Monday, September 23, 2013

Where Is E-Marketing in the Buying Decision Process?

Q. Where is e-marketing in buying decision process?
A. It’s everywhere!

We know e-marketing is here to stay.  We know that its influence on the marketing exchange process is significant.  But how does e-marketing fit into the buying decision process?

To answer that, let’s first review the buying (or purchase) decision process.  Go interview ten marketing gurus and you’ll likely have ten versions of the buying decision process, but all in all, they represent the same three steps (sometimes broken down into 5 or more substeps):

1. Need/Desire Recognition.  We know that for any purchase to take place, the potential buyer has to recognize an unfulfilled need or desire.  This recognition can be caused by an internal stimulus (my stomach feels empty) or an external stimulus (I smell the pleasant aroma of my favorite food).

2. Need/Desire Development.  Now that we recognize this new “need,” we have to develop it so we can know what to buy.  What kind of food is available in our immediate vicinity?  Do we recognize the restaurants nearby?  Is the food we want a reasonable distance away?  How much do we want to spend?  How much time do we have to eat?  The questions (there are hundreds more) are seemingly endless, but at least some must be answered before we make the decision to buy.  In fact, it’s during this step that we both gather information (“information search”) and evaluate the various options that arise (“alternative evaluation”).  The information search can be both internal (retrieved from our own memory of past events or prior information search) and external (sought out specifically for this decision process.  The alternative evaluation can take on a number of forms and processes, and ranges from specific comparisons of easily measurable details (e.g., the calories per serving) to general comparisons of more abstract concepts (e.g., comparing the personal satisfaction of supporting a friend’s restaurant versus the pleasure derived from the ambiance of a small café versus the opportunity costs of a time-consuming drive).

3. Need/Desire Fulfillment.  When we’ve reached some threshold of information and comparisons, we make our exchange (i.e., our purchase) and then consume or use what we’ve bought.  We also conduct post-purchase and post-consumption (post-usage) evaluations, which will likely influence the next buying decision process.

So where can e-marketing come into play?  Pretty much everywhere a marketer can have an influence, and that’s throughout the entire process.

Online promotions, emails from friends, what we read in a blog – all of these can stimulate our recognition that there’s something out there that we want, but that we don’t currently have.  Thus, it’s important for marketers to have channels in place to reach people where and when they’re most likely to recognize their needs or desires.  Targeted ads (e.g., using behavioral advertising), well-placed mentions in online text exchanges, or opt-in email marketing could be used to stimulate need recognition.

As for the need/desire development process, whether it’s a Google search, a product comparison table on a website, or asking questions on a discussion board, we know that e-marketing plays a key role these days in how people formulate what it is that they want.  Think about how you might have purchased a car or a house 15 years ago and how you’d do it now.  The vast majority of people have moved at least some part of that process online.

Finally, for a number of products, even the final fulfillment of the product can have at least one online component.  Whether it’s a completely online transaction such as purchasing on-demand video, or a partial online transaction like buying clothing from an online retailer, or even a face-to-face transaction that involves an after purchase online satisfaction survey, e-marketing again plays a role.

So not only is e-marketing here to stay, but it has permeated the buying decision process.  For marketers, this means that understanding e-marketing is as essential as understanding the buyer.

And we all know that in marketing, understanding the buyer and the buying decision process is sensible.

Be sensible.

Questions to consider:

  • In what ways has e-marketing changed at least one step of the buying decision process for a business or industry that you know well?
  • How can social media marketing do more to influence a particular step of the buying decision process?
  • How has e-marketing changed your own buying decision process for a particular product or industry?
  • Will the government attempt to limit the role of e-marketing in the purchase decision process? How and why?


  1. E-marketing is definitely here to stay! Because of E-marketing, people can research products better, restaurants, hotels, etc. Everyones opinion helps the businesses, whether it's good or bad. I can't imagine myself buying something or going somewhere without reviewing other people's opinions (bloggers or vloggers) first or finding more information about it !

  2. Great post professor! Very intrigued by the fact that marketers are targeting their ads based on the behavior of users. I am very interested in this topic as I have been researching it online and have been reading up on it through the class text book. In my opinion I believe that sometimes companies can go a bit to far and cross the line by invading the privacy of their consumers. I believe that down the line companies who want to succeed will have to show that they respect the privacy of their consumers.

