Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo
Principles of Marketing

3.3 The Consumer Purchasing Decision Process

Principles of Marketing3.3 The Consumer Purchasing Decision Process

Menu
Table of contents
  1. Preface
  2. Setting the Stage
    1. 1 Unit Introduction
    2. 1 Marketing and Customer Value
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 1.1 Marketing and the Marketing Process
      3. 1.2 The Marketing Mix and the 4Ps of Marketing
      4. 1.3 Factors Comprising and Affecting the Marketing Environment
      5. 1.4 Evolution of the Marketing Concept
      6. 1.5 Determining Consumer Needs and Wants
      7. 1.6 Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
      8. 1.7 Ethical Marketing
      9. Chapter Summary
      10. Key Terms
      11. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      12. Critical Thinking Exercises
      13. Building Your Personal Brand
      14. What Do Marketers Do?
      15. Marketing Plan Exercise
      16. Closing Company Case
      17. References
    3. 2 Strategic Planning in Marketing
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 2.1 Developing a Strategic Plan
      3. 2.2 The Role of Marketing in the Strategic Planning Process
      4. 2.3 Purpose and Structure of the Marketing Plan
      5. 2.4 Marketing Plan Progress Using Metrics
      6. 2.5 Ethical Issues in Developing a Marketing Strategy
      7. Chapter Summary
      8. Key Terms
      9. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      10. Critical Thinking Exercises
      11. Building Your Personal Brand
      12. What Do Marketers Do?
      13. Marketing Plan Exercise
      14. Closing Company Case
      15. References
  3. Understanding the Marketplace
    1. 2 Unit Introduction
    2. 3 Consumer Markets and Purchasing Behavior
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 3.1 Understanding Consumer Markets and Buying Behavior
      3. 3.2 Factors That Influence Consumer Buying Behavior
      4. 3.3 The Consumer Purchasing Decision Process
      5. 3.4 Ethical Issues in Consumer Buying Behavior
      6. Chapter Summary
      7. Key Terms
      8. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      9. Critical Thinking Exercises
      10. Building Your Personal Brand
      11. What Do Marketers Do?
      12. Closing Company Case
      13. References
    3. 4 Business Markets and Purchasing Behavior
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 4.1 The Business-to-Business (B2B) Market
      3. 4.2 Buyers and Buying Situations in a B2B Market
      4. 4.3 Major Influences on B2B Buyer Behavior
      5. 4.4 Stages in the B2B Buying Process
      6. 4.5 Ethical Issues in B2B Marketing
      7. Chapter Summary
      8. Key Terms
      9. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      10. Critical Thinking Exercises
      11. Building Your Personal Brand
      12. What Do Marketers Do?
      13. Closing Company Case
      14. References
    4. 5 Market Segmentation, Targeting, and Positioning
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 5.1 Market Segmentation and Consumer Markets
      3. 5.2 Segmentation of B2B Markets
      4. 5.3 Segmentation of International Markets
      5. 5.4 Essential Factors in Effective Market Segmentation
      6. 5.5 Selecting Target Markets
      7. 5.6 Product Positioning
      8. 5.7 Ethical Concerns and Target Marketing
      9. Chapter Summary
      10. Key Terms
      11. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      12. Critical Thinking Exercises
      13. Building Your Personal Brand
      14. What Do Marketers Do?
      15. Marketing Plan Exercise
      16. Closing Company Case
      17. References
    5. 6 Marketing Research and Market Intelligence
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 6.1 Marketing Research and Big Data
      3. 6.2 Sources of Marketing Information
      4. 6.3 Steps in a Successful Marketing Research Plan
      5. 6.4 Ethical Issues in Marketing Research
      6. Chapter Summary
      7. Key Terms
      8. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      9. Critical Thinking Exercises
      10. Building Your Personal Brand
      11. What Do Marketers Do?
      12. Marketing Plan Exercise
      13. Closing Company Case
      14. References
    6. 7 Marketing in a Global Environment
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 7.1 The Global Market and Advantages of International Trade
      3. 7.2 Assessment of Global Markets for Opportunities
