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Why People Buy Different Things

Updated on March 20, 2020

Why People Buy Different Things

Why People Buy Different Things

High involvement purchases involve goods or services that are psychologicallyimportant to the buyer because they address social or ego needs and thereforecarry social and psychological risks . They may also involve a lot of money and therefore financialrisk. Because a consumer’s level of involvement with a particular purchasedepends on the needs to be satisfied and the resources available, however, ahigh involvementproduct for one buyer may be a low involvementproduct foranother.

How Do Consumers Make High-Involvement Purchase Decisions?

When purchasing high involvement products or services, consumers go through a problem-solving process involving five mental steps: (1) problem identification, (2) information search, (3) evaluation of alternatives, (4) purchase, and (5) post purchase evaluation.

A change in a consumer’s actual state can occur for several reasons:

• For physical needs, a natural deterioration of the actual state occurs all the time. A person’s body burns energy and nutrients. Thus, periodically we get hungry and tired and are motivated to find something to eat and go to sleep.

• A person’s actual state may change as the result of the depletion of the current solution to a need.

• In some cases consumers can anticipate a decline in their actual state.

• The desired state may be revised upward because of new information or the development of an old need.

• As one need is satisfied, the desired state on other need dimensions increases and becomes more demanding.

Information Search

Having recognized that a problem exists and might be satisfied by the purchase and consumption of a product or service, the consumer’s next step is to refer to information gained from past experience and stored in memory for possible later use.

Factors those are likely to increase pre-purchase search

Product factors

Long inter-purchase time (a long-lasting or infrequently used product); frequent changes in product styling; frequent price changes; volume purchasing (large number of units); high price; many alternative brands; much variation in features.

Situational factors


Social acceptability

Value-related considerations

Personal factors

Demographic characteristics of consumer


How Much Information Will a Consumer Seek?

People seek additional information about alternative brands until they perceive that the costs of obtaining more information are equal to the additional value or benefit derived from the information. Information is valuable to consumers to the extent that it helps make a more satisfying purchase and avoids the negative consequences associated with a poor choice. Thus, consumers are likely to place a higher value on – and seek more – information when the purchase is important.

This importance derives from (a) the strength of a person’s need for the product; (b) the person’s ego involvement with the product; and (c) the severity of the social and financial consequences of making a poor choice. This is why people tend to seek more information about high-priced, socially visible products that reflect their self-image (cars, home, clothing, and, for some, cruises) than for

Lower priced products that other people seldom notice, such as furnace filters or paper towels.

Sources of Information

The three broad categories of information sources are personal, commercial, and public. Personal sources include family members, friends, and members of the consumer’s reference group. Commercial sources refer to various information disseminated by service providers, marketers, and manufacturers and their dealers. They include media advertising, promotional brochures, package and label information, salespersons, and various in store information, such as price markings and displays. Public sources include noncommercial and professional organizations and individuals who provide advice for consumers, such as doctors, lawyers, governmental agencies, and consumer interest groups.

How Is the Web Affecting Consumers’ Search for Information?

The World Wide Web is reducing the opportunity costs of information gathering, thus making it easier for people to make informed decisions. Many manufacturers and service providers have established their own sites.

Evaluation of Alternatives

Consumers find it difficult to make overall comparisons of many alternative brands because each brand might be better in some ways but worse in others. Instead, consumers simplify their evaluation in several ways. First, they seldom consider all possible brands; rather, they focus on their evoked set – a limited number they are familiar with that are likely to satisfy their needs.

Second, consumers evaluate each of the brands in the evoked set on a limited number of product dimensions or attributes. They also judge the relative importance of these attributes, or the minimum acceptable performance of each. The set of attributes used by a particular consumer and the relative importance of each represent the consumer’s choice criteria.

Third, consumers combine evaluations of each brand across attributes, taking into account the relative importance of those attributes. This multi-attribute assessment of a brand results in an overall attitude toward that brand. The brand toward which consumers have the most favorable attitude is the one they are most likely to buy.


Consumers usually select the source they perceive to be best on those attributes most important to them. If their experiences with a source are positive over time they may develop patronage loyalty and routinely shop that source – similar to the way consumers develop brand loyalties.

Post-purchase Evaluation

Whether a particular consumer feels adequately rewarded following a purchase depends on two things: (1) the person’s aspiration or expectation level – how well the product was expected to perform (2) the consumer’s evaluation of how well the product actually did perform.

Consumers’ expectations about a product’s performance are influenced by several factors. These include the strength and importance of each person’s need and the information collected during the decision-making process.

Some experts argue that consumers more often develop loyalty to service providers than to physical products because of the difficulty of evaluating alternatives before actually experiencing the service. Low-Involvement Purchase Decisions

Because low involvement products are not very important to consumers, the search for information to evaluate alternative brands is likely to be minimal. As a result, decisions to buy products such as cookies or cereals often are made within the store, either impulsively on the basis of brand familiarity, or as a result of comparisons of the brands on the shelf. The consumers’ involvement and their risks associated with making poor decisions are low for such products.


