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Omni-channel consumers? Cross device buying patterns?  These days, even the sharpest marketers can occasionally feel like cryptozoologists tracking the elusive Bigfoot (i.e. customer).

 

But the basics still apply.

 

To deal with the constant flux of changing consumer behavior, marketers must continue to examine and maintain a solid knowledge of the consumer decision-making process, and in particular, understand the Buying Cycle.

 

This blog post series aims to provide clarity on each phase of the Buying Cycle with a focus on Considered Purchases. In short, considered purchases for the home are big-ticket items like cars, furniture, appliances, insurance policies, and of course, houses. They’re products consumers give more thought to before purchasing.

 

In the first installment of this series, we’ll examine the initial phase of the Buying Cycle: Need Recognition.

 

The Buying Cycle can be represented in the following stages: (1) Need Recognition (2) Information Search (3) Evaluation of Alternatives (4) Purchase (5) Post-Purchase Behavior. Consumers will go through these stages when making a purchase of a product or service.

 

The Need Begins

The first phase of the Buying Cycle is Need Recognition. It’s the awareness of a need or imbalance between actual and desired states. Factors that cause a consumer to enter the considered purchase cycle include:

 

  • Need Recognition – Consumer is exposed to either an external or internal stimulus that ignites the need. For example, a consumer may see an ad and want to purchase that product (external) or experience hunger or thirst (internal).
  • Replacements or Upgrades – Consumer realizes they have to replace a product with the same version or an upgraded model. For example, a consumer’s washing machine and dryer are broken. With a considered purchase for the home such as a large appliance, a consumer will likely give more thought and invest more time and research into making the purchase.
  • Major Life Changes – This includes events like marriage, birth, moving to a new home, starting college, etc. Let’s take for example, a newlywed couple that has recently purchased a home. There will be purchases to consider and it’s likely they include big-ticket items such as furniture and major appliances.
  • Conspicuous Consumption – Social status, fashion, and a desire for luxury goods are some of the influencers that drive a consumer to conspicuous consumption. Purchasing a home in a desirable neighborhood or a luxury car are ways for a consumer to outwardly project their social status.
  • Maintain their Lifestyle – Consumers may purchase products to perpetuate their current quality of life.
  • Joining a Group or Gaining Peer Acceptance – Consumers may purchase products in order to gain favor with a group or association they wish to be part of.
  • Expressing Cultural Identity—Consumers may purchase a product or service that resonates with them culturally or reinforces their ethnic identity.

 

While the concepts covered above appear to be quite simple, many companies and agencies often overlook the basics. These companies/agencies forget to take a closer look at the core needs of the consumer and what drives them to make considered purchases.

 

When creating an advertising campaign and focusing on a target audience, marketers need to conduct research to find define the needs of the consumer. How did these needs arise? What type of stimuli brought the target audience to this stage of awareness? What factor or combination of factors, like the topics discussed above, brought them to enter the first phase of the Buying Cycle?

 

Recently, Wingman Advertising released a case study on Sit ‘n Sleep’s new “Replace Every 8” campaign, which shaped awareness around the health benefits of a new mattress. A need was created and brought consumers into the first “Need Recognition” stage of the Buying Cycle. Read more on the case study here.

 

Overall, the understanding the Need Recognition phase for an agency or marketing department is about understanding the target audience, noting their pain points, and identifying what influences (external and internal) can potentially engage with a client’s product.

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