Buyer Decision Process: What John Dewey Can Teach You About Marketing

What is the Buyer Decision Process?

The buyer decision process was formally introduced by John Dewey in 1910. While marketing has evolved in ways that Dewey could never have imagined, human psychology remains the same. These concepts have been developed and expanded over the years, but the original guiding principles are still highly relevant to the modern customer experience.

Essentially, the buyer decision process is a cost-benefit analysis. It outlines the journey a customer takes before and after making a purchase. Analysis of this process can help us to establish more viable marketing strategies. Evaluation is an unsung hero on the road to success. The most successful businesses constantly evaluate and adjust their tactics – always with the endgame in mind. We suggest you do the same.


The Five Stages of the Buyer Decision Process


Stage #1: Problem/Need Recognition

A purchase won’t happen without the recognition of a need. The need can be triggered by internal stimuli (such as a headache) or external stimuli (jealousy over a neighbor’s new car). Regardless of what triggers the need, this decision making process begins the moment a potential customer becomes aware of a problem that needs resolution. The search begins.


Stage #2: Information Search

Customers want to find the best solution to their problem. The second stage of the buyer decision process is the search for information. Research is an important part of the customer journey. Reviews (Amazon, Google, Yelp, etc.) are a crucial part of this step. How other people talk about your products or services is very important. Never underestimate the power of social proof. Other research sources are websites, print, visual branding, online media, and of course, word of mouth.


Stage #3: Evaluation of Alternatives

Weighing the options. A wise move. As you might guess, people evaluate alternative products when making a purchase decision. They want to make sure that their hard earned money is solving their need in the best possible way. Customer attitude and level of involvement are influential at this stage. If they have a positive attitude and high involvement, they will consider a number of alternative products or services. If they have a negative attitude and involvement is low, they usually evaluate only one solution.


Stage #4: Purchase Decision

The fourth stage is when the actual purchase takes place. There are, however, a couple of potential disruptors at this point in the customer journey. The first is negative feedback. Remember the reviews mentioned before? It’s important to have good reviews and testimonials. Do whatever is necessary to ensure that people talk favorably about your business. The second disruptor is classified as unforeseen circumstances. These factors are unrelated to the business but prevent a sale.


Stage #5: Post-Purchase Behavior

The final stage of the buyer decision process is how the customer feels after making the purchase. During this stage, customers compare the product or service with their initial expectations. They are either satisfied or dissatisfied. This stage has to do with customer retention. If you are aware of the 80/20 principle, then you know that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. Customer retention is crucial to a sustainable business model. Satisfy your customers and you will attain brand loyalty. This is the goal.


The Takeaway

The five stages of the buyer decision process outline a linear customer journey. Things don’t always play out precisely in this way, but it is a useful generalization of the experience. Different customers enter the process at different stages. It can also depend on what is being purchased and how much it costs. There are countless considerations. If you can manage to foster brand loyalty in your customer base, you can often skip several stages. This is exactly what you want.

Take some time to fully understand the buyer decision process. What are you doing to make the experience pleasant? What could you do to make it more efficient? The most successful businesses have mastered these concepts. They use them to optimize the products and services they sell, as well as the ways they sell them. The most enjoyable customer experiences are the ones where people don’t realize they’re being sold to because they’re too busy enjoying the experience. Make an effort to smooth out the buyer decision process with these time-honored principles.

Thank you, John Dewey – for this and your decimal system.