Diversity of Consumers and their Behaviour

30/05/2020 1 By indiafreenotes

Consumer decision-making varies with the type of buying decision. There are great differences between buying toothpaste, a tennis racket, a personal computer, and a new car. Complex and expensive purchases are likely to involve more buyer deliberation and more participants.

Involvement is the perceived importance or personal relevance of an object or event. It is about the degree to which the consumer feels attached to the product or brand, and the loyalty felt towards it. Involvement has both cognitive and affective elements: it plays on both the brain and the emotions. For example, a car owner might say, ‘I love my old Ambassador [affect] because it never lets me down [cognition]. There can be 3 levels of involvement:

  1. Low level of involvement occurs if attributes are irrelevant to consequences
  2. Medium level of involvement occurs if the attributes only link to function
  3. High product involvement will come about if the consumer feels that product attributes are strongly-linked to end goals or values. Although it is the behaviour of the decision-maker that determines the level of involvement of a decision,.

There are 3 common factors, which increase the likelihood of high involvement. These are:

  1. The cost of purchase relative to income
  2. The amount of time for which the purchase will be owned
  3. The extent to which the purchase reflects the self-image

High-involvement purchases are those products, which figure greatly in the consumer’s lifestyle. In other words, they involve decisions which is important to get right, preferably first time. Typically, the products with which the consumer is highly involved will also be the ones which the consumer knows most about, and about which he or she has strong opinions.

Following table compares high-involvement, medium-involvement and low involvement considerations.

TABLE: Comparison of involvement levels

High Involvement

Medium involvement

Low involvement

Attributes strongly linked to end goals Attributes only link to function Attributes irrelevant to consequences
Important to get it right first time Need to have reasonably reliable results Results perceived to be the same whichever product chosen
Consumer has in-depth knowledge and strong opinions Consumer has knowledge of the product group, no strong feelings No strong feelings, knowledge of product group irrelevant
Discrepant information ignored or discounted Discrepant information considered carefully Discrepant information ignored

For example, a technology-savvy IT professional might have very strong views on which PC would give the best performance. Discrepant information (a salesperson’s attempt to persuade him to try another brand, for example) is discounted and disparaged, and may even lower the esteem of the source of the information (the IT professional will think the salesperson is stupid, or is trying to unload an inferior brand of computer).

On the other hand, a computer novice is less likely to have formed a close involvement with a product and hence is more likely to be prepared to listen to what the salesperson has to say. This means that high-involvement consumers are hard to persuade; they are not be easily swayed by advertising or even by persuasive sales pitches.

High involvement always has a strong affective component, and this does not necessarily mean a high cost commitment. People also fall in love with cheap products. So involvement does not always equate to price. A high-involvement good is not necessarily a high-priced one, nor is a low-involvement good necessarily a cheap one. Smokers can become very involved with their brand of cigarettes costing very few (Take the example of bidi or Charminar cigarette). Conversely, some people may not get involved deeply with a highly costly 5-star hotel.

Assael distinguished four types of consumer buying behaviour based on the degree of buyer involvement and the degree of differences among brands. The four types are named in the following table and described in the following paragraphs.

TABLE: Four Types of buying behaviour

Level of Significances Between Brands

High Involvement

Low Involvement

Significant Complex Buying Behaviour Variety-seeking Buying Behaviour
Few Dissonance-reducing Buying Behaviour Habitual Buying Behaviour
  1. Complex Buying Behaviour:

Consumers go through complex buying behaviour when they are highly involved in a purchase and aware of significant differences among brands. Consumers are highly involved when the product is expensive, bought infrequently, risky and highly self-expressive. Typically the consumer does not know much about the product category and has much to learn. F01 example, a person buying a personal computer may not know what attribute to look for. Many of the product features like “16K.memory” “disc storage”, “screen resolution” carry no meaning to him or her.

This buyer will pass through a learning process characterized by first developing beliefs about the product, then attitudes, and then making a thoughtful purchase choice. The marketer of a high-involvement product must understand the information-gathering and evaluation behaviour of high-involvement consumers.