      4. 7.3 Entering the Global Arena
      5. 7.4 Marketing in a Global Environment
      6. 7.5 Ethical Issues in the Global Marketplace
      7. Chapter Summary
      8. Key Terms
      9. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      10. Critical Thinking Exercises
      11. Building Your Personal Brand
      12. What Do Marketers Do?
      13. Closing Company Case
      14. References
    7. 8 Marketing in a Diverse Marketplace
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 8.1 Strategic Marketing: Standardization versus Adaptation
      3. 8.2 Diversity and Inclusion Marketing
      4. 8.3 Multicultural Marketing
      5. 8.4 Marketing to Hispanic, Black, and Asian Consumers
      6. 8.5 Marketing to Sociodemographic Groups
      7. 8.6 Ethical Issues in Diversity Marketing
      8. Chapter Summary
      9. Key Terms
      10. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      11. Critical Thinking Exercises
      12. Building Your Personal Brand
      13. What Do Marketers Do?
      14. Closing Company Case
      15. References
  4. Product, Promotion, Price, and Place
    1. 3 Unit Introduction
    2. 9 Products: Consumer Offerings
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 9.1 Products, Services, and Experiences
      3. 9.2 Product Items, Product Lines, and Product Mixes
      4. 9.3 The Product Life Cycle
      5. 9.4 Marketing Strategies at Each Stage of the Product Life Cycle
      6. 9.5 Branding and Brand Development
      7. 9.6 Forms of Brand Development, Brand Loyalty, and Brand Metrics
      8. 9.7 Creating Value through Packaging and Labeling
      9. 9.8 Environmental Concerns Regarding Packaging
      10. 9.9 Ethical Issues in Packaging
      11. Chapter Summary
      12. Key Terms
      13. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      14. Critical Thinking Exercises
      15. Building Your Personal Brand
      16. What Do Marketers Do?
      17. Marketing Plan Exercise
      18. Closing Company Case
      19. References
    3. 10 Maintaining a Competitive Edge with New Offerings
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 10.1 New Products from a Customer’s Perspective
      3. 10.2 Stages of the New Product Development Process
      4. 10.3 The Use of Metrics in Evaluating New Products
      5. 10.4 Factors Contributing to the Success or Failure of New Products
      6. 10.5 Stages in the Consumer Adoption Process for New Products
      7. 10.6 Ethical Considerations in New Product Development
      8. Chapter Summary
      9. Key Terms
      10. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      11. Critical Thinking Exercises
      12. Building Your Personal Brand
      13. What Do Marketers Do?
      14. Closing Company Case
      15. References
    4. 11 Services: The Intangible Product
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 11.1 Classification of Services
      3. 11.2 The Service-Profit Chain Model and the Service Marketing Triangle
      4. 11.3 The Gap Model of Service Quality
      5. 11.4 Ethical Considerations in Providing Services
      6. Chapter Summary
      7. Key Terms
      8. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      9. Critical Thinking Exercises
      10. Building Your Personal Brand
      11. What Do Marketers Do?
      12. Closing Company Case
      13. References
    5. 12 Pricing Products and Services
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 12.1 Pricing and Its Role in the Marketing Mix
      3. 12.2 The Five Critical Cs of Pricing
      4. 12.3 The Five-Step Procedure for Establishing Pricing Policy
      5. 12.4 Pricing Strategies for New Products
      6. 12.5 Pricing Strategies and Tactics for Existing Products
      7. 12.6 Ethical Considerations in Pricing
      8. Chapter Summary
      9. Key Terms
      10. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      11. Critical Thinking Exercises
      12. Building Your Personal Brand
      13. What Do Marketers Do?
      14. Marketing Plan Exercise
      15. Closing Company Case
      16. References
    6. 13 Integrated Marketing Communications
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 13.1 The Promotion Mix and Its Elements
      3. 13.2 The Communication Process
      4. 13.3 Integrated Marketing Communications
      5. 13.4 Steps in the IMC Planning Process
      6. 13.5 Ethical Issues in Marketing Communication
      7. Chapter Summary
      8. Key Terms
      9. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      10. Critical Thinking Exercises
