Let's have a refresh before continuing

Before we explore the buyer decision process it is prudent to have a brief refresh of the language and concepts that are embedded within the buyer decision process

Needs and wants

Needs are different to wants – needs are part of being human – whereas wants are the preferred direction to satisfy a need. For example, two or three motor cars may satisfy the consumer’s needs, however, the one that also best satisfies the consumer’s wants is the one that will be selected. Whilst needs are important wants often influence the decision.

Value is a preferred outcome

Although sometimes quality and value are used interchangebly they are different constructs. In the first time zone it is the searching and estimation of value – perceived value. Quality is what you get – whereas value is a preferred state or outcome. Evaluations are when consumers compare what they got with what they gave. As a preferred state and we employ the word value [in marketing] in 3 ways.

All purchases have a degree of involvement

Although all purchase decisions involve being involved it is clear that consumer/customer involvement varies and the degree of involvement will influence the consumer’s progress and effort through the buyer decision process.

Previously we discussed

Generally, consumers perceive products as having up to 8 qualities – qualities are what we get – but prior to purchase consumers estimate the likelihood and probability of actually receiving the qualities. When consumers undertake this estimation process they are considering the perceived risks – perceived costs [time money and effort] are also considered.


From a marketing practitioner’s perspective understanding and managing the buyer decision process, is central to marketing strategy and tactics and a key success factor in achieving organisational objectives.

After the completion of this module students should be able to demonstrate and understanding of the process that consumers undertake during the 3 time-zones of the buyer decision process and explain how the process influences the strategies and tactics of marketing practitioners and organisations. The buyer decision process has three distinct time zones: 1] Purchase behaviour, 2] Product delivery, 3] Post-purchase behaviour

As you may imagine customers behave differently in each time zone – based on preferences and ability and willingness to purchase.

Exploring the buyer decision process

One of the key differences between a selling philosophy and a marketing philosophy is that a marketing philosophy is based on understanding that to build a profitable exchange relationship with a customer – the customer must have recognised a need, have the resources to satisfy the need and make a decision that a particular product is the vehicle to ‘best satisfy’ the need [note the need and the want]. Therefore, the customers’ needs are central to an organisation that has adopted the marketing concept and is practicing a marketing philosophy. This means that the organisation recognises that it is not just about ‘making a sale’, although sales are crucial, it is also about delivering on promises and ensuring customer satisfaction.

The buyer decision process

This short video will provide an overview of this important concept.


[click on the image to access the activity]

The Activity: Ted goes shopping is employed to unpack the product selection process in the first time zone of the buyer decision process. In this activity Ted, a fictional character, is invited to the cricket, by a school friend, and has decided to purchase a hat. During this activity we continually change Ted’s situational factors to see how they effect and affect the decision-making process.

Strategic and tactical importance

Understanding the buyer decision process is essential from a strategic and a tactical perspective.

  • Strategically: the marketing practitioner needs to consider the buyer decision process and the transformation from consumer to customer – suspect > prospect > customer > repeat customer > advocate > evangelist – marketing practitioners refer to this as populating and managing the salespipeline.
  • Tactically: staff must know their responsibilities and perform their roles to assist a consumer to enter the buying process and to advance along the salespipeline. As we can see, the tactical focus is particularly true for service personnel and salespeople who facilitate and support product selection and the product delivery process.

After completing the Activity: Ted goes shopping

You should have a better understanding of the motives, personal values, consumption costs, consumption qualities, and the situational factors will influence Ted’s purchase decision-making.

Undertaking a costs-benefits-risks analysis

This slide explodes the key considerations in the first time-zone of the buyer decision process when consumers undrtake a cost benefits risk analysis. – values, consumption costs, consumption qualities were explained in the previous module.

All products have qualities

Quality is the sum of all qualities; and when yo take away the qualities you are left with nothing. This slide identifies 8 product qualities. Perhaps the only word you may need explaining is ‘epistemic’ which is really the search for novelty and difference.

How values interact

In this slide the relationship between the types of values1 is revealed. How Our human, cultural, and personal values influence our perceptions of value2 and value3.

