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Stages in the consumers’ purchasing process

Stages in Consumers’ purchasing process: Need recognition to disposal

There are several stages in the consumers’ purchasing process. You must have bought several products. May be you are planning to buy some and have started researching their price and features. You would also like to consult your friends and family about a specific product and if it is worth buying. Might be there are several other products that you have used and are planning to discard. The buying process begins long before the purchase and lasts long after it. Some products are instantly consumed and others are used in the longer term. The process begins the instant you start planning. Sometimes you consider so many products before selecting the best one from among them. There are several considerations like price, quality and other features to be kept in mind before making the final decision. The instant you have recognised the need, the process has begun.  From recognition of the need to the after use disposal, there are six stages in the buying process. These stages are dealt with in detail below:


The buying process begins at need recognition.  The summer season is close and you suddenly realise that the old AC has stopped working. You already got it fixed twice and this time you are sure it is not worth spending more on it. There is no other option than to replace the old one and bring a new air conditioner. So, you have recognised an important need. Marketers promote their products by highlighting how they satisfy specific needs and wants. You recognise a simple need like ‘Diet Coke’ once you open the fridge. Other needs can be more complex and may be realised in due process. You are planning holidaying in New Zealand and then you realise that you need something for luggage. Several of the advertisements you come across daily are targeted right at your needs. From the denim ads to the deodorant ads, all of them are targeting specific needs. Several times you recognise a need once you see an ad. A deodorant ad reminds you that you need to buy one. Whether you consider buying the brand being advertised or another which is your favourite does not matter.  What matters is the specific need. Millions of products in the market are made to satisfy thousands of our needs.

Stage 2: Search for Information

Not all products will require you to collect information. If the need is as simple as the need for milk, you do not have to ask for more information. You recognize the need and go to the nearby grocery store. However, if you are planning to buy a new motorcycle or car, then you would definitely want more information before you can reach a decision. May be you know a lot about bikes and cars. May be you are deeply interested in them and have been researching from online resources and people using these products. Might be you have also tried riding a few that your friends own before deciding which one is the best. For some person who does not have all this knowledge and experience, he will try to obtain information from websites and brochures. He will consult people who have already used the product to know their feedback or he would visit feedback websites to know people’s response to the products and brands. Internet has become the newest and the most commonly used resource for people trying to make bigger buying decisions. Sometimes people even research for smaller things online to know which one has best price, quality and utility. They would search online and then try to validate the information they collected by consulting people. Advertisements, sales people and company websites are also good sources of information.

Stage 3: Product evaluation

As already mentioned, price and utility are important factors to be considered in the process of purchase decisions. Market sometimes offers us with so many choices that you will find it overwhelming. Even if you think a car, you are bombarded with hundreds of choices. So, to take shortcuts and arrive on a decision easily, you focus on a few most heard of brands. You have too many choices and so you develop evaluation criteria to find the right product that suits your needs. Often to limit your choices, you focus upon price, quality, product safety and similar other features. These evaluation criteria help you narrow down your choices and find the best product from among the crowd. When you develop criteria, you focus on what is most important for you. For some people, it can be the price, for others it is the quality. For example a person may plan to buy a car within the range of $20,000 with excellent mileage. Another one develops the criteria that price can be between $30 and 40 k and the product should be good looking with low environmental impact. So, depending upon the need and purchasing ability, the criteria may differ from buyer to buyer. For some people, the colour may be more important, for some the utility of the product. It is why companies highlight the most attractive features of their products like low fuel consumption and environmental impact, attractive price and easy financing, interior design etc.

Stage 4: Product selection and purchase

The number of stages may be limited in case of the low involvement products where after recognising a need, a person may go to make the purchase and soon discard the packet after the product is used.  In case of the high involvement products like a car, one will go through all the stages till at last he discards or sells the used car ten years after buying it. Moreover, there are related considerations like warranty, after sales service offers, discounts, etc that you will take into account in case of the big ticket items.  Once, all or most of the criteria are met, and you can find a suitable product, you finalise the purchase. The dealer that offers better product and easier terms will make higher sales.

Stage 5: Use and evaluation post purchase

After you have made a purchase, you want to see if the product meets your expectations. John bought a new car. Now it’s time to take his fiancee on a long drive. If the car behaves as per his expectations, all is well. Otherwise John would go through post purchase dissonance and feel frustrated at his purchase because the car does meet all his expectations. This is most likely in case of big ticket purchases. People make such purchases infrequently and have too many expectations of them. If the product misses in one or two important areas, post purchase dissonance follows. After that, consumers start thinking they should not have purchased the item or should have bought it from another seller. To prevent the post purchase dissonance since it may harm brand image, companies are now more focused on after sales support. There are toll free helplines, free first year servicing and even a money back guarantee on the small ticket items.

However, several times companies set expectations higher already. Pizza delivered in 30 minutes or money back. Your pizza which already tastes great gets delivered in 20 minutes and you are happier. The new pair of jeans looks and feels better than you imagined and there are several features in your new car that make every ride amazing. Companies are focusing on customer satisfaction and trying to make every product better than its promise. Extended warranties are offered to keep the customer free of worries.

Stage 6: Disposal

Years back manufacturers did not have to worry a lot about disposal of the products they made. However now-a-days, they have to worry about the environmental impact of their products and their safe disposability. Consumers, society and government are concerned regarding the environmental impact of the products they use. Safe disposability is like a minor criterion that affects the popularity of a product. Chemicals and lead inside the products are a major problem that becomes bigger when they are disposed into the landfills. More and more companies are making refillable or eco-friendly packages that can be disposed without any negative impact on the environment. Product recycling and reducing harmful chemicals in both product and packaging has become an important focus area for most brands. Disposal is the last stage in the buying process and the style of disposal may differ for products and people. You will dispose a packet into the bin after using it and another can be sold to those interested in buying second hand products.

  • Sources:
  • https://open.lib.umn.edu/principlesmarketing/chapter/3-2-low-involvement-versus-high-involvement-buying-decisions-and-the-consumers-decision-making-process/