Consumer Decision Making Process

By John Dudovskiy

Consumer Decision Making ProcessConsumer decision making process comprises five stages: need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase and post-purchase behaviour. Marketing managers attempt to influence consumer behaviour during each of these stages as it has been discussed below in a greater detail.


Need Recognition

Need recognition is the first stage of consumer decision making process and it can be explained as “result of an imbalance between actual and desired needs” (Lamb et al, 2011, p.190). Interestingly, need recognition may relate to actual need of a perspective customer to a specific product or service, as well as, ‘perceived’ customer need imposed by businesses through effective marketing communication strategies.

Specifically, the emergence of the latter form of customer need plays an integral role in customer impulse shopping, and accordingly retailers attempt to create a ‘need’ in customer’s mind for the products and services they are offering. For instance, ‘imposed’ needs in retail environment may include ‘need’ to be refreshed and energised by consuming a range of soft drinks and energy drinks sold by retailers, as well as, ‘need’ to follow fashion trends by purchasing specific items sold by retailers.


Information Search

The second stage of consumer decision making process relates to information search. Once a need is recognised by a perspective customer, he would seek for information about the available ways to satisfy the need. It is important to stress that “the extent to which the consumer needs to search for information depends on his current information levels and the perceived value of the additional information” (Pradhan, 2009, p.123).

Customers are greatly influenced by marketing strategies of retailers during this stage of the decision – making process as well. Namely, retailers communicate information about the brand through various communication channels that might include any combination of advertising, direct marketing, public relations and publicity, personal selling, events and experiences and sales promotion (Kotler and Keller, 2009).


Evaluation of Alternatives

During the third stage of consumer decision making process perspective customers are engaged in evaluation of alternatives. In other words, during this stage “consumers consider the relative importance of each attribute of the product-service mix” (Reid and Bojanic, 2009, p.39).

Influencing customer behaviour at this stage of decision making process is critical for retailers in terms of improving their levels of customer attraction and retention. Accordingly, retailers attempt to attract customers with their competitive edges that are usually based in one or more elements of marketing mix.

It worth to be noted that “the marketing mix principles are controllable variables which have to be carefully managed and must meet the needs of the defined target group” (Kumar, 2010, p.45).  Depending on the nature of their chosen strategy retailers might decide to base their competitive advantages on product (Marks and Spencer, Waitrose), price (Lidl, Netto), promotion (Tesco, Siansbury’s), and/or place (Tesco, Siansbury’s).



Making the purchase corresponds to the fourth stage of customer decision making process. Factors playing significant role on the choice of retailer to make a purchase from at this stage include the level of satisfaction from past shopping experiences, product return policy, store atmosphere and the intensity of time pressure associated with the purchase.

Moreover, it has to be stated that “if the need isn’t great and the solutions the consumer finds aren’t desirable enough to motivate a purchase, the consumer may postpone the purchase until a satisfactory opportunity presents itself” (Lake, 2009, p.29)


Post – Purchase Behaviour

The last stage of customer decision making process involves post- purchase behaviour of customers. It goes without saying that “the post-purchase phase of the decision-making process is essential for marketers to ensure that consumers are satisfied after the purchase” (Ramesh, 2008, p.3). The level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction associated with specific shopping experience customer value brand perceptions and the nature of their repeat – purchase behaviour.

Accordingly, a range of retailers invest in post-purchase communications among customers that can be done through follow-up calls or e-mails from salespeople. However, such type of practices are usually exercised in relation to high value items and it is not very popular among the majority of retailers.



  • Kotler P. and Keller K.L (2009) Marketing Management (13th edn). Pearson Education International, Prentice Hall
  • Kumar, P. (2010) “Marketing of Hospitality & Tourism Services” Tata McGraw-Hill Education
  • Lake, L. (2009) “Consumer Behaviour for Dummies” For Dummies
  • Lamb, C.W, Hair, J.F & McDaniel, C. (2011) “Essentials of Marketing” Cengage Learning
  • Pradhan, B. (2009) “Retailing Management” 3rd edition, Tata McGraw-Hill Education
  • Reid, R.D. & Bojanic, D.C. (2009) “Hospitality Marketing Management” John Wiley & Sons
  • Ramesh, K. (2008) “Conceptual Issues in Consumer Behaviour: The Indian Context”, Tata McGraw-Hill Education

Category: Consumer Behaviour