Situation Nature of Consumer Decisions

One of the most important factors influencing the choice and purchasing process is the situation surrounding the consumer’s decision. Depending on the set of circumstances faced by the consumer in making a purchase behavior may take any number of directions. Thus, consumer behavior may be said to depend largely on the situation. For instance the type of car the consumer may purchase for commuting might well differ from the type of car bought for vacationing. The brand of canned ham bought to serve at a dinner party for one’s boss may be different from the brand bought for everyday consumption . The type of clothes bought for gardening and landscape work at home are likely to be different from those worn at a neighborhood bridge party.

In these and countless other decisions, consumers may base their purchase acts on the situation attached to those acts. A situation therefore may be viewed as comprising all of those factors particular to a time and place of observation which do not follow from a knowledge of personal (intra individual) and stimulus (choice alternatives) attributes and which have a demonstrate and systematic effect on current behavior.

Based upon this definition, five groups of situational characteristics may be identified:

Physical surrounding are the most readily apparent features of a situation including geographical and institutional location, décor, sounds, aromas, lighting weather and visible configurations of merchandise or other materials surrounding the stimulus object.

Social surrounding include such factors as other persons present, their characteristics their apparent roles, and interpersonal interactions.

Temporal perspective is a dimension of situations which may be specified in units ranging from time of day to season of the year. Time may also be measured relative to a past or future event for the situational participant such as time since the last purchase.

Task definition includes as intent or requirement to select, shop for, or obtain information about a general or specific purchase. It may also reflect different buyer and user roles anticipated by the individual. For example a consumer shopping for a small appliance as a wedding gift for a friend is in a different situation than would be the case in shopping for a small appliance for personal use.

Antecedent states are momentary moods (such as acute anxiety pleasantness, fatigue and illness) rather than chronic individual traits, and they are immediately antecedent to the current consumer situation.

Patterns have been found among consumer segments in the type of products bought for certain situations, ranging across snack foods, beverages leisure activities fast foods, and numerous additional items.

With regard to the consumer decision sequence, it too depends on the situation. Depending on what are the consumer’s needs for shopping (e,g. to buy to obtain information by searching to socialize or to satisfy other personal requirements) the order of the decision hierarchy related to product and outlet choice may vary. For example, consider the following hypothetical shopping situations: (1) a consumer making a weekly grocery shopping trip (2) a recreational shopper with no pressing need for merchandise or information, (3) a camera shopper desiring to compare several pre-selected brands, (4) a consumer concerned with quality and fashion criteria purchasing a business suit. Each purchasing situation may exhibit a different decision sequence. Perhaps the shopping area or center is chosen first, followed by store choice; perhaps the product or brand is chosen first followed by selection of appropriate stores or areas. Thus, situational factors influence the consumer’s decision choice hierarchy.

Although the situation is an important influence in the purchase and cooption decision, it may frequently be overridden by product consideration.
Source: Consumer Behavior