We live and function as consumers every day. Whether it’s a simple decision, such as where to eat, or a high-risk decision, such as buying a house, everyone must make choices about what to buy and where to buy it. Last fall, I myself went through one of the most involved buying processes I could: purchasing new shoes.
Problem recognition and the search
The first step was problem recognition, when I realized my actual state was not my desired state. In my case, the sneakers I had been wearing were starting to look worn out, and weren’t as in-style anymore. The obvious solution to this problem was purchasing new sneakers for casual wear.
Next came the search. In this step of the process, consumers typically look internally in their long-term memory, or they search externally for information regarding their problem and chosen solution. I knew I didn’t want to repurchase any of the sneakers I already owned. I turned to my go-to for comparing brands: Nordstrom. This leads to the third step of the decision process, the alternative evaluation.
In this step, consumers further analyze their evoked set and the evaluative criteria that will guide their decision. My evoked set for sneakers included Adidas, Puma, and Nike. However, judging that finding new, lesser-known brands is something that brings me great joy, I knew my work had only just begun.
Nordstrom was the perfect place for me to conduct my search because I trust them and their customer service, and they carry a wide range of brands. My largest evaluative criterion was the appearance of the shoe. I can be picky with what I wear, so the style was the most specific factor I looked for. Price, brand recognition, and quality would all play a role as well.
Brands such as Golden Goose had the unique factor I was looking for, but at $525 a pair, they weren’t in the price range I had in mind. Superga was another brand that stuck out to me, however, I had already seen quite a few people with the same styles and I was looking for something a little more unique. Finally, I struck gold with a pair of Veja brand sneakers that had everything I was looking for. I knew I had to execute step four and make the purchase.
Purchase and post-purchase evaluation
I ordered the shoes online from Nordstrom and waited for the bliss that is receiving a package in the mail. As for step five of the consumer’s decision process, or my post-purchase evaluation, I definitely feel positive about my purchase. I even chose to leave a review online because the shoes are stylish, comfortable, and durable. Veja has gained a repeat customer, as I definitely plan on purchasing from them again. Now, months later, my Vejas have traveled the world with me (and gotten compliments along the way).
Beyond the initial motivations we see for purchasing new shoes, most purchases can be traced back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This purchase was fueled partially by safety needs, as I don’t want to be walking around barefoot or with unprotected feet. However, this purchase falls most heavily under the needs of self-esteem: a way to reflect my personality and the way I would like to be perceived. I would also consider myself to be an inner-directed narrow categorizer. This means I seek my own information when it comes to researching buying decisions and I have a low tolerance for error. These factors all play into the way I interact with the world and the products I see every day.
I wasn’t consciously defining consumer behavior concepts as I went through the process of shopping for and buying my sneakers. However, the process gave a clear demonstration of consumer behavior. Studying the way that consumers make individual decisions and are influenced by the groups around them helps us understand those we are communicating with. By understanding the market and how they think, companies can create meaningful relationships and long-term customers. And hey, if I have to do some shopping along the way, that’s alright with me.