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How does the consumer behaviour for impulse products differ from that for high involvement products?

Every time we make a purchase, we are going through a journey of choices. There are reasons why we buy the things we do and how we decide between one product or another. We choose where to shop from, and at what time we do it. We ask for recommendations or we could simply try something new. We sometimes follow what family and friends do or decide to go completely different.

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Our motivation to acquire, come firstly from our needs and wants. These needs and wants are driven by biogenic or psychogenic drives and motivated by affective or cognitive motives. Biogenic means physiological, while psychogenic is based on your social, environmental and psychological needs. Affective is the emotional motivation, while cognitive is your rational motivation.

Therefore every time we purchase something we go through different stages of a decision making process. We recognise the need, for example the need to buy new clothes. Search for product information. In the case of clothes, you go to the shops or online to check the different styles. We evaluate the product, the price you want to pay and the quality you want to buy. Then you choose the product and make the purchase, for example a leather jacket affordable to you. The process does not end at the purchase. Once you bought the jacket you want to use and evaluate the product again. Did you get what you needed and wanted? There is also the disposal of the product. Did you like the jacket, do you want to upgrade it to a coat or do you want to give it away or re sell it?

Not for all products we have to necessarily go through all these stages, much depends if the product is an impulse product or a high impact product. 

You probably do not give it much taught when you are buying a packet of chewing gum or mints. You feel like something fresh and tasty, or you probably just saw the packet while cashing out at the shop, and even if you do not intend to consume it now, you still grab it, pay and go. Therefore you have skipped the first three stages of the decision making process and bought the product on impulse.

This is also because impulse buying, is of low involvement, normally inexpensive and pose a low risk to the consumer. For example if you do not like the taste of the packet of chewing gum or mints you just bought, it is no big deal. They would have not costed much and therefore you are not losing much if you end up throwing them away.

Sometimes we buy a product out of habit. Like for example you always order a “Pepsi” with your meals, without thinking of other options. This is routine response behaviour, buying a low involvement product with limited information or based on the information you had in the past. If then the “Pepsi” is flat, well it is not the end of the world. 

Whilst high-involvement products have higher risks for the consumer. For example, buying a property, there is a large payment to make, therefore you do not want to make rushed decisions. This is not something you buy often hence you do not engage in a routine response behaviour, but you go through what is called an extended problem solving behaviour. You spend time comparing the location of the property, the layout, the finishes , etc. You also need to involve professionals to complete the purchase, such as a notary to do all the researches and the architect to check the permits and property valuation , etc. With the information given by the architect, the notary and maybe the real estate agent, the consumer has more information and therefore now he/she has limited problem solving. Therefore in a much better position to take a decision.

As we have seen, the difference between the impulse product and the high involvement product, is the interest and the importance the purchase is to you based on the calculated risk you are taking.

Explain how Evans et al’s hierarchy of effects model can be applied to understand the consumer behaviour of an impulse product of your choice. 

Evans et al’s hierarchy of effects is the marketers response to the consumer behaviour and they are listed as follows;

Exposure, Attention, Perception, Learning, Attitude, Action and Post Purchase.

This model is used by marketers to understand the consumer’s behaviour and orchestrate marketing stimuli to influence that behaviour. Therefore they offer, adequate Products at the right Price, from the most convenient Place with the most efficient Promotion, or better known, the Marketing mix.

For example if we take an impulse product such as a packet of “Tic Tac” mints, the exposure of this product is when we come in contact with this product. Hence if we see an advert on TV or magazine , etc. It could be that being a product placed at a very prominent position in the shop at cash desk, you become exposed to it through this strategic positioning, something you cannot miss. The main aim of the marketers is to get their messages or products noticed without alienating consumers.

Attention is limited, selective and divided. It is how much mental activity the consumer dedicates to the marketers stimuli. Marketers, work on grabbing the consumer attention by personalising the message or product, by making it pleasant, easy to process, rely on habituation or use the surprise factor. In the case of “Tic Tac” all adverts have attractive models and a funny storyboard, making it very pleasant for us to watch.

