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Extensive Problem Solving - Definition, Importance & Example

What is extensive problem solving.

Extensive problem solving is the purchase decision marking in a situation in which the buyer has no information, experience about the products, services and suppliers. In extensive problem solving, lack of information also spreads to the brands for the product and also the criterion that they set for segregating the brands to be small or manageable subsets that help in the purchasing decision later. Consumers usually go for extensive problem solving when they discover that a need is completely new to them which requires significant effort to satisfy it.

The decision making process of a customer includes different levels of purchase decisions, i.e. extensive problem solving, limited problem solving and routinized choice behaviour.

Elements of Extensive Problem Solving

The various parameters which leads to extensive problem solving are:

1. Highly Priced Products: Like a car, house

2. Infrequent Purchases: Purchasing an automobile, HD TV

3. More Customer Participation: Purchasing a laptop with selection of RAM, ROM, display etc

4. Unfamiliar Product Category: Real-estate is a very unexplored category

5. Extensive Research & Time: Locality of buying house, proximity to hospital, station, market etc.

All these parameters or elements leads to extensive problem solving for the customer while taking a decision to make a purchase.

Extensive Problem Solving

Importance of Extensive Problem Solving

It is very important for marketers to know the process that customers go through before purchasing. They cannot rely upon re-buys and word of mouth all the time for acquiring new customers. The customer in general goes through problem recognition, information search, evaluation, purchase decision and post-purchase evaluation. Closely related to a purchase decision is the problem solving phase. A new product with long term investment leads to extensive problem solving from a customer. This signifies that not all buying situations are same. A rebuy is very much different from a first choice purchase. The recognition that a brand enjoys in a customer’s mind helps the customer to make purchase decisions easily. If the brand has a dedicated marketing communication effort, whenever a consumer feels the need for a new product, they instantly go for it.

To help customers in extensive problem solving, companies must have clear transparent communication. It is thus very important for marketers to use a proper marketing mix so that they can have some cognition from their customers when they think of new products. With the advent of social media, the number of channels for promotion have hugely developed and they require a clear understanding on the segment of customer that each channel serves. The communication channels should lucidly differentiate themselves from other brands so that they are purchased quickly and easily.

Example of Extensive Problem Solving

Let us suppose, that Amber wants to buy a High Definition TV. The problem being, she has no idea regarding it. This is a case of extensive problem solving as the amount of information is low, the risk she is taking is high as she is going with the opinion that she gathers from her peers, the item is expensive and at the same time it also demands huge amount of involvement from the customer. Similarly, buying high price and long-term assets or products like car, motorcycle, house etc leads to extensive problem solving decision for the customers.

Hence, this concludes the definition of Extensive Problem Solving along with its overview.

This article has been researched & authored by the Business Concepts Team . It has been reviewed & published by the MBA Skool Team. The content on MBA Skool has been created for educational & academic purpose only.

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Consumer Motivation and Involvement

15 Involvement Levels

Depending on a consumer’s experience and knowledge, some consumers may be able to make quick purchase decisions and other consumers may need to get information and be more involved in the decision process before making a purchase. The level of involvement reflects how personally important or interested you are in consuming a product and how much information you need to make a decision. The level of involvement in buying decisions may be considered a continuum from decisions that are fairly routine (consumers are not very involved) to decisions that require extensive thought and a high level of involvement. Whether a decision is low, high, or limited, involvement varies by consumer, not by product.

Low Involvement Consumer Decision Making

At some point in your life you may have considered products you want to own (e.g. luxury or novelty items), but like many of us, you probably didn’t do much more than ponder their relevance or suitability to your life. At other times, you’ve probably looked at dozens of products, compared them, and then decided not to purchase any one of them. When you run out of products such as milk or bread that you buy on a regular basis, you may buy the product as soon as you recognize the need because you do not need to search for information or evaluate alternatives . As Nike would put it, you “just do it.” Low-involvement decisions are, however, typically products that are relatively inexpensive and pose a low risk to the buyer if a mistake is made in purchasing them.

Consumers often engage in routine response behaviour when they make low-involvement decisions — that is, they make automatic purchase decisions based on limited information or information they have gathered in the past. For example, if you always order a Diet Coke at lunch, you’re engaging in routine response behaviour. You may not even think about other drink options at lunch because your routine is to order a Diet Coke, and you simply do it. Similarly, if you run out of Diet Coke at home, you may buy more without any information search.

