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The 5 Stages of the Consumer Decision Making Process

The 5 Stages of the Consumer Decision Making Process

4 mins Read
The 5 Stages of the Consumer Decision Making Process

In 1968, marketers Engel, Blackwell and Kollat outlined the customer purchase decision process in five steps. And you know what? Decades later the five-step explanation to the customer purchase decision question is still the most persuasive marketing model around.

With the evolution of digital shopping and technology completely changing consumer behavior, businesses are forced to look into new ways to play a role in the each stage of the consumer’s decision-making process. It makes sense to explore how integrating Digital advice and Guided Selling can help you leverage each step in the modern decision-making process to generate conversions and increase brand awareness.

Stage 1: Need recognition / Problem recognition

Know that the trigger for all purchases is a need or a problem that the shopper tries to satisfy or solve quickly.

Where it concerns this recognition, Guided Selling acts as an efficient prospector, uncovering latent consumer needs just waiting to rise to the surface.

Role of Digital Advice: Teaser advisor banners prime the user with gamification elements or engaging content like quizzes. Maybe a budding photographer is scrolling through his or her Facebook feed one day and comes across a banner quiz with the header “What kind of a photog are you?” After answering the questions, a summary appears offering tips to the viewer as well as product options that can help them on their quest to improve their craft.

See the effect? The viewer didn’t know that a new product or accessory was needed—until Guided Selling pointed him in that direction.

Stage 2: Information search

Now that the need has been recognized, the consumer seeks information to help fulfill that need. The amateur photographer, will want to compare and contrast products, as well as their features. This stage has the highest potential of frustrating and overwhelming potential customers, if they can’t find the right product or solution or feel unable to make a choice. Also, at any time these consumers can get bogged down by a very real phenomenon called choice overload.

Role of Digital Advice: Guided Selling alleviates this problem by reducing consumer choice through education. Interactive product advisors act as personalized digital shopping assistants. They’re always at the ready to keep shoppers from wandering off the purchase path by recommending only products curated and relevant to the consumer’s specific needs.

Stage 3: Alternative evaluation

Now that consumers have harvested all their data, they’ll set about evaluating the alternatives in order to make the best decision. Two considerations will come into play during this stage: objective characteristics of the alternative choices as well as the subjective characteristics. For example, subjective issues with a specific camera feature, reported by fellow consumers.

This culminates in the “evoked set” of product options, which is the set of products the consumer will most likely buy. The “inert set” (the products that have made no impact whatsoever on the consumer) follows a distant second, and left out entirely is the “inept set,” or the products that the consumer rejects due to a past negative experience or other factors.

Role of Digital Advice: Guided Selling solutions not only filter out the superfluous product sets entirely, but they also narrow down the evoked set by targeting specific attributes and making it easy for shoppers to compare them: this camera is great for newbies; this one is perfect for nature/wildlife; this model is ideal for the portrait photographer.

Stage 4: Purchase decision

This stage comes after the consumer has taken into account all solutions relevant to his or her shopping needs, and thus is ready to buy. Those that have adhered to the above principals and offered assistance at every stage will find themselves strategically positioned for this impending sale.

But that’s no reason to get complacent. Customers may be dissuaded at the last minute to make a certain purchase—this is backed up by statistics that say ¾ of the world’s digital shopping carts go abandoned. Abandonment at the moment of purchase can be attributed to a number of things: poor in-store experience, a frustrating online experience, too many pain points in the purchase cycle such as choice overload, etc.

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Interactive shopping experience

Role of Digital Advice: Guided Selling intervenes in this potential pitfall by ensuring that the path to purchase is as effortless as possible. It’s all about increasing customer confidence, which Guided Selling does by considering the shopper’s needs and integrating them into the overall strategy.

Stage 5: Post-purchase behavior

Every winning sales strategy since the dawn of commerce has accounted for repeat business. It all comes back to customer satisfaction. How satisfied a consumer is with a product or service depends directly on how he or she evaluates the experience according to their original needs. Is the new camera as user-friendly for beginners as the marketing suggested?

If the customer is satisfied with the purchase, he or she will remember the experience and the retailer or brand when a similar need arises, which is the dictionary definition of brand loyalty.

However, if the customer believes the purchase to be a disappointment, he or she will repeat the five stages exactly as before with one notable exception—the disappointing brand or retailer will be absent from his or her decision-making process.

Role of Digital Advice: Guided Selling optimizes the customer experience not only by delivering need-oriented, personalized and targeted recommendations, but also by making the purchase decision-process less of a hassle. In fact, a client of SMARTASSISTANT who implemented Guided Selling solutions in-store found that 70% of customers rated the recommendations highly valuable and important. This is a great way to keep consumers satisfied and coming back for more.

Ultimately, Guided Selling delivers the tools retailers and brands need to keep modern shoppers engaged and satisfied, thus driving conversions and loyalty. And in the most ideal scenarios, when businesses utilize key Guided Selling solutions to effectively leverage the above five stages, they find that the lifetime-customer value of their loyal shoppers shoots up.