Careful examination of the Consumer Buying decision process will open us up to a lot of information we may have missed in our previous studies.
Most of the stages highlighted by many authors are taken from the various models earlier examined. For the purposes of comparison, we present here three viewpoints of various authors.
Onah & Thomas
Problem Recognition, Search for Alternatives, Evaluation of Alternatives, Selection of optimal Alternatives, Implementation of Alternatives
Problem Recognition, Information Search, Evaluation of Alternatives, Purchase Decision, Post Purchase Behavior.
Engel, Kollat, & Blackwell
Problem Recognition, Information search, Alternative Evaluation, Choice, Outcome.
The decision process documented by Kotler seems to incorporate all the stages that a consumer undergoes in the course of making purchase decisions. We shall now try to examine the stages.
- Problem Recognition
What occurs to start the process? Problem recognition occurs when the consumer perceives a difference between his/her ideal situation and the actual situation.
Problem recognition can be activated by external stimuli, such as friends or by motives that are internal to the person. External stimuli are processed in the context of one’s current information and experience to produce a perception of a problem.
For example, a person might see an advertisement for beer on television; this advertisement which is an external stimulus, identifies an ideal state that is consistent with the viewer’s past information and experience to yield a recognition of thirst as a problem.
- Information Search
Once a problem is recognized, the consumer may, or may not search for additional information. If he wants more information, he may consult:
a) Internal sources, that is a recall of other options
b) External sources of information can be sought.
For example, if the problem was that of finding alternatives to beer, then soft drinks, coffee, wine etc could be considered. A search can be done internally. But in the case of prescribed medications, external sources of information pertaining to the alternatives for the medication have to be sought for, by going to a doctor or a pharmacist.
Another way of classifiying sources of consumer information is by looking at the following groups – personal sources, commercial sources, public sources, and experiential sources.
- Evaluation of Alternatives
The consumer in this stage examines the available brands in the market with a view to selecting the brand that will offer him the optimal satisfaction. Satisfaction occurs when the consumer finds that the alternative chosen is consistent with his/her beliefs or attitudes.
In the evaluation process, the consumer unconsciously or consciously considers the product attributes in terms of price, quality, size, colour, etc; self attached importance weights to the attributes; the saliebt attributes that would readily come to the mind of the consumer; his brand belief about the position of each brand on the attributes and the utility function of each attributes.
- Purchase Decision
Before this stage, what the consumer has is purchase intention. In this stage, he is faced with having to make the actual purchase decision by choosing one out of the many brands he had considered. The consumer would naturally choose the most preferred brand.
it is, however, not as easy as that since some factors may come in between his purchase intention and purchase decision. These factors are the attitude of others, unanticipated situational variables, and perceived risks associated with the goods or services. The more intense the influence of these factors, the less the probability of the buyer buying the earlier preferred product.
- Post Purchase Behavior
The marketing practitioner is equally interested in this stages as he gathers information on the feelings of the consumer after buying and using the product. Once a customer had bought a product, he would experience either satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The level of this experience will vary according to individual consumers.
As noted by Swan and Combs (1976:26 – 23), “what determines whether the consumer is satisfied or dissatisfied with a purchase lies in the relationship between the consumer’s expectations and the product’s perceived performance”.
If the product matches consumer expectations, he is satisfied; if it exceeds them, he is highly satisfied; if it falls short, he is dissatisfied.
Producers make product claims in the advertisements and the consumers assess the product performance based on such pieces of information. A worse of caution is appropriate here – producers and their advertising agencies should resist the temptation of making exaggerated product performance claims. A dissatisfied consumer experiences discomfort or dissonance.
In the words of Festinger and Bramel (1962: 251 – 62) “When a person chooses between two or more alternatives, discomfort or dissonance will almost inevitably arise because of the person’s knowledge that while the decision he has made has certain disadvantages, it also has certain advantages. This dissonance arises after every decision, and further, the individual will invariably take steps to reduce this dissonance”.
A satisfied customer will not only buy the product again, but will also speak good things about it to others. On the other hand, a dissatisfied customer would want to establish internal harmony, consistency, or congruity. He achieves this by:
a) Abandoning or returning the product to the seller.
b) By seeking positive information about the product while avoiding negative information.