The Value Proposition

Why should a consumer buy from you?

Competitive Advantages

What makes you better than your competition?

Choosing A Differentiation Strategy

You chose a target market, now what?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Marketing 101: The Buyer Decision Process - Information Search

In my last posted I started to discuss the Buyer Decision Process.  Simply defined, it's conducted by a consumer before, during, and after the purchase of products and services. The process consists of five defined steps or stages that typically occur in a certain order: Need recognition > Information Search > Evaluation of Alternatives > Purchase Decision > Post-Purchase Behavior.

Need Recognition refers to the instance where a consumer recognizes that a need or problem exists that needs to be satfisfied.  Need Recognition is usually triggered by an internal stimuli when a particular need, such as hunger or thirst, rises to a high enough level to become a drive.  Once the need has been identified and has become a drive, the pursuit of information begins.

Information Search
Information Search is the second stage of the buyer decision process.  In this stage consumers are driven (by their drive) to search for more information related to their need.  If the drive is strong and a satisfying product is near at hand, the consumer is likely to buy it then, barely collecting any information, or skipping this stage altogether.  If the drive is not strong, the consumer will usually store their need in memory and begin an information search.  As a consumer does more research they will inevitably become aware of competing brands and products that are available for purchase. 

Appliances are a product category where consumers conduct lots of research and there is ample competition.  Let's say a consumer needs to replace their refrigerator.  Because the most effective sources of information tend to be personal in nature, a consumer might start their information search by asking members of their friends and family social and cultural groups what refrigerators they would recommend.  Next, the consumer will typically begin to use commercial sources of information to "fill in the blanks", such as advertisements, editorial reviews, and in-store sales staff.

Marketers must design their marketing mix to make target customers aware of their brand in the midst of all of this "noise".  Ad messaging must address the typical needs, lifestyle aspirations and answer the common questions of their target demographics.  Sales staff must be properly trained and incentivized so that in-store touch points are as successful as possible.  If a marketing mix is properly created, it can help accelerate consumers quickly past the Evaluation of Alternatives stage and towards the Purchase Decision.




Monday, February 4, 2013

Marketing 101: The Buyer Decision Process - Need Recognition

Over the past few months we've spent the majority of our time exploring the many ways consumers are influenced throughout the buying process.  First was an overview of Consumer Buying Behavior, which we placed into the Model of Consumer Buyer Behavior.  We summarized that [1] Consumers "ingest" marketing and other stimuli, such as the four P's: Product, Price, Place and Promotion [2] the stimuli enters their "buyer black box" [3] the "black box" creates buyer responses.

Next we looked at Cultural Factors affecting consumer purchases, noting that Cultural Factors are some of the strongest influences of consumer buyer behavior, because they are the set of basic values, perceptions, wants and behaviors that are "learned" by a consumer from their families and other important social institutions.  Also recall the fact that we need to remember that every group or society has a culture influencing them in some form or degree.

Along with cultural factors, there are also Social Factors affecting consumer buyer behavior.  Human beings are social, and they need people around them to interact with and to discuss various issues in order to reach better solutions and ideas.  We learned that these social factors typically consist of the consumer's small groups, their family, and their social roles and status.  We also learned about social roles such as Initiators, Influencers, Deciders, Buyers, and Users.  These roles play a part within social groups consisting of friends and familes.  We also quickly examined how economic status enables or disables a person's abilties as a consumer.

On top of the social factors affecting consumer buyer behavior, we also have Psychological Factors.  The consumer's own personality is constructed by the unique psychological characteristics that create relatively consistent, lasting behavior in response to their own environment.  These characteristics include Self Concept, Motivation and the five motivational needs, Perception, Learning, and Beliefs and Attitudes.  In summary, all of these factors and stimuli illustrate an important point: consumers are complicated.  Now let's see how complicated reaching a buying decision can be.

Defining the Buyer Decision Process
The Buyer Decision Process is conducted by a consumer before, during, and after the purchase of products and services.  Purchasing decisions are usually considered to be psychological constructs, because although we never "see" a decision, usually we infer from observed behaviors that a decision has been made. Therefore we are able to conclude that a psychological event, the "decision", has occurred. This assumption of a process suggests a commitment to action; that commitment to buy.

The Buyer Decision Process is usually split up into 5 distinct stages that typically occur in a certain order: Need recognition > Information Search > Evaluation of Alternatives > Purchase Decision > Post-Purchase Behavior.  This order seems to suggest that a consumer will pass through all five stages, however this is not always the case. Often with habitual buying behavior a consumer will usually skip or reverse some of these steps in the Buyer Decision Process.  However one step, Need Recognition, is never skipped.

Need Recognition
The first stage of the buyer decision process is Need Recognition.  Need Recognition refers to the instance where a consumer recognizes that a need or problem exists that needs to be satfisfied.  Need Recognition is usually triggered by an internal stimuli when a particular need, such as hunger or thirst, rises to a high enough level to become a drive.

External stimuli can also create a need and lead to drives.  For example, advertisements that consumers hear and see, or discussions with other people can cause them to consider buying a particular product.

When preparing a campaign and settling on your target audience, you need to conduct research that helps you define the needs of the consumer, how the needs arose, what stimuli brought them about, and how that stimuli led the consumer to determine they needed your product.