Costs are more than money

When we think of costs we tend to think of money, however, there are other costs time and effort. Imagine you are purchasing fuel and you noticed after a quick search that 25km from your home is a petrol station that is selling fuel a few cents cheaper. Whilst the price is attractive, the time needed and the effort of driving the additional distance would cancel any saving. Now on a large ticket item, for example buying a car the opportunity may be worth considering.

The COMP factors influences every aspect of the BDP

Every aspect of the buyer decision process, including qualities and risks, is influenced by the COMP factors.

Estimating the risks is natural

With involvement the amount of time and effort spent on estimating risks increases. This means that consumers consider the likelihood and probability of negative outcomes against the likelihood and probability of positive outcomes.


Managing risks

When a consumer conducts a costs/benefits/risks analysis the consumer may come to one of 3 conclusions:

  • The product has an acceptable risk: the customer continues the product selection process [although they may still exit at a later stage or postpone the product selection process for a variety of reasons]
  • The product has a questionable risk: the consumer may search further, undertake risk management strategies and then may conclude the risk is acceptable or unacceptable
  • The product has an unacceptable risk: the consumer will conclude that the risks outweigh the benefits and exit the buyer decision process [although they may satisfy the unmet need with an alternative product]. Products that are evaluated as having unacceptable risk are generally excluded from the considered or evoked set.

Risks and the COMP factors

Marketing practitioners need to be mindful that risks are multi-factorial and vary according to the characteristics of the customer, organisational, market, and product [COMP]. Managing perceived risks is clearly a key success factor for many organisations – consider the financial benefits if exiting consumers fell by 20%.

Consumer risk management strategies

Marketing practitioners need to be mindful of how consumers view the risks associated with the product category and how perceived risk influences the consumer’s market choice behaviour.

Pre-purchase risks become post purchase qualities

The activity highlights that most activities have some element of risk and risk management [e.g., buying milk and checking the ‘best by date’ or selecting milk from the back of the display cabinet]. The backpacking activity is interesting as it is high involvement and whilst there are risks many people still engage in this activity and put risk management strategies in place. In some cases the risk is part of the experience [e.g.,bungy jumping].

Building a brand

An objective of branding is to develop consumer trust. Organisations should carefully nurture their brands as a brand is a consumer heuristic when considering risk.

Approach - avoid

Although we tend to think of the motivation to purchase as approaching a reward [e.g., buying a new car for the pleasure and increased status] we may also be motivated to purchase to avoid a punishment [e.g., breaking down and missing work]. Most students are surprised when they audit television adverts and identify the number that are directed towards avoiding an unpleasant encounter [e.g., headache relief, Health, car insurance].

Avoiding the consequences of running out of fuel.

I don’t think many of us wake up all excited because this is the day you fill your car up with fuel. I think most of us fill up with fuel to avoid the consequences of running out of fuel – a truly unpleasant situation.

In this activity: technology & the sales process – we explore how technology has changed the way people search for information, establish a considered set of products, & evaluate the value of alternatives.[clic

Ability & willingness to purchase

Although economic conditions will impact on all consumers some consumers will feel the impact more than others. Willingness and ability to spend will also vary according to the income of the consumer. Some consumers may have the ability to purchase however may be unwilling to purchase – remember value and values.

Ability & willingness to purchase

In this slide we some of the variable that need to be considered.

Market conditions

In section 3 we will explore the market considerations in greater detail; the acronym CEMSTEEP will help us to explore the considerations [Competition, Economic, Market, Social, Technological, Environmental, Ethical [+legal] and Political].

Familiarity with the organisation

For an organisation to be considered there must be known or be discovered during the buyer decision process. Unknown brands and undiscovered brands will not be considered, however, the brand identity will play a major role. Customer relationship management is a key consideration and involves the nurturing of a salespipeline.

The nature of the product influences the BDP

As consumers we make a number of purchases and they vary in their degree of involvement – when we think of involvement we should think of material and non-material products. Often people employ social media they are also demonstrating their involvement. This is particularly true regarding experiential products.

The nature of the product influences the communication process

This slide is an important slide as it influences the communication strategy of the organisation. There are distinct differences in the way the nature of the product influences the communication strategies and tactics. Please read about the peripheral route of persuasion and the central route of persuasion and determine which products could be listed under each communication tactic.

This activity is employed to sensitise student that there are different market segments, that the progress through the buyer decision process differently, that decisions may be autocratic or syncretic, and there are more than the decision makers involved in the process.