Some low-involvement purchases are made with no planning or previous thought. These buying decisions are called impulse buying . While you’re waiting to check out at the grocery store, perhaps you see a magazine with a notable celebrity on the cover and buy it on the spot simply because you want it. You might see a roll of tape at a check-out stand and remember you need one or you might see a bag of chips and realize you’re hungry or just want them. These are items that are typically low-involvement decisions. Low involvement decisions aren’t necessarily products purchased on impulse, although they can be.

High Involvement Consumer Decision Making

By contrast, high-involvement decisions carry a higher risk to buyers if they fail. These are often more complex purchases that may carry a high price tag, such as a house, a car, or an insurance policy. These items are not purchased often but are relevant and important to the buyer. Buyers don’t engage in routine response behaviour when purchasing high-involvement products. Instead, consumers engage in what’s called extended problem solving where they spend a lot of time comparing different aspects such as the features of the products, prices, and warranties.

High-involvement decisions can cause buyers a great deal of post-purchase dissonance, also known as cognitive dissonance which is a form of anxiety consumers experience if they are unsure about their purchases or if they had a difficult time deciding between two alternatives. Companies that sell high-involvement products are aware that post purchase dissonance can be a problem. Frequently, marketers try to offer consumers a lot of supporting information about their products, including why they are superior to competing brands and why the consumer won’t be disappointed with their purchase afterwards. Salespeople play a critical role in answering consumer questions and providing extensive support during and after the purchasing stage.

Limited Problem Solving

Limited problem solving falls somewhere between low-involvement (routine) and high-involvement (extended problem solving) decisions. Consumers engage in limited problem solving when they already have some information about a good or service but continue to search for a little more information. Assume you need a new backpack for a hiking trip. While you are familiar with backpacks, you know that new features and materials are available since you purchased your last backpack. You’re going to spend some time looking for one that’s decent because you don’t want it to fall apart while you’re traveling and dump everything you’ve packed on a hiking trail. You might do a little research online and come to a decision relatively quickly. You might consider the choices available at your favourite retail outlet but not look at every backpack at every outlet before making a decision. Or you might rely on the advice of a person you know who’s knowledgeable about backpacks. In some way you shorten or limit your involvement and the decision-making process.

Distinguishing Between Low Involvement and High Involvement

Products, such as chewing gum, which may be low-involvement for many consumers often use advertising such as commercials and sales promotions such as coupons to reach many consumers at once. Companies also try to sell products such as gum in as many locations as possible. Many products that are typically high-involvement such as automobiles may use more personal selling to answer consumers’ questions. Brand names can also be very important regardless of the consumer’s level of purchasing involvement. Consider a low-versus high-involvement decision — say, purchasing a tube of toothpaste versus a new car. You might routinely buy your favorite brand of toothpaste, not thinking much about the purchase (engage in routine response behaviour), but not be willing to switch to another brand either. Having a brand you like saves you “search time” and eliminates the evaluation period because you know what you’re getting.

When it comes to the car, you might engage in extensive problem solving but, again, only be willing to consider a certain brand or brands (e.g. your evoke set for automobiles). For example, in the 1970s, American-made cars had such a poor reputation for quality that buyers joked that a car that’s not foreign is “crap.” The quality of American cars is very good today, but you get the picture. If it’s a high-involvement product you’re purchasing, a good brand name is probably going to be very important to you. That’s why the manufacturers of products that are typically high-involvement decisions can’t become complacent about the value of their brands.

Ways to Increase Involvement Levels

Involvement levels – whether they are low, high, or limited – vary by consumer and less so by product. A consumer’s involvement with a particular product will depend on their experience and knowledge, as well as their general approach to gathering information before making purchasing decisions. In a highly competitive marketplace, however, brands are always vying for consumer preference, loyalty, and affirmation. For this reason, many brands will engage in marketing strategies to increase exposure, attention, and relevance; in other words, brands are constantly seeking ways to motivate consumers with the intention to increase consumer involvement with their products and services.

