Your Guide to the Consumer Buying Process

What is the consumer buying process? In this article, we will walk you through the five stages of the consumer buying process. The key to marketing is reaching your target audience in the time that they are ready to make a decision and ultimately make a purchase. This is why Amazon shows you personalized recommendations similar to your browsing history, for example. These instances when consumers can be influenced are described as the “consumer buying process.” This process is the five steps consumers go through before completing their purchase. It is key for marketers and businesses to understand the consumer buying process in order to plan an effective marketing strategy.

stages of the consumer buying process

Definition of the Consumer Buying Process

The consumer buying process is the five stages a consumer takes on the way to making a purchase. Conversions don’t just happen magically. A lot of time and effort is typically required to influence a consumer into purchasing your product or service. You can do so by being aware of the various stages of the consumer buying process and how you can market to your customers during each stage in order to influence the consumer’s decision.

According to Philip Kotler, who created the consumer behavior model, there are the five stages of the consumer buying process. The five stages of the consumer buying process are:

  1. Recognition of a Problem or Need
  2. Search for Information
  3. Evaluation of Choices
  4. Purchase Decision
  5. Post-Purchase Use and Evaluation

The Five Stages of the Consumer Buying Process

Next, we will discuss each stage of the consumer buying process in more detail and how you can market to potential customers at each stage.

1. Recognition of a Problem or Need

The first step of the consumer buying process happens when the consumer realizes they have a want or a need, or a problem to resolve. This is called problem recognition. For example, if someone is planning to attend a wedding, they realize they will need a new outfit.

You can market to consumers at this point of the consumer buying process by also making consumers believe that they have a need for a product or service. For example, you can market smoothies to people searching for healthy foods. In this stage, you can advertise your products on platforms like Google Ads or Facebook Ads, market your products on social media, and more.

2. Search for Information

The next step is the information search. Once the person realizes they have a need, a want, or a problem, they will start seeking out options and information about various products and services that will address their need or problem. This stage might include conducting searches online, watching video content, going on social media, asking for word of mouth recommendations from friends and family, and/or visiting a store or dealership. Sometimes this search is very quick, and other times, particularly for larger purchases like a new vehicle or home, it can take weeks or even months.

During this stage of the buying process, it is imperative that your website ranks high on Google so that it pops up at the top of the search results. This is where SEO comes in. If you need help with your website ranking, contact SEO Design Chicago for our expert search engine optimization services.

buying process in marketing

3. Evaluation of Choices

Once a potential customer has identified their need or problem and done their research, now they are in the evaluation stage. During this stage, consumers evaluate their various options and make sense of the information they have gathered. They undergo an evaluation of the alternatives available to them. This is an important part of the decision-making process.

In order to influence a consumer in this stage of the consumer buying process, you need to make sure your website provides all the necessary information they will be looking for, including:

  • The key benefits of your product or service, and why they are better than your competitors’
  • Proof of your brand’s advantages
  • Offer peace of mind: price matching, a guarantee, and/or details about your return policy.

Oftentimes, customers will justify making a purchase decision based on their confidence in a brand’s reliability and value. If you need help making sure your website is up to par for the evaluation stage, contact the web design experts at SEO Design Chicago to help you.

4. Purchase Decision

Finally, the consumer is ready to make their purchase decision. Or, they might decide not to make a purchase at all, which results in shopping cart abandonment. In order to avoid this happening, it’s important to make your website as easy to navigate and checkout as possible.

Your user experience, or website UX, is extremely important for this stage of the process. It might help to offer a live chat solution on your website, and make it simple for a potential client to contact your business. It also helps to add plenty of urgent calls to action on your website in order to encourage prospects to complete their purchase.

However, if a potential customer does end up walking away from the sale, there are always tactics like retargeting to help lure them back in and ultimately making a purchase.

definition of the consumer buying process

5. Post-Purchase Use and Evaluation

The final stage of the consumer buying process is not when the purchase is made. No, there is one more stage, the post-purchase evaluation. Consumers are still evaluating how they feel about their purchase and if they are satisfied or dissatisfied. Did buying a product help them fulfill their want or need from Stage One? It is important to follow up with clients with a survey or thank-you note (or both!) in order to ensure customer satisfaction and build brand loyalty.

Market to Consumers at Each Stage with SEO Design Chicago

If you need help marketing to your target audience during any of these stages, contact SEO Design Chicago today! Our experts are ready to help you.

consumer buying process


  • What is the consumer buying process?
  • What are the five stages of the consumer buying process?
  • Who came up with the five stages of the consumer buying process?
  • How can marketers use the consumer buying process to their advantage?
  • What is the last stage of the consumer buying process?

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