In this activity in class we generally discover both syncretic and autocratic decision making and 5 types of decision making. 1] The initiator: a person[s] who identifies the product as a means to satisfying a need, 2] The influencer: a person[s] who encourages or discourages further consideration, 3] The decider: a person who has the final say regarding if/what/when/where/how a product will be purchased, 4] The purchaser: the person who completes the exchange, and 5] The user: the person[s] who consumes/uses the product – see if you can spot them in this slide

Communicating information

One of the key differences between the marketing concept and the other business concepts is the notion that consumers should be free to enter, exit and/or postpone the exchange in the first time zone. This means that rather than over coming objections consumers are seeking information to make an informed decision.


Another factor that impacts on the consumer’s decision-making is the consumer’s familiarity with the product category and the products and/or brands within the category. Consumers generally search for information both internally and externally in order to make informed decisions. When consumers are familiar with a product category then they can retrieve product knowledge stored in their memory [see memory and associative network]. When the consumer is unfamiliar with the product there is little product knowledge, therefore, the search will focus on acquiring knowledge from external information.

internal search for information

As consumers continue their search for information they generally begin with an internal search. An internal [memory] customer search of may retrieve: 1] Products/brands that the consumer is familiar with from past experiences, 2] Products/brands that the consumer is familiar with from observations of other consumers, 3] Products/brands that the consumer is familiar with through external communication, 4] Products/brand attitudes that have been formed.

forming a considered set of products

For limited and extensive decision-making, the consumer will generally compile a list of alternative products [i.e., products that appear to meet the consumer’s needs and wants and are worth further consideration]. It is likely when consumer-product involvement is high that the degree of effort will be greater and that some products/brands will be accepted or rejected according to the consumer’s preferences.

forming a considered set of products

As the search for information continues some products are considered for further consideration others are rejected and removed from the list.

Need recognition

From your own experience you may have noticed that once a need has been recognised communication that you may have previously ignored is now attended to. There are a variety of media and organisations should consider the COMP factors and the best method to intercept the consumer.

Brand recall and brand recognition

The brand influences how consumers search for information and organise their estimations of value. Some consumers will form their considered set of products from known brands; the brand becomes a determinant factor and ensures that only products with quality attributes are considered. Brands that the consumer cannot recall from past experience [brand recall] or recognise when searching for information [brand recognition] are excluded from the considered set of products. Importantly, branding also allows consumers to have conversations with other consumers, to seek the advice of more experienced consumers, and to search more efficiently and effectively.

Searching & decision making

There is a constellation of brands available in most product categories. To be listed in the consumer’s considered set –  a brand must be known prior to search for information or discovered during the search for information. During this process some known and discovered products will be classified as unacceptable and culled. Products that are listed for further consideration will continue through the process – where the consumer estimates the value of acceptable alternatives. Generally, products with the greatest value will be selected. The Key point here is that 100% of consumers complete the first timezone and enter the second time zone with positive expectations of quality, value, and satisfaction.

Communication process before the exchange

In this slide, we capture consumers selecting their lunch and you can see how everyone’s gaze is focussed on the display boards. The consumers would be looking at the costs, preferences, and the benefits. What is also evident in this image is how the organisation has located signage at different  points to enable consumers to make a decision prior to placing their order. Imagine how much longer the selection process would take if the information was not readily available. How do fast-food outlets speed up the slection process?

Decision-making rules

There are a number of decision-making rules these are outlined in the e-book, the next slide and explored in the activity:the buyer decision process – car. This activity explores the journey of purchasing a car an the various considerations.

Click here to access the activity

Decision making rules

In this slide we outline the decision-making rules – consider your own experiences when you purchase a higher involvement product.

Accept & reject

In the case of purchasing a motor car – the buyer may start with a number of vehicles, reject some as being unacceptable and estimate the value of acceptable alternatives and then through the decision-making rules eventually accept one vehicle. This vehicle is the one that the consumer believes represents the best quality [i.e., qualities] and value proposition. With such a decision the consumer may not be 100% certain and may experience credence factors [some doubt] and even cognitive dissonance if they feel that they may have made and error of judgement if they are dissatisfied. Clearly, organisations must manage the post purchase time zone to maximise consumer satisfaction and influence word of mouth recommendations.
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