Factors Influencing the Consumer Decision Making Process

Each buying decision you make involves an elaborate mental thought  process, a degree of active reasoning, though on the surface it may not always seem to be so. This may be because over a period of time you have taken certain buying decisions so many times  that they now seem to be made almost automatically but that is not true at all. Even your daily decision of buying a loaf of  bread involves the element of active reasoning as buying a new  sofa set for your drawing room. However, in the former case,  the extent and intensity of active reasoning may be much less as  compared to the latter case. In the case of bread, the only decision variables may be which brand, quantity and retail outlet. But in the case of buying a  sofa set the decision variables are far more in number. These may be:

  • Ready-made or made to order
  • From a furniture shop or to be built at home
  • Type of material for frame: wood, steel, aluminum
  • Type of material for cushion: cloth, rexine, leather
  • Design: with or without armrests, height, depth of seat,  seating capacity, loose or fixed cushion.

Factors Influencing the Consumer Decision Making Process

Thus, depending on the type of decision being made, the  degree and strength of active reasoning will vary.  There are three factors, which influence the degree of active  reasoning that is undertaken by the consumer in his process of  decision-making. These are:

1. Involvement

The degree of personal involvement is a key  factor in shaping the type of decision process that  consumers will be followed. Involvement is the level of  perceived personal importance and/or interest evoked by a stimulus  within a specific situation. When a product is perceived to be  of great importance to the customer, such as personal  clothing, or its purchase involves a great deal of money or  risk such as jeweler, car, house, company shares, the level of  involvement in making the decision is likely to be very  high. The consumer is likely to spend a great deal of time  before arriving at the final decision. In contrast, when  buying items which do not reflect much on the consumer’s  personality or their purchase involves small amounts of  money or the risks associated with them is not high, the  degree of involvement of the consumer is likely to be low.  Products such as shoes, polish, toilet soap, toothpaste,  biscuits etc. would fall in this category.  Several factors exist that determine the degree of  involvement consumers have in making a decision. Some  of them are as under:

  1. Personal Factors: The degree of involvement tends to be  higher when the outcome of the decision affects the person  directly. Personal factors include self-image, health, beauty,  or physical condition. Without activation of need and  drive, there will be no involvement, and it is strongest  when the product or service is perceived as enhancing self image.  When that is the case, involvement is likely to be  enduring and no function as a stable trait, as opposed to  being situational or temporary. For example, the purchase  of the wedding trousseau, tends to be a high involvement  decision because your wedding is a special occasion and it  also affects directly your self-image and looks. A  consumer’s physical handicap may also affect how involved  he or she is in buying a home. Are there steps leading up  to the house? Is there a bedroom on the first floor, and are  doorways wide enough to accommodate a wheel chair?
  2. Product Factors: Products or brands also become  involving if there is some perceived risk in purchasing and  using them. Many types of perceived risks have been  identified, including physical (risk of bodily harm),  psychological (especially, a negative effect on self-image),  performance (fear that the product will not perform as  expected), and financial (risk that outcomes will lead to loss  of earnings).  As is logical, the greater the perceived risk, the greater the  likelihood of high involvement. When perceived risk  becomes unacceptably high, there is motivation either to  avoid purchase and use altogether or to minimize risk  through the search and pre-purchase alternative evaluation  stages in extended problem solving. For example, we may  become highly involved in the choice of a doctor, especially  when surgery is required, because of the high-perceived  risk.
  3. Situational Factors: Situational or instrumental  involvement includes factors such as whether the product  is purchased for personal use or as a gift, and whether it is  consumed alone or with others. Situational involvement  changes over time. It may be strong on a temporary basis  and wanes once purchasing outcomes are resolved.  This is usually the case with fads such as trendy clothing  items in which involvement is high initially but quickly  diminishes once the item is worn and fashions begin to  change. There also are times when an otherwise  uninvolving product takes on a different degree of  relevance because

2. Differentiation

When the consumer perceives that the  various alternatives which are available are very different  from one another in terms of their features and benefits  offered, he is likely to spend more time in gathering  information about and evaluating these different features.  On the other hand, in case of products which are not very  different from one another either in terms of their features  or benefits offered, the consumer is bound to perceive  them as being almost the same and buy the first available  product/brand which satisfies his minimum expectation.  He will not like to spend much time in evaluating the  various alternatives. The various brands of washing  powder available in the market today are an excellent  example of low level of differentiation with the consumer  perceiving the different brands to be offering almost  identical benefit. All the brands  look similar with identical packing and  carry almost the same price tag.  Till a few years ago the branded shoes was highly  undifferentiated with Bata offering standard options to  consumers in terms of styles of shoes. Then came the  different players in this market like Woodlands and a host of other multinational brands creating  on the way a multitude of segments in the otherwise staid  shoes market like formal, casual, sports shoes etc.

3. Time Pressure

When you are under pressure to make a  decision, you cannot afford to spend a long time finding  out about the various products or brands. You would  probably buy whatever is readily available. While traveling  your car tyre busts and you don’t have a spare and hence  you need to buy a new one. At that time you would buy  the brand that is available at whatever price without giving  it too much thought. But under a different situation, when  you need to buy new tyres, you would certainly like to find  the features of nylon and radial tyres and evaluate various  brands on their  individual advantages and disadvantages.

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