Digitising the Consumer Purchase Process

We’re a diverse team here at Reprise Media. Despite being a relatively new man in the world of SEO compared to my colleague Andrew Hughes, there are still a handful of models that I rely on for solid website production.

These models are a combination of web development and marketing disciplines and have been ranked in order:

  1. Consumer Purchase Process
  2. The Five Elements of User Experience
  3. Visual Vocabulary of Information Architecture

Being my favourite marketing model, this first article will focus on the Consumer Purchase Process.

Consumer Purchase Process

What is the Consumer Purchase Process?

Consumer behaviour was the most despised subject from my uni days. However, I began to learn how essential this subject was when I got into the industry. The consumer purchase process is a model that shows the journey a consumer goes through when purchasing a product to address a problem or situation.

The Process

This model represents a complexity topic, but here are the basic steps:

  1. Situation – can include temporal persona related influences such as mood, hunger and energy and non-persona related situations such as ethnicity, education, gender, etc.
  2. Problem Recognition – occurs when a discrepancy between actual state and desired state is identified. This includes the role of advertising (amongst other activities) to either create or emphasise this discrepancy to consumers.
  3. Information Search -can be conducted in several ways depending on the amount of financial risk and the amount of knowledge an individual has about a topic. For example, an individual will go to much more effort and education purchasing their first property compared to subsequent purchases. In comparison, the purchase of a chocolate bar can be made in seconds.
  4. Evaluation Criteria – involves the creation of evaluation criteria as a result of information search. For example, someone may decide after some online research on TVs that HDMI is a must-have feature. Any TV that the individual assesses from this point onward will be categoried as follows:
    1. Evoked Set – products that meet evaluation requirements and may be purchased
    2. Inert Set – products that have not been fully evaluated or evaluation is difficult
    3. Inept Set – products that will not be considered for purchase
  5. Purchase – is when the consumer believes they have made a decision. They now select the provider and attempt purchase. Situational influences at purchase (such as POS or salesperson) may change purchase decision.
  6. Post-Purchase – includes product related features (such as warranty, support and adhering to feature claims) and emotional activity of the consumer. Emotional activity may include post-purchase dissonance which is a feeling of regret from continued product evaluation after purchase.

The San Diego State University has comprehensive notes on a model similar to the one shown above.

The sky is falling in

Some people will claim this model is dead with the introduction of social media, but I completely disagree. What they’re actually referring to is the sales funnel, which I have always thought to have similar value to a post-war currency. Below is an image of the traditional sales funnel (a.k.a. “purchase funnel” and “marketing funnel”) courtesy of GFK Custom Research North America.

traditional purchase funnel

The consumer purchase process is based on psychology, not on technology. For example, our friends at We Are Social declared The Purchase Funnel is no More in 2009 (read the blog comments for some humour). As the article states, Forrester Research made an early attempt to kill the purchase funnel, but “… it failed to provide a model that was easy to visualise, and it failed to catch on”. To me, this is obviously because the model doesn’t do what a model is supposed to do; represent complex real-world environments in a simple format that the human brain can understand.

Forresters conversion funnel

McKinsey was the next to attempt a re-birth of the funnel with their Consumer Decision Journey. The reason why I previously mention “re-birth” is because this model involves the same elements as the traditional model. It’s basically the same as the consumer purchase process, the difference being the cyclic representation of the process steps. Despite this, I still find the linear process easier to comprehend when developing strategies.

McKinsey Consumer Decision Journey

Relationship Between Consumer Decision Process and Search

Have any of you thought of producing your website based on the consumer decision process? You might be making sales, but if users can’t find your support or store locations, then you might be contributing to post-purchase dissonance. We’ll focus on this more in the next two posts.



One Response to “Digitising the Consumer Purchase Process”

  1. Great post Robert. I really enjoyed this.

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