The primary goal of Marketing is to satisfy customer needs profitably and to build long lasting relationships with customers. It is important to note however that customers are human, not robots.
As human as they are, they constitute a package of thoughts, feelings and or emotions; all of which play critical roles in their buying decisions. A customer may buy a product at first sight. That doesn’t still make it an event, it is a process that took place very swiftly in their minds and of course on your blind side.
The customer behavior literature examines buying decision making process from the thought stage through to buying and post buying stage and have outlined five (5) key stages the customer goes through before arriving at the purchase and after purchase decision.
The stages of the buyer decision process were first introduced by John Dewey in 1910. Later studies developed Dewey’s initial theory. Engel, Blackwell and Kollat in (1968).
Stage one is called the NEED RECOGNITION – At this stage, the customer realizes a problem in their life or that of their significant other and the need to solve it. It may be hunger, danger, luxury etc. This is the first level at which the Marketer should meet the customer. Create persuasive contents and campaigns that arouses the awareness of need in the customer. Some customers are clueless or even indecisive and so that moves their thoughts from inconclusive to conclusive. Your first duty as a Marketer is to help them realize the problem and the need for a solution.
The second stage is called THE INFORMATION SEARCH – This comes immidiately after the customer finally agrees that there’s really a problem and a need to solve it. At this stage, the customer will begin to search for information about available products or services, call it solutions. It is therefore important for Marketers to know their potential customers, their standard of living, needs, lifestyles etc and know how they search for information. Knowing how they search for information gives you a competitive edge. It tells you where and how to make this information readily available to them and in a manner that satisfies their quest. For instance, it will be completely out of place to keep such information only on social media when your potential customers are not social media users. That may delay results.
Third is the EVALUATION OF ALTERNATIVES STAGE – By this time, the customer has already been exposed to different kinds of products /solutions competing for their attention. They now compare the available information about the various products to identify which one is for them. Just as a person buys a newspaper not because they want to read everything in it but rather to see if there’s anything in there for them. This is when positioning and product differentiation becomes very important. Your product /solutions must be easily identifiable. It must stand out of the crowd and must possess very appealing qualities per the customer’s definition of quality. Knowing your target customers through your domographic market analysis and carving your niche properly helps you package this crucial information in a way that suits their taste and preference. These are very small details that miss many marketers and costs them money. The devil they say is in the details.
Now the fourth stage which is PURCHASE DECISION (Buying) is where the customer decides that a particular product will solve their specific problem. This is arrived at after evaluating the available alternatives. Importantly, one of the factors the customer considers at this stage is proximity. How close and or accessible is the product or service? If it is beyond reach or extremely difficult to reach, the customer might consider other alternatives. Marketers must in their business expansion thus endeavor to include online selling /stores, fast track delivery services, franchising, automatic vending, retail chains etc. A university selling application forms for instance may make available some or all these options. An institution that sells application forms only on campus is not ready for business in the 21st century! Respectfully.
Some might think that the last stage above is the final stage but no, there is another very important stage after the Purchase Decision /buying stage. That stage is called the POST PURCHASE EVALUATION. This is when the customer decides if they will buy the product again or not. And whether or not they will recommend the product to others.All products/services after use leave an impression in the memory of the customer. This memory may be positive or negative. When the product meets their expectations, they are excited, when it exceeds their expectations, they are delighted and when it does not satisfy their expectations, they are disappointed. Marketers must therefore take care of this stage too and ensure that their products /solutions meets customers’ expectations. Strategically, products /solutions must also come with additional values because in most cases, it is not the product/service that actually makes the customer excited, delighted or disappointed but the customer service, consumer experience and utility attached to it.
To this end, we have seen the stages a customer goes through before taking that final bold to make purchase [Need/Probelm recognition – Information search – Evaluation of available alternatives – Purchase decision (buying) and Post purchase evaluation]
Hence, in creating the marketing plan, do take note of all these stages and ensure that no stone is left unturned.
Have a fruitful business!
The writer is Iddrisu Mohammed Madugu, a 2020 graduate of Business Administration (Marketing Major) at Madina Institute of Science and Technology Ghana.
Article Reviewed by : Mrs. Aidatu Abubakari [HOD, School of Business & Technology, Madina Institute of Science and Technology]
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