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Buying Decision Behavior and Its Types

Buying behavior can vary greatly from product to product, based on the level of involvement and degree of differences from brand to brand. For example, buying behavior for milk, toothpaste or bread will be different from that for carpet or smartphones. In the case of more complex buying decisions, there will be more buying participants and higher buyer deliberation. According to Kotler, there are four types of buying behavior:

  • Complex buying behavior
  • Dissonance Reducing buying behavior
  • Habitual buying behavior
  • Variety seeking buying behavior

Complex buying behavior

Consumers are involved in complex buying behavior when their involvement in a purchase is high and they perceive significant differences among brands. The level of consumer involvement is generally higher in cases when the product is expensive, risky, not purchased frequently, and self-expressive. In such a case, the consumer does not have much knowledge of the product either. For example, someone who is buying a car might have very little knowledge about car models, product attributes, accessories, or prices. 

Such a buyer goes through a learning process before making the final purchase. He develops beliefs related to the products, then attitudes and then makes a thoughtful purchase choice at last. It is why marketers must have the knowledge of how high involvement consumers collect information and evaluate the choices available before them.

 Apart from helping the buyers learn about the product class attributes, the marketers of high involvement products also need to help them learn about the relative importance of these attributes. They must also differentiate their brand’s features and highlight its benefits through in-depth online information and videos. Marketers of high involvement products must also motivate the store salespeople and the buyer’s acquaintances to influence the final product choice. 

Dissonance reducing buying behavior :

This is the type of buying behavior that buyers are involved in when the product is expensive, risky, bought infrequently and the buyer cannot see significant differences among brands. For example, someone buying carpeting may face a high involvement buying decision since carpets are costly and self-expressive but the buyers do not see any significant difference among carpets in the same price range. Buyers will look around for choices in such a case but may make a relatively quick purchase.

A good price or easy availability may be the primary driving factor that makes the buyer make a quick decision.  The buyer may also experience post-purchase dissonance in case he learns of any disadvantages or the advantages of other brands he did not buy over the one he bought. After-sales communications play a critical role in helping the customers feel confident about the choice they made. It acts as evidence supporting the consumer’s choice.

Habitual buying behavior :

Habitual buying behavior occurs when the level of consumer involvement is lower or when there is little significant brand difference. The buyer goes to the store to buy table salt. He does not consider many choices and buys the same brand repeatedly. 

Table salt is a low involvement product and does not require significant consideration to reach a decision. Consumers keep buying the same brand of table salt and it is because of habit rather than brand loyalty. In the case of most low cost products that are purchased frequently, the level of consumer involvement is low. 

In the case of the low involvement products, consumer behavior does not pass through the usual belief-attitude-behavior sequence. Consumers do not carry out extensive searches or significant evaluation or make a heavy decision in case of the low-risk-low-involvement products. Due to low involvement, the level of post-purchase evaluation by the customer is also low. The buying process in the case of habitual buying behavior involves brand beliefs formed by passive learning, followed by purchase and then little to no evaluation at the end. 

Because of low commitment of the buyers, the marketers of low involvement products often use price and sales promotions to drive demand and sales. To grow customer involvement, the marketers can add extra features or enhancements that differentiate the brand from rest in the market.

Variety seeking buying behavior:

Variety-seeking behavior occurs when the level of consumer involvement is low but brand differences are significant. In such cases, consumers do a lot of brand switching. For example, a person is buying cookies. He may hold some beliefs about cookies and make a purchase without much evaluation. The main evaluation happens during consumption. The next time, he buys a different brand since he is bored by the cookies or just to try something different. Consumers switch brands in this case for the sake of variety and not due to dissatisfaction.

In such a case, the marketing strategies of the dominant brands differ from the minor brands. The dominant brands often occupy a lot of shelf space or keep shelves fully stocked apart from running reminder advertising regularly. They try to encourage habitual buying. What the competitors would do in such a case is that they will offer lower prices, special deals, free samples, or run advertisements to encourage the consumers to try something new.