      11. Building Your Personal Brand
      12. What Do Marketers Do?
      13. Marketing Plan Exercise
      14. Closing Company Case
      15. References
    7. 14 The Promotion Mix: Advertising and Public Relations
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 14.1 Advertising in the Promotion Mix
      3. 14.2 Major Decisions in Developing an Advertising Plan
      4. 14.3 The Use of Metrics to Measure Advertising Campaign Effectiveness
      5. 14.4 Public Relations and Its Role in the Promotion Mix
      6. 14.5 The Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Relations
      7. 14.6 Ethical Concerns in Advertising and Public Relations
      8. Chapter Summary
      9. Key Terms
      10. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      11. Critical Thinking Exercises
      12. Building Your Personal Brand
      13. What Do Marketers Do?
      14. Closing Company Case
      15. References
    8. 15 The Promotion Mix: Personal Selling and Sales Promotion
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 15.1 Personal Selling and Its Role in the Promotion Mix
      3. 15.2 Classifications of Salespeople Involved in Personal Selling
      4. 15.3 Steps in the Personal Selling Process
      5. 15.4 Management of the Sales Force
      6. 15.5 Sales Promotion and Its Role in the Promotion Mix
      7. 15.6 Main Types of Sales Promotion
      8. 15.7 Ethical Issues in Personal Selling and Sales Promotion
      9. Chapter Summary
      10. Key Terms
      11. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      12. Critical Thinking Exercises
      13. Building Your Personal Brand
      14. What Do Marketers Do?
      15. Closing Company Case
      16. References
    9. 16 Direct, Online, Social Media, and Mobile Marketing
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 16.1 Traditional Direct Marketing
      3. 16.2 Social Media and Mobile Marketing
      4. 16.3 Metrics Used to Evaluate the Success of Online Marketing
      5. 16.4 Ethical Issues in Digital Marketing and Social Media
      6. Chapter Summary
      7. Key Terms
      8. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      9. Critical Thinking Exercises
      10. Building Your Personal Brand
      11. What Do Marketers Do?
      12. Closing Company Case
      13. References
    10. 17 Distribution: Delivering Customer Value
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 17.1 The Use and Value of Marketing Channels
      3. 17.2 Types of Marketing Channels
      4. 17.3 Factors Influencing Channel Choice
      5. 17.4 Managing the Distribution Channel
      6. 17.5 The Supply Chain and Its Functions
      7. 17.6 Logistics and Its Functions
      8. 17.7 Ethical Issues in Supply Chain Management
      9. Chapter Summary
      10. Key Terms
      11. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      12. Critical Thinking Exercises
      13. Building Your Personal Brand
      14. What Do Marketers Do?
      15. Marketing Plan Exercise
      16. Closing Company Case
      17. References
    11. 18 Retailing and Wholesaling
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 18.1 Retailing and the Role of Retailers in the Distribution Channel
      3. 18.2 Major Types of Retailers
      4. 18.3 Retailing Strategy Decisions
      5. 18.4 Recent Trends in Retailing
      6. 18.5 Wholesaling
      7. 18.6 Recent Trends in Wholesaling
      8. 18.7 Ethical Issues in Retailing and Wholesaling
      9. Chapter Summary
      10. Key Terms
      11. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      12. Critical Thinking Exercises
      13. Building Your Personal Brand
      14. What Do Marketers Do?
      15. Marketing Plan Exercise
      16. Closing Company Case
      17. References
    12. 19 Sustainable Marketing: The New Paradigm
      1. In the Spotlight
      2. 19.1 Sustainable Marketing
      3. 19.2 Traditional Marketing versus Sustainable Marketing
      4. 19.3 The Benefits of Sustainable Marketing
      5. 19.4 Sustainable Marketing Principles
      6. 19.5 Purpose-Driven Marketing
      7. Chapter Summary
      8. Key Terms
      9. Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
      10. Critical Thinking Exercises
      11. Building Your Personal Brand
      12. References
  5. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10
    11. Chapter 11
    12. Chapter 12
    13. Chapter 13
    14. Chapter 14
    15. Chapter 15
    16. Chapter 16
    17. Chapter 17
    18. Chapter 18
    19. Chapter 19
  6. Index

