The purchase decision is only the ‘visible’ part of a complex decision-making process by the consumer. But what happens before and after this purchase? What are the factors influencing the choice of product purchased by the consumer? Funeral industry professionals are dealing with consumers making buying decisions every day and it can help to understand what internal processes that consumers go through on their way to making a decision to purchase a particular service or product.
In 1968 Engel, Blackwell and Kollat developed a model of the consumer buying decision process in five steps: Problem/need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives to meet the need, purchase decision and post-purchase behavior. We will look at each step in detail.
1. Need recognition / problem recognition
The need recognition or problem recognition is the first step in the buying process. If there is no need, there is no purchase. This recognition happens when there is a gap between the consumer’s actual situation and the ideal/desired one.
For example, the ability to be able to travel to your work by car in 20 minutes every morning (ideal situation) rather than lose two hours using public transport (actual situation) is something that means a lot to most people. So the obvious need arises for the purchase of a car.
The recognition of a need by a consumer can be caused in different ways: internal stimuli, which is the physiological need felt by the individual such as hunger or thirst, or external stimuli, such as exposure to an advertisement.
2. Information search
Once the need is identified the consumer seeks information about possible solutions to their ‘problem’. They will search for more or less information depending on the complexity of the choices to be made.
The consumer seeks to make their choice and assists their decision-making process with:
- Internal information: this information is already present in the consumer’s memory. It comes from previous experiences they have had with a product or brand and the opinion they may have of the brand.
- External information: This is information on a product or brand received from and obtained by friends or family, by reviews from other consumers or from the media.
NOTE: During the decision-making process a consumer will more highly value their internal information and information from friends, family or other consumers than advertising, websites or a brochure of the service etc.
3. Alternative evaluation
Once the information is collected, the consumer will be able to evaluate the different alternatives that are offered. They will evaluate the most suitable alternative that best solves their need or problem, by looking at:
- The objective characteristics, such as the features and functionality of the product or service; and
- The subjective characteristics, such as perception and perceived value of the brand/business or its reputation.
NOTE: Each consumer does not attribute the same importance to each attribute for their buying decision process.
4. Purchase decision
Once the consumer has evaluated the different solutions available for meeting their needs, they are able to choose the product or service that best solves their problem or meets their need.
This decision will depend on the information and the selections made in the previous steps based on perceived value, product’s features, services offered and other capabilities that are important to them.
5. Post-purchase behaviour
Once the product is purchased or service is used, the consumer will evaluate the adequacy with their original needs (those needs which caused the buying behavior). And whether they have made the right choice in purchasing this service or product. They will feel either a sense of satisfaction for the product/service (and the choice). Or, on the contrary, a disappointment if the service or product has fallen short of expectations.
NOTE: The post-purchase evaluation may have important consequences for a business. A satisfied customer is very likely to become a loyal customer and/or refer the business via word-of-mouth. Positive or negative, consumers will also be able to share their opinion within social networks or on consumer review websites.
By improving their knowledge of the consumer buying decision process, businesses can improve their marketing strategy to effectively respond and be present with their customers at each stage of their buying behavior. And thus raise and create a need, strengthen their relationship with their customers and grow their reputation.