You go to a store to buy Nacho Chips. You see a Buy One Get One FREE (BOGO) offer for a brand other than the one you had in mind. Then, you change your decision and you grab the BOGO items.

Consumer Decision Making Process

The decision making model we use as consumers has changed dramatically

This offer made at the right time may have totally changed the buying behavior you had going in.

Introducing a sales promotion offer into the consumer decision making process can immediately direct purchase behavior for a product or service.  

Full disclosure, I was the nacho chip purchaser in this very basic example. I shared it to demonstrate how an offer, at the right consumer touch point, can sway a decision.

Consumer touch point is the pivotal word.  Depending on your product or service there are different times in the decision making process to affect behavior.

Traditional Marketing And Today’s Consumer 

The traditional consumer decision making model contains these 5 familiar marketing strategies::

  • Awareness
  • Familiarity
  • Consideration
  • Purchase
  • Loyalty.  

This traditional model is what’s considered a push strategy.

Consumer Decision Making Process

Changing attitudes in the buying process has created a shift away from traditional media

First, we advertise or push a product or service to a target audience.

Using the concept of reach and frequency we then inundate the target consumer with our message.

Through repetitive messaging, our product becomes top-of-mind and part of the consumer’s consideration set.

They purchase, and due to the superiority of our product, they become a loyal customer.

To some extent, this model still works for many brands. However, there has been a decline in traditional advertising vehicles. Changing consumer attitudes, technologies and involvement in the buying process has created an attitudinal shift.

Consumers are now more inclined to pull from external sources the information that is relevant to the product or service attributes that best suit their individual need.

A New Consumer Decision Making Process

The decision making model we use as consumers has changed dramatically. Easy access to extensive online research puts information at our fingertips.

Increased word-of-mouth connectivity, through social media, has given us more control and trust with recommendations from a wide network of friends.

The New Consumer Decision Making Process in 4 Steps

With advancements in information resources, the new consumer decision making model consists of four steps: 

  • Consideration
  • Active Evaluation
  • Purchase
  • Post-Purchase Experience

These four steps also contain important consumer touchpoints. These touchpoints are where a brand can actively participate in the consumer-driven process. As consumers pull information to affect a purchase, new information that is specific to the consumer’s interest may be introduced to change purchase behavior.

How this process works is significantly different depending on your product or service.

The quick and easy nacho chips purchase decision discussed above can be impacted at the point-of-sale, as it was for me.

Buying a new car is a more complex decision that may require much more of a marketing effort. Company driven advertising, an interactive website featuring the many different attributes that appeal to different customers, social media influencers and more may have to go into the mix.

Consumer Active Evaluation in Action

Consumer Decision Making Process

Internet and WOM has changed consumer behavior making them actively involved in purchases

Active Evaluation consists of online research, Word-of-Mouth (WOM) and print reviews to name a few sources of available research. Here’s an example of touching a consumer, me, at the right decision point.

The last time I purchased a new car I had decided on the make, model and even the color. However, I was hesitant about financing options, so I held off making the purchase. I began to research leasing options online. Coincidently I received a very low interest rate finance offer from the manufacturer.

I needed a car, I wanted that car and now I was able to justify my investment with a great deal.  Because I was emotionally involved, I believed I lucked out and bought, well financed, the new car. Do you think that maybe a promotional offer motived my purchase? Regardless, I saw it as a win for all parties involved and was glad I made the purchase.

Actively participating in the consumer’s search for information is half the battle marketers face. Understanding the consumer’s decision is also driven by emotion, their beliefs about a product brand or category and how the consumer will use the product is all a part of affecting a decision.

The more involved a brand can be in the evaluation process the better chance there is to help the prospect become a customer.

Consumer Decision Touchpoint Opportunities

Consumer Decision Making Process

Economics, psychology, sociology and marketing are finding new ways to impact a purchase

Consumer decision models have been a work in progress since the sixties.

The fields of economics, psychology, sociology and marketing are continually finding new ways to impact a sale as consumer needs, tech and purchase options evolve.

With all these disciplines adding to the discussion there is lots of data available. As marketers, knowing when the right time to affect a decision has been our focus.

