Stages of the Consumer Decision-Making Process and How it's Changed

The manner of identifying which item to purchase or service to avail reflects the consumer’s personal preferences, options, and interests. In order for your products/services to be acquired by the consumers, you must be able to meet the factors that consumers highly consider at every stage or make them aware of the key points why your product/service is the best choice for them.

The Decision Making Process is used to guide us determine the flow of how people land on the decision to execute a purchase. Even before the formulation of the 5 Stages of Consumer Decision Making Process by Thomas Dewey in 1910, the system already exists. It is already practiced by the mass across the globe. Classic examples of when we apply the 5 stages in our daily routine is first, while doing the grocery; second, when looking for a place that you can rent; or third, nearest home décor store at your office. The buying process has been greatly involved in our daily routine that it became a natural process deeply rooted in our minds it works like an instinct.

The moment the buyer hands over his/her money seems to be the most important step in the buying journey of consumers. But the truth is, it is not. There are other steps to accomplish that weighs more than the act of buying the item. Before a consumer lands on a decision, he/she has an initial set of considerations. Then, the consumers pass through a funnel that filters and narrows down the factors and options until he/she decides to purchase or not. 

With the rise of technology, times have changed and so does the buying habits of the consumers. The way and the approach businesses offer their products/services has transformed as well. Shopping experience and service availment has become more accessible and adhering towards the lifestyle and life pacing of the market.

Despite these changes, the 5 stages of consumer decision making process remains to be relevant as it  still serves its purpose – to guide marketers and businesses like you identify how you can better penetrate the market and influence their decisions. Consumers still pass through this process and it has become more difficult this time because of the changes that happened – more options, variations, and real customer feedback.

Let us go on and go through the overview of the 5 stages of the Consumer Decision-Making Process.

1.       Consumers recognize the need / problem

2.       Collection of data/information

3.       Consumers look for alternatives

4.       Purchasing decision

5.       Evaluation after purchasing

As you read further, you will uncover the role of each step and how it has changed over time. You will also see how time and technology has affected the buying journey of consumers from start, during, and after. We will provide you an example for each step to further help you understand the flow.

1.       Consumers recognize the need – This is the initial step in penetrating your market. Identifying the concerns of your target audience that must be addressed immediately. This is a crucial step in the whole process because there would be no need to make a purchase if there is no problem/need to fulfill.  There must be a triggering factor to make consumers recognize the need to purchase. It can be an internal or external stimuli. The former refers to personal and basic needs such as hunger, thirst, craving, feelings, and so on. While the latter refers to the exterior factors that stir up the needs and wants of your market such as online advertisements, promotions, and word of mouth. There are ways that you can identify the current needs  of today’s market. But the one we highly suggest is for you to engage in marketing field and Search Engine Optimization where in you use keywords to extract data about the needs or queries of the market that you are catering to. Look into 10 Best Content Optimization Tools For SEO for further explanation of how SEO works.

Conduct an in-depth research about the inquiries people are asking under your specific industry. Successfully doing so will build the strength of your contents which you should be immensely focusing on. These materials are crucial to your business because this will spark the stimuli that creates a want/need feeling of your market.


2.       Collection of data/information – The next step after the stimuli kicks in on your audience is the collection of data. It refers to the act of gathering initial information by the market that has to be fulfilled by you. This is the part of the process wherein the consumers find data that allows them to create a solution towards the problem or what options does one have. Prior the rise of internet research, people resort to recommendations, television, newspaper, or radio as an avenue to gain knowledge about a certain matter. But now, people opt to use the fastest route to obtain information which is through internet research. With a few words to type on the search engine, you instantly receive thousands of results that answers your concerns.

Your role in this second step is to make sure that your content, information materials, video, or infographic is well constructed, has enough product details, and is optimized by SEO. This is to ensure that your information sheet has high online and offline visibility. Avoid heavy texts and unrelated images because the industry is already saturated. Your task is to make the decision making easier for your customer.


3.       Looking for alternatives – Now that your target market has identified the problem, has researched information and gained knowledge on how to address their concerns, the next step in the Decision Making Process is to search for options/alternatives. Historically, as business leaders and marketers, you have the liberty to manage how your audience sees your brand, products, services. You have the full control of how you would like to position your company including your branding. But now, people have gained massive control on how your brand is perceived by the public. This is because of online recommendations, suggestions, reviews, word of mouth, unboxing videos. There are tricks to ensure that your brand is always geared towards the immediate variety of options under the ecosystem of your industry. This is by putting emphasis on what makes your product/service standout, what can your consumer gain, how will it address your consumer’s needs. Stop telling your market why they should not but brand B. Instead, concentrate on optimizing your content, highlight your key features, and talk about customer experience.  This allows you to be constantly present in the ecosystem of your products/services.


There will be times that consumers will go back and forth from #2 to #3 and vise versa because the market conduct multiple comparisons and reviews before heading on to step number 4. 

4.       Purchasing decision – Once your customer has decided which product to buy, the moment wherein the customer decides to purchase the item or not has arrived. However, do not get too complacent even if you have reached this level – checkout stage. There are still incidents that can happen that will make you lose your client such as sudden change of mind, conducting further research, unsatisfactory experience, and the likes. The goal of this stage is to make your customer adhere to his/der decision to buy the item as soon as possible. To strengthen the decision of your customer even more, include reviews, feedbacks, studies to support the decision that was made. You can also increase your sales by adding other items in the checkout page that supplements the initial product to be purchased.

Now, you must ensure the things that come after the checkout page is as fluid as possible. These are the packaging, shipping, payment options, logistics which can all affect the potential of gaining recurring customer and lead generation.


5.       Evaluation after purchasing – This is the period of time wherein your customers take a pause and rethink about the purchase that was just made, how it makes them feel, if it delivered its promises. This is the tipping point where you find out if the customer is most likely to return and repurchase from your store and share the experience to their peers. Nowadays, you can easily collect reviews from purchasers. There are software that is being used by ecommerce businesses that gathers feedbacks from consumers. Feedback plays an important role in this stage because not only does it provide information on your store’s overall performance, gives you allowance to adjust and improve on your weak points but it also also serves a starting point on how you can build the loyalty of your customer.


One cannot deny the fact that technology and internet has changed the buying habits of the consumers. They gained control over identifying which products are worthy of money and which stores are customer centric. But at the same time, these inventions has the capacity to be the catalyst in providing best service, gaining customer loyalty, and achieving business goals.

Now that you have the 5 stages of consumer decision making process, you can start to explore this avenue that can help you land actual paying customers. Through this knowledge, you can engage in ways on how you can optimize your products, services, stores to gain business success and economic growth in no time.