Monday, February 25, 2013

Marketing 101: The Buyer Decision Process - Information Search

In my last posted I started to discuss the Buyer Decision Process.  Simply defined, it's conducted by a consumer before, during, and after the purchase of products and services. The process consists of five defined steps or stages that typically occur in a certain order: Need recognition > Information Search > Evaluation of Alternatives > Purchase Decision > Post-Purchase Behavior.

Need Recognition refers to the instance where a consumer recognizes that a need or problem exists that needs to be satisfied.  Need Recognition is usually triggered by an internal stimuli when a particular need, such as hunger or thirst, rises to a high enough level to become a drive.  Once the need has been identified and has become a drive, the pursuit of information begins.

Information Search
Information Search is the second stage of the buyer decision process.  In this stage consumers are driven (by their drive) to search for more information related to their need.  If the drive is strong and a satisfying product is near at hand, the consumer is likely to buy it then, barely collecting any information, or skipping this stage altogether.  If the drive is not strong, the consumer will usually store their need in memory and begin an information search.  As a consumer does more research they will inevitably become aware of competing brands and products that are available for purchase. 

Appliances are a product category where consumers conduct lots of research and there is ample competition.  Let's say a consumer needs to replace their refrigerator.  Because the most effective sources of information tend to be personal in nature, a consumer might start their information search by asking members of their friends and family social and cultural groups what refrigerators they would recommend.  Next, the consumer will typically begin to use commercial sources of information to "fill in the blanks", such as advertisements, editorial reviews, and in-store sales staff.

Marketers must design their marketing mix to make target customers aware of their brand in the midst of all of this "noise".  Ad messaging must address the typical needs, lifestyle aspirations and answer the common questions of their target demographics.  Sales staff must be properly trained and incentivized so that in-store touch points are as successful as possible.  If a marketing mix is properly created, it can help accelerate consumers quickly past the Evaluation of Alternatives stage and towards the Purchase Decision.