What Are Buyer Decision Processes?

Tara Barnett

Buyer decision processes are the ways in which consumers make decisions during the purchasing process. This does not simply include which products they choose to buy, but also which ones they do not choose, as well as the different factors that play a role in the purchase. Consumer behavior is complex, and the purchasing process includes functions before, during, and after a purchase.

Consumers planning to purchase more costly products, such as cars, tend to display more complex buyer decision processes.
Consumers planning to purchase more costly products, such as cars, tend to display more complex buyer decision processes.

A good example of complex buyer decision processes that seem simple subjectively, include those where a customer picks up one item and puts it down for another. From the point of view of the consumer, he or she merely made a choice between two items. Investigating the economic influences, psychological forces, and other elements that affect buyer decision processes can help make it possible for a company to sell more of a product or service. If, for example, the reason the customer chose one item over another was because of a special giveaway advertised on the packaging, the company that is offering the giveaway knows that the strategy is positively affecting buyer decision processes. This can be very valuable when thinking about marketing and other aspects of business.

Focus groups may be used to research buyer decision processes.
Focus groups may be used to research buyer decision processes.

Many people think about buyer decision processes as simple, logical evaluations of which products to buy given economic considerations and the quality of the products in question. Economic models of decision processes are flawed because they assume that the consumer is a purely rational actor with access to an objective truth about the cost of items and their quality. These models do not typically take into account the emotional appeal of certain products or services or the whims of customers.

Psychological models of buyer decision processes are sometimes more successful because they consider the multitude of reasons a person might make a purchase, but these models do not always take into account the external considerations specific to individual situations. Not having an item in stock on a regular basis, for example, can affect buyer decisions in the long run and may change the ways in which a consumer buys a certain item. Models that use psychology are limited by their generalizations, but can be made in such a way that they address the specific concerns of very small groups of customers.

Most of the time, people in business are concerned with the practical outcomes of buyer decision processes rather than the theoretical justification that they exist. Any model that gets accurate results is considered a good model even if the reasoning is flawed. For this reason, many different models exist that are considered successful even though they may be wildly different.

Comparing similar products is a common part of the buyer decision process.
Comparing similar products is a common part of the buyer decision process.

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