The 5 steps in consumer decision making process

Consumer Decision Making Process

Five steps in consumer decision making process

This article entail in detail the 5 steps in consumer decision-making process you should know. The purpose of this article is to help you understand consumer behaviour in terms of product purchase.

Understanding end users decision-making process will enable you prepare your organization or business inline with how they (consumers) make decisions to satisfy themselves; In other to attract more customers to your products and make more sales.

In essence, understanding the steps consumers go through before buying a product will help you go a long way in improving your business.

Therefore if you stopped by having this question in mind, WHAT ARE THE FIVE STEPS IN CONSUMER DECISION MAKING PROCESS? You are in the right place for the best answer get online.

This article also entail decision making process examples to help you better understand the 5 steps  in consumers decision making process.

Before we go into the business of the day I would like you to know the meaning of the following

1) consumer

2) consumer behaviour

3) Decision making process definition.


A consumer is any person who buys goods and services for personal consumption. This goods or product are produced and marketed to satisfy his wants or that of his associates (family members). In a few words, a consumer is an end-user of a product.

While preparing myself for this article, I bought a new pen and seven red apples. As I’m writing, I’m eating and chewing my apples. That means I am a consumer of both the pen and apples. Because I am the end-user of the goods or products.

If you decide to get a cup of coffee to sip as you go through this information, you’re a consumer because you’re the end-user of the coffee you bought.

Consumer behaviour.

Consumer behaviour is the psychological attitude of a consumer either before or after using a product.

In simpler terms, consumer behaviour is the study of how consumers feel, think, and act in the market place.

Decision making process definition

Consumer decision-making process .

I would define the decision-making process as the steps a consumer go through before buying a product to satisfy a need in other to make the right decision.

These steps are taken by consumers to actually decide the right product or service that best fit their recognized needs / wants.

Now let’s ride straight into the business of the day using this often asked question.

What are the steps in the decision-making process?

They are 5 steps in consumer decision-making process which are

Step 1) Need recognition

Step 2) Pre – purchase search

Step 3) Evaluation of alternatives

Step 4) Purchase decision

Step 5) Post purchase evaluation .

Continue reading for more details and better understanding on the consumer decision-making process in the study of consumer behaviour.

Step 1) Need recognition.

This is likely to occur when an end-user (consumer) is in a difficult situation or faced with a problem.

For example, I need a new suit for prom night.

tattered suit i need new suits
Need recognition  – suit.

In my case, the problem is, my current suit is tattered and outdated. So I need a new suit to grace my fourth coming prom night. You don’t expect me to wear that pictured above or do you?.

Consumers first of all need something (product or service), before going all out to do the needful to get it. Come to think of it, it’s impossible to have everything and still needs something. But because customers needs are endless, they will always find a need for their day-to-day activities no matter how small it is.

Now, it’s your duty as a serious business owner or marketer to spot those needs. And have it advertised and delivered to consumers who need it at the right time.

However they are two different needs recognition styles that occurs among consumers.

* Actual state types

These are consumers who perceive that they have a problem or need something when a product or service didn’t meet their expectation. In other words, they recognize a need when a product is below their first expectations.

For example, let’s say a customer bought a new watch that keeps wrong timing after using it for a few weeks. Such an individual will develop a or the need for another product (watch), because the previous one performed below expectations.

Desired state types.

These are consumers who the desire for something new is likely to trigger their decision-making process. This may be because the product is trending.

For example, Mr Sam gave his son his iPhone 8 because he want to buy new iPhone x Max.


Kylie wants to sell her Range Rover sport 2018 model for the new 2019 model.

From the above examples, you’ll notice that the desire for something new triggered the consumers decision-making process.

In summary, need recognition is what triggers the decision-making of end users. And this is likely to happen because of an impromptu situation or planned one.

Note: Need recognition could be through internal stimuli or external stimuli. It’s external when the needs triggers due to change in lifestyle, health, occupation, hunger etc. It’s external when the need to get a product triggers due to advertisement (billboard, magazine ads etc) or referrals from friends and colleagues. That’s it on the first step of consumer decision-making process.

