Consumer decision processes vary considerably in their complexity. Most of the decisions consumers are required to make are probably rather simple ones such as the purchase of staple foods (although a disadvantaged consumer might argue persuasively that merely buying food is difficult when one is functionally illiterate). However, consumers also must make decisions that are comparatively complicated such as when buying durable goods. The range of difficulty of consumers decision processes extends even further to the problem solving that may be characterized as being highly complex, such as might well typify the consumers’ purchase of a very extensive item like a home.
The range of consumer problem solving approaches can be placed on a spectrum from routine problem solving to limited problem solving, the extensive problem solving as follows:
1) Routine problem solving (RPS) — When consumers but a brand they have purchased before, it usually involves little or no information seeking and is performed quickly. Consumers are brand loyal and to tend to buy a habitual, automatic and unthinking way.
2) Limited Problems Solving (LPS) – When consumers but a new brand in a familiar product category it usually involves a moderate amount of information seeking and time in choosing.
3) Extensive Problem Solving (EPS) – When consumers buy in an unfamiliar product category it usually involves the need to obtain substantial information and a longer time to choose. They must form a concept the new product category an determine the criteria to be used in choosing brand.
The examples of consumer decision making cited above may be generalized toward a typical consumer problem solving model consisting of four basics types of activities in the process of purchasing. The consumer’s four steps are : (1) problem recognition (2) information search and evaluation, (3) purchase decision, and (4) post purchase behavior. The assumption underlying this and other decision process approaches to consumer behavior seems to be the following:
1) Two or more alternatives exist. So that a choice must be made by the consumer.
2) Consumer evaluative criteria facilitate the forecasting of each alternative’s consequences for the consumer’s goals or objectives.
3) The consumer uses a decision rule or evaluative procedure to determine the chosen alternative.
4) Information obtained from external sources and /or memory is used in the application of the decision rule or evaluative procedure.
However, it has been suggested that for certain purchase situations some consumers do not engage in a pre-purchase decision process. For example they may not have stored information it may not be retrieved or retrievable and they may not search externally. Thus, some purchases may occur as a result of approaches other than a decision process. They can occur out of necessity (such as allocation of income within certain categories of expenditure, food / beverages , housing and medical care) they can be derived from certain culturally mandated lifestyles (for example, the standard package of goods desired throughout American society, including transportation personal care, and household appliances and furnishings items); they can be interlocked with other purchases (such as gasoline, repair services, and insurance being interlocked with the purchase of an automobile); they can reflect purchase preferences acquired in early childhood (such as with food preferences and store choices), they can result from conformity to group norms or imitation of others (such as adoption of smoking behavior among teens), they can result from recommendations by personal or non-personal sources (such as often occurs in the adoption process) they can be made on the basis of various surrogates (such a price, manufacturer’s reputation or packaging) they can even occur on a more superficial basis ( such as selecting a band on the basis of convenience of the shelf height).