The marketer needs to develop strategies that assist the buyer in learning about the attributes of the product class, their relative importance, and the high standing of the company’s brand on the more important attributes. The marketer needs to differentiate the brand’s features, use mainly print media and long copy to describe the brand’s benefits, and motivate store sales personnel and the buyer’s acquaintances to influence the final brand choice.

  1. Dissonance-Reducing Buying Behaviour:

Sometimes the consumer is highly, involved in a purchase but sees little difference in the brands. The high involvement is again based on the fact that the purchase is expensive, infrequent, and risky. In this case, the buyer will shop around to learn what is, available but will buy fairly quickly because brand differences are not pronounced. The buyer may respond primarily to a good price or to purchase convenience.

After the purchase, the consumer might experience dissonance that stems from noticing certain disquieting features of the product or hearing favourable things about other brands. The consumer will be alert to information that might justify his or her decision. The consumer will first act, then acquire new beliefs and end up with a set of attitudes. Here marketing communications should aim to supply beliefs and evaluations that help the consumer feel good about his or her brand choice.

  1. Habitual Buying Behaviour:

Many products are bought under conditions of low consumer involvement and the absence of significant brand differences. Consider the purchase of salt. Consumers have little involvement in this product category. They go to the store and reach for the brand. If they keep reaching for the same brand, it is out of habit, not strong brand loyalty.

There is good evidence that consumers have low involvement with most low-cost, frequently purchased products. Consumer behaviour in these cases does not pass through the normal belief/attitude/behaviour sequence. Consumers do not search extensively for information about the brands, evaluate their characteristics, and make a weighty decision on which brand to buy.

Instead, they are passive recipients of information as they watch television or see print ads. Ad repetition creates brand familiarity rather than brand conviction. Consumers do not form a strong attitude towards a brand but select it because it is familiar. After purchase, they may not even evaluate the choice because they are not highly involved with the product. So the buying process is brand beliefs formed by passive learning, followed by purchase behaviour, which may be followed by evaluation.

Marketers of low-involvement products with few brand differences find it effective to use price and sales promotions to stimulate product trial, since buyers are not highly committed to any brand. In advertising a low-involvement product, a number of things should be observed. The ad copy should stress only a few key points Visual symbols and Imagery are important because they can easily be remembered and associated with the brand.

The ad campaigns should go for high repetition with short- duration messages. Television is more effective than print media because it is a low-involvement medium that is suitable for passive learning. Advertising planning should be based on classical conditioning theory where the buyer learns to identify a certain product by a symbol that is repeatedly attached to it.

Marketers can try to convert the low-involvement product into one of higher involvement. The ways are:

  1. This can be accomplished by linking the product to some involving issue, as when Crest toothpaste is linked to avoiding cavities.
  2. The product can be linked to some involving personal situation, for instance, by advertising a coffee brand early in the morning when the consumer wants to shake oft sleepiness.
  3. The advertising might seek to trigger strong emotions related to personal values or ego defense.
  4. An important product feature might be added to a low-involvement product, such as by fortifying a plain drink with vitamins,

These strategies at best raise consumer involvement from a low to a moderate level, they do not propel the consumer into highly involved buying behaviour.

  1. Variety-Seeking Buying Behaviour:

Some buying situations are characterised by low consumer involvement but significant brand differences. Here consumers are often observed to do a lot of brand’ switching. An example occurs in purchasing cookies. The consumer has some beliefs, chooses a brand of cookies without much evaluation, and evaluates it during consumption. But next time, the consumer may reach for another brand out of boredom or a wish for a different taste. Brand switching occurs for the sake of variety rather than dissatisfaction.

The marketing strategy is different for the market leader and the minor brands in this product category. The market leader will try to encourage habitual buying behavior by dominating the shelf space, avoiding out-of-stock conditions, and sponsoring frequent reminder advertising. Challenger firms will encourage variety seeking by offering lower prices, deals, coupons, free samples and advertising that presents reasons for trying something new.