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Decode Consumer Behavior for Smart Shopping!

By A Kishore Aksharthan on 2/7/2024 · 4 minute read

Consumer behavior is driven by myriad factors including personal needs, budget constraints, market trends and evaluation of product value. Making a purchasing decision involves a complex thought process of assessing one’s own requirements against product offerings and determining if something is priced appropriately. This makes understanding consumer behavior and how to identify good deals vital for both consumers seeking to make prudent purchases as well as businesses aiming to align themselves to consumer perceptions.

Set the stage: understanding consumer purchasing behavior is vital for both consumers and businesses. Consumers need to equip themselves with strategies to assess value and identify deals that work for their needs. Businesses need to optimize their pricing, product features and marketing around consumer decision drivers to remain competitive. This article will explore the consumer decision-making process, strategies for consumers to identify good deals, and how businesses can positively influence consumer perceptions around value.

The Consumer Decision Making Process

The consumer decision making process involves 5 key stages that consumers go through when making a purchase. Understanding this process provides critical insights for both consumers looking to make smart purchases and businesses aiming to optimize their marketing and pricing strategies.

The 5 stages are:

Problem Recognition

This initial stage occurs when the consumer recognizes a need or desire for a product or service. Certain triggers like seeing an advertisement or hearing about a new product feature spark this problem recognition. Identifying the need pushes the consumer to start the buying process.

Information Search

Once the problem is identified, consumers start gathering information about potential solutions. This research phase involves both internal and external search. Internally, consumers may draw on past experiences and knowledge. Externally, they seek info from sources like reviews, expert opinions, retail visits, ads and social recommendations.

Evaluation of Alternatives

Armed with information, consumers evaluate the available options and weigh the pros and cons of each alternative. Key aspects evaluated include price, quality, features, value proposition and brand reputation. Consumers assess how well each option meets their needs.

Purchase Decision

Next comes selecting the best option based on the evaluation. Consumers decide on details like which brand, seller, quantity, timing etc. External factors like promotions and referrals can further influence the final purchase decision.

Post-Purchase Behavior

After acquiring the product, consumers assess their level of satisfaction and whether it met their expectations. This shapes their future buying patterns and brand loyalty. They may provide reviews, recommend or warn others about their purchase experience.

Problem Recognition

The consumer decision-making process begins when a consumer recognizes that they have a problem or need that needs to be solved. This problem recognition often occurs when there is a difference between a consumer’s current state and their desired state.

For example, a consumer may realize their old pair of shoes is worn out and they need new shoes (current state) but they desire comfortable, stylish shoes to wear (desired state). This gap between the current and desired state creates dissatisfaction for the consumer and leads them to recognize they have a problem that needs solving.

In today’s consumer landscape, the desire to find good deals is often part of the consumer’s problem recognition stage. Consumers want to not only solve their needs but solve them in a way that feels financially optimal. Identifying a good deal that aligns with their desires becomes part of the original problem the consumer seeks to solve.

The problem recognition stage is critical because it triggers the entire consumer decision-making process. Without recognizing a problem or need, consumers have no reason to search for information, evaluate options, and make a purchase decision. Businesses should aim to understand consumer pain points and desires at this initial stage in order to properly align their products, services and messaging to the consumer’s motivation to buy.

Information Search

Once a problem is recognized, consumers begin gathering information to help make a purchasing decision. This information search is crucial in shaping thoughts and opinions about potential products and deals.

Consumers today have access to more information than ever before thanks to the internet and social media. Product reviews and testimonials on sites like Amazon, forums like Reddit, and social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok provide a wealth of information and insights. Reading detailed product reviews from other buyers who have already purchased and tried a product can reveal pros and cons as well as how the product performs in real-world conditions.

Comparison shopping sites and tools allow consumers to easily compare product features, pricing, and availability across retailers. This makes it simple to find the best deals and deeply research options before making a selection. Deal sites like Slickdeals spotlight discounted and sale items, helping buyers locate bargains. Unboxing videos on YouTube offer a visual sneak peek into products of interest.

With so much information at their fingertips, consumers can now thoroughly research products of interest before making a purchase. Compiling insights from detailed reviews, product comparisons, and Deal forums arms buyers with the knowledge to determine real value and identify if a deal is truly worth pursuing.

Evaluation of Alternatives

The evaluation of alternatives stage is when the consumer compares the options and weighs the pros and cons of each potential purchase. There are several criteria consumers may use to determine if a deal is good:

  • Price - Consumers will compare the price being offered to other sellers, look for discounts and sales, and evaluate if the price reflects a product’s value. Price comparison sites and tools have made it easier to benchmark prices.

  • Quality - Factors like durability, performance, and reputation are considered to assess a product’s quality. Consumers lean towards longer warranties and better materials. Brand name and reviews indicate higher quality.

  • Features - The specific features, options and extras are compared to determine which product best fits the consumer’s needs and wants. Unique or innovative features may provide better value.

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis - Consumers weigh all measurable pros and cons. Benefits like status, enjoyment, convenience are considered against costs of purchase, maintenance, disposal, risks or tradeoffs.

  • Opportunity Cost - The consumer evaluates what they may have to forgo by choosing one option over another. This depends on budget and purchase purpose.

  • Intangibles - Subjective, emotional factors like brand affinity, style, social acceptance also influence the deal evaluation.

To get the best deal, consumers should thoroughly research options, clarify needs, benchmark prices across sellers, and objectively weigh all monetary and non-monetary costs and benefits.

Purchase Decision

Once the consumer has evaluated the alternatives, they are ready to make their purchase decision. This stage is when the rubber meets the road and the consumer finally decides what they will buy. There are several key factors that drive the final purchase choice:

  • Price - One of the most important considerations for consumers is how much the product costs. Even after comparing features and quality, the price often determines if the consumer will follow through on the purchase or not. Consumers have a certain price range they are willing to spend, and may choose the cheapest option that meets their needs if the price is too high.