When there are few differences between brands and little risk associated with making a poor choice, consumers either buy brands at random or buy the same brand repetitively to avoid making a choice. Impulse Purchasing and Variety Seeking

The second low involvement purchase process is impulse buying, when consumers impulsively decide to buy a different brand from their customary choice or some new variety of a product. The new brand is probably one they are familiar with through passive exposure to advertising or other information, however. Their motivation for switching usually is not dissatisfaction but a desire for change and variety.

Product Design and Positioning Decisions

Consumers evaluate both high and Low involvement products on criteria that reflect the benefits they seek. Both types of products and services must offer at least one compelling and valued benefit to continue to win acceptance in the market.

Pricing Decisions

Highly involved consumers generally buy the brand they believe will deliver the greatest value. They are willing to pay a higher price for a brand if they believe it will deliver enough superior benefits relative to cheaper competitors to justify the difference. Many consumers buy low involvement products largely or solely on the basis of low price.

Advertising and Promotion Decisions

Highly involved consumers typically seek at least some information about alternative brands, retail outlets, and so on, before making a purchase decision.

Therefore, promotional vehicles that communicate in greater detail – such as print advertising, company websites, infomercials, or a salesperson – are more likely to be attended to and be effective in marketing high involvement goods and services.

Distribution Decisions

Extensive retail distribution is particularly important for low involvement products because most consumers are unwilling to search for, or expend extra effort to obtain, a particular brand. Thus, the larger the proportion of available retail outlets, including websites, vending machines, and the like, a marketer can induce to carry a brand, the larger that brand’s market share is likely to be.

Strategies to Increase Consumer Involvement

In some cases, a firm may try to increase consumers’ involvement with its brand as a way to increase revenues. Increased customer involvement can be attempted in several ways. The product might be linked to some involving issue .

Why do People Buy

Factors of Buying Decision
Factors of Buying Decision
What People look in Product
What People look in Product

Psychology of Buying

Marketing Implications of Psychological and Personal Influences

Even when two consumers have equal involvement with a product, they often purchase different brands for varying reasons. The information they collect, the way they process and interpret it, and their evaluation of alternative brands are all influenced by psychological and personal characteristics. Some of the important psychological, or thought, variables that affect a consumer’s decision-making process include perception, memory, needs and attitudes . The consumer’s personal characteristics, such as demographic and lifestyle variables , influence these psychological factors.

Perception and Memory

Perception is the process by which a person selects, organizes, and interprets information. When consumers collect information about a high involvement service such as a cruise, they follow a series of steps, or a hierarchy of effects.

Two basic factors – selectivity and organization – guide consumers’ perceptual processes and help explain why different consumers perceive product information differently. Selectivity means that even though the environment is full of product information, consumers pick and choose only selected pieces of information and ignore the rest. For high involvement purchases, consumers pay particular attention to information related to the needs they want to satisfy and the particular brands they are considering for purchase. This perceptual vigilance helps guarantee that consumers have the information needed to make a good choice. For low involvement products, consumers tend to selectively screen out much information to avoid wasting mental effort. The average consumer is exposed to over 1000 ads every day plus information from other sources such as catalogs, websites, and friends. Consumers must be selective in perceiving this information to cope with the clutter of messages.

Consumers also tend to avoid information that contradicts their current beliefs and attitudes. This perceptual defense helps them avoid the psychological discomfort of reassessing or changing attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors central to their self-images.

Memory Limitations

Even though consumers are selective in perceiving product information, they remember only a small portion of it. What can marketers do – if anything – to improve the memorability of their messages?

There are different theories of how the human memory operates, but most agree that it works in two stages. Information from the environment is first processed by the short-term memory, which forgets most of it within 30 seconds or less because of inattention or displacement of new incoming information. Some information, however, is transferred to long-term memory, from which it can be retrieved later. Long-term memory has a nearly infinite storage capacity, but the amount of product information actually stored there is quite limited. For information to be transferred to long-term memory for later recall, it must be actively rehearsed and internalized . It takes from 5 to 10 seconds of rehearsal to place a chunk of information in long-term memory.

Perceptual Organization

Another mental factor determining how much product information consumers remember and use is the way they organize the information. People do not view and remember each piece of information they receive in isolation. Instead, they organize information through the processes of categorization and integration. Categorization helps consumers process known information quickly and efficiently: ‘I’ve seen this ad before so I don’t have to pay much attention.’ It also helps people classify new information by generalizing from past experience.

