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The need or problem identification is
defined as the first step of consumers’ purchase decision making process and
usually occurs when there is a discrepancy between the actual state and the
desired state of the consumer, a discrepancy sufficient enough to activate the
whole decision-making process.

The second stage, information search,
begins with internal search, namely, from the consumer’s already existing
knowledge and experience of the product, or product category and then moves to
external search, where the consumer seeks for relevant information via various
sources, that will help him/her satisfy their need.

During the third stage, the evaluation of
alternatives, the consumer utilizes the information gathered in the previous
stage, in order to evaluate alternative brands in the product or service
category, before proceeding to the final decision.

The fourth stage, is the actual output of
consumer decision making, the purchase behavior, and the fifth stage is the
post-purchase evaluation, where the actual performance of the product or
service either matches, exceeds or is below the expectations of the consumer.

Coming back to the third stage, the
evaluation of alternatives, it is important to be noted that while the consumer
is evaluating the alternatives for satisfying his/her need, the evaluation
includes only a small evoked set of alternatives (Howard & Sheth, 1969),
something that is also been referred to as the consideration set (Hauser &
Wernerfelt, 1990). The consideration set is defined as “the set of brands
brought to the consumer’s mind on a particular choice occasion” (Nedungadi,
1990).

Consumers today are brought upon an
abundance of brands and choices, something that makes their buying process more
complex and difficult, and at the same time, the marketer’s job harder than
ever. How will and how can a brand move from the complete market set, to the
awareness set, where the consumer places all the available alternatives aware
from the internal and external search, from there to the evoked set, and
finally, to the consideration set, where are the brands actually considered
from the consumer to solve the problem/need of the particular choice occasion?
In this brand-cluttered world, the significance of branding and more
specifically, the need for firms to build their brand equity, in order to break
through the clutter, and ultimately, become the number one choice in consumers’
minds, is becoming more urgent than ever.

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