Understanding the consumer buying process and the factors affecting it.
Consumer buying behavior is the total of consumer’s beliefs, preferences, purchasing decision regarding the consumer’s response in the marketplace when buying a product or service. It is broadly classified as the decisions and actions that influence the purchasing behavior of a consumer.
The study of consumer buying behavior helps organizations and industries to gauge the preference of consumers, and to some extent, it even helps them to predict future trends.
To study consumer buying behavior, marketers need to research; they need to know how consumers reach the final decision to buy the final product. From startups to MNCs everyone studies consumer buying process as it helps them to understand the buying habits of a consumer. Understanding consumer behavior allowed the companies to increase their market share by anticipating the shift in consumer wants.
Philip Kotler, an American marketing author, consultant, and professor developed a learning theory about the stages in the buying process. Each method gives a reference about the actions in the consumer buying process.
According to Philip Kotler, the standard buying process involves five stages: Problem Recognition, Information Search, Evaluation of Alternatives, Purchase Decision, Postpurchase Behavior.
1. Problem recognition
Problem recognition is identified as the first and most crucial step in the consumer buying decision as a purchase cannot take place without the necessity of the product. Internal and external stimuli can trigger a need. Internal stimuli are the basic needs like hunger, thirst, comfort whereas the external stimuli are the external forces, for instance, when a consumer sees a brand-new, luxurious car, he desires to buy it.
2. Search for information
After estimating the need for a particular product, the next step is to find the information. For instance, you have made the decision to buy a car, the next step would be to look for information about different cars, a potential buyer would gather reviews from various sources such as by discussing with family or friends, search for information about the product in newspapers, televisions, radios, and consumer-rating agencies.
3.Evaluation of Alternatives
In the former stage, the consumer has accumulated data about specific brands. Now, he undergoes evaluation of brand. He cannot purchase all of the brands. So he usually looks for the best brand, the brand which offers maximum satisfaction to the consumer. Evaluation calls for evaluating with certain evaluating choices such as
i. Benefits provided by the brands
ii. Qualities, features or attributes, and performance
iii. Comparing the price of various brands
iv. History of brands
v. Popularity, image or reliability of brands
vi. Services given by the brands, such as after-sales services, warranty, and free installation
vii. Availability of brands and seller rating.
4. Purchase Decision
This is the stage when the customer prefers one, the most assuring brand out of several brands. The previous scene helps consumers evaluate various brands in the choice set. The brand that offers maximum privileges or satisfaction is preferred.
The consumer finally makes up his mind to purchase the most preferred brand. However, three factors further affect whether buying intention result into an actual purchase.
The first factor is the negative feedback about the product from their family, and friends.
The second factor is the unanticipated situational factors. The purchase decision may change due to certain unforeseen situational factors like price hike, loss of job, or non-availability of the preferred product.
The third and last factor is consumer’s perceived risk. The degree of risk depends on price, attribute uncertainty, entry of a new superior product, and his self-confidence.
5. Post-purchase decision
In brief, consumers will compare products with their previous expectations and will be either content or unhappy. Therefore, these steps are essential in retaining customers. This can significantly affect the decision process for similar purchases from the same organization in the future, possessing a knock-on effect at the report search stage and evaluation of alternatives stage.
If your consumer is satisfied this will rise in brand loyalty. This step is necessary for companies as this helps them to engage their customer. Thus, the buying process is a journey from problem recognition to a reaction of buyers. The complete process is significant to the seller. The process reflects most of the factors affecting customers. Marketer, therefore, must study the purchasing process from a consumer’s viewpoint.
Sometimes these steps occur subconsciously based on past experiences or are analyzed for items that are purchased repeatedly. Regardless this process is influenced by an internal and external factor as well as marketing. Below is a more in-depth look at these consumer purchasing influencers.
Many factors or forces influence an individual buying behavior, these forces affect consumers at a psychological level and determine their overall buying behavior. Various factors affect the psychology of consumers while buying a product. Let’s have a look at some of the factors:
Human beings live in a complex environment wherein they are surrounded by several people who have different buying behaviours which play a crucial role in their buying decisions. Man is a social animal, who likes to be accepted by all tries to imitate the practices that are socially acceptable.
Therefore, social factors determine the buying behavior to a great extent. Some of the social factors that influence buying behavior are family, friends, social status, and the reference group.
Cultural factors constitute a set of beliefs and philosophies of a particular community or group of individuals. In simpler words, cultural values are nothing but the interests, thoughts, and behaviors that an individual learns at a very early stage of his childhood from the people especially, the parents and the other vital institutions which were around during his developmental stage.
Cultural factors have an extensive effect on an individual’s buying decision. Cultural factors consist of sub-culture (which further comprises several subcultures such as belief, age, geographical location, social class, etc.)
The personal factors are the individual factors to the consumers that strongly influence their purchasing behaviour. The personal factors vary from person to person that results in a different set of attitudes, perceptions, and act towards certain goods and services. Several factors influence the buying habits of an individual. Some of the personal elements are age, income, occupation, and lifestyle.
The economic factor is the most crucial factor that affects the buying decision of a consumer. The factors that significantly influence consumer buying behavior are personal income, family income, income expectations, consumer credit, liquid assets of the consumer and savings.
Influence of technology on Consumer buying behavior
The evolution of technology has immensely changed the way people do everyday activities like shopping, investing, banking. Back in those days, the way we shop is immensely different from the way we shop today. Because of these innovations, the consumer buying behavior has changed.
Most of us relied on brick and mortar services; there was a lack of information among customers and no price comparison services existed, many of the companies escaped from providing after- sales services and there was no platform available for consumers to address their grievances. In a survey 81%, people said they perform a search online before buying a product, and 97% of consumers said they read online reviews before making a purchase.
Nowadays, customers are bombarded with thousands of pieces of information every single day over the internet, and their attention span has deteriorated rapidly. What this means to the marketer is that a customer’s evaluation cycle is significantly crunched from a stage of multiple days or hours to a matter of minutes or seconds.
If your product doesn’t convince the customer to grab your product right now this means that you have lost them forever, and they will not come back no matter how much you bombard them with ads.
Understanding how these influences affect the consumer buying process is essential. Organizations that can use both customer research and analytics to help answer these questions and quickly react will ultimately be successful. Once they have overcome this initial hurdle, the next challenge will involve nurturing and strengthening brand loyalty while adapting to every changing marketplace.