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • 1 Explain the first stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.
  • 2 Summarize the second stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.
  • 3 Describe the third stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.
  • 4 Discuss the fourth stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.
  • 5 Explain the fifth and final stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.

Consumer Decision Process

This chapter has examined many of the factors that influence consumer buying behavior, but behind the visible act of making a purchase lies an important decision process that takes place before, during, and after the purchase of a product or service. Figure 3.12 shows the five stages of the consumer decision process.

The five stages of the consumer decision-making process are overlayed on an arrow pointing to the right. Starting at the left, those stages are: need recognition or problem awareness, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase, and post-purchase evaluation.
Figure 3.12 The Consumer Decision Process (attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC BY 4.0 license)

A buyer passes through five stages of the consumer decision process when making choices about which products or services to buy. Let’s examine each, starting at the beginning.

Stage 1: Need Recognition

The buying process starts when you sense a difference between your actual state and your desired state. This is referred to as problem awareness or need recognition. You might become aware of a need through internal stimuli (such as feeling hungry or thirsty when you’re on a long road trip) or external stimuli (such as passing a bakery and smelling the wonderful aroma of cookies baking).

Sometimes recognizing the problem or need is easy. You’ve run out of toilet paper or milk. But other times recognizing the problem or issue is more complicated. For example, think about this first stage in terms of your decision to enroll in college. What was the stimulus that triggered your interest in attending college? Are you a working adult who has recognized that upward advancement in your company won’t happen without possessing a college degree? Have you long aspired to be an entrepreneur, and you wanted to get some business and marketing courses under your belt so that you’re better prepared for the challenges of entrepreneurship? Perhaps a career in marketing has been on your internal radar since high school, and you’ve decided to take the plunge and get your degree in marketing. Or perhaps, after graduating from high school, your parents gave you an ultimatum—either find a job or enroll in college.

Stage 2: Information Search

Now that you’ve identified the problem or need, you’ll be inclined to search for more information. There are two different search states. The milder search state is called “heightened attention,” in which you become more receptive to information about the product or service. The stronger search state is called “active information search,” in which you might do some research about the product or service on the Internet (referred to as an internal search), ask friends and/or family members their opinions (what’s known as an external search), or even visit stores to view and touch the product (called an experiential search).

Keep in mind, of course, that not all needs/problems identified in Stage 1 will require this second stage. If you’ve run out of bread or toilet paper, you’re probably not going to do an information search; rather, you’ll just go to the store to buy what you need, and your information search may be as simple as checking prices at the grocery store to see if your favorite brand is available or another brand is on sale. However, purchase decisions of more consequence will usually trigger an information search of some type.

Again, consider the process you went through in deciding which college to attend. What sources of information did you use to find out about the colleges or universities you considered attending? Did you look at their websites, talk with friends or family who attended that school, or perhaps even visit the campus and meet with an admissions counselor?

Stage 3: Evaluation of Alternatives

Consumers are said to view a product or service as a “bundle of product attributes,” and you evaluate several attributes of a product or service in reaching your purchase decision. For example, if you’re buying a smartphone, you’ll consider factors such as battery life, speed, storage capacity, or price. If you’re booking a hotel, you’ll probably consider its location, cleanliness, free Wi-Fi, whether it has a free breakfast in the morning or a pool, and of course price.

What bundle of attributes did you use when evaluating your college alternatives? You may have considered factors such as location, size of the campus, whether the school had the program of study you wanted, if it had online learning, and cost.

Stage 4: Purchase Decision

This stage involves actually reaching a decision on the purchase of the product or service. One way people navigate all the information, evaluations, and choices in their purchase decision is to use heuristics—mental shortcuts or “rules of thumb.” Heuristics are types of preexisting value judgments that people use to make decisions.

For example, do you believe that the more expensive product is always of higher quality than the lower-priced product? That’s known as the price = quality heuristic. Brand loyalty is another heuristic people use in reaching their purchase decisions. For example, do you eat cereal? Do you always buy the same brand, or do you buy whatever’s on sale or a brand for which you have a coupon? Country of origin is still another heuristic. Given a choice, do you prefer to buy products made in the United States versus products made in other countries?

How did you make your purchase decision to enroll in your college or university? What heuristics did you use?

Stage 5: Post-Purchase Evaluation

After purchasing the product or service, you’ll experience either satisfaction or dissatisfaction. You may have second thoughts after making a purchase decision, and these doubts lead to cognitive dissonance, or buyer’s remorse—tension caused by uncertainty about the correctness of your decision. This may lead you to search for additional information to confirm the wisdom of your decision in order to reduce that tension.

What determines if a consumer is very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, or dissatisfied with his or her purchase? Satisfaction is a function of the closeness between the buyer’s expectations and the product’s perceived performance. If the product’s performance falls short of expectations, you’ll be dissatisfied. If the product’s performance meets your expectations, you’ll be satisfied, and if the product’s performance exceeds your expectations, you’ll be very satisfied.

