There are a myriad of decision options possible for the consumer in today’s market economy. These options however, may be distilled into five main types of decisions: 1) what to buy, 2) how much to buy, 3) where to buy 4) when to buy and 5) how to buy.
Deciding what to buy is one of the consumer’s most basic tasks. No buying activity may take place unless this fundamental decision is made. A consumer’s product or service decision may encompass not only the generic category of products desired such as appliances but more specifically the narrower range of items, such as Kitchen appliances. Consumers must even make decisions on brands, prices, and product features. For example a homemaker may decide to purchase an Amana Rada range 700 watt microwave oven. Model RMC 700 with electronic digital controls and ten levels of power for a price of $399. This is a specific decision as to what will be purchased and with this particular decision finalized the consumer moves closer to completion of the overall purchase decision process.
A second basic decision by the consumer relates to how much of the item will be purchased. For example, when shopping for groceries the consumer must determine whether three cans of Libby’s green beans will be bought or perhaps a greater supply purchased.
Another determination to be reached by the consumer involves where the selected product or service will be purchased. This is a very important decision, which interacts thoroughly with the previous decision on what to buy. Two products although physically the same are likely to be perceived differently because of other facets associated with them. For example consider an air conditioner sold with delivery, installation and in home servicing guaranteed by a full service department store compared with the same model priced lower but sold on a no frill basis in a discount house, with none of the above services. Consumers clearly are likely to perceive these same air conditioners in quite different ways, based on the nature of the prices and services attached.
Consequently what one purchases is closely related to decisions of where one decides to purchase. Not all sales outlets are alike, and consumers have many options concerning location (such as downtown or suburban stores) services offered (discount or full service) merchandise lines (full versus narrow) prices (high versus low) and so on. Consumers must decide not only on the general type of store to purchase from but also determine the particular outlet. In fact, buyers may decide not to even visit a store but to purchase from a catalog instead.
Although the decision choice process engaged in by consumers tends to take a product or brand perspective in the literature on consumer research in actually the product and outlet choice phenomena cannot be separated. The decision sequence varies across products and within products across individuals. For example research showed that the most common sequence its choosing a suit was store type, store brand and area choice while for 35 min cameras it was brand, store type, store and area choice. Although our discussion of the consumer decision process will tend to follow along product lines, with outlet choice appearing to be contingent upon product choice, marketers must recognizes that the two decisions are closely interrelated and must understand how the sequence tends to occur and vary by product and customer.
The consumer must also determine when to buy. This decision is influenced by such factors as urgency of the need and availability of the chosen item. Other elements such as store opening times, periods of sales and clearances availability of transportation and freedom of family members to shop all have a bearing on when one purchases.
Finally, the decision of how to buy is another complex issue. Many factors influence how the consumer buys. To indicate merely a few of the elements involved consider some of he alternative strategies consumers use: shop extensively or buy from the first outlet , pay cash or charge it have it delivered or take it home.