possible. Make your product and service descriptions straightforward, authentic, and understandable to ensure clarity about what you offer. 

As someone skims your description, they will decide whether your product or service is what they’re looking for — 85% of shoppers say product info and pictures are essential for determining who to buy from. Your description will justify the price of your product/service to the consumer. Make clear any potential discounts and shipping prices involved in the purchase.  

3. Narrowing Choices: Emphasize How the Product Works for Others

As consumers narrow their choices, they often look for user-generated content (UGC), such as reviews and images. Consumers can view other people’s experiences with your product or service. Depending on the experience, this content may bring you to the top of their list.

For 79% of consumers, UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions. Make sure you have reviews all over your website, not just product pages, to encourage more exploration.

4. Making a Purchase: Creating an Easy Checkout Process

It’s important to note that even though they chose your product, they could still abandon their cart for a variety of reasons. The top three reasons for abandoning carts are:

  1. Extra costs being too high (47%)
  2. Needing to make an account (25%)
  3. Delivery was too slow (24%) 

Making a simplified checkout process is essential. An easy process to make a purchase might mean minimal clicks to finish the process, lots of payment options, and displaying all costs upfront in a way that is easy to understand. 

5. Post-Purchase: Showing You Care about the Customer 

To get a repeat customer, your business needs to show that you care about them  and their overall experience. Follow-up actions may include:

  • Ensuring the product/service came safely
  • Providing helpful information or instructions for using the product/service
  • Asking for feedback 
  • Requesting a product or service review

If the customer is dissatisfied with their purchase, take steps to resolve the situation.

Learn More About Your Consumers with Bizrate Insights

Knowing how your consumer thinks is vital in an ever-changing market. Bizrate Insights can help you understand customer behavior through various methods and ideas. For example, you can learn more about the pre-purchase process to expand your knowledge of your customers.  

Our tools focus on online buyers and potential customers, providing detailed insights into behaviors and needs. Learn more about how we can support your growing business.