Think about the purchase decision you made when you decided to enroll in your college or university. Are you very satisfied, satisfied, or dissatisfied with your decision? Refer to Table 3.1 for a summary of the five stages of the consumer decision process.

Stage Description
Stage 1: Need Recognition The buying process actually starts when you sense a difference between your actual state and your desired state. This is referred to as problem awareness or need recognition. You might become aware of the need through internal stimuli (such as feeling hungry or thirsty when you’re on a long road trip) or external stimuli (such as passing a bakery and smelling the wonderful aroma of cookies baking).
Stage 2: Information Search Once the problem of need is identified, the next step is to search for more information that will help you make a choice. There are two different search states—heightened attention and active information search.
Stage 3: Evaluation of Alternatives This is the stage in the process where you’ll evaluate several attributes of the product or service in making a decision on a purchase.
Stage 4: Purchase Decision This stage involves actually reaching a decision on the purchase of the product or service.
Stage 5: Post-Purchase Evaluation After purchasing the product or service, you’ll now experience either satisfaction or dissatisfaction. You may have second thoughts after making the purchase decision, and these doubts lead to cognitive dissonance, or buyer’s remorse. This may lead you to search for additional information to confirm the wisdom of your decision in order to reduce that tension.
Table 3.1 Five Stages of the Consumer Decision Process

Careers In Marketing

You Are Also a Consumer

Learn about the five stages of the consumer decision process in this video from Open Up (Upatras) Entrepreneurship and this article from Business Study Notes.

GWI, a company that researches global consumer thinking, published its 2022 consumer trends report, which showed that consumers’ needs and priorities have shifted. Read the report and see if you find the same results for yourself. Have your priorities and needs changed since the pandemic hit? What are the other factors influencing your needs assessment?

Several tools can help you with a personal needs assessment. Practice your marketing skills on yourself by trying this needs assessment worksheet. This personal awareness will help you in many ways, including finding the right job that best fits your interests and abilities. Also take a few assessments and compare your results to better identify jobs worth learning more about. There are several free career aptitude tests to try:

In addition to career aptitude tests, personality tests assess your skill level and your ability to succeed in a career. Try a few of these:

The Balance Careers site also provides a wealth of resources on additional aptitude, personality, talent, and preemployment tests. It’s worth your time to dive into this information to help you identify which career might be your best fit.

Knowledge Check

It’s time to check your knowledge on the concepts presented in this section. Refer to the Answer Key at the end of the book for feedback.

1.
Janelle and her sister are planning a reception for their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. They have looked at several venues, comparing size, location and accommodations, photo opportunities, and parking. What stage in the consumer decision process model does this best illustrate?
  1. Need recognition
  2. Information search
  3. Evaluation of alternatives
  4. Purchase decision
2.
Ra’Shana’s car broke down on the way to work, and she realizes that she needs to quickly find a repair shop to take care of her vehicle. Which stage of the consumer decision process model does this represent?
  1. Need recognition
  2. Information search
  3. Evaluation of alternatives
  4. Purchase decision
3.
Jason is considering buying a new laptop computer. He is researching different models based on factors like the processor, the hard drive capacity and speed, RAM, operating system, and price. He has also asked a few friends what they like and dislike about their laptops. Which stage of the consumer decision process model does this illustrate?
  1. Problem identification
  2. Evaluation of alternatives
  3. Information search
  4. Post-purchase evaluation
4.
What is a heuristic?
  1. It is the mental conflict that occurs when a person’s behaviors and beliefs do not align.
  2. It is a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments more quickly and efficiently.
  3. It is a function of the closeness between your expectations of a product or service and its actual performance.
  4. It is the process of assigning the cause of behavior to either internal or external characteristics.
5.
Nathan and his husband have decided to purchase a new car. They have narrowed their list to a few models and visited a few dealerships to see the models and test-drive them. Which stage of the consumer decision process does this illustrate?
  1. Need recognition
  2. Information search
  3. Evaluation of alternatives
  4. Purchase decision
Citation/Attribution

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/principles-marketing/pages/1-unit-introduction
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/principles-marketing/pages/1-unit-introduction
Citation information

© Dec 20, 2022 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.