Effects of Stimulus Characteristics on Perception

Consumers’ personal characteristics – such as their particular needs, attitudes, beliefs, and past experiences with a product category – influence the information they pay attention to, comprehend, and remember

Needs and Attitudes

An attitude is a positive or negative feeling about an object (say, a brand) that predisposes a person to behave in a particular way toward that object. Attitudes derive from a consumer’s evaluation that a given brand provides the benefits necessary to help satisfy a particular need. These evaluations are multidimensional; consumers judge each brand on a set of dimensions or attributes weighted by their relative importance.

Non-compensatory Attitude Models

The mental processes involved in forming an attitude are quite complex because consumers must evaluate each alternative brand on every attribute. In some purchase situations, particularly with low involvement products, consumers may adopt a simpler approach and evaluate alternative brands on only one attribute at a time.

Attitude Change

The multi-attribute attitude models of consumer choice suggest various ways marketers might change consumer attitudes favorably for their brands versus competing brands.

1 Changing attitudes toward the product class or type to increase the total market – thereby increasing sales for a particular brand

2 Changing the importance consumers attach to one or more attributes.

3 Adding a salient attribute to the existing set

4 Improving consumers’ ratings of the brand on one or more salient attributes via more extensive or effective advertising and promotion- This is the most common attempt, particularly during a brand’s introduction to the market or after product improvements have been made.

5. Lowering the ratings of the salient product characteristics of competing brands- This can be attempted via comparative advertising, which has increased in recent years

Factors that effect buying

Demographics and Lifestyle


Demographics influence (1) the nature of consumers’ needs and wants, (2) their ability to buy products or services to satisfy those needs, (3) the perceived importance of various attributes or choice criteria used to evaluate alternative brands, and (4) consumers’ attitudes toward and preferences for different products and brands.


Two people of similar age, income, education, and even occupations do not necessarily live their lives in the same way. They may have different opinions, interests, and activities. As a result, they are likely to exhibit different patterns of behavior – including buying different products and brands and using them in different ways and for different purposes. These broad patterns of activities, interests, and opinions – and the behaviors that result – are referred to as lifestyles.

The Marketing Implications of Social Influences

Information and social pressures received from other people influence a consumer’s needs, wants, evaluations, and product or brand preferences. Social influences are particularly apparent when consumers purchase high involvement, socially visible goods or services. The social influences affecting consumers’ purchase decisions include culture, subculture, social class, reference groups, and family. These five categories represent a hierarchy of social influences, ranging from broad, general effects on consumption behavior – such as those imposed by the culture we live in – to more specific influences that directly affect a consumer’s choice of a particular product or brand. For a simplified view of this hierarchy of social influences, see Exhibit 6.10.


Culture is the set of beliefs, attitudes, and behavior patterns (customs and folkways) shared by members of a society and transmitted from one generation to the next through socialization. Cultural values and beliefs tend to be relatively


There are many groups of people in the United States who share common geographic, ethnic, racial, or religious backgrounds. They continue to hold some values, attitudes, and behavior patterns that are uniquely their own. Such groups are referred to as subcultures.

Social Class

Every society has its status groupings largely based on similarities in income, education and occupation. Because researchers have long documented the values of the various classes (typically thought of as five – upper, upper middle, middle, working, and lower), it is possible to infer certain behavior concerning products and services, including class members’ reactions to advertising.

Reference Groups

These include a variety of groups that affect consumer behavior through normative compliance, value expressed influence, and informational influence. The first is most effective when there are strong normative pressures; when social acceptance is important; and when the use of a product is conspicuous. Value expressive influence involves conforming to gain status within one’s group.

Informational influence involves the use of influential people to help assess the merits of a given product/service.

The Family

The family is a reference group, but because of its importance, we discuss it separately. First, it serves as the primary socialization agent, helping members acquire the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to function as consumers in the marketplace. Consequently, it has a great and lasting influence on its younger members’ attitudes toward various brands and stores. It is likely that many of the product purchase decisions by a given generation are influenced by parents, even grandparents.

Family Life Cycle

When people leave home and start their own households, they progress through distinct phases of a family life cycle. The traditional cycle in the most industrialized nations includes young singles, young marrieds without children, young marrieds with children, and middle-aged marrieds with children, middle-aged marrieds without dependent children, older marrieds, and older unmarried.

Each phase of the life cycle brings changes in family circumstances and purchasing behavior.

Step By Step

Steps in Buying Decision
Steps in Buying Decision

How Do Consumer Buy

How to Why
How to Why
Why to Buy
Why to Buy


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    • ZIa Ahmed khan profile imageAUTHOR

      Zia Ahmed 

      7 years ago from Kuwait

      @DDE- Thanks a lot.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      7 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      So well explained, and written thanks

    • ZIa Ahmed khan profile imageAUTHOR

      Zia Ahmed 

      7 years ago from Kuwait

      @Ruby - Thanks alot.

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 

      7 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Very educational, great hub, great writing, useful information, thanks.

    • Stigma31 profile image


      8 years ago from Kingston, ON

      Great article, voting up! Very good information, well written.


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