1. Retail POS Is Where The Action Still Is

Despite the fear that Amazon and online shopping is taking over many categories, consumers still enjoy the ease and convenience of shopping in a brick and mortar store.

Forty percent of consumer supermarket brand purchase decisions are mode while in store

Research indicated that many families actually go to up to five different supermarkets in the course of one year to look at a wide selection of choices, experience products and compare prices before they purchase.

Merchandising and Packaging Matters

Merchandising and packaging are important factors in the consumer buying process. It is estimated that approximately forty percent of consumer supermarket brand purchase decisions are made at the point-of-sale (POS). Reading labels, finding deals and seeking fresh, healthy alternatives is part of the active evaluation at the retail level.

Signage, displays, sales promotional offers and favorable placement are still the cornerstone strategy in capturing the consumer’s attention. Research has indicated that an end-aisle display in a supermarket can boost sales by twenty percent, and that’s without a reduced price or other offerings.

If a brand is in the consumer’s consideration set, packaging, positioning and sales promotional offers may make the sale.

2. Online Engagement Takes Many Forms

Brand-driven marketing is the top driver of the initial consideration phase of active evaluation. Buying is based on a need first and a desire second.

Knowing your consumer and the top brand attributes they need gets a product or service into their consideration set. Touching on their desire creates an emotional response to impact their decision.

The brand message must be clear. Patagonia, the well-known retailer of outdoor adventure clothing, uses beautiful pictures on their homepage to draw the viewer in. Images feature consumers wearing their product while participating in an adventure.

Each image is accompanied by information on the organization’s stance on protecting the environment. Superior product and creating a strong emotional connection impacts purchase behavior and brand loyalty.

consumer decision making process

Touching the consumer with an offer at the right point of the evaluation process closes the deal

When you create a world that beautifully touches upon the needs and desires of your consumer set, they clearly see the benefits of your product.  

Interactivity is the Name of the Game

Making your site Interactive is also very important as consumers participate in the active evaluation process. This approach differs based on your product.

Progressive Insurance greatly expanded their business by offering consumers the ability to compare prices through their website.

Use calculators, provide click-on animations to promote a service, hosting contest, or funneling consumers to information that matches the top attribute they desire are some ways to achieve interactivity.

Become a partner in the consumer decision making process as you share information that’s important to them.

3. Build WOM and Loyalty Connectivity 

A consumer’s past experience plays a big role when they initially consider a purchase. Consumers have access to online reviews, a network of social media friends, and the influencers they follow. The past experiences of many now enter into the consumer’s consideration mindset.

Word-of-Mouth

Having an impact on the Word-Of-Mouth (WOM) around your brand is a significant challenge. Some great ways to build a positive WOM campaign:

  • User-generated content
  • Customer testimonials
  • Product ratings
  • Connection with influencers and thought leaders in your field

Brand Loyalty & Post-Purchase Experience

Brand Loyalty and the Post-Purchase Experience also play a significant role in your WOM campaign and building a base of repeat customers.

As humans we are are social beings that enjoy being connected to a group.

Social media connections and influencers have expanded WOM opportunities

The old model for a loyalty program was you were enrolled in a program as a gold, executive, or some other impressive name and given the opportunity to earn rewards based on usage. Today consumers want more before they profess their loyalty.

Apple computer loyalists don’t even consider other brands because they love the product. Many feel a part of a connected network of users. Ever been to an Apple store? The salesperson answers questions and the product sells itself. Service is provided by trained ‘geniuses’ that work with you to fix an issue as a partner.

The post-purchase experience for product or service users has become a driving factor in creating brand loyalty. For example, my silver elite credit card membership makes tickets available for local sold out concerts along with the points I rack up.

WOM and Post-Purchase Experience loyalty programs are re-working marketing strategies as organizations focus more on active rather than passive loyalists.

Expanding your base of active loyalists by focusing on long-term customer satisfaction builds the content needed for interactivity and positive word-of-mouth experiences.

Kevin Danaher

Kevin’s career spans over 30 years where he worked for New York Sales Promotion and Advertising agencies such as Ventura Associates, and BBDO developing promotional campaigns for some of the world’s leading brands including VISA, General Electric, Kraft/General Foods, Fidelity Investments, and Chrysler. Read More