Some of the different ways marketers increase consumer involvement are: customization; engagement; incentives; appealing to hedonic needs; creating purpose; and, representation.

1. Customization

Person's feet, wearing two different coloured sneakers reflecting a consumer's unique personal preference.

With Share a Coke, Coca-Cola made a global mass customization implementation that worked for them. The company was able to put the labels on millions of bottles in order to get consumers to notice the changes to the coke bottle in the aisle. People also felt a kinship and moment of recognition once they spotted their names or a friend’s name. Simultaneously this personalization also worked because of the printing equipment that could make it happen and there are not that many first names to begin with. These factors lead the brand to be able to roll this out globally ( Mass Customization #12 , 2017).

2. Engagement

Have you ever heard the expression, “content is king”? Without a doubt, engaging, memorable, and unique marketing content has a lasting impact on consumers. The marketing landscape is a noisy one, polluted with an infinite number of brands advertising extensively to consumers, vying for a fraction of our attention. Savvy marketers recognize the importance of sparking just enough consumer interest so they become motivated to take notice and process their marketing messages. Marketers who create content (that isn’t just about sales and promotion) that inspires, delights, and even serves an audience’s needs are unlocking the secret to engagement. And engagement leads to loyalty.

There is no trick to content marketing, but the brands who do it well know that stepping away – far away – from the usual sales and promotion lines is critical. While content marketing is an effective way to increase sales, grow a brand, and create loyalty, authenticity is at its core.

Bodyform and Old Spice are two brands who very cleverly applied just the right amount of self-deprecating humour to their content marketing that not only engaged consumers, but had them begging for more!

Content as a Key Driver to Consumer Engagement

Engaging customers through content might involve a two-way conversation online, or an entire campaign designed around a single customer comment.

In 2012, Richard Neill posted a message to Bodyform’s Facebook page calling out the brand for lying to and deceiving its customers and audiences for years. Richard went on to say that Bodyform’s advertisements failed to truly depict any sense of reality and that in fact he felt set up by the brand to experience a huge fall. Bodyform, or as Richard addressed the company, “you crafty bugger,” is a UK company that produces and sells feminine protection products to menstruating girls and women (Bodyform, n.d.). Little did Richard know that when he posted his humorous rant to Bodyform that the company would respond by creating a video speaking directly at Richard and coming “clean” on all their deceitful attempts to make having period look like fun. When Bodyform’s video went viral, a brand that would have otherwise continued to blend into the background, captured the attention of a global audience.

Xavier Izaguirre says that, “[a]udience involvement is the process and act of actively involving your target audience in your communication mix, in order to increase their engagement with your message as well as advocacy to your brand.” Bodyform gained global recognition by turning one person’s rant into a viral publicity sensation (even though Richard was not the customer in this case).

Despite being a household name, in the years leading up to Old Spice’s infamous “The Man Your Man Should Smell Like” campaign, sales were flat and the brand had failed to strike a chord in a new generation of consumers. Ad experts at Wieden + Kennedy produced a single 30-second ad (featuring a shirtless and self-deprecating Isaiah Mustafa) that played around the time of the 2010 Super Bowl game. While the ad quickly gained notoriety on YouTube, it was the now infamous, “ Response Campaign ” that made the campaign a leader of its time in audience engagement.

3. Incentives

Person's hand, holding a wallet that contains a Starbucks card.

Customer loyalty and reward programs successfully motivate consumers in the decision making process and reinforce purchasing behaviours ( a feature of instrumental conditioning ). The rationale for loyalty and rewards programs is clear: the cost of acquiring a new customer runs five to 25 times more than selling to an existing one and existing customers spend 67 per cent more than new customers (Bernazzani, n.d.). From the customer perspective, simple and practical reward programs such as Beauty Insider – a point-accumulation model used by Sephora – provides strong incentive for customer loyalty (Bernazzani, n.d.).

4. Appealing to Hedonic Needs

Photo of exotic tropic destination in the Maldives.

A particularly strong way to motivate consumers to increase involvement levels with a product or service is to appeal to their hedonic needs. Consumers seek to satisfy their need for fun, pleasure, and enjoyment through luxurious and rare purchases. In these cases, consumers are less likely to be price sensitive (“it’s a treat”) and more likely to spend greater processing time on the marketing messages they are presented with when a brand appeals to their greatest desires instead of their basic necessities.

