THE BUYING DECISION
The basic psychological processes play an important role in understanding how consumers actually make their buying decisions. Marketers must understand every facet of consumer behavior. Points below provides a list of some key consumer behavior questions in terms of â€œwho, what, when, where, how and why.â€?
Five-Stage Model of the Consumer Buying Process:
Â· Problem Recognition
Â· Information search
Â· Evaluation of alternatives
Â· Purchase decision.
Â· Post-purchase Behavior.
Smart companies try to fully understand the customersâ€™ buying decision process, all their experiences in learning, choosing, using, and even disposing of a product.
Honda engineers took videos of shoppers loading groceries into car trunks to observe their frustrations and generate possible design solutions. Intuit, the maker of Quicken financial software, watched first-time buyers try to learn Quicken to sense their problems in learning how to use the product. Bissel developed its Steam nâ€™ Clean vacuum cleaner based on the product trial experiences of a local group near corporate headquarters in Michigan. The result was a name change, color-coded attachments, and an infomercial highlighting its special features.
Marketing scholars have developed a â€œstage modelâ€? of the buying decision process (see above). Clearly, the buying process starts long before the actual purchase and has consequences long afterwards.
But consumers do not always pass through all five stages in buying a product. They may skip or reverse some stages. A woman buying her regular brand of toothpaste goes directly from the need for toothpaste to the purchase decision, skipping information search and evaluation. The above points provide a good frame of reference, however, because it captures the full range of considerations that arise when a consumer faces a highly involving new purchase.
The buying process starts when the buyer recognizes a problem or need. The need can be triggered by internal or external stimuli. With an internal stimulus, one of the personâ€™s normal needs—hunger, thirst, sexâ€”rises to a threshold level and become a drive; or a need can be aroused by an external stimulus. A person may admire neighborâ€™s new car or see a television ad for a Hawaiian vacation, which triggers thoughts about the possibility of making a purchase. A believer in â€œretail theater,â€? lights a neon â€œHOT NOWâ€? sign to get attentionâ€”and purchase interestâ€”each time a new batch of doughnuts is baked.
Marketers need to identify the circumstances that trigger particular need by gathering information from a number of consumers. They can then develop marketing strategies that trigger consumer interest. This is particularly important with discretionary purchases such as luxury goods, vacation packages, and entertainment options. Consumer motivation may need to be increased so that a potential purchase is even given serious consideration.
An aroused consumer will be inclined to search for more information. We can distinguish between two levels of arousal. The milder search state is called heightened attention. At this level a person simply becomes more receptive to information about a product. At the next level, the person may enter an active information search: looking for reading materials, phoning friends, going online, and visiting stores to learn about the product.
Of key interest to the marketer are the major information sources to which the consumer will turn and the relative influence each will have on the subsequent purchase decision. These information sources fall into four groups:
1. Personal >> Family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances.
2. Commercial >> Advertising Websites, salesperson, dealers, packaging, displays.
3. Public >> Mass media, consumer-rating organizations.
4. Experiential >> Handling examining, using the product.
The relative amount and influence of these sources vary with the product category and the buyerâ€™s characteristics. Generally speaking, the consumer receives the most information about a product from commercial sources that is, marketer dominated sources. However, the most effective information often comes from personal sources or public sources that are independent authorities. More than 40% of all car shoppers consult Consumer Reports, making it the biggest single source of information. Each information source performs a different function in influencing the buying decision. Commercial sources normally perform an information function, whereas personal sources perform a legitimizing or evaluating function. For example, physicians often learn of new drugs from commercial sources but turn to other doctors for evaluations.
The Internet has changed the process of information search. Todayâ€™s marketplace is made up of traditional consumers (who do not shop online), cyber-consumers (who mostly shop online), and hybrid consumers (who do both).
Most consumers are hybrid: They shop in grocery stores but occasionally order from Peapod; they shop for book in Barnes & Noble bookstores but also sometimes order books from bn.com. People still like to squeeze the tomatoes, touch the fabric, smell the perfume, and interact with salespeople. They are motivated by more than shopping efficiency. Most companies will need a presence both offline and online to cater to these hybrid consumers.
Based on the principle of organized word of mouth, husband and wife team Tim and Nina Zagat have recruited thousands of reviewers to rate restaurants in the worldâ€™s top cities. These surveys were complied into guidebooks that have sold millions. Now they have expanded their scope to include hotels, resorts, spas, and other services. Zagatâ€™s Web sites has created an online community of reviewers, who are motivated in part by award prizes for the wittiest comments. Providing content online has actually helped sales of guidebooks offline. The New York guide has remained the number-one book sold in the city (with sales surpassing the Bible)
Through gathering information, the consumer learns about competing brands and their features. The individual consumer will come to know only a subset of these brands. Some brands will meet initial buying criteria. As the consumer gathers more information only a few will remain as strong contenders. The consumer makes a final choice from this set.