Professional Studies for Screen-Based Media
Foundation Degree South West
Consumer Buying Behaviour

Understanding consumers as decision-makers


Types of consumer decision making
Consumers engage in decision-making processes when they identify that there is a gap between their desired state and their actual state. If there is a significant difference between the desired and actual state, a problem is identified and an information search is initiated. Understanding how consumers make decisions is relevant to marketing practitioners because it demonstrates why satisfying and surpassing consumers' expectations is the key to repeat purchases.

Depending on the nature of the product or service and the consumers' level of involvement with the product or service, consumers will make different types of decisions. If a consumer is about to commit a substantial amount of money to travel on the Orient Express and this is the first time such a decision is made, then he will engage in extensive problem solving in order to ensure that his choice is a sensible one. This is illustrated in Figure 8.3.

Figure 8.3 Consumer problem solving

Source: Solomon, 2002

In summery then, there are a number of different stages to decision making that can be identified. Again, using the Jennifer example, these are illustrated by Figure 8.4.

Figure 8.4 Stages in consumer decision-making

Consumer behaviour: a critique
Human behaviour is very complex and consumer behaviour theories tend to look at the consumers in isolation without taking into consideration all the mediating factors leading to and resulting from a purchase. In addition, most consumer behaviour models assume that humans are rational at all times, however human behaviour is also driven by emotional triggers that have only just begun to be taken into consideration. More importantly, the emphasis so far has been placed on controlling consumer behaviour, rather than on understanding it.

However, marketers are now acknowledging that consumer behaviour is an ongoing process that goes beyond the actual purchase of a product or service. In that regard, consumer behaviour is not only interested in assessing what makes consumers 'buy', but also delving into the meanings consumers award to goods and services. From that point of view, marketers can gain rich insight of how consumers feel towards brands, what products and services mean to them or how they are being used. Read the different product usage stories on this website and see if you can relate to any of them.