Discussing the Purchase Decision

The purchase decision making process comes in four stages; needs recognition, internal/external search, purchase, post-purchase satisfaction. Different products have varying degrees of emphasis in each stage, which require different levels of financial commitment. Some products are purchased out of habit and have very little consideration of their attributes when purchasing them, like toothpaste. Branding works on products like this by promotion that keeps the name of brand as part of the consumer “evoked set.” These are the brand names that will come to mind when a consumer decides to fill the need for the type of product. Much of peoples purchases are repeated over and over so advertisers try to maintain brand loyalty to the 60% of their purchases which are habitual.

(definition) evoked set – is a list of brands that come to mind when a need arises. A person may not have ever previously required the use of a certain product, but because of continuous marketing, they might already be familiar with a range of different brands that may satisfy the need.


Other purchases are infrequent, like the purchase of a house or a car. These will take more consideration and research before any commitment to the purchase is made. Normally in the first stage of decision making, a need is identified. Virtually all sales are made to satisfy some need the consumer feels, whether actual or perceived. Some products are chosen for their functional benefits such as reliability, durability, convenience and performance. Other times products are purchased to satisfy emotional or intangible needs like prestige, pleasure, pride or conformity. Products and brand names in particular can instill a sense of emotional satisfaction that makes the product worth the sale.


A person’s socio-economic status may have a lot to do with the choices they make for products, but may not always dictate the type of purchase a person will make. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs says that people will tend to satisfy basic physiological needs before they try to satisfy emotional needs like prestige. However, in the consumer culture we live in, brand recognition is a source of status to those rich and poor. A need arises when one’s actual state of affairs differs from their desired state of affairs. People sometimes seek brands to alter their perceived feelings about their actual state of affairs. Dissatisfaction with their actual state of affairs may cause them to seek satisfaction elsewhere, like in the consumption of products. The purchase of a car to many is a status symbol to be used as a source of pride and self-esteem. When someone is purchasing a used car, they may still look to fulfill this status requirement or look to fulfill the functional need of getting back and forth to work.


At the point of need recognition, a person will draw on their personal knowledge about the products to start analyzing a way to solve their problem. The internal search is the beginning of step two in the purchase process. A consumer will use the evoked set of products they have already heard of, to try and make a match with their current need. They will rely on their attitudes about products they like, as well as ones they wish to avoid. From there, they might do more external searching to find out more of what’s available. They can use consumer reports, advice from friends, and information from retailers to generate a set of evaluative criteria. The list might include the price, service history, available warranties, color, class rating or similar features to judge one product from the other.

The next step is to make the purchase. The retailer can make this step easier by offering alternate methods of payment or extended payment options and rebates. After the purchase is made, a feeling of satisfaction or it’s opposite, cognitive dissonance, will arise in the mind of the consumer. The advertiser can help the feelings of satisfaction by being involved in the post-purchase process with their consumers. The advertiser can send thank you messages, welcome letters and promotional offers which are only available to customers. Since most purchases of small items are repeated, it is in the interest of the retailer to concentrate on the post-purchase process.

When buying food, which is a habitual purchase, the advertisement of certain brands can be informative and still have no effect. In a store I frequent, Aldi’s supermarket, there are no commercials or advertisements for their products. The company is based overseas and consequently doesn’t promote in my area at all. However because of prices and familiar packaging that is always similar to the widely-promoted American brands, Aldi’s does a good job capitalizing on the promotion of others. Long ago, off-brands learned the technique of creating a similar product with similar packaging which they didn’t have to promote


(Kerin, Hartley, Rudelius, Marketing the Core, 5th Ed., McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2013)