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Sunday, December 15, 2013



Even buying decision involves an element of active reasoning. The manner in which this active reasoning manifests itself is illustrated in Figure I. In making a purchase decision the consumer goes through the five stages of:

1.   Problem recognition,
2.   Pre-purchase information search,
3.   Evaluation of alternatives,
4.   Purchase decision, and
5.   Post purchase behaviour.

However, in case of routine purchases, the consumer may skip the second and third stages and straight away go to the stage of purchase decision. But in case of purchase decision involving extensive problem solving, the consumer is likely to go through all the five stages in the specified sequence.

The important point to note is that the buying process starts much before the actual purchase and has implications even after the purchase has been made. This should give ideas to the marketer as to how he has to start designing his marketing strategy in order to achieve his specified marketing objectives.

Figure I: Stages in the Buyer Decision Process

We can understand the stages in decision-making process with the help of a Mr. Rao's specific decision to purchase a briefcase.

Problem Recognition: The buying process starts with the buyer recognising a need or problem. Mr. Rao feels very uncomfortable carrying his papers, files and lunch packet in his hand or in a plastic bag to his work place. Sometimes, the papers and even files from his hand and get spoiled Mr. Rao feels the need for a suitable receptacle to carry papers to and fro from his office and has identified a briefcase as the solution to his problem.

Pre-Purchase Information Search: In response to the stimuli provided by the need for a briefcase, Mr. Rao starts searching for information on the kinds of briefcases available in the market. Search can be of two types: internal and external. Internal search refers to recalling relevant information stored in the memory. For instance, Mr. Rao may recall having seen the different kinds of briefcases used by his colleagues. Or he may recall having seen some advertisements for briefcases on the television or in some magazines and newspapers. External search refers to the deliberate and voluntary seeking of new information regarding the product/brand under consideration. Mr. Rao can seek information from the following three sources:

Personal sources: family, friends, colleagues, neighbours.
Commercial sources: advertisements, retailers, salesmen.
Public sources: seeing others, consumer information centres, Internet, 

By tapping all these sources of information, Mr. Rao is able to identify the different types of briefcase on the basis of material, branded versus unbranded, high-medium-low priced. A wide variety of materials are used for making briefcases ranging from the best leather to rexine to plastic. There are branded briefcases available and Mr. Rao can choose from the well known VIP, Safari and Aristocrat and some less known local brands, or he can choose to buy an unbranded briefcase. The price ranges from Rs. 525 to Rs. 2500. Also, there are a number of other features which can influence the choice, such as type of lock, and number of partitions and pockets for keeping different documents.

By the end of this stage, Mr. Rao has gathered enough information about different kinds of briefcases available and has narrowed down his alternatives to moulded plastic, branded briefcase. Within this broad range there are various brands and price ranges to make the final choice from.

Evaluation of Alternatives: Mr. Rao will make his final decision using certain evaluative criteria. The most commonly used criteria are: (i) product attribute, (ii) the relative importance of each attribute to the consumer, (iii) brand image, (iv) attitudes towards the different brands or alternatives under considerations. For instance, the product attributes of the (Plastic branded briefcase) alternatives identified by Mr. Rao are: unbreakable, lightweight, spaciousness, reliability of locking system, colour, price. Mr. Rao attaches maximum importance to the product attributes of light weight and spaciousness as compared to other attributes. He already has some kind of attitude towards the various brands developed in the stage of information search which will affect his final decision. This stage of the buying decision process gives the marketer a chance to modify his product offering in keeping with the relative importance attached to each attribute by various consumer segments, altering beliefs and attitudes about his own brand, and calling attention to neglected product attributes,

Purchase Decision: In the evaluation stage, Mr. Rao has ranked the various brands in terms of his first, second and third preference. In short, he has made up his mind about which brand he wants to buy. However, Mr. Rao may finally end up buying a brand which is not his most preferred. This may happen because attitudes of others and ''situational factors.

For instance, when Mr. Rao goes to the shop to make his purchase, the shopkeeper's negative remarks about his (Mr. Rao's) most preferred brand may make him change his mind. Also, it is possible that Mr. Rao's preferred brand is not available, or there is a very attractive price discount on the brand ranked third by him which eventually makes him change his mind.

Post Purchase Behaviour: After purchasing the briefcase, if Mr. Rao finds that its performance or utility matches up to his expectation, Mr. Rao will feel satisfied with his purchase. The satisfaction will reinforce Mr. Rao's perceived favourable image of the brand, which is likely to be extended to the entire range of products manufactured by the Company. Also, Mr. Rao is likely to strongly recommend the brand when his friends ask his advice for buying a new briefcase. A satisfied customer is thus a very powerful source of influence for potential customers.

However, if Mr. Rao feels that the briefcase which he has purchased is not upto his expectation, then he is likely to feel dissatisfied. The gap between expected (or perceived) and the actual performances causes discomfort or dissonance to the buyer. As a result of this, Mr. Rao may decide to stop buying other products sold by the same Company and also warn his friends about the poor utility of his briefcase. To reduce his own state of discomfort or dissonance arising from the feeling that he has not made the right choice, Mr. Rao can: (i) re-evaluate the unchosen brands and downgrade their desirability by identifying some negative features, and (ii) search for information to confirm his choice.


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