I'll never forget the first time I was told about the consumer decision-making process. "Do you have a pet?" My marketing professor during my MBA asked me. When I said yes, he said, "Okay. So when it comes time to buy your cat that food… that's the consumer decision-making process in action!" His words stayed with me for years because they reminded me that everything we do is a buying process. I don't think about it much until I need something, and then boom! — here come the steps:

Need recognition

You've identified a need. Or, if you're particularly perceptive, you've recognized a problem that needs solving and have thought of an answer (which is basically the same thing). Great! Now what?

You have to communicate this occurrence of need recognition with other people. You may do so by sharing your insight with friends over coffee or through social media posts—but either way, they're not likely to be impressed unless they also recognize that same problem in themselves. That's why companies spend billions on advertising: they want their consumers' attention so they can convince them that their product is the best solution for whatever issue they've identified as important.

To begin, you will need to gather information from various sources. It is often the most time-consuming part of the process, but it is also imperative to do this thoroughly. It helps ensure that you are making an informed decision instead of a snap judgment based on one or two facts.

After gathering your information, you must evaluate it and determine whether or not it is relevant to your particular situation. If there is something that doesn't pertain specifically to you and does not seem like it will be useful in making your choice, then remove those facts from consideration immediately, so they don't cloud the rest of your analysis later on in the process.

Once all relevant information has been gathered and evaluated thoroughly (or discarded), use this knowledge wisely when deciding which product or service best suits your needs and desires. Doing so ensures that our purchase aligns with our values rather than being influenced by outside forces like peer pressure or social media ads directed at us based solely upon demographic characteristics.

Evaluation of alternatives

The evaluation of alternatives is the third step in the consumer decision-making process. In this step, a consumer will collect and compare information about alternative brands, features, prices, and styles. The goal is to determine which product has the best value for your money.

For example:

  • Compare and contrast different brands (comparing price, quality, and features)
  • Compare and contrast additional features (such as size or color)
  • Compare and contrast different prices
  • Compare and contrast different styles (e.g., modern vs. traditional)

During this step, you should also consider how important each of these factors is to you personally when making your purchase decision.

Purchase decision

Once you've decided to purchase a product, your next step is making the purchase. It can be done in-store or online and involves giving the store your money (or credit card information). Depending on where you are in the consumer decision-making process and what kind of product you're considering purchasing, this can be a pretty simple or very involved process.

The post-purchase behavior that occurs after buying something will vary based on what the consumer bought, but there are some general things to keep in mind when it comes time for them to use their new products.

Post-purchase behavior

Post-purchase behavior is how you can measure the success or failure of your product launch. It includes things like customer loyalty, satisfaction, word-of-mouth, and referrals. You want to see an increase in word-of-mouth marketing. The idea here is that people will be so impressed by what they purchased that they want to tell others about it.

If a customer comes back for more purchases after using your product once, then this means that either the quality of the product was good enough so that it has become part of their daily routine or something was lacking from their experience that needs improvement before they make another purchase (either way).

Since we are so used to making these decisions, we need to understand what goes on in our minds when purchasing a product. We may not be conscious of the five steps, but I'm sure if you think about your last purchase decision, you will recognize that at least some of these stages took place.

While the consumer decision-making process can be lengthy and time-consuming, most consumers don't have time for it every day. The key to success as an online marketer is understanding which stages apply to your business and how you can use them effectively.