The 5 steps in consumer decision-making process

Step 2) Pre- purchase search

Pre purchase search begins when an end-user recognizes a need that might be satisfied by buying and consuming a product.

In this case, the consumer now knows what he wants to buy that will satisfy him. But has to do a few research to actually know the various alternatives or options available in the market.

for example, what quality suits are out there?

men suits 29
pre-purchase search for suits

I my case, I had to google suits that are best for prom night.

pre buy search can’t occur when a need hasn’t been recognized. It’s impossible. A consumer first of all develops the need to buy a product. Before making a little research on the product’s options available for purchase in other to get the best one.


Just like need recognition, pre buy search could be through internal and external sources.

Internal sources of pre buy search are

* Experience

individuals very own knowledge about a product or service might prove pivotal when next they need such product or service. The experience may be good or bad.

The reason Mr Sam wanted to buy an improved iPhone was because his experience (knowledge) of the previous one he used was satisfactory. If he wasn’t satisfied, he would’ve gone for another product.

* Personal source

A consumer may decide to settle for product A or product B because he was told product B will do the job after discussing his need with someone. The information might have be gotten from his friends, family members, co – workers, colleagues, intuition etc.

External sources of pre purchase search.


An end user may decide to purchase product B over that of A because of a radio advert he heard, or a T.V advert he saw maybe while watching a soccer game.

A consumer might have identified the need to get a new refrigerator maybe two nights ago. And upon switching on his television, he saw on advert on quality refrigerators currently selling for promo price. That maybe all needs to know before purchasing the product.

I was a lover of brown chocolates not until two years ago when I saw a captivating advert on cream / milk chocolate so I decided to try it. That was how I switched preference till date.

Product package, sales person,are other pre-purchase search under commercials. Others may include online search using search engines (likes google, bing, yahoo etc), billboard, newspaper, magazines etc.

In summary, pre purchase search is simply the gathering of information (data collection) about a product or service to know the various options available. It’s usually done by consumers when a need has already been identified. That’s all on the second step on consumer decision making process.

Steps in consumer decision making process

Steps in consumer decision process

3) Evaluation of alternatives.

Evaluation is an assessment while alternatives means relating to a choice between two or more possibilities.

In relation to this article, evaluation of alternatives is when a consumer takes his time to assess (evaluate) all of the various options available in the market to satisfy his already recognized need.

For example,

What kind or type of suit do I actually need?

evaluation of alternatives suits
Evaluation of alternatives

In essence, this consumer decision making process step is when the end user takes matters into his hand by weighing up options that will be best for him.

However, consumes evaluate alternatives based on a few factors such as

* Brand

A brand can be defined as a name, symbol, logo, or other items used to distinguish a product or service, or it provider.

when I wanted to trow a small birthday party for my kid sis, I recognized the need for cake, soft drinks, balloons etc. For the soft drinks, I didn’t waste a lot of time on the pre search purchase (searching for alternatives); because I already knew a thing or two about soft drinks. So when I got to the store, I just asked for Pepsi and coke.

My decision making process would have been more difficult if I wasn’t familiar with a few brands producing soft drinks. And the reason it wasn’t was because I’ve already decided to buy either Pepsi or coke soft drinks.

Now this is what I want you to know; A lot of individuals (consumers) make their buying decision based on their preferred brands. That is consumers already have / list a few brands they plan to make their selection from. And it may be because of the brand’s other quality products they are familiar with. Consumers have a few brands they trust based on their experience.

I have a friend whose electronics and personal gadgets are all Samsung. If he recognizes a need today and discover Samsung has it, he buys it without hesitation.

Someone like that is likely to recommend the same brand for an individual on pre purchase search having recognized electronics as a need.

* Price

price can be seen as the amount placed on a particular product after due consideration of its factors of production.

when an end user is weighing up options, the cost of the product is always a major factor in the consumer decision making process. And this is because a consumer can only purchase a product based on his financial ability.

I remember saying I demanded for both Pepsi and coke when I went shopping for my sister’s birthday. But I had to purchase a few quantity of Pepsi when the price of coke turned out higher than expected.

