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Principles of Marketing: Buyer Behavior

Seth is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about marketing.

Read on to see an overview of the processes a consumer goes through when he or she seeks to make a purchase

Read on to see an overview of the processes a consumer goes through when he or she seeks to make a purchase

What Is Buyer Behavior?

Buyer behavior is the set of activities a consumer goes through in obtaining products. It also includes the decision process that preceded or determined those activities.

There are essentially two types of buyer behavior: consumer and industry. While both are similar in theory, some differences exist in the process each goes through when going through the buying process. This article will focus mainly on consumer buyer behavior.


When consumers realize they have an unmet need, they choose to begin a purchase process. In this process, the consumer will face one of three levels of problem-solving. These include:

  1. Routine problem-solving—This is a situation wherein consumers are typically purchasing low-priced, frequently purchased items. It is also called routine response behavior. This is because it is usually a product that one buys over and over without giving it much thought. A marketer's goal with routine problem solving is to reinforce the purchase habits of existing customers and change the habits of non-existing customers.
  2. Limited problem-solving—In a limited problem-solving situation, a consumer is familiar with the product class and the major brands in the product class and knows the attributes and characteristics on which to evaluate the product. However, the customer may then be confronted with a brand with which they are unfamiliar. A marketer of an unknown brand must provide information to the consumer that will increase their comprehension and confidence in the brand. This could be in the form of comparison charts or information packets.
  3. Extended problem-solving—In this scenario, consumers do not know the product class, the major brands, or the product attributes on which to evaluate the product. The marketer must provide information to the consumer that will indicate the important product class attributes, the relative importance of those attributes, and the position your brand has on those attributes.

The Consumer Adoption Process

The consumer adoption process is the stages a consumer goes through in making a purchase. Steps include awareness, interest, evaluation of alternatives, trial, and finally, the purchase decision.


Also known as the need recognition stage, awareness is the moment a consumer becomes aware of a need or problem they have or of a new product available. During this stage, the marketer must demonstrate that the product can satisfy the consumer's needs.


This is also known as the information search stage. After a need is recognized, the consumer collects information about the product. Consumers engage in three processes that can harm or impede the effectiveness of the marketer's program. These are:

  • Selective exposure—This occurs when consumers will only consider certain sources of information. They may only read online articles, only watch TV, or only ask a friend who may know something about the product. Marketers must adapt to the consumer and use the sources they prefer.
  • Selective perception—This occurs when consumers screen out certain information. They may only be willing to listen to issues they believe to be important in a product or service. The marketer must identify what they consider important and promote it.
  • Selective retention—This occurs when consumers only remember what they want to remember. In this case, a marketer must add something to the promotion to help the consumer remember certain things. This may be a jingle in ads, colorful signage, or something similar.

Evaluation of Alternatives

A person will eventually get to the point where he is ready to evaluate options. What he is doing is systematizing or organizing all of the information he has just collected. What brands are being considered? What does he consider the most important class attributes to evaluate? The consumer will compare the brands across product class attributes.

Three things occur in this stage:

  1. Evoked Set—Out of all the brands in the product class, the person will only consider several or a few. This becomes known as his or her evoked set.
  2. Salient Attributes—These are attributes the person feels are important within the evoked set that has been selected. If he is considering three brands of computers, the screen size may be a salient attribute.
  3. Determinate Attributes—These are characteristics of the product that the consumer feels are most important when making a purchase decision. Note that it cannot be a determinate attribute unless it is also considered a salient attribute. Determinate attributes are subsets of salients.

There are also what are called irrelevant attributes. These are features the marketer may promote but the consumer does not feel are important. An example would be a salesman speaking a lot about the unique color of a car, while the consumer does not care about that.


A trial occurs when a consumer tries a product in an inexpensive fashion. Not all products have a trial, and this is entirely optional to the consumer and marketer.

Purchase Decision

When a consumer finally feels he or she is ready to purchase a product, a couple of factors will need to be addressed before the sale is made.

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  • Brand Attitude—These are factors affecting the brand that determine if the consumer will buy the brand.
  • Social Factors—This includes others in life who are important to the consumer. These people will have an impact on the decision.
  • Anticipated Situational Factors—These are things the consumer expects to happen. This simply means that the consumer knows his income, knows how the economy currently is, knows the store image, or something similar.

All of these will finally lead to a consumer's purchase intention. There are, however, certain post-purchase factors that may change the person's mind beforehand or cause them to return the product.

  • Non-predictable Situational Factors—These are things that occur between the time the purchase intention is developed and the time the purchase decision is to be made. This might mean the person lost their job or the dealer went out of business.
  • Perceived Risk—A consumer may have some level of anxiety because of uncertainty about how well the product will actually perform.

After all of these factors are taken into consideration, the consumer will arrive at his purchase decision.


This is post-purchase behavior. Consumers may start to rethink their decision. They begin to experience what is known as cognitive dissonance. This occurs when the consumer experiences some uncertainty about the correctness of their decision. This is always a possibility.

In order for a marketer to deal with cognitive dissonance, he must:

  • Communicate the product decision the consumer made and extend gratitude to them
  • Advertise the product using new buyers as spokespeople.
  • Use owners manuals or leaflets in the product that describe the merits of the product.

Principles of Marketing Part 1—Basic Concepts and Fundamentals

Principles of Marketing Part 3—Market Segmentation and Targeting

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Nuradeen Marshall on October 08, 2019:

I enjoyed Redding

thank you so much

John Masih on March 18, 2019:

Very helpful..great...


Edmon Comia Bartolome from Metro Manila, Philippines on January 23, 2018:

The complex subject made simple. Brilliant!

D on November 03, 2017:

Very helpful,

Thank you.

R on December 10, 2016:

good points

josh paul on July 07, 2016:

nice document, it helped me in my assignment

Daniel Martins from Brazil on August 02, 2015:

Nice article! Thanks for sharing!

HennieN from South Africa on April 06, 2015:

This is a great and well researched hub. The information is very valuable. Well done.

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