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The purchase decision process: This is how customers buy in B2B

The customer's purchase decision process is the crucial issue for both salespeople and marketers. From every new strategy to every resulting small task that is waiting to be tackled, one question is always in the foreground: How do I best reach the customer?

You want to draw the attention of a potential customer, convince him of the products and persuade him to make a purchase. Needless to say, everyone wants to be the best at it, with the aim of differentiating themselves from the competition, being remembered for quality and service, and giving the customer an all-round positive shopping experience. This applies to both B2C and B2B sales. A successful strategy requires understanding the customer and that means being able to understand their purchasing decision-making process.

The four types of purchase decision

The purchase decision process is a psychological process. Whether the purchase decision is positive or negative depends on various factors such as the emotionality and prior knowledge of the customer. The course can be roughly divided into four different categories:

  1. The extensive purchase decision

This is an extensive decision-making process: the buyer has carried out intensive research on the product before (not) buying it, knows all the advantages and disadvantages and has weighed and assessed the risks.

  1. The limited purchase decision

The buyer already knows the product category, so he does not start from scratch in his purchase decision process. He limits the product comparison to a limited group of offers and weighs it on the basis of a few properties that are relevant to him, such as price and quality.

  1. The habitual purchase decision

This refers to a purchase made out of habit, where experience is mainly what counts. The customer does not go through a great purchase decision process because he already knows the product, including price and quality, and accordingly spends little or no time in further research.

  1. The impulsive purchase decision

It is triggered by emotional stimuli such as a spontaneous need or enormous time pressure. The purchase is not thought through, but for purely emotional reasons. An impulsive purchase decision often occurs when making purchases with very low risk.

The stages of the purchase decision process

In making a purchase decision, the customer goes through various phases. The best-known model for this is that of the American economist and marketing professor Philip Kotler. It is divided into the following phases:

Visualization of the purchase decision process

So at the beginning of every purchase decision process there is the identification of a problem. The customer develops a need, i.e. a feeling of deficiency, which he would like to remedy. Certain needs are consciously promoted and stimulated by the providers through advertising measures. As a result, a need arises, the need is given in and products are bought or services are used.

In the information search phase, he tries to find out how he can best meet his needs, i.e. which product best matches his ideas. The extent of his research determines the type of his purchase decision (research looks a little different in the B2B environment than in B2C - a detailed explanation follows in the second part of the article 😉.)

Based on this, he weighs various purchase options, evaluates them and ultimately makes his purchase decision. Both the degree of cognitive and emotional involvement play a major role here. If the customer decides to buy the job is done, one might think. But that doesn't quite apply: The after-sales phase is decisive in how he thinks about his purchase decision and consequently also whether he will choose the same provider again in the future. So it is just as important that the customer feels as well accompanied after the purchase as during the purchase, so that a long-term relationship can be built.

Extensions of the purchase decision process in a modern society

The phase model according to Kotler is coherent and easy to understand. It describes the buying process from problem identification to customer behavior after the purchase. However, in our new, digital world, there are new aspects that additionally influence the purchase decision process. So put the consulting firm McKinsey 2009 the “Customer Decision Jorney Model” (CDJ) as an extension or specification of the known phases of Kotler. The point “Consideration” addresses the fact that the potential customer is considering more well-known brands in his considerations and that the most recent points of contact are particularly relevant for this. For research and evaluation, new possibilities are constantly popping up everywhere and at any time; He can easily obtain information digitally via search engines, social media channels, blogs and of course also via the website.

How his purchase decision turns out depends not least on the accessibility of the desired product. The buying process should therefore be made as simple as possible so that the potential buyer does not have to overcome any additional hurdles. It starts with a clear and user-friendly online shop in which he can quickly find what he is looking for. Once he has arrived at the product he is looking for, ordering must be just as easy. If, for example, unexpected additional costs for shipping or a long delivery time are waiting for him, it will very likely annoy him and possibly tip his purchase decision.

