There are a number of marketing implications that flow from this exposition of search and alternative evaluation processes. In this section, we shall examine some of the significant ramifications of this process for the marketer’s task.
Studying the information – search Process
In order for the marketer to influence the process of search and alternative evaluation he first must have information about it among his market segments.
There are several pieces of the information processing puzzle that he should seek to fill in (assuming that search activity is engaged in by significant segment of his market). First, he needs to determine what sources of information are actually used by consumers. Next, he most determines each source’s influence.
Determining sources of information:
There are several useful approaches by which data may be gathered on information source effectiveness. The following two research activities probably represent the easiest and most widely used approaches to date.
Where appropriate, many marketers use warranty registration cards to gather data on the information search activities of their customers. These questionnaires enable the respondent to check the source of information as well as the place of purchase for a product. However, these cards are often so small, in order to be machine processed that the amount of information obtainable on them is rather limited. Thus, such questions as where the consumer shopped (as opposed to purchased) and which information source was the most important are usually left for the company to speculate about. As a result this type of research approach although useful leaves many unanswered questions for the marketer attempting to make distribution or promotion decisions.
In depth research
The marketer may also utilize cross sectional or longitudinal research approaches to obtain information on consumer search processes. While cross sectional approaches may be acceptable for products with relatively short decision times, longitudinal studies may be more useful especially when the decision time for a product is long.
When formulating questionnaires to be used in such studies, it is suggested that the influence of information sources can be obtained by asking several types of questions (1) specific influence questions about the decision process itself (rather than specific sources), such as How did you learn about this new product? Or why did you decide to buy this brand? (2) Questions assessing overall influence, such as Overall what was the most important thing in causing you to purchase this product? (3) questions about exposure to various sources of information such as checklists like those used on warranty cards.
Determining Source influence
Analysis of purchase intentions and fulfillment rates over time could help to pinpoint weaknesses in marketing strategy. One of the variables that need to be assessed to determine its strength or weakness is the influence of information sources on brand purchase intentions and fulfillment.
We can see the type of analysis that might be necessary in order for the marketer to secure greater intention fulfillment rates, several steps of analysis are required. First, the marketer should determine the effectiveness of information sources to which consumers of each brand are exposed. This necessitates gathering data for each brand and each information source with regard to whether that source was effective for consumers and the degree of its effectiveness. Once this information is known, brands can then be compared on the basis of how effective each information source is. It may be found, of example, that one brand’s word of mouth and television advertising especially ineffective when compared to other hands.
One typology that has been suggested or comparing various information sources categorizes each one according to the following dimensions:
1) Decisive effectiveness: The consumer evaluates this source as having a major or dominant impact on the decision process.
2) Contributory effectiveness: The consumers evaluate this source as playing a specific role in the decision process, although it is not among the most important sources.
3) Ineffective: This source is rated as having no particular role in the decisions process even though exposure to it did occur.