Monday, October 8, 2012

Dynamic Decisions: Buying as a Journey


Much of the reason we feel a decision is  simple to make is our familiarity with the act itself. What we often consider a single, momentary switch decision (up for on, down for off, green means buy, red means decline) is in fact a process stretched in parts over time and shaped by a large number of of intrinsic and extrinsic forces.

Making a purchasing decision is a complex** process no matter who you are or the age of your black belt in shopping.  


As we will see below, this actual moment when a purchase decision occurs is actually preceded by several stages reflected in the Dynamic Customer Decision Journey.  

The DCDJ created by Brian Solis graphically demonstrates these stages as "opportunities" to move a customer forward. It also shows every possible point at which something can go wrong for today's marketer.

For an experienced buyer, this process becomes partially automated (over time) through repetition - and repetition allows the buying process to become predictable as well as automated. However, when the buying process is new, fresh or highly unique, a single decision can be paralyzing.  

New buyers unlike their experienced counterparts freeze when they become highly aware of the complex nature of making one single solitary decision. It is at this moment that there is the greatest possibly for a person to understand (or simply imagine) the dynamic nature of choice - as well as the many smaller choices that are made at various points within the process.   

For the rest of us, there's this handy-dandy graphic :


It's all about influence.  

When we see the buying decision as influence threaded through an ongoing lifecycle, we begin to realize how many small steps and shifts occur prior to the purchase (aka: commerce, POS). The cycle continues well beyond the purchase into the moment where a buyer chooses to become a lifelong loyalist. 


Remember, this is a high level overview of the process. This is the general roadmap, the lay of the land, the brief slap in the face that reminds us that what we buy today comes from a series of decisive moments where we might have simply decided the purchase was not worth pursuing.  

It is also a combination of concepts neatly packaged into an overriding idea: the sales/marketing funnel, messaging map, touchpoint management, and heuristics are loosely built into this model.

And it is one of many similar ways to articulate the buying journey. Truth is, we might any number of variables on this map. Every industry is unique, ex/in influence elements are particular, and the actual buuyer may not be one person but many people (as in many B2B buying models.)

So, as great as this might be, there's information that we need if we truly want to understand what influences us, what repels us, what we do to validate our assumptions and how we handle buyer bliss or being burned by a brand you want desperately to love.


If you are lucky enough to be planning or just beginning a marketing strategy phase, you may benefit from taking the time to ensure that everyone in the room is on the same page. More often than not, chances are you'll need to start fresh to align your group to the core idea. It's up to you whether exploring the elements of this journey would be helpful or too confusing for your goals.

RELATED: sales/marketing funnel, messaging map, touchpoint management, law of 29 and heuristics

** Complex (by the way) is not used here to imply "complicated". In this instance we mean "system of interconnected parts".

Check out for more brilliant insights, wise words and uncanny clarity on cool concepts.


  1. Wow, Robert, this is very useful stuff. You are helping to make a complicated, multi-step process easier to understand by breaking the decision-making journey down into steps.

    All that is missing for a novice like me is maybe some actual examples.

    For instance, I know that when I am on the consumer side of the counter, I get frustrated when they are too many choices for a simple category--like aspirin or cereal. I have more than once walked out of a store deciding I did not need the product after all.

    1. Fantastic feedback as always, Holly! You're so right - we like to feel free about choices but we also like to be free of too many choices. (Life is busy enough as it it is!)

      Your example isn't only's is scientifically supported with research often cited by those who follow Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink)and Derek Halpern.

      In the study the researchers found that that the number of options available to the consumer in a store display had a direct impact on two key elements: (1) consumer perception of value as it relates to price point and (2) the inverse relationship between initial interest and actual purchases (more options garnered greater interest initially but showed fewer overall purchases due to consumer confusion.)

      This idea of consumer choice also relates directly to NEUROMARKETING, the 2012 trend that has taken the industry into new territory which has caught the attention of ethics groups who focus on consumer protection

      The line between helping a consumer and "holding a consumer hostage" unknowingly is one that is increasingly blurred - now more than ever.

  2. Interesting that post-purchase efforts are highlighted as being an important part of a (future) purchase decision. Personally, I have always found the post-purchase marketing efforts to be the least enjoyable. It is far easier to focus on swaying "new" potential, customers, as compared to following up after a sale. I know this to be a bad habit, but still am prone to this error. Anyway, the graphic is a good reminder to focus on the whole cycle.

    1. LSS: Perfect point that you bring up about the customer lifecycle: where does it end and should it end at the point of sale?

      First, effective companies choose to look at the customer lifecycle as a "cradle to casket" relationship. This macro perspective takes into consideration the role of brand loyalty in three unique ways:

      1) planting the seed (the worst example is cigarette bubble gum to train future smoking behavior or child sized laptops),

      2) sapling to full grown consumer (the point where a consumer emerges as a potential buyer with real needs and an eye for solutions)

      3) full on forestry (deep roots that are fed by a brand leading to reproduction in geographical or sam-interest proximity.)

      From a marketing perspective, how the consumer views the post sale process impacts whether they buy repeatedly and tell others to do the same. And Executives increasingly are monitoring the metrics of “lifespan purchasing”.

      Second, hearing that the post-sale marketing is your least favorite is not uncommon. Every consumer knows why they get those creepy "just checking to see if you're pleased calls."

      Instead, good marketers must begin to connect with the consumer post sale with helpful content, customized offers and opportunities which are highly specific to the ongoing needs of the buyer. Not only will they appreciate the outreach but the connection will come from a place of truly wanting to help (void of ulterior motives.)

      So we need to ask ourselves: are we calling as a matter or protocol..or because something must be shared that you would be remiss not to tell them about? (It’s like Mom..she always knows when you’re calling just because you need something.)

      Final point: surveys. When we articulate the exact purpose of the post-sale survey we have a greater chance of participation. Which would you prefer: Please Take our survey about our service" or "please help us develop product 2.0 - and we'll thank you by giving you early access."

      One looks back, and the other....well, it simply looks forward. (and so will they!)

  3. I really enjoy reading and listening to audio books that involve the why's of psychology, and especially in regards to successful selling.

    Smart companies limit your choices over time until you buy what you think you wanted from the start, and you fill in memories to account for your actions.

    It would be cool for the graphic to resize some of those boxes based on likelihood or importance.

  4. Robert: I read a great book last weekend; actually two great books. One is called Brain Game by Mark Prensky--he coined the terms digital natives/ digital immigrants. His new book discusses "digital wisdom"--you should read it. It has a lot of applications to your blog. It's about embracing and leveraging new technologies as a means to an end as one day technology will become "...even more powerful than our human brains." The second book I read is How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. The author concludes that in order for children to succeed we must look at non-cognitive skills such as grit, perseverance, conscientiousness and optimism. These skills build character. I think that character has huge applications to the way we purchase and remain loyal to our brands.

  5. I'm starting to understand that there are several type of consumers - and how different people base buying decisions on emotions, facts, testimonials, etc. Great info! 

    1. Absolutely, Alex! Glad that this reinforces for you the variety of consumer that exists. The heuristics of social purchasing will come in handy as the next step in understanding how to modify your offering. Using the heuristics allows you to create scenarios in which "if ____ then _____." Translation: if you hope for a certain outcome in purchasing decisions, then you will need to adapt your product offering to reflect specific key triggers which are (almost always) specific to your consumer base. R.


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