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Identify and explain the five stages of the consumer buying process. Give examples of marketing activities designed to influence each stage.

ESSAY Questions

– Identify and explain the five stages of the consumer buying process. Give examples of marketing activities designed to influence each stage.

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1-Need Recognition
The buying process begins when consumers recognize that they have an unmet need. This occurs when consumers realize that there is a difference between their existing situation and their desired situation. Consumers can recognize needs in a variety of settings and situations. Some needs have their basis in internal stimuli such as hunger, thirst, and fatigue. Other needs have their basis in external stimuli such as advertising, interacting with salespeople, or talking with friends and family.

2-Information Search
When done correctly, marketing stimuli can prompt consumers to become interested in a product, leading to a desire to seek out additional information. This desire can be passive or active. In a passive information search, the consumer becomes more attentive and receptive to information, such as noticing and paying attention to automobile advertisements if the customer has a want for a specific car brand. A consumer engages in active information search when he or she purposely seeks additional information, such as surfing the Internet, asking friends, or visiting dealer showrooms. The amount of time, effort, and expense dedicated to the search for information depends on a number of issues. The most important is the degree of risk involved in the purchase.

3-Evaluation of Alternatives
In evaluating the alternative product or brand choices among the members of the evoked set, the consumer essentially translates his or her need into a want for a specific product or brand. Consumers evaluate products as bundles of attributes that have varying abilities to satisfy their needs. The most important consideration for marketers during the evaluation stage is that the marketer’s products must be in the evoked set of potential alternatives. For this reason, marketers must constantly remind consumers of their company and its product offerings.

4-Purchase Decision
After the consumer has evaluated each alternative in the evoked set, he or she forms an intention to purchase a particular product or brand. However, a purchase intention and the actual act of buying are distinct concepts. The customer may postpone the purchase due to unforeseen circumstances. Marketers can often reduce or eliminate these problems by reducing the risk of purchase through warranties or guarantees, making the purchase stage as easy as possible, or by finding creative solutions to unexpected problems. The key issues for marketers during the purchase stage are product availability and possession utility.

5-Postpurchase Evaluation
In the context of attracting and retaining buyers, postpurchase evaluation is the connection between the buying process and the development of long-term customer relationships. In the postpurchase stage, buyers will experience one of these four outcomes:

Ÿ Delight – The product’s performance greatly exceeds the buyer’s expectations.
Ÿ Satisfaction – The product’s performance matches the buyer’s expectations.
Ÿ Dissatisfaction – The product’s performance falls short of the buyer’s expectations.
Ÿ Cognitive Dissonance (Postpurchase Doubt) – The buyer is unsure of the product’s
performance relative to his or her expectations.

– Although the stages of the consumer buying process are typically discussed in a linear fashion, consumers do not always follow the stages in sequence. Explain why this often occurs.

The consumer buying process involves five stages of activities that consumers may go through in buying goods and services. The process begins with the recognition of a need and then passes through the stages of information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision, and postpurchase evaluation. The buying process depicts the possible range of activities that may occur in making purchase decisions. Consumers, however, do not always follow these stages in sequence and may even skip stages en route to making a purchase. Likewise, consumers who are loyal to a product or brand will skip some stages and are most likely to simply purchase the same product they bought last time. Consequently, marketers have a difficult time promoting brand switching because they must convince these customers to break tradition and take a look at what their products have to offer.

The buying process often involves a parallel sequence of activities associated with finding the most suitable merchant of the product in question. That is, while consumers consider which product to buy, they also consider where they might buy it. In the case of name brand products, this selection process may focus on the product’s price and availability at different stores or online merchants. Conversely, in the case of private-label merchandise, the choice of product and merchant are made simultaneously. The choice of a suitable merchant may actually take precedence over the choice of a specific product. In some cases, customers are so loyal to a particular merchant that they will not consider looking elsewhere.

Consumers may spend relatively more or less time in certain stages, they may follow the stages in or out of sequence, or they may even skip stages entirely. This variation in the buying process occurs because consumers are different, the products that they buy are different, and the situations in which consumers make purchase decisions are different. A number of factors affect the consumer buying process, including the complexity of the purchase and decision, individual influences, social influences, and situational influences.

The complexity of the purchase and decision-making process is the primary reason why the buying process will vary across consumers and with the same consumer in different situations. For example, highly complex decisions, like buying a first home, a first car, selecting the right college, or choosing elective surgery, are very involving for most consumers. These purchases are often characterized by high personal, social, or financial risk; strong emotional involvement; and the lack of experience with the product or purchase situation. In these instances, consumers will spend a great deal of time, effort, and even money to help ensure that they make the right decision. In contrast, purchase tasks that are low in complexity are relatively noninvolving for most consumers. In some cases, these purchase tasks can become routine in nature. For example, many consumers buy groceries by selecting familiar items from the shelf and placing them in their carts without considering alternative products.
Explain the five different target-marketing strategies and give examples of firms that use each one. Also, discuss how firms might approach the targeting of noncustomers.

Once the firm has completed segmenting a market, it must then evaluate each segment to determine its attractiveness and whether it offers opportunities that match the firm’s capabilities and resources. Just because a market segment meets all criteria for viability does not mean the firm should pursue it. Attractive segments might be dropped for several reasons including a lack of resources, no synergy with the firm’s mission, overwhelming competition in the segment, an impending technology shift, or ethical and legal concerns over targeting a particular segment. Based on its analysis of each segment, the firm’s current and anticipated situation, and a comprehensive SWOT analysis, a firm might consider five basic strategies for target market selection.

Single Segment Targeting – Firms use single segment targeting when
their capabilities are intrinsically tied to the needs of a specific market
segment. Many consider the firms using this targeting strategy to be true
specialists in a particular product category. Good examples include New
Belgium Brewing (craft beer), Porsche, and Ray-Ban. These and other
firms using single segment targeting are successful because they fully
understand their customers’ needs, preferences, and lifestyles. These firms
also constantly strive to improve quality and customer satisfaction by
continuously refining their products to meet changing customer preferences.

Selective Targeting – Firms that have multiple capabilities in many
different product categories use selective targeting successfully. This
strategy has several advantages including diversification of the firm’s risk
and the ability to “cherry pick” only the most attractive market segment
opportunities. Procter & Gamble (P&G) uses selective targeting to offer
customers many different products in the family care, household care, and
personal care markets. Besides the familiar deodorants, laundry detergents,
and hair care products, P&G also sells products in the cosmetics, snack
food and beverages, cologne, and prescription drug markets.

Mass Market Targeting – Only the largest firms have the capability to
execute mass market targeting, which involves the development of multiple
marketing programs to serve all customer segments simultaneously. For
example, Coca-Cola offers roughly 400 branded beverages across many
segments that fulfill different consumer needs in over 200 countries around
the world. Likewise, Frito-Lay sells hundreds of different varieties of snack
foods around the world.

Product Specialization – Firms engage in product specialization when their
expertise in a product category can be leveraged across many different
market segments. These firms can adapt product specifications to match the
different needs of individual customer groups. For example, many consider
Littmann Stethoscopes, a division of 3M, as the worldwide leader in
auscultation technology. Littmann offers high-performance electronic
stethoscopes for cardiologists, specially designed stethoscopes for
pediatric/infant use, lightweight stethoscopes for simple physical assessment,
and a line of stethoscopes for nursing and medical students. The company
also offers a line of veterinary stethoscopes.

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