How People Decide to Buy: The Purchase Decision Process

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For practitioners of process improvement, we see the world in large part as, well, a bunch of processes. Even things that most people wouldn’t consider a process, is actually a process. But as a process, not much is known about how people decide to buy.

For example, think about your purchase decision process – or – the process by which you find and buy stuff. My recent experience at the Nike Retail Store validated my thoughts on how purchasing is itself a process.

I was recently sent an email survey from Nike, triggered by my recent visit to the Nike Retail Store. I enjoy surveys, so instead of deleting the email, I completed the survey. To my surprise, here was the first question:

  • Thinking about your retail store experience in general, how strongly does being greeted influence your purchase decision. (0 = no influence at all; 10 = very strong influence).

It’s an interesting question; one that I actually hadn’t thought much about. Before I answered the question, I asked my wife how she would answer this question. She said, and I’m paraphrasing,

I just want to be left alone. When people bombard me when I walk into the store, I find it annoying. If I want to talk to someone at the store, then I will.

As I think more about it, I wouldn’t mind a simple “hello, welcome”. But, if the retail store clerk goes over-board, then I’m inclined to agree with my wife and I’d find that behavior annoying.

nike retail store

As expected, the remaining part of the questionnaire were questions that attempt to measure the percentage of promoters and detractors – yes, the Net Promoter Score.

How about you? Does being greeted at a retail store influence your purchase decision process?


  1. says

    Pete, it does make a difference. We own a small retail store and we are very careful about introducing ourselves, giving a few hints about the store if it is their first time and giving them space!

    It is tough because in those first few minutes of interaction, you are determining the amount of attention the customer desires. I think the secret is that we are in a Lean sort of way testing a hypothesis to see what their expectations are and adjusting based on the outcome. Maybe, not a full PDCA cycle but certainly a Learn and Adjust cycle.

    Paco Underhill is a genius on this subject and his books are a delightful, somewhat labor some read on the “Science of Shopping”. Thank God though my wife is the expert, I just theorize outcomes she is the one doing it!!

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