Research suggests that customers go through afive-stage decision-making process in anypurchase.However, in more routine purchases like in thecase of food items, customers often skip orreverse some of the stages.
Need Recognition and Problem Awareness Information SearchEvaluation of Alternatives PurchasePost-Purchase Evaluation
The recognition and awareness of need can beby both internally and externally.By Internally we mean when a person by itselfrecognizes the need for a product. In the caseof food items this would refer to feeling hungry.And, by Externally we mean responding tomarket stimulus. In case of food items this wouldrefer to being attracted towards food bylooking at advertisements.
Cadbury has been very successful in providingthis external stimulus through television mediaand posters.
An “aroused” customer then needs to decidehow much information (if any) is required.If the need for food is strong and there is aready edible food that is close to hand, then apurchase decision is likely to be made thereand then.In such cases people are even willing to pay ahigher price to satisfy their hunger or even eatslightly inferior quality food than they wouldhave otherwise.If the need is not very strong, then the processof information search and product evaluationbegins.
Where to get the information from ?A customer can obtain information about theproduct from several sources:• Personal sources: family, friends, neighbors etc• Commercial sources: advertising; salespeople;retailers; dealers; packaging; point-of-sale displays• Public sources: newspapers, radio, television,consumer organizations; specialist magazines• Experiential sources: handling, examining, usingthe productThe usefulness and influence of these sources ofinformation will vary by product and by customer.
How does the consumer use the acquiredinformation in the product evaluation ?In case of a single product (no alternatives), theconsumer will evaluate the extent to which he/sheis “involved” (in monetary terms) in the product.Usually all food items have “low involvement”.However like in majority of cases in respect to fooditems, the consumers learns more about theproduct category so that they can better compareand evaluate several brands in the category.As a result, consumers can select a brand based ontheir own criteria provided by advertising in thisstage.
Evaluation of Alternatives
The basis on which a consumer can prefer onefood product over the other is the following:-• Price :- The low priced food products are alwayspreferred by consumers especially when all theproduct qualities are almost the same. Example :-Coke and Pepsi. Also consumers prefer cheapest whenthey buy those food products which are to beconsumed on a regular basis. Example :- Whilebuying vegetables or fruits we prefer to buy fromonly those vendors which are offering the lowestprice.
• Quality :- The quality of a foodproduct is a very importantconsideration. This is because theintake of low/bad quality foodproducts have a direct impact onthe health of the consumer. In some cases, thequality plays a more importantfactor than price. A marketerneeds to identify those cases aredesign and plan the marketingcampaigns accordingly. Brand image plays animportant role in such cases. Agood brand image leads to brandloyalty.
• Availability:- A consumer will switch to analternative product if it is not available easily. Example, While travelling longdistances, a Chinese-food lover will dine in anyhighway restaurant or stop even if it is notChinese.
After need recognition and problem awareness,information search and Evaluation ofalternatives, the consumer decides to purchasea product.While purchasing food items the consumerchecks whether it has expired or not andwhether the package is good enough to protectthe product.Any form of tampering with the package or anexpired product may lead to the consumerswitching over to a substitute due to lack in faithover the brand.
It is common for customers to experienceconcerns after making a purchase decision. Thisarises from a concept that is known as“cognitive dissonance”.The customer, having bought a product, mayfeel that an alternative would have beenpreferable. In these circumstances thatcustomer will not repurchase immediately, but islikely to switch brands next time.It is the job of the marketing team to encouragethe customer that he or she has made the rightdecision.