Consumers Decision Making Process
Marketers are interested in consumers’ purchase behaviours, i.e., the decision making process. The consumers’ decision making is a choice amongst various alternatives that address problematic issues like:
- What to buy;
- Where to buy;
- When to buy;
- How to buy;
- How much to buy.
Consumer decision making involves a continuous flow of interactions among environmental factors, cognitive and affective processes and behavioural actions. Consumer’s decisions are based on knowledge, affect and behaviour related to the marketing mix. The consumer decision making process involves series of related and sequential stages of activities. The process begins with the discovery and recognition of an unsatisfied need or want. It becomes a drive. Consumer begins search for information. This search gives rise to various alternatives and finally the purchase decision is made. Then buyer evaluates the post purchase behavior to know the level of satisfaction.
Stages in Consumer Decision Making Process: There are five stages in the consumer decision making process. These are
1. Need Recognition: When a person has an unsatisfied need, the buying process begins to satisfy the needs. The need may be activated by internal or external factors. The intensity of the want will indicate the speed with which a person will move to fulfill the want. On the basis of need and its urgency, the order of priority is decided. Marketers should provide required information of selling points.
2. Information Search: Identified needs can be satisfied only when desired product is known and also easily available. Different products are available in the market, but consumer must know which product or brand gives him maximum satisfaction. And the person has to search out for relevant information of the product, brand or location. Consumers can use many sources e.g., neighbors, friends and family. Marketers also provide relevant information through advertisements, retailers, dealers, packaging and sales promotion, and window displaying. Mass media like news papers, radio, and television provide information. Nowadays internet has become an important and reliable source of information. Marketers are expected to provide latest, reliable and adequate information.
3. Evaluation of Alternatives: This is a critical stage in the process of buying. Following are important elements in the process of alternatives evaluation
a. A product is viewed as a bundle of attributes. These attributes or features are used for evaluating products or brands. For example, in washing machine consumer considers price, capacity, technology, quality, model and size.
b. Factors like company, brand image, country, and distribution network and after-sales service also become critical in evaluation.
c. Marketers should understand the importance of these factors with regards to the consumers while manufacturing and marketing their products.
4. Purchase Decision: Outcome of the evaluation develops likes and dislikes about alternative products or brands in consumers. This attitude towards the brand influences a decision as to buy or not to buy. Thus the prospective buyer heads towards final selection. In addition to all the above factors, situational factors like finance options, dealer terms, falling prices etc., are also considered.
5. Post- Purchase Behavior: Post-purchase behavior of consumer is more important as far as marketer is concerned. Consumer gets brand preference only when that brand lives up to his expectation. This brand preference naturally repeats sales of marketer. A satisfied buyer is a silent advertisement. But, if the used brand does not yield desired satisfaction, negative feeling will occur and that will lead to the formation of negative attitude towards brand. This phenomenon is called cognitive dissonance. Marketers try to use this phenomenon to attract users of other brands to their brands. Different promotional-mix elements can help marketers to retain his customers as well as to attract new customers.
Levels of Consumer Decision Making
The consumer decision making process is complex with varying degree. All purchase decisions do not require extensive effort. On continuum of effort ranging from very high to very low, it can be distinguished into three specific levels of consumer decision making:
1 Extensive Problem Solving (EPS)
2. Limited Problem Solving (LPS)
3. Routine Problem Solving (RPS)
1. Extensive Problem Solving (EPS): When consumers buy a new or unfamiliar product it usually involves the need to obtain substantial information and a long time to choose. They must form the concept of a new product category and determine the criteria to be used in choosing the product or brand.
2. Limited Problem Solving (LPS): Sometimes consumers are familiar with both product category and various brands in that category, but they have not fully established brand preferences. They search for additional information which helps them to discriminate among various brands.
3. Routine Problem Solving (RPS): When consumers have already purchased a product or brand, they require little or no information to choose the product. Consumers involve in habitual and automatic purchases.
Meaning of Consumer Involvement:
Consumer involvement is defined as a state of mind that motivates consumers to identify with product/service offerings, their consumption patterns and consumption behaviour. Involvement creates within consumers an urge to look for and think about the product/service category and the varying options before making decisions on brand preferences and the final act of purchase. It is the amount of physical and mental effort that a consumer puts into a purchase decision. It creates within a person a level of relevance or personal importance to the product/service offering and this leads to an urge within the former to collect and interpret information for present/future decision making and use. Involvement affects the consumer decision process and the sub processes of information search, information processing, and information transmission.
Causes of Consumer Involvement: The factors that influences consumer involvement include personal, product and situational.
1) Personal Factors: Self-concept, needs, and values are the three personal factors that influence the extent of consumer involvement in a product or service. The more product image, the value symbolism inherent in it and the needs it serves are fitting together with the consumer self- image, values and needs, the more likely the consumer is to feel involved in it. Celebrities for example share a certain self-image, certain values, and certain needs. They tend to use products and services that reflect their life style. They get highly involved in purchasing prestigious products like designer wear, imported cars, health care products etc.
2) Product Factors: The consumer involvement grows as the level of perceived risk in the purchase of a good or service increases. It is likely that consumers will feel more involved in the purchase of their house than in the purchase of tooth paste, because it is a much riskier purchase.
Product differentiation affects involvement. The involvement increases as the number of alternatives that they have to choose from, increases. The pleasure one gets by using a product or service can also influence involvement. Some products are a greater source of pleasure to the consumer than others. Tea and coffee have a high level of hedonic (pleasure) value compared to, say household cleaners. Hence the involvement is high.
Involvement increases when a product gains public attention. Any product that is socially visible or that is consumed in public, demands high involvement. For example, involvement in the purchase of car is more than the purchase of household items.
3) Situational Factors: The situation in which the product is bought or used can generate emotional involvement. The reason for purchase or purchase occasion affects involvement. For example, buying a pair of socks for oneself is far less involved than buying a gift for a close friend.
Social pressure can significantly increase involvement. One is likely to be more self conscious about the products and brands one looks at when shopping with friends than when shopping alone.
The need to make a fast decision also influences involvement. A consumer who needs a new refrigerator and sees a ‘one- day- only sale’ at an appliances retailer does not have the time to shop around and compare different brands and prices. The eminence of the decision heightens involvement. The involvement is high when the decision is irrevocable, for example when the retailer does not accept return or exchange on the sale items.
Thus involvement may be from outside the individual, as with situational involvement or from with in the individual as with enduring involvement. It can be induced by a host of personal-product-and situation related factors, many of which can be controlled by the marketer. It affects the ways in which consumers see, process, and send information to others.
Types of Involvement: The two types of involvement are:
1) Situational Involvement: Situational involvement is temporary and refers to emotional feelings of a consumer, experiences in a particular situation when one thinks of a specific product.
2) Enduring Involvement: Enduring involvement is persistent over time and refers to feelings experienced toward a product category across different situations. For example, holiday- makers renting a resort for their trip are highly involved in their choice, but their involvement is temporary. Whereas involvement of a person whose hobby is bike racing endures overtime and affects his responses in any situation related to pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase of sport bikes. It is observed that involvement is triggered by special situation in the case of holiday makers, but in the second case, it comes from, and is a part of the consumer.
The contrast between situational and enduring involvement is important. When marketers measure involvement they examine the extent to which it can be induced by the product or selling situation. After noticing the type of involvement they are facing, marketers work to control products or selling situations.