The purchase decision process in the B2B environment

How does that look specifically in B2B? How do potential customers in the B2B sector make a decision to buy or not to buy? There is a simple reason why the B2B environment has not yet been discussed in detail: There is no longer a strict separation. At least not like a few years ago. Jamie Anderson, the "president EMEA Experience" at Marketo said appropriately:

“Whether consumers or companies - the basic psychology behind the purchase decision hardly differs. Both B2B and B2C customers expect marketing managers to always know who their customers are, what they want and what point in the customer journey they are currently at. B2B marketers need to offer business customers the same experiences they are used to in their private lives. That is a great challenge, the line between failure and success is fine. "

Source: Marconomy.de, https://www.marconomy.de/b2b-marketer-sollten-das-kaufverhalten-der-konsumenten-im-blick-behalten-a-832586/

This is not just said, but has been scientifically proven in many ways: for example, in 2019 the "Creating Epic Customer Experience“-Report out that clearly shows that the typical buying behavior of consumers in B2C is increasingly becoming established among B2B purchasing decision-makers. This means that in their “amazonized” purchase decision process they also take into account in the business world how quickly and easily they can find and order the desired products. In the study, around half of the B2B buyers surveyed stated that they expect a personalized customer experience. At the same time, 42 see % as the greatest disruptive factor when the side “cannot show how it is right for me”. (Can't show how it is rigth for me.) "

Obstacles to the purchase decision process in B2B

This result addresses a sore point in the B2B sector, because here it is much more difficult to positively influence the purchase decision process than in B2C. B2B purchases rarely come from an impulsive purchase decision, but a habitual purchase decision is likely to be made more often, because although another company might have a more suitable product, the effort involved in researching a limited or even extensive purchase decision is enormously. Products are more complex and, in comparison, serve much more complicated needs. In technical industries in particular, it is often difficult to position products correctly.

To illustrate: how much easier it might be to present a T-shirt, a yoghurt drink or a bracelet (= B2C products) than a component of the inner workings of a machine that ensures that a subsequent process runs smoothly, which in turn related to other aspects? Right, a lot easier. Because the B2C customer knows what needs he can satisfy with a yoghurt drink, but in his role as a B2B buyer does not know the smallest detail of all the machine and technological processes in his own company. During his research he then comes across various different offers, which he does not understand properly due to a lack of knowledge.

This makes the purchase decision process in the B2B sector much easier to fluctuate, even if the B2B sales department actually presents its products appropriately and ensures smooth ordering and delivery. 70 % of the B2B marketers and salespeople surveyed in the above-mentioned study stated that they had difficulty positioning their offers in a crowded market. If you work agile and think from the customer's perspective, this dilemma also contains great potential to set yourself apart from other competitors and to find better solutions for your own company.

How B2B salespeople can influence the purchase decision process

A big dilemma and no way out? By no means! B2B sales may have a more difficult time, but it is all the more important to master the challenge. Fortunately, digitization offers more and more options for this. Especially in B2B, it is crucial to offer the customer a pleasant and simple shopping experience across all touchpoints so that the purchase decision process goes as desired. Individual needs have to be identified and, as in B2C, addressed in a targeted manner. This statement supports, among other things, that almost half of the B2B buyers in the study stated that personalized offers and communication increase their loyalty.

So what can B2B sales do? The keyword “after sales phase” is capitalized here. If feedback loops are enabled, the customer can communicate, which in turn means that one can better understand his wishes. If this is actually dealt with on an individual basis, this also strengthens the Customer loyalty. Nevertheless, of course, the already discussed and known problems in the purchase decision process of B2B customers remain. Fortunately, digitalization brings many new technological possibilities with it to counteract them. Startups in particular develop innovative concepts that are then turned into elaborate offers - it is always worth stopping by at innovation hubs and looking specifically for suitable solutions.

For example, FoxBase has the Digital Product Selector developed a software for B2B online shops that matches the buyer with the product that best suits him in the shortest possible time and in an easily understandable manner. In this way, your own online shop stands out from the competition and its mountains of content and the purchase decision is positively influenced by an enormously simplified purchasing process. Arrange a demo appointment now!


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