The Consumer Decision Process: An Overview
The conceptual model in Figure presents the basic steps consumers go through in making a purchase decision. As you can see, the full process involves a rather lengthy sequence of activities: problem recognition (which may occur as a result of seeing an ad), information search, evaluation and selection of alternative brands, store choice and purchase, and finally post purchase behavior. For simple, habitual, everyday purchases with low levels of involvement, the decision-making process is typically very abbreviated. But in those situations where the consumer is highly involved in the purchase, it’s not at all unusual for the consumer to substantially extend the decision process.
Regardless of whether the process is limited or extended, though, numerous sociological and psychological factors invariably play a role in the way consumers behave. These include a series of personal sub-processes that are themselves shaped by various influences.
The three personal processes govern the way we discern raw data (stimuli) and translate them into feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. The personal processes are the perception, the learning and persuasion, and the motivation processes. Second, our mental processes and behavior are affected by two sets of influences. Interpersonal influences include our family, society, and culture. Non-personal influences—factors often outside the consumer’s control—include time, place, and environment. These influences further affect the personal processes of perception, learning, and motivation.
After dealing with these processes and influences, we face the pivotal decision: to buy or not to buy. But taking that final step typically requires yet another process, the evaluation of alternatives, in which we choose brands, sizes, styles, and colors. If we do decide to buy, our post purchase evaluation will dramatically affect all our subsequent purchases.