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What Is The Path To Purchase?

Every organization should know how their customers make their decisions to buy (or not to buy). Your goal is to move people along the path, from one step to the next, until your customers are happy with their purchases. To do this, you need to know how they got to the checkout and what influenced their decisions to make a purchase.

Below we briefly describe the five steps along the path to purchase (also known as the consumer decision-making process). For a more comprehensive explanation, please read our tutorial: How Your Customers Decide To Buy.

Path To Purchase (consumer decision-making process):

1. Problem Recognition
At this stage, the consumer recognizes the need (or desire) for a particular product or service but has not yet decided to make a purchase. It can be difficult for the consumer to draw the line between a “need” and a “desire”. For example, one could argue that we need a toothbrush but that an electric toothbrush is a product of desire, despite its added health benefits.

2. Information Search
Once the consumer acknowledges the need or desire to purchase a particular item, he or she will search for the information necessary to make a purchase decision. Basic, everyday items usually require an internal search to quickly scan internal memories and to recall previous product or brand experiences and perceptions. More complex purchases may also require an external search, such as input from friends and family, consumer ratings and reports, advertising, etc.

3. Alternative Evaluation
At this stage, the consumer decides whether or not to proceed towards a purchase decision. The consumer will also focus in on brands that match their needs or desires (i.e. based on an item’s appearance, features, prestige, quality, price, etc.).

4. Purchase Decision
Just because a consumer has reached a brand decision doesn’t mean he or she is ready to make a purchase. There are still two more decisions to be made – choosing the buying location and deciding when to buy.

5. Post-Purchase Behavior
This final stage of the path to purchase provides companies with an opportunity to influence future purchases. Did the consumer’s experience meet their expectations? What does their social circle have to say about their purchase? Of the 3 ways to make money in business, increasing revenue from your existing customers is the easiest and most profitable. Without repeat business from your existing customers, you are forced to continuously “refill the hopper” with new customers, which is a very costly and lengthy process.

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