.1) Identify and explain the five stages of the consumer buying process. Give examples of marketing
activities designed to influence each stage.
The buying process begins when consumers recognize that they have an unmet need. This occurs when consumers realize that there is a discrepancy between their existing situation and their desired situation. Consumers can recognize needs in a variety of settings and situations. Some needs have their basis in internal stimuli such as hunger, thirst, and fatigue. Other needs have their basis in external stimuli such as advertising, window shopping, interacting with salespeople, or talking with friends and family.
When done correctly, marketing stimuli can prompt consumers to become interested in a product, leading to a desire to seek out additional information. This desire can be passive or active. In a passive information search, the consumer becomes more attentive and receptive to information, such as noticing and paying attention to automobile advertisements if the customer has a want for a specific car brand. A consumer engages in active information search when he or she purposely seeks additional information, such as surfing the Internet, asking friends, or visiting dealer showrooms. The amount of time, effort, and expense dedicated to the search for information depends on a number of issues. The most important is the degree of risk involved in the purchase.
Evaluation of Alternatives
In evaluating the alternative product or brand choices among the members of the evoked set, the consumer essentially translates his or her need into a want for a specific product or brand. Consumers evaluate products as bundles of attributes that have varying abilities to satisfy their needs. The most important consideration for marketers during the evaluation stage is that the marketer’s products must be in the evoked set of potential alternatives. For this reason, marketers must constantly remind consumers of their company and its product offerings.
After the consumer has evaluated each alternative in the evoked set, he or she forms an intention to purchase a particular product or brand. However, a purchase intention and the actual act of buying are distinct concepts. The customer may postpone the purchase due to unforeseen circumstances. Marketers can often reduce or eliminate these problems by reducing the risk of purchase through warranties or guarantees, making the purchase stage as easy as possible, or by finding creative solutions to unexpected problems. The key issues for marketers during the purchase stage are product availability and possession utility.
In the context of attracting and retaining buyers, postpurchase evaluation is the connection between the buying process and the development of long-term customer relationships. In the postpurchase stage, buyers will experience one of these four outcomes:
Ÿ Delight – The product’s performance greatly exceeds the buyer’s expectations.
Ÿ Satisfaction – The product’s performance matches the buyer’s expectations.
Ÿ Dissatisfaction – The product’s performance falls short of the buyer’s expectations.
Ÿ Cognitive Dissonance (Postpurchase Doubt) – The buyer is unsure of the product’s
performance relative to his or her expectations.
Consumers are more likely to experience dissatisfaction or cognitive dissonance when the dollar value of the purchase increases, the opportunity costs of rejected alternatives are high, or the purchase decision is emotionally involving. Firms can manage these responses by offering liberal return policies, providing extensive postpurchase support, or reinforcing the wisdom of the consumer’s
(6.2) Although the stages of the consumer buying process are typically discussed in a linear fashion,
consumers do not always follow the stages in sequence. Explain why this often occurs.
The consumer buying process involves five stages of activities that consumers may go through in buying goods and services. The process begins with the recognition of a need and then passes through the stages of information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision, and postpurchase evaluation. The buying process depicts the possible range of activities that may occur in making purchase decisions. Consumers, however, do not always follow these stages in sequence and may even skip stages en route to making a purchase. Likewise, consumers who are loyal to a product or brand will skip some stages and are most likely to simply purchase the same product they bought last time. Consequently, marketers have a difficult time promoting brand switching because they must convince these customers to break tradition and take a look at what their products have to offer.
The buying process often involves a parallel sequence of activities associated with finding the most suitable merchant of the product in question. That is, while consumers consider which product to buy, they also consider where they might buy it. In the case of name brand products, this selection process may focus on the product’s price and availability at different stores or online merchants. Conversely, in the case of private-label merchandise, the choice of product and merchant are made simultaneously. The choice of a suitable merchant may actually take precedence over the choice of a specific product. In some cases, customers are so loyal to a particular merchant that they will not consider looking elsewhere.
Consumers may spend relatively more or less time in certain stages, they may follow the stages in or out of sequence, or they may even skip stages entirely. This variation in the buying process occurs because consumers are different, the products that they buy are different, and the situations in which consumers make purchase decisions are different. A number of factors affect the consumer buying process, including the complexity of the purchase and decision, individual influences, social influences, and