5. Creating Purpose

Millennial and Digital Native consumers are profoundly different than those who came before them. Brands, particularly in the consumer goods category, who demonstrate (and uphold) a commitment to sustainability grow at a faster rate (4 per cent) than those who do not (1 per cent) (“Consumer-Goods…”, 2015). In a 2015 poll, 30,000 consumers were asked how much the environment, packaging, price, marketing, and organic or health and wellness claims had on their consumer-goods’ purchase decisions, and to no surprise, 66 per cent said they would be willing to pay more for sustainable brands. (Nielsen, 2015). A rising trend and important factor to consider in evaluating consumer involvement levels and ways to increase them. So while cruelty-free, fair trade, and locally-sourced may all seem like buzz words to some, they are non-negotiable decision-making factors to a large and growing consumer market.

6. Representation

Various Vogue magazine covers featuring models such as Rianna.

Celebrity endorsement can have a profound impact on consumers’ overall attitude towards a brand. Consumers who might otherwise have a “neutral” attitude towards a brand (neither positive nor negative) may be more noticed to take notice of a brand’s messages and stimuli if a celebrity they admire is the face of the brand.

When sportswear and sneaker brand Puma signed Rihanna on to not just endorse the brand but design an entire collection, sales soared in all the regions and the brand enjoyed a new “revival” in the U.S. where Under Armour and Nike had been making significant gains (“Rihanna Designs…”, 2017). “Rihanna’s relationship with us makes the brand actual and hot again with young consumers,” said chief executive Bjorn Gulden (“Rihanna Designs…”, 2017).

Media Attributions

  • The image of two different coloured sneakers is by Raka Rachgo on Unsplash .
  • The image of a coffee card in a wallet is by Rebecca Aldama on Unsplash .
  • The image of an island resort in tropical destination is by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash .
  • The image of a stack of glossy magazine covers is by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash .

Text Attributions

  • The introductory paragraph; sections on “Low Involvement Consumer Decision Making”, “High Involvement Consumer Decision Making”, and “Limited Problem Solving” are adapted from Principles of Marketing which is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

About Us . (n.d.). Body Form. Retrieved February 2, 2019, from https://www.bodyform.co.uk/about-us/.

Kalamut, A. (2010, August 18). Old Spice Video “Case Study” . YouTube [Video]. https://youtu.be/Kg0booW1uOQ.

Bernazzani, S. (n.d.). Customer Loyalty: The Ultimate Guide [Blog post]. https://blog.hubspot.com/service/customer-loyalty.

Bodyform Channel. (2012, October 16). Bodyform Responds: The Truth . YouTube [Video]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bpy75q2DDow&feature=youtu.be.

Consumer-Goods’ Brands That Demonstrate Commitment to Sustainability Outperform Those That Don’t. (2015, October 12). Nielsen [Press Release]. https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/press-room/2015/consumer-goods-brands-that-demonstrate-commitment-to-sustainability-outperform.html.

Curtin, M. (2018, March 30). 73 Per Cent of Millennials are Willing to Spend More Money on This 1 Type of Product . Inc. https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/73-percent-of-millennials-are-willing-to-spend-more-money-on-this-1-type-of-product.html.

Izaguirre, X. (2012, October 17). How are brands using audience involvement to increase reach and engagement?   EConsultancy. https://econsultancy.com/how-are-brands-using-audience-involvement-to-increase-reach-and-engagement/.

Rihanna Designs Help Lift Puma Sportswear Sales . (2017, October 24). Reuters. https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/news-analysis/rihanna-designs-help-lift-puma-sportswear-sales.

Tarver, E. (2018, October 20). Why the ‘Share a Coke’ Campaign Is So Successful . Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets/100715/what-makes-share-coke-campaign-so-successful.asp.

Low involvement decision making typically reflects when a consumer who has a low level of interest and attachment to an item. These items may be relatively inexpensive, pose low risk (can be exchanged, returned, or replaced easily), and not require research or comparison shopping.

This concept describes when consumers make low-involvement decisions that are "automatic" in nature and reflect a limited amount of information the consumer has gathered in the past.