  • Value - Beyond just price, consumers also evaluate the overall value they will receive from the product. This includes weighing the benefits versus the costs to determine if it’s worth it.Things like quality, lifespan, and performance longevity affect the perceived value.

  • Emotions - Purchasing often triggers emotional responses that sway the decision. Fears of buyer’s remorse may make one hesitant, while excitement about a fun new gadget can seal the deal. Brand loyalty also elicits emotional attachments for some consumers. Marketers leverage these emotions through advertising and branding.

  • Rational calculations - Consumers also make logical considerations of needs, features, and fits. Making spreadsheets or pros/cons lists can help analyze these factors rationally. However, emotion still creeps in and few purchase choices are 100% rational.

  • Retailer incentives - Special deals being offered such as discounts, rebates, free shipping or bonus products can tip the scales towards buying. Limited-time offers create urgency and a fear of missing out which pushes consumers to purchase.

Understanding the interplay of these drivers of purchase choice provides key insights for both consumers seeking good deals and businesses looking to align pricing and marketing strategies effectively.

Post-Purchase Behavior

After a purchase is made, consumers enter the post-purchase stage of the decision-making process. This stage is crucial in determining whether the consumer feels they received a good deal or not.

The perception of the product’s value plays a major role at this stage. If the product meets or exceeds the consumer’s expectations in terms of quality, functionality, and other attributes, they are more likely to feel satisfied and view the purchase as a good deal. However, if the product falls short of expectations, the consumer may experience buyer’s remorse and feel they overpaid.

Post-purchase dissonance is common when consumers feel uncertain or anxious about their purchase. This often happens with expensive, risky, or first-time purchases. Consumers may seek reassurance that they made the right choice by reading product reviews, talking to others who own the product, or repurchasing a familiar item.

Businesses can influence post-purchase behavior by providing quality products that deliver value, meeting customer service expectations, and making the returns process hassle-free. This helps minimize dissonance and enhances the likelihood of the consumer perceiving their purchase as a worthwhile deal.

Business Strategies to Influence Consumer Perception of Deals

Businesses utilize various methods to make their offerings seem like good deals to consumers. Some key strategies include:

Pricing

  • Price anchoring - Highlighting a higher originalprice to make the real price seem like a steal.

  • Bundling - Offering a package of products/services for a single price, which feels like a better deal.

  • Differential pricing - Offering variable pricing for the same item to different segments. This allows tapping into budget-conscious segments.

  • Limited-time discounts - Scarcity created through discounts for a short period makes the deal seem hot.

Promotions

  • Freebies and free trials - Offering free products/trials makes the overall purchase appear more enticing.

  • Loyalty programs - Providing incentives for repeat customers frames the purchase as a long-term investment.

  • Referral rewards - Encouraging referrals through rewards portrays the product as worth recommending.

Marketing Tactics

  • Social proof - Showcasing positive reviews and testimonials builds trust in the product’s value.

  • Comparison charts - Comparing one’s product/price with competitors suggests it’s among the best deals.

  • Money-back guarantees - Returns policies give confidence that the purchase is risk-free and a good deal.

  • Scarcity and urgency - Highlighting limited quantity/time frames compels hurried purchase decisions.

The Role of Digital Media

Digital media has transformed how consumers research, evaluate, and make purchasing decisions. Online reviews, social media, and digital advertising all influence consumers at various stages of the decision-making process.

Reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp have become a crucial part of the information search and evaluation stages. Reading candid feedback from other buyers helps consumers evaluate product quality, value, and reliability. Positive reviews build confidence while negative ones raise red flags.

Social media also shapes decisions, as consumers view recommendations and testimonials from family, friends, influencers, and brand pages. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow discovery of new products and direct interaction with brands. Unboxing videos on YouTube offer a vicarious product experience.

Paid ads follow consumers across the digital journey, reinforcing brand awareness and specific products. Retargeting ads remind consumers of items they browsed, nudging them closer to purchase. Effective digital ads can sway consideration and choice during the evaluation stage.

In summary, online reviews, social media, and advertising combine to guide consumers towards informed decisions. Brands must adapt marketing strategies to leverage these digital touchpoints optimally.

Conclusion

The consumer decision-making process is a complex journey that both consumers and businesses need to understand in order to make smart purchases and effectively market products. By recognizing the stages consumers go through, from initial problem awareness to information gathering, evaluation, purchase, and post-purchase behavior, businesses can identify opportunities to provide value and meet consumer needs.

For consumers, being aware of their own decision-making journey helps them identify potential biases, external influences, and evaluate deals more objectively. Comparing prices, reading reviews, weighing alternatives based on personal priorities, and avoiding impulse buys are key strategies for smart purchasing. Consumers should also be aware of how their post-purchase satisfaction and brand loyalty impact future decisions.

Key takeaways for consumers include:

  • Understand your own decision-making process and needs
  • Set purchasing criteria before evaluating deals
  • Research thoroughly, read reviews, compare prices
  • Avoid impulse purchases
  • Weigh benefits against costs for optimal value

For businesses, key insights include:

  • Recognize and map the consumer decision journey
  • Identify opportunities to add value in each stage
  • Understand how consumers perceive and evaluate deals
  • Leverage digital media to influence decisions
  • Build brand loyalty through post-purchase satisfaction

By embracing a consumer-centric approach, both buyers and sellers can make more informed choices and maximize the value of each transaction. Ultimately, a deeper understanding of the decision-making process allows consumers and businesses to align priorities, perceptions, and strategies for mutually beneficial outcomes.

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