According to Walters and Paul “consumer behaviour is the process whereby individuals decide what, when, how and from whom to purchase goods and services”.
Types of Consumer Behaviour
On the basis of the amount of involvement of a consumer in searching, evaluating and selecting or purchasing products and services, consumer/buyer behaviour can be broadly classified into four types. They are as follows:
- Complex Buying Behaviour
- Dissonance-Reducing Behaviour
- Habitual Buying Behaviour
- Variety-Seeking Buying Behaviour
When a consumer is highly involved in a buying process where considerable differences exist between the brands then it is referred to as a complex buying behaviour. This type of behaviour happens when the consumer is engaged in the purchase of a product which is risky, expensive and the nature of purchase is not routine (occurs infrequently). For example, purchase of house, car, computer etc.
A consumer shows this behaviour when he is highly involved in the purchase of risky and expensive products but there is little or insignificant differences between the brands. This type of purchase is not routine in nature (occurs infrequently). For example purchase of a ceiling fan. A consumer can purchase it from anywhere within a specified price range and there is not much differences between different brands of ceiling fan.
Habitual buying behaviour occurs when the involvement of a consumer is low in a buying process and the products belong to low cost category. He observes few differences among the various brands of the product. The nature of purchase is routine (occurs frequently). For example purchase of rice, milk, bread etc.
When the involvement of the consumer is low in a buying process and there exists significant brand differences, a variety-seeking buying behaviour occurs. In this type of behaviour, consumers use different brands of a product to understand the differences in quality and features. For example, purchase of shirts, soaps, toothpastes, detergents etc.
Consumer Buying Process
Consumer buying process is referred to as a series of distinct phases/stages involved by consumers in connection with the purchase of a commodity. It includes both pre-purchase behaviour and post-purchase evaluation. A consumer buying process is a five stage process which starts from the recognition of a need or want. The different stages of consumer buying process are described below:
- Recognition of a Need
- Information Search
- Evaluation of Alternatives
- Purchase Decision
- Post-purchase Evaluation
Recognition of a need occurs when a consumer understands the difference between a desired situation and actual situation. For example, a bank employee owns a bike and learns that he needs a car to travel along with his family. Here, he realizes that a difference exists between the desired state (having a car) and the actual situation. The speed of the need recognition may be rapid or slow. In certain cases, the consumer may not be aware of his need. But the promotional measures (advertisements etc.) of the marketing firms arouses his need.
After recognizing the need, a consumer searches for product related information. For example, after recognizing the need for a car, the above mentioned bank employee may search for different models of cars. The search for product information occurs in two ways; one is internal search and the other is external search. In the case of internal search a person gathers information from his existing knowledge about the product that might satisfy his need. External search refers to acquiring information related with the product from outside sources such as friends, family members, product dealers, advertisements, company websites and various other external links.
After searching and obtaining adequate information related with the product, a potential buyer identifies the available product choices or alternatives so as to select the best product to satisfy his need. Consumers identify different brands of a product and closely examines the specialized features each brand. The features of different brands are compared with the desired features to select a brand which perfectly matches with the desired product features.
In the purchase stage, a consumer decides/selects the product or brand to be bought. Selection depends on the outcome of the evaluation phase. Where to buy (selection of the seller) and when to buy (time of purchase) are the two major issues of the purchase decision stage. A seller who gives the best services and discounts influences a buyer.
After making a purchase, a consumer starts evaluating the product to know whether its actual performance meets the expected levels. He mentally ranks the benefits of his purchase. The outcome of this stage is either satisfaction or dissatisfaction which greatly influences his repurchase (next time purchase) behaviour. Evaluation determines whether the customer will purchase the product or brand again and whether it would be from the same dealer.