5 Stages of Customer Buying Decision

1.) Realization of need – First the consumer my realize that they “need” an item or service. The realization may happen slowly over time, e.g. the realization that the customer needs a new home, or very quickly, e.g. the realization of a need for Chapstick at the cash register at CVS. The marketer must understand how their targeted consumer segments come to this realization and plan accordingly.

2.) Research – Customers then research which products or services may satisfy their need. They get their information from everything from advertisements, company websites, family and friends, sales people and product packaging. Increasingly powerful source of information is social media and peer review sites. Research may be a large part of the purchasing decision, e.g. a customer purchasing a home will do a lot of their own research and often bring in a real estate agent to find the right match. Or the research process may be as quick as seeing the Chapstick at the cash wrap and realizing they have dry lips.

3.) Evaluation – After the customer has identified a number of options that may satisfy their need, the customer will select the best option for them based on a number of criteria, i.e. price, quality, convenience, brand, reliability, etc.

4.) Purchase – The customer then purchases the product but must still decide which channel (online, retail, catalog, etc) and which specific provider.

5.) Satisfaction – Once the customer has purchased the product or service the customer may realize the purchase was satisfactory or not. This realization will help determine if the customer becomes a positive or negative influence for potential future customers as well as determine if this customer will be a repeat consumer.

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