Consumers want something cheap or rather cheaper, when compared to various alternatives. It’s not our fault, it’s just nature.

I’m not saying your product should be cheap. No. All I want you to understand here is this; the price or cost of your product should be affordable by your target audience.

Make a good research about your potential customers. This is to ensure they can afford your product or services before placing a price on that product. By taking your time to do this, you won’t be pressured into reducing prices and running at loss in future.

* Qualities, features, specifications.

In business, quality can be seen as being suitable for it’s intended purpose while satisfying customers expectations. A customer may perceive a product with more features as better or best when weighing up available options.

No manufacturer can list every single item or material used in creating a unique product and that’s understandable. But at least there’s need for you to list out some key ingredients or materials used in making a product on a website or on the product package. Before I take a new product, I tend to check the ingredient; for example to know the fat percentage (%) sugar % etc. Doing this will make the consumer more interested in what you are offering and will also help them take precautions.

As an author, your book tittle and it’s table of contents will go a long way in determining the success of your product (book). Because a book’s tittle and table of contents either draws readers to want to buy it or otherwise.

I remember when I wanted to buy an Android phone in 2018. My preferred brands were gionee, infinix and Samsung just to name a few. And I wanted a phone with minimum specifications of dual sim, micro SD card space, 2gb ram, 16gb rom, 4G support, 4000mah battery, android version of 7.0 and upgradeable.

Having decided on my preferred minimum features, I searched online and weighed every options I saw based on their qualities (specifications), brand and price. To cut the long story short, I had to to settle for huawei. Because the price was cheaper compared to others and it has the qualities I wanted.

A consumer who wants to buy a product for the first time may not know all or know little of what to expect from such item. Especially if it’s not from a popular brand. Therefore letting loose of a few information about your product that you know will interest your target audience is always a welcome idea.

If huawei hadn’t released the qualities of that phone, how would I have known it posses what I was looking for?. And without any idea, I would have gone for another product. And will probably recommend same for someone else with similar need. This technique plays a key role in a consumer decision making process. So make sure you exploit it so it can Favour you.

* Place

In business, a place can be viewed as where your business is sited. So your customers can come patronize you directly.

Are you close to your target audience?

Consumers will at some point consider where your to get their recognized needs when weighing up options.

Therefore as a business owner, make sure you consider your target audience before choosing a business location. Remember that they shouldn’t have to go through hell to get what you’re offering.

Step 4) Purchase decision

This is the stage where the consumer decides to buy a product after due consideration of all of the above factors.

In essence, purchase decision is made by the consumer for the recognized need; after he has successfully conducted the pre purchase search. And have weighed up the product available options.

I am definitely going to purchase this one.

Having weighed up available options, I have decided to buy this suit to grace prom night. Because its fine and more affordable compared to others.

purchase decision
Purchase decision

In my case, I have decided to purchase the suit recommended by sales person. After evaluating based on my preferred brand, colour and my budget for the suit.

However, consumers makes three types of purchase which are trail purchase, repeat purchase and long term commitment purchase.

Trial purchase is when a consumer decides to buy a product to actually find out if the product can really satisfy his recognized need. While making a trial purchase, the consumer usually buys in small quantity due to unfamiliarity with the brand. A consumer wouldn’t want to gamble a lot on the new product. So they’ll rather buy in very small size to test the product.

It is also another method adopted by consumers to evaluate products amongst various alternatives.

for example, Mr Sam saw an advert on a new toothpaste (toothpaste x). And was captivated by the features and benefits of the toothpaste.

On his way back from office, he decided to buy the smallest size of the toothpaste; to confirm what he’s seen and then compare it to his current mouthwash.

The above is a simple example of a trial purchase and this is why. Mr Sam actually bought the toothpaste for the first time in a small quantity to see if he’ll be impressed.

* Repeat purchase .

