What is the Consumer Buying Process?

What is the Consumer Buying Process?


With any decent marketing strategy or campaign, it’s wise to take the whole purchasing process and examine it from the point of view of the consumer. Why? While you can make assumptions about what may or may not work, being informed and knowledgeable about the process – and how people get to the point where they are ready to commit and make a purchase – is essential to understanding the way your customers think. Once you have that information, you can design a process and strategy that not only appeals to the right people but nearly guarantees that they make the decision to buy what you are offering.


What is the difference between the consumer buying process and your sales process?


For many salespeople or marketers, there is a misconception that the consumer buying process and the sales process are one and the same. This simply isn’t the case. While the buying process can, and should, impact the direction of the sales process, one is about what the customer experiences while trying to make a choice and the other is how to reach that individual and sway them to commit to the product or service. Without a full understanding of the current buying process, sales will fail to close as often as they could.


Consumer Buying Process Breakdown


Currently, the consumer buying process includes six steps.


  1. First, the consumer must identify a problem that requires a solution. This is the first step of any purchasing decision. Marketers skilled in creating a problem for the consumer and then engaging the individual by offering an attractive solution take control of the situation instead of waiting for the public to identify the problem on their own.
  2. The second step involves research. Most individuals will not immediately jump into buying an item without looking into the options available first. Establishing credibility online for your business, and your products, is the way to stand out during this phase.
  3. Next, they are going to check out your competition. What are the alternatives available? Can they find a similar product or service – of equal quality and credibility – but at a much better price? If so, you’ve got your work cut out for you in terms of either changing your pricing structure or increasing your marketing to establish that your offering outshines all other alternatives.
  4. Fourth, it’s time to make a choice. If they aren’t already sold at this point, reminders or retargeting might be needed. If the item is just sitting in a shopping cart without completing the payment cycle – something is keeping that consumer from biting the bullet and buying the item. This step is crucial because if they walk away, it’s going to make even more work to bring them back and convince them to buy.
  5. Now it’s time to make a purchase. You are almost in the clear, but not yet. Is your purchasing process simple, clear, and easy to use? Are you shipping options attractive? Taxes and fees? Is the website easy to use? Any of these factors can stop the purchase altogether. Be certain your process is straightforward and easy to use.
  6. Lastly, you’ve gotten the sale. Congratulations! You might think you are done and ready to move on to the next sale, but you aren’t done yet. Customer loyalty is at stake. Are they happy with their purchase? Do they feel appreciated? Have you convinced the consumer that buying from you is worthwhile? What will they say online about you?


Changing Trends

What works in 2017 will most likely be ineffective in 2020, so staying on top of changing trends in ecommerce, payment processing, marketing, and shopping is critical. Currently, the top three factors weighed from most shopping when it comes time to make a buying decision are price, shipping cost and delivery options, and discount opportunities.



According to the Bright Local 2016 Local Consumer Review Survey, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations from friends or family members. A company’s online reputation and presence is now playing a big role in the decision making process. You can pretty much count on the fact that your customers are researching you, your company, and your products online before they make a final choice.


Don’t forget social media. As more platforms become shopper friendly, social media will play an even larger role in the consumer purchasing process. Right now 23% of shoppers admit that they are influenced by social recommendations and reviews on social platforms.


Time to decide

Ecommerce sites have picked up on the fact that most consumers won’t make a purchasing decision the first time they encounter an item they might be interested in. They attempt to counter this problem by sending notifications and reminders to potential buyers about an item that was previously considered online.


Online shopping trends

A whopping 96% of shoppers in the US have purchased something online at least once. In fact, according to Big Commerce, 51% of Americans prefer to do their shopping online.


Every year new technology arrives on the scene that changes the consumer buying process. The increased popularity of mobile, combined with new payment options, and online research avenues make the current buying process drastically different than it was even 5 years ago. Business should stay on top of current online shopping trends and then modify their sales process appropriately.


In order to stay on top of how consumers shop, it’s vital that companies examine all of these factors and then adapt their approach to achieve the best possible returns on their sales strategy.