How do buyers make decisions?

Buyer Decision Making

The term buyer decision suggests that an individual carefully evaluates the attributes of a set of products, or brands and rationally selects the one that solves a clearly recognised need for the least cost.  It has a rational, functional connotation.  However, while buyers/buyers do make many decisions in this manner, they make many others with only little conscious effort.

Further, many buyer decisions focus not on brand attributes but, rather, on the feelings or emotions associated with acquiring or using the brand, or with the environment in which the product is purchased or used.  Therefore, a brand may be selected not because of an attribute (price, style, functional characteristics), but because ‘It makes me feel good’, or ‘My friends will like it’.

While purchases and related consumption behaviour driven by emotional or environmental needs have characteristics distinct from the traditional attribute-based model, the decision-process model provides useful insights into all types of buyer purchases.

There are various types of buyer decision processes.  As the buyer moves from a very low level of involvement with the purchase situation to a high level of involvement, decision making becomes increasingly complex.  Purchase involvement is a continuum, and it is also useful to consider habitual, limited and extended decision making as general descriptions of the types of processes that occur along various points on the continuum.  It is important to keep in mind that the types of decision processes are not distinct, but blend into each other.

Before each type of decision process can be described, the concept of purchase involvement must be clarified.  This is defined as the level of concern for, or interest in, the purchase process, once the purchase process has been triggered by the need to consider a particular purchase.  It is a temporary state of an individual, family or household unit, and is influenced by the interaction of individual, product and situational characteristics.

Purchase involvement is not the same as product involvement.  For example, a person may be very involved with a product category (toothpaste or cars) or a brand (Colgate or Volvo), yet may have a very low level of involvement with the purchase process because of brand loyalty.  Alternatively, a person may have a rather low level of involvement with a product (school supplies or car tyres), but a high level of purchase involvement because of the desire to set an example for a child, to impress a friend, or to save money. (There are, of course, individual differences in general involvement level, and in the involvement response to particular situations.)

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