The following are the 6 stages:
Stage 1: Problem Recognition or in other words awareness of need-In this stage the consumer realizes the need for a certain product. For example, when a person is hungry, he thinks of eating some thing. Hunger--Food. Hunger stimulates your need to eat. But this kind of thought can easily be stimulated through advertisements. Children are often attracted by the advertisements of ice creams, chocolates and lot of other items. In other words when a person recognizes that there is some deficit in their life, they try to fulfill those needs. When one see a commercial for a new pair of shoes, it stimulates the recognition the need for a new pair of shoes.
Stage 2: Information search-Once a person realizes the need for an item, then the second immediate step would be to find out more information about the item. This can be done through internal search, memory, print and visual media, friends and relatives, word of mouth, marketer dominated sources, comparison shopping, public sources etc. A successful information search leaves a buyer with possible alternatives or in other words different brands. For example, when a person is hungry, and wants to go to a restaurant, he has probably a set of restaurants to choose from depending on what kind of food item he likes to have. It can be Chinese food, Indian food, burger king, or klondike kates etc.
Stage 3: Evaluation of Alternatives-Once a set of alternatives are present it is time for evaluation of each of them. Hence there is a need to establish criteria for evaluation, features the buyer wants or does not want, in the case of restaurant tastes that the customer likes. The customer based on the criteria for evaluation rank or weight alternatives. If the customer is not satisfied then they resume search. For example, if the customer wants to eat something spicy, then the Indian food gets highest rank. If not satisfied with the choices then return to the search phase to find another restaurant. Look in the yellow pages or internet etc. Information from different sources may be treated differently. Marketers try to influence by "framing" alternatives.
Stage 4: Purchase decision-The fourth step is the stage when the final decision is made. Choose buying alternative, includes product, package, store, method of purchase etc.
Stage 5: Purchase--May differ from decision, time lapse between stage no 4 and 5, product availability. However, this is one of the most important stages in the process.
Stage 6: Post-Purchase Evaluation-This is the stage of outcome that can be either satisfaction or dissatisfaction. For example, if the Indian food was very delicious, the customer will be satisfied but if it was not up to the expectation of the customer, then the customer might be dissatisfied and will be reluctant to go to the same restaurant the next time (udel.edu, N.D.).
2. Two major learning theories have dominated research and teaching in consumer behavio