Show Menu

Six Stages of the Consumer Buying Process Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by [deleted]

Six Stages of the Consumer Buying Process

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


What if there were a distin­ctive set of steps that most consumers went through before deciding whether to make a purchase or not? What if there was a scientific method for determ­ining what goes into the buying process that could make marketing to a target audience more than a shot in the dark?

There are six stages to the consumer buying process, and as a marketer, you can market to them effect­ively.

1. Problem Recogn­ition

Put simply, before a purchase can ever take place, the customer must have a reason to believe that what they want, where they want to be or how they perceive themselves or a situation is different from where they actually are. The desire is different from the reality – this presents a problem for the customer.

However, for the marketer, this creates an opport­unity. By taking the time to “create a problem” for the customer, whether they recognize that it exists already or not, you’re starting the buying process. To do this, start with content marketing. Share facts and testim­onials of what your product or service can provide. Ask questions to pull the potential customer into the buying process. Doing this helps a potential customer realize that they have a need that should be solved.

2. Inform­ation Search

Once a problem is recogn­ized, the customer search process begins. They know there is an issue and they’re looking for a solution. If it’s a new makeup founda­tion, they look for founda­tion; if it’s a new refrig­erator with all the newest technology thrown in, they start looking at refrig­erators – it’s fairly straight forward.

As a marketer, the best way to market to this need is to establish your brand or the brand of your clients as an industry leader or expert in a specific field. Methods to consider include becoming a Google Trusted Store or by advert­ising partne­rships and sponsors promin­ently on all web materials and collat­erals.

Becoming a Google Trusted Store, like CJ Pony Parts – a leading dealer of Ford Mustang parts – allows you to increase search rankings and to provide a sense of customer security by displaying your status on your website.

Increasing your credib­ility markets to the inform­ation search process by keeps you in front of the customer and ahead of the compet­ition.

The Consumer Buying Process

3. Evaluation of Altern­atives

Just because you stand out among the compet­ition doesn’t mean a customer will absolutely purchase your product or servic­e.C­ust­omers want to be sure they’ve thoroughly researched prior to making a purchase. Because of this, even though they may be sure of what they want, they’ll still want to compare other options to ensure their decision is the right one.

Keep them on your site for the evaluation of altern­atives stage. Leading insurance provider Geico allows customers to compare rates with other insurance providers all under their own website – even if the compet­ition can offer a cheaper price. This not only simplifies the process, it establ­ishes a trusting customer relati­onship, especially during the evaluation of altern­atives stage.

4. Purchase Decision

Somewhat surpri­singly, the purchase decision falls near the middle of the six stages of the consumer buying process. At this point, the customer has explored multiple options, they understand pricing and payment options and they are deciding whether to move forward with the purchase or not. That’s right, at this point they could still decide to walk away.

This means it’s time to step up the game in the marketing process by providing a sense of security while reminding customers of why they wanted to make the purchase in the first time. At this stage, giving as much inform­ation relating to the need that was created in step one along with why your brand, is the best provider to fulfill this need is essential.

If a customer walks away from the purchase, this is the time to bring them back. Retarg­eting or simple email reminders that speak to the need for the product in question can enforce the purchase decision, even if the opport­unity seems lost.

5. Purchase

A need has been created, research has been completed and the customer has decided to make a purchase. All the stages that lead to a conversion have been finished. However, this doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing. A consumer could still be lost. Marketing is just as important during this stage as during the previous.

Marketing to this stage is straig­htf­orward: keep it simple. Test your brand’s purchase process online. Is it compli­cated? Are there too many steps? Is the load time too slow? Can a purchase be completed just as simply on a mobile device as on a desktop computer? Ask these critical questions and make adjust­ments. If the purchase process is too difficult, customers, and therefore revenue, can be easily lost.

6. Post-P­urchase Evaluation

Just because a purchase has been made, the process has not ended. After a purchase is made, it’s inevitable that the customer must decide whether they are satisfied with the decision that was made or not.

If a customer feels as though an incorrect decision was made, a return could take place. This can be mitigated by identi­fying the source of disson­ance, and offering an exchange that is simple and straig­htf­orward. However, even if the customer is satisfied with his or her decision to make the purchase, whether a future purchase is made from your brand is still in question. Because of this, sending follow-up surveys and emails that thank the customer for making a purchase are critical.