Psychological Characteristics of Purchasing Decisions
Much of what people do can be traced to their needs. An unsatisfied need causes an inner state of tension, feeling of disequilibrium, or dissatisfaction. A motive is an inner drive or pressure to take action in order to eliminate tension, to satisfy a need or solve a problem, or to restore a sense of equilibrium (Burnett 1993).
Probably the classification most closely associated with promotion divides motives into rational and emotional motives (Burnett 1993).
Rational Motives are supported by a systematic reasoning process that people perceive as being acceptable to their peers (Burnett 1993). He further adds that rational motives for buying a product include lower price, greater endurance, higher quality, convenience, and better performance.
So, by using sales promotion, i.e. lowering the price of a product (price-offs, discount coupons) or offering more for the same price (bonus packs), the organization tries to capitalize on the rational motives which are used by an individual to make a purchase.
Emotional motives are characterized by feelings that may emerge without careful thought or consideration of social consequences.
Learning starts with motivation, which is based on needs and goals. Motivation thus acts as a spur to learning, with needs and goals serving as stimuli (Burnett 1993).
Some forms of learning called cognitive learning involve thought and conscious awareness – problem solving is an example. Behavior is changed through behavioral learning, which is learning that does not require awareness or conscious effort but depends instead on an association between events (Burnett 1993).
Motivation and learning both play an important part in determining a third key component of the psychological background for consumer behavior: attitudes. An attitude is an enduring disposition, favorable or unfavorable, toward some object – an idea, a person, a thing, a situation. Thus, attitudes towards brands are tendencies to evaluate brands in a consistently favorable or unfavorable way (Burnett 1993).
Each attitude has three components:
Cognitive component: This includes beliefs and knowledge about the object of the attitude (Burnett 1993).
Affective component: Feelings about objects make up an affective component of an attitude. People typically evaluate separately each attribute of the object of the attitude; the combination of these reactions determines the overall reaction (Burnett 1993).
Behavioral component: Actions taken towards the object of an attitude constitute the behavioral component of attitude. Buying a product, recommending a company to friends, or requesting information are examples of behavioral components (Burnett 1993).
Which promotion tools are generally most effective for achieving particular behavioral changes is not fully understood. One American study compared four consumer promotion tools – coupons, rebates, sweepstakes, and premiums – for their impact on various consumer purchase behaviors. These behaviors include purchasing a product they said they didn’t need, purchasing a product they had never tried before, purchasing a different brand than they regularly used, purchasing more than usual, purchasing sooner than usual, and purchasing later than usual.
In general, it was found that coupons were the most effective promotions at changing these various behaviors. Over 70 percent of the consumers reported that they purchased a product they had never tried before because of a coupon, and more than 75 percent said that they purchased a different brand than they regularly use because of a coupon. Rebates and premiums were both shown to be effective in changing consumer behavior in this study, but less so than coupons. The study found that the greater the rebate, the greater effort consumers would expend to obtain it. Finally, while some consumers also reported that sweepstakes influenced them, such promotions were the least effective overall. The study also found that changes in behavior varied by the type of product and characteristics of the consumers (Peter et al, 2002).
The first step in the consumer decision-making process is the recognition of a problem. A problem is present when a consumer’s desired state is different than his or her actual state. In other words, it is the recognition of a need or a want (Clow and Baack, 2002).
Once a need or want is recognized, the consumer conducts a search for information. This begins with an internal search; the consumer mentally recalls images of products that might fulfill or meet the need (Clow and Baack, 2002).
Evaluation of Alternatives
Potential solutions need to be evaluated in order that the optimum choice is made. Products considered feasible constitute the preference set, and it is from these seven or eight products that a smaller group of products is normally assembled. This is referred to as the evoked set and it is from this that consumers make a choice (Fill 2005).
When the consumer is in this stage of the decision making process, a sales promotion (like mail-in coupons) can help influence the consumer and make the promoted brand a better choice as compared to the other alternatives.