The Changing Consumer Buying Decision Process

As you might know if you have read my profile, I am currently doing a post graduate in Digital Marketing. It’s going very well, thanks for wondering!!

Our very first lecture was a refresher in consumer behaviour. It was like a stroll down memory lane with old theories and graphs from the past being put up in front of us. The first thing that struck me was how the understanding of consumer’s behaviour came about in a really unplanned way, largely by the work of economists. The famous diagram that we all know starts with a consumer recognising a need or a problem.

Traditional Consumer Buying decision process outdated?

Once the consumer is aware of a need and I suppose in a position to do something about it, they will search out their options and evaluate the various alternatives. They will then make their choice and eventually come to a conclusion as to what extent this choice has lived up to their expectations.

The problem about this very lateral decision making process is that it seems to presume that the consumer is logical, rational and bases their decisions on facts.

First of all consumers can rarely be considered to be rational. The effects of smoking are now widely documented but people still choose to buy a product that harms them. The same can be said for people who pursue dangerous pass times.

Not rational customer buying decision processOther purchases are compulsive or addictive and even though the evaluation stage might yield a negative experience or even regret, the consumer repeats his actions again down the road. This  could be the case for drugs or gambling .Even when logical analysis of the benefits versus consequences of the purchase point alarmingly at a bad choice.

Consumers also don’t make their choices based on facts. They make them based on opinions and perceptions. Opinions are subjective so while one person might like a certain colour another person might not. This is not something the marketer can spend too much energy thinking about, because ultimately what we are concerned with is the areas of consumer’s decisions that we can influence.

But perceptions are different to opinions. In the context of purchasing decisions, people’s perceptions take into account how they want to project themselves. People have an image in their mind of how they want to be seen by others. Realistically there is usually a gulf between how people want themselves to be seen and how they are actually seen. But purchases and ultimately brands give people power to control their image.

The image that people want to display begins as a blur but as they become older things like personality, social class, reference groups and their lifestyle will all bring it more into focus. It’s not necessarily possible for marketers to alter how an individual wants to be perceived. But they do have control of how the brand is perceived and therefore can influence a consumer attitude to a brand and make it desirable to be associated with it.

The role of the marketer has always been to have

  1. A cognitive effect on consumers (make them aware of your brand)
  2. An attitudinal effect (get them to have a positive attitude towards your brand)
  3. A connotative effect (Get them to have an intention to buy)

However the consumer buying decision process has changed. Marketers now need to change with it. 

Check in with my next post to see marketers are trying to adapt



One thought on “The Changing Consumer Buying Decision Process

  1. Hi Barry,
    I am currently working on my final project on the Intro to New Media course at Wheaton College. My topic is on digital marketing, so I am wondering if I could have your permission to have some of the materials on this entry in my study. I would appreciate it a lot!
    Many thanks

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