Understanding the Consumer Decision Making Process

Understanding the Consumer Decision Making Process

an infographic stating "buy" with a hand pointing to the word

Consumers today see over 5,000 brand messages a day. Add to that the fact that more and more new businesses are sprouting up, and competition is as fierce as ever. At the same time, the evolution of digital technology has dramatically altered the consumer decision making process. The key to successfully maintaining brand growth is understanding how to parlay your marketing efforts into successfully affecting the way your customers think.

How the Decision Making Process Works

Why do customers buy any particular product or service? Essentially to improve their lives! Customers must first realize they have a problem. Once they realize there is an issue that can be potentially solved with a purchase, they begin their search for information. This means scouring the internet, friends, family, and every other available resource for possible solutions. Next, they evaluate possible solutions. They then make a choice and pull the trigger on a purchase. Finally, the customer determines how she or she feels about the product/service post-purchase. 

We already know 95% of purchasing decisions are based on emotion. What does this tell us? It means the key to securing the fourth step in the decision making process is appealing to your customers’ emotions. With that said, part of their recognition of a problem encapsulates a dissociation between their desired state and their current state. In a nutshell, will your product or service fill a functional void or will it improve the quality of their life?

What is the most important factor when it comes to selecting one brand over another? Believe it or not, there isn’t one clear-cut answer. Consumers are guided by a litany of psychological, social, cultural, personal, and economic factors. These variables might determine why they choose to buy a particular product, but ultimately consumers, at their very core, are people. They yearn for connection, acceptance, and quality of life.

The Role of Technology

a person thinkingBefore the internet, people bought from those they knew and trusted. While there were admittedly fewer options, the consumer decision making process was simplified. Today, the internet plays a key role in every step of the process. 

While sometimes customers buy a product because of a functional need (i.e. you buy paper towels because you exhausted your supply), more times than not customers perceive a need. Maybe you felt good about the car you drive. It gets you from point A to point B, it’s affordable, and it suits your lifestyle. But the next thing you know, your friend posts pictures of their shiny new car all over Facebook and Instagram. While previously you were content, you might now perceive that you need a new car too. 

The internet is a consumer’s best friend. More than 80% of people research a product online before purchasing, which means they look at things like online reviews, past buyers’ experiences and alternative options. Don’t neglect your SEO; while you can pay for SEM ads, optimizing your website and content not only provides the best user experience, it increases the odds of customers finding you.

Let’s not forget that online shopping accounts for roughly 15% of total shopping, and most people anticipate that number to keep climbing. That means customers are looking for a seamless online shopping experience. They want a responsive site with easy payment options and reliable customer service. If they can’t get what they want from you, they’ll move on to the competition. 

Securing Repeat Customers

happy customersAfter customers purchase from you, they evaluate their post-purchase outcome. Was the experience positive? Would they recommend it to friends or family? For marketers, the final step in the consumer decision making process is far and away the most important. While you might be able to coax people into buying from you one time, it’s more important to keep them buying from you!

The most important part is ensuring your customers avoid buyer’s remorse. Thank them for their purchase and make them feel valued. Remember, they chose to do business with you; you didn’t choose them. Remain available to support their purchase by answering questions and solving their problems ethically and responsibly. Try to provide a comprehensive user experience that you yourself would endorse!


The customer experience is all about value. At the same time, it’s also an experience, which means it should appeal to multiple senses. Zero-in on what drives your customers and tailor your brand messages to appeal to their human side. You don’t want your customers to simply buy from you. You want them to buy from you for life and you want to establish an authentic connection that makes them associate your brand with quality, value, and a positive experience so when it’s time to make a buying decision, they choose you.

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