Type at least 1 character to search
Back to top

5 Stages of the consumer buying decision process

How do consumers decide what to buy? Which product to choose? When do they decide to buy? To answer these important questions, this article is intended to explain the 5 stages of the consumer buying decision process.

The following process on the 5 stages of the consumer buying decision process is based, and refers to the procedure cited by the great marketing gurus Stanton, Etzel and Walker in their 14th edition of the book Fundamentals of Marketing.

5 Stages of consumer buying decision process

The following graph shows the 5 stages of the consumer buying decision process. You can see step by step what happens in the consumer’s head when deciding whether or not to buy a product or service. Below we have made an explanatory breakdown of each stage of the process for a better understanding of the subject.

Stage 1: Need recognition

In this first stage, the consumer recognizes that he has an unmet need and is driven to action by a need or desire. Unsatisfied needs create discomfort to the consumer, so that he begins to recognize that this need can be met by acquiring or consuming goods and services.

This desire to meet this need over time becomes strong enough to motivate a person to decide to make a purchase. This recognition of a need can arise internally at any time. When you are watching television, you are on the computer, you are on the boring sofa, you are stuck in traffic, etc …

Or in another case, the need may be numbed within it until an external stimulus wakes it up, such as an advertisement or the sight of a product or service.

The depletion of a product (the ink in your pen runs out) or dissatisfaction with the product you are currently using can also trigger the decision process.

However, becoming aware of the need is not enough to generate the purchase. As consumers, we have many needs and desires, but finite amounts of time and money. For this reason, there is also competition between our needs. Therefore, the consumer quickly once recognized that he has an unmet need, proceeds to the second stage of the consumer purchase decision process.

Related: 3 Steps to Establish a Market Positioning Strategy

Stage 2: Information and Alternatives Search

In this second stage of the consumer buying decision process, the consumer identifies alternative products and brands that are able to meet their needs, and therefore proceeds to gather information about them from different sources. Whether asking acquaintances or searching the internet.

Most commonly, alternative products are identified first and then alternative brands. The following factors influence the search for alternatives:

  • The amount of information that the consumer already has from experiences and other sources.
  • Consumer confidence in that information.
  • The expected value of the additional information or, in other words, what other information is considered worth acquiring.

After identifying the different alternatives with which the consumer considers that it could meet their needs, this proceeds to what is the third stage of the process: evaluate the alternatives.


Stage 3: Evaluation of Alternatives

In this third stage of the consumer buying decision process, the consumer ponders the pros and cons of the identified alternatives.

When some satisfactory alternatives have been identified, the consumer proceeds to evaluate them before making a decision. The evaluation may involve a single or several criteria, with which the alternatives are compared. For example, price, quality, ease of use, time, durability or color.

When multiple criteria are involved, it is common that not all criteria have equal preponderance. Ease of use, for example, could be more important than price. As experience is often limited and information from sources such as advertising or friendships can be biased, evaluations may be incorrect from the point of view of the facts.

That is, the consumer may believe that the price of the A brand is more expensive than that of the B brand when in fact it is the opposite.

As business owners or marketers, we must closely observe consumers to determine what criteria of choice they follow, to identify any changes that may occur in their criteria or priorities, and to correct any unfavorable misperceptions related to our product or service.

Stage 4: Purchase Decision

In this 4 stage of the consumer buying decision process, the consumer decides to buy or not buy, and makes other decisions related to the purchase.

After searching and evaluating, the consumer has to decide whether or not to buy. Thus, the first result is the decision to buy or not the alternative evaluated as the most desirable. This part of the process the consumer can make the decision in 1 hour or up to 1 month later. Everything will depend on the type of product or service and how large the investment is to acquire said product or service.

In this part of the process it can happen that the consumer does not make the purchase after finding complicated the way to acquire said product or service. What will make you consider other alternatives.

On the other hand, if the decision is to buy, you have to make a series of related decisions related to the characteristics, where and when to make the actual transaction, how to take possession or receive the delivery, the method of payment and other issues. So the decision to make a purchase is actually the beginning of an entirely new series of decisions that can be as time consuming and as difficult as the initial one.

Once the consumer has made the decision, he proceeds to make the purchase and feel happy for having satisfied an intrinsic desire or need.

Stage 5: Post Purchase Behavior

Finally, at this fifth stage of the consumer buying decision process, the consumer seeks to ensure that the choice he made was correct.

What the consumer learns in his journey through the purchase process has an influence on how he will behave the next time the same need is pressed. Moreover, new opinions and beliefs have been formed and the old ones have been corrected. Therefore, this time, we have a more expert consumer in the field.

Therefore, as business owners and marketers, we must also assess how they behave in consumer after making the purchase. Do you feel happy with the product? Are you dissatisfied with the service? Were your product expectations higher? For this, it is important to carry out market studies or surveys to be able to determine if the product or service we offer meets expectations and meets needs. When not, it is the ideal situation to consider improving our product or service, or making changes in the way we market and promote our product or service.

Final thoughts

We hope that this article will be very useful to understand the consumer buying decision process. From Imagine Hub, Digital Marketing Agency in Barcelona, we wish you all the best on your way to achieve more sales and attract new customers.

If you have doubts or questions, comment below and we will answer you as soon as possible. You can also send us an email directly if you prefer to keep it private:  

If you are interested in receiving support from our marketing agency in your next projects aimed at increasing your sales, contact us and together we will achieve the solution. Check out here our Digital Marketing Services or follow our LinkedIn account to stay updated with similar content like this. Follow us on LinkedIn