Unlike trial purchase, this is when a consumer buys a product because he’s sure it will satisfy his need. When a consumer comes back for your product after he initially bought and used it for the very first time, that’s repeat purchase. And it’s usually done when a consumer is satisfied with the outcome of the product after he bought and used it on trial.

for example, if Mr Sam buys the toothpaste x again after, he initially bought to confirm what he’s seen and compare it to his current mouthwash, that repeat purchase. And he did that because he was impressed with the toothpaste the first time he used it.

* Long-term commitment purchase

This is simply a situation whereby a consumer continues to buy a product for a particular recognized need. This is actually the dream of every marketer or business owner.

For example, if Mr Sam continues to buy toothpaste x for like 2 years and counting  whenever he needs a mouthwash, that can be seen as a long term commitment purchase.

However, it can only be achieved when the product in question has all the qualities needed by your audience and it’s also affordable by them.

In summary, purchase decision is when a consumer decides to buy a particular product after going through all of the above mentioned stages. That’s all on the forth step on consumer decision making process.

Step 5) Post – purchase evaluation.

This stage is very important for the company, business owner or marketer (who sold the product) and the end user who bought the product.

Post – purchase evaluation refers to a customer’s review on the purchased product whether it’s good or not. In essence, it is the feedback of a product purchased on trial by a consumer.

How was the suit I bought? Was it the right one for me? Was it perfect for the occasion?

Post purchase evaluation

In my case, I very much liked my suit. And I would gladly recommend the brand to a friend any day any time.

When a consumer buys a product for the first time and comes back, that signifies a positive feedback. Because the consumer wouldn’t have repeated the purchase if it was bad. Such a consumer can even go as far as recommending the same product for other individuals which is good for a business.

But to play your part as a business owner, you may need to engage in post purchase engagement such as follow – up email. This will enable your customers drop a review or two about your product which will help you serve them better.

They are three likely outcome of post purchase evaluation which are

1) Actual performance

This is a situation whereby the product purchased performed as expected by the consumer. No more, no less. it leads to a neutral feeling.

For example, when someone buys a pen, the individual expects the pen to write. And if it does, that actual performance because it delivered as expected.

2) Exceed performance.

This is a situation whereby the product or service bought exceeds the customer’s expectations leading to what’s called positive disconformation of expectations. In this case the consumer is well satisfied with the product or service.

for example, lets say you’re hosting a dinner party and you requested the services of a chef to to help you prepare dinner.

You then had to go out to get drinks which took a while and upon your arrival, you noticed the chef has prepared the dinner, done your laundries, cleaned and arrange your sitting room.

You expected the chef to just prepare dinner and leave right? but of course you didn’t mind the extra services.

3) Under performance

This is the opposite of exceed performance. It is simply a situation whereby a customer buys a product which delivers below expectations causing disconfirmation of expectation and of course dissatisfaction.

For example, I remember buying a charger for my Android phone which couldn’t charge the phone above 15%. I was so disappointed and I had to return.

Another was when I gave a sewing business owner around me a few clothes to help alter. I went the next day to collect the clothes and to my surprise I couldn’t wear them anymore. can’t believe the lad recorded the wrong measurement. I was so so disappointed.

If your customers feedback reveals your products are underperforming, the best thing to do is to improve it’s quality and completely change the product package. Also conduct a research to make sure your products or the one’s you’re marketing are not being duplicated without your or the company’s authorization.

In summary, post purchase evaluation refers to what a consumer make of a particular product while using the product. It’s in this stage, the consumer decides if the product was worth the stress and amount spent on it. The bottom line is, your product should match customers expectations or exceed it.

NOTE: You can’t possibly satisfy every consumer of your product. The ones with the bad review are your challenges and should be worked on.

That’s all on the five steps in consumer decision making process in the study of consumer behaviour. You can share with us your story as a consumer once going through all of the above decision making processes for better understanding via the comment section. You’re free to make corrections and ask questions if need be.


  1. It’s really a nice and useful piece of info. I’m glad that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Valuable info. Fortunate me I found your web site by chance, and I
    am surprised why this accident didn’t came about in advance!
    I bookmarked it.

  3. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article!
    It is the little changes that make the greatest changes.
    Many thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button