  3. I feel that the main difference with the influence of the internet, ads, banner ads and e-marketing is they create a need, as the post shows, in the consumers mind. We are being constantly reminded of the latest trend and newest product, creating a desires and constant reminder that was not there before e-marketing at least as strong as it is now.

  4. E-marketing is the most efficient way to infiltrate the buyer's decision process. It's cost efficient, it allows you reach a wider and more international audience and you can develop more creative campaigns. Once you spark the curiosity of your customers and they get to your website, you have his or her undivided attention. Its up to you to use creative and effective methods to convince them to buy your product or service

  5. Was I the only person who ever though Facebook and Google were mind readers? suggesting just what I wanted....!
    Well little did I know they were keeping tabs on me and on my browser history. I agree with you Jose, it seems like privacy is now a blurred line. But who can blame them. If you could choose between a general banner or a personalized ad which one would you go for? It makes sense to try to personalize our ads as much as possible. Instead of offering the consumer a product or service that he or she might never need you are offering them something that they might actually need.

  6. I find it very interesting that marketers have such a big impact on the buying decision process. E-markerters really need to completely understand this process if they want to have a competitive advantage in their market. I strongly agree with your point on behavioral advertising, although its not exactly ethical to track someones activity on-line, it is a great opportunity for businesses to reach their prospective market.

  7. E-marketing its great but up to an extend, in my opinion. I remember this process being way more simple. Back in the days we believed the sales person and the little information we had on a product. Now we compare everything! I see myself going to best buy to look at what i want so i can go research and compare specs and prices all over the net because i know i will find it cheaper. Emarketing is great because it has studied us very well and what we like. when i say great i think I'm referring to make profit and businesses, but i don't think it has made my life any more pleasant. Actually with all this social media tools and all the information about the latest products, its hard to save up. =/ Another thing that i see about emarketing is that it has substituted a jobs person and the more we rely in technology the less jobs we are going to have. Everything now is self serve, and honestly I'm pretty much sick of it. I hate going to fed ex and only one guy working there telling me that i have to go on a computer and print the label and pay thru it online. Why do i have to learn how to do all that?? I'm paying for a service right?. Like i said earlier e marketing it's great, but like everything it needs a balance. Great post prof!

  8. Great way to address the effect of social marketing on our buying decision process. We're constantly bombarded by teasers that stimulate our senses, and even when we do not need certain product, marketers are here to make us belief otherwise. If we're not careful, we end up in a financial catastrophe powered by consumerism, facilitated by credit cards. Behavioral advertising is based on psychological factors, and targets little kids and teens as well. Thanks to government regulations, tobacco ads on TV targeting teenagers are less and less common. As a concerned mother, this topic is very sensitive to me. Thank you.

  9. Yes, e-marketing is definitely all over the place. Not only is it viable because everyone is on the internet nowadays, but also because it is so convenient and affordable! Buying advertisements on TV or newspapers or radio stations, are most definitely more expensive than advertising online. Google advertisements work per click, much like Facebook's, and they suggest your websites using algorithms that predict you'd be interested in those products/services. Therefore marketers only pay when people actually visit their website! Also, other forms of advertising are even free of monetary cost. People can advertise their products on forums, make free videos on the popular video website, YouTube, etc. There's so many ways that marketing became more affordable by going online.

  10. Great post, really makes you think about how one simple concept like e-marketing has changed many things about the way consumers buy products and how businesses and industries market and sell them. It's a whole new world of interacting, one in which we have to find new ways in capturing the attention of others since face -to- face is becoming less practiced.

  11. I think it's important to have a basic understanding of the buying/purchasing process for e-marketing because it can help you focus more on how to sell online. You're able to directly influence your customer's decisions by constantly having your product as the solution to their need/desire. In August, how many "back to school sales" did we see online? The e-marketing techniques that many brands used like Office Depot and JC Penny, etc sold their products as solutions to your needs - which in this case would be affordable school supplies and clothes for students who are going back to school. E-marketing is a powerful tool for selling your product, message, etc online and in-stores if properly aligned with the buying/purchasing decision process.

  12. The internet marketing world is filled with sheep. One person goes there and everyone follows. This is good news for the person who knows how to exploit this situation. When everyone moves in one direction, they miss out opportunities that already exist.

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