What does the customer buy?


There appears to be an obvious answer to this question—PRODUCT / SERVICE. But it is not just enough. When one examines the different products or services bought by a customer, one can differentiate them into two groups, namely :

1. High involvement products
2. Low involvement products.

The differentiation between products and services is sought to be created on the basis the customer involvement level in product selection. This is based on the extent to which customer perceives product as representing his or her personality and life-style. For example, selection of a car is a high involvement decision as it has always continued to represent the customer’s personality. On the other hand, toilet soap is a low involvement product.

High Involvement Products

These have the following characteristics:

High price Generally these products are priced high in a particular product group. For example, a color T.V. is a high involvement product but within the entertainment electronics segment, perhaps pocket transistors are not.

Complex features High involvement products have complex features , requiring the customer to spend more time on familiarizing and internalizing them. No wonder color TVs ,VCR, cars, motorcycles, computers , washing machines, refrigerators and the like, come with an easy-to-read product manual describing the features in simple lay terms.

Large differences between alternatives If the customers perceive large differences between alternatives, then the product is a high involvement one. For example, if the customer perceives major differences between Indian, Japanese, or American cars, then the car purchase decision is a high involvement one. This is because these perceived difference enhance the need to learn about them and evaluate each of the given alternatives against a decision criteria.

High perceived risks If the customer perceives a high risks in using the product, then he or she may spend considerable time in (i) evaluating what constitutes risk; (ii) how to minimize it, and (iii) how to avoid it. Besides the customer may even evaluate whether the risk is worth taking. Cosmetics, hair dyes, flying a airplane for the first time, and the like, are all perceived high risk situations. Hence these are high involvement product use situations.

Reflect self-concept of buyer This is the single most important factor in making a product high involvement . Each of us has a self –image and we behave in a manner that will help us reinforce this image on others. We buy products and services that reflect this self-concept. Cars, houses, dresses, restaurant-selection, perfumes, cosmetics and jewellery are some examples of products that reflect customer’s self-concept. Often customers spend considerable time in selecting a brand in these product groups.

Low Involvement Products

The characteristics of such products are noted below:

Does not reflect buyer’s self concept In the first place these products are more personal to the buyer and they do not reflect his or her self-concept. Toilet soaps and other toiletries are an example of products that perceived by customer as expressing his or her image.

Alternatives within the same product class are similar. The customer does not perceive differences between different brands in the same product class.

Frequent brand switching behavior For the above reason, brand loyalty in these products is low.