Step 1: Need/Want/Desire is Recognized
In the first step, the consumer has determined that for some reason she/he is not satisfied (i.e., consumer’s perceived actual condition) and wants to improve her/his situation (i.e., consumer’s perceived desired condition). For instance, internal triggers, such as hunger or thirst, may tell the consumer that food or drink is needed. External factors can also trigger consumer’s needs. Marketers have long used methods, such as advertising, in-store displays, and even the intentional use of scent (e.g., perfume counters in retail stores), as triggers.
At this stage, the decision-making process may stall if the consumer is not motivated to continue (see Motivation ). However, if the consumer does have the internal drive to satisfy the need they will continue to the next step.
Step 2: Search for Information
Assuming consumers are motivated to satisfy his or her need, they will next undertake a search for information on possible solutions. The sources used to acquire this information may be as simple as remembering information from past experience (i.e., memory) or the consumer may expend considerable effort to locate information from outside sources (e.g., internet search, talk with others, etc.). How much effort the consumer directs toward searching depends on such factors as: the importance of satisfying the need, familiarity with available solutions, and the amount of time available to search.
To appeal to consumers who are at the search stage, marketers should make efforts to ensure consumers can locate information related to their product. For example, for marketers whose customers rely on the internet for information gathering, it may be critical to utilize certain strategies (i.e., search engine optimization) so that a link to product information appears on the first search page for likely keyword searches.