Perception is how our senses are influenced by marketers. The size and shape of a product, the packaging colouring or the lettering used, all have an effect on our vision. “Tic Tac” come in a small package and are very tiny mints, emphasising the message that they are low in calories and they are easy to put in a pocket or carry in bag. The use of a song or a particular sound, the tone of voice or the use of accents, all have an effect on our hearing. For example the sound of the mints shaken in the plastic packaging is immediately associated with “Tic Tac”. The taste is very important. Some like something sweet while others might prefer something bitter. “Tic Tac” focus on the minty taste that lasts long, 2 hours per mint. Smell could stimulate the purchase or it could put you off. Smell can change your mood or can be associated with something emotional. The emphasis on the “Tic Tac” smell is the freshness. Touching the product or the feel of a product can encourage you more to buy. If someone grabs a packet of “Tic Tac” it is very unlikely that they will put it back. 

Learning is the process that could change our behaviour by the information gained. For example when I learned that a “Tic Tac” mint has only 2 calories, I decided that it is not worth to sacrifice on my want to taste something fresh, as it is very low in calories and therefore not going to effect my weight control diet. When we learn about something, we memorise that information. Three important processes of memory are; obtaining the information, storing it and retrieving it when required. Memory is split in three types, sensory is when you gain temporary information and lose it quickly, short-term is when you consciously process the information but you have limited capacity to store it, long-term memory is when the information gained is organised and stored with existing information. There are also two type of long-term memory; semantic is factual information and episodic is when it is specific to a particular situation.

Marketers study the behavioural learning by associating learning, for example the “Tic Tac” appeals to me because it is low in calorie. Understanding this, marketers will continue to offer me stimuli to associate low calorie mints with “Tic Tac”. It is also done through instrumental learning, and therefore marketers want to increase the times I learn about “Tic Tac” and reduce the ways I lose that information. For me not to lose that information, more frequent adverts could be used for repetitive effects.

Marketers take into consideration cognitive learning, meaning the logical reasoning and how new information is related to the old. Stimulus generation and discrimination is when a consumer see a certain product similar or different from other products. This is how marketers are able to come with a unique proposition. Learning can be measured, by the recognition method, for example marketers see how many consumers notice the advertisements they have seen, or by the allied recall method, where consumers are asked to tell what they remember of the advertisement they have seen.

Attitudes are the consumer mental position or the way they feel towards products, services, brands , etc. Attitudes tend to be enduring because they are based on one’s beliefs and values, which are hard to change. In the case of “Tic Tac” there could be a particular consumer that might feel these mints are just sweets for kids. Marketers would have a hard job to persuade him otherwise but they might consider repackaging or invest in advertisements that are associated more with adults. To do this marketers can study the functional approach to attitudes. These are; Instrumental function meaning a satisfied customer has a favourable attitude, Ego-defensive function meaning the attitude to protect his image, Value expressive function meaning expressing one’s values to others, and the Knowledge function meaning the attitude based on the constructed meaning of one’s world. Attitudes can also be measured through the semantic differential scale or the Likert scales. The semantic differential scale are responses to a questionnaire in scale 1 to 5, being 1 very good and 5 very bad. The Likert scales are similar to the 5 point scale but from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

The main aim of marketers is to get the  consumer to Action, and therefore to make the decision to buy. As we have seen before, the consumer might go through the different stages of the decision making process depending on the interest, importance and risk associated with that product. In our “Tic Tac” example, the product is an impulse product with low involvement and which could possibly be bought out of routine response behaviour.

Marketers also give importance to the post purchase behaviour. They need to understand if the customer is satisfied with the purchase. For example if I am happy with the “Tic Tac” mints, next time I hear someone saying they want to buy a packet of mints, I could express my good views about this product and induce others to buy “Tic Tac”. Word of mouth is very powerful advertising and as much it is good it can be harmful if the customer is dissatisfied with the purchase. Cognitive dissonance is when the consumer, even if the purchase met his expectations, starts asking if he/she made the right decision and starts weighting the opportunity cost of buying one product instead of another.  A concern for the marketers is also the disposal behaviour of the product. What is the consumer going to do with the product after its purchase? Will the product be given away, will it be resold or will it be recycled? The producers of “Tic Tac” could ensure that the packaging is recyclable and encourage consumer to do so. This way it could work on corporate sustainability marketing.

Having studied all this marketers will come up with the marketing stimuli to provide the best marketing mix. In the case of example “Tic Tac”;

The product is designed to be practical to carry, long lasting, fresh and health conscious.
The promotion is communicated through pleasant advertising on TV, magazines , etc.
The place is based on convenient strategic placing.
The Price is of low impact, making it an impulse product.