A type of purchase that is made with no previous planning or thought.

High involvement decision making typically reflects when a consumer who has a high degree of interest and attachment to an item. These items may be relatively expensive, pose a high risk to the consumer (can't be exchanged or refunded easily or at all), and require some degree of research or comparison shopping.

Also known as "consumer remorse" or "consumer guilt", this is an unsettling feeling consumers may experience post-purchase if they feel their actions are not aligned with their needs.

Consumers engage in limited problem solving when they have some information about an item, but continue to gather more information to inform their purchasing decision. This falls between "low" and "high" involvement on the involvement continuum.

Introduction to Consumer Behaviour Copyright © by Andrea Niosi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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3.2 Low-Involvement Versus High-Involvement Buying Decisions and the Consumer’s Decision-Making Process

Learning objectives.

  • Distinguish between low-involvement and high-involvement buying decisions.
  • Understand what the stages of the buying process are and what happens in each stage.

As you have seen, many factors influence a consumer’s behavior. Depending on a consumer’s experience and knowledge, some consumers may be able to make quick purchase decisions and other consumers may need to get information and be more involved in the decision process before making a purchase. The level of involvement reflects how personally important or interested you are in consuming a product and how much information you need to make a decision. The level of involvement in buying decisions may be considered a continuum from decisions that are fairly routine (consumers are not very involved) to decisions that require extensive thought and a high level of involvement. Whether a decision is low, high, or limited, involvement varies by consumer, not by product, although some products such as purchasing a house typically require a high-involvement for all consumers. Consumers with no experience purchasing a product may have more involvement than someone who is replacing a product.

You have probably thought about many products you want or need but never did much more than that. At other times, you’ve probably looked at dozens of products, compared them, and then decided not to purchase any one of them. When you run out of products such as milk or bread that you buy on a regular basis, you may buy the product as soon as you recognize the need because you do not need to search for information or evaluate alternatives. As Nike would put it, you “just do it.” Low-involvement decisions are, however, typically products that are relatively inexpensive and pose a low risk to the buyer if she makes a mistake by purchasing them.

Consumers often engage in routine response behavior when they make low-involvement decisions—that is, they make automatic purchase decisions based on limited information or information they have gathered in the past. For example, if you always order a Diet Coke at lunch, you’re engaging in routine response behavior. You may not even think about other drink options at lunch because your routine is to order a Diet Coke, and you simply do it. Similarly, if you run out of Diet Coke at home, you may buy more without any information search.

Some low-involvement purchases are made with no planning or previous thought. These buying decisions are called impulse buying . While you’re waiting to check out at the grocery store, perhaps you see a magazine with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on the cover and buy it on the spot simply because you want it. You might see a roll of tape at a check-out stand and remember you need one or you might see a bag of chips and realize you’re hungry or just want them. These are items that are typically low-involvement decisions. Low-involvement decisions aren’t necessarily products purchased on impulse, although they can be.

By contrast, high-involvement decisions carry a higher risk to buyers if they fail, are complex, and/or have high price tags. A car, a house, and an insurance policy are examples. These items are not purchased often but are relevant and important to the buyer. Buyers don’t engage in routine response behavior when purchasing high-involvement products. Instead, consumers engage in what’s called extended problem solving , where they spend a lot of time comparing different aspects such as the features of the products, prices, and warranties.

High-involvement decisions can cause buyers a great deal of postpurchase dissonance (anxiety) if they are unsure about their purchases or if they had a difficult time deciding between two alternatives. Companies that sell high-involvement products are aware that postpurchase dissonance can be a problem. Frequently, they try to offer consumers a lot of information about their products, including why they are superior to competing brands and how they won’t let the consumer down. Salespeople may be utilized to answer questions and do a lot of customer “hand-holding.”

Allstate's logo

Allstate’s “You’re in Good Hands” advertisements are designed to convince consumers that the insurance company won’t let them down.

Mike Mozart – Allstate, – CC BY 2.0.

Limited problem solving falls somewhere between low-involvement (routine) and high-involvement (extended problem solving) decisions. Consumers engage in limited problem solving when they already have some information about a good or service but continue to search for a little more information. Assume you need a new backpack for a hiking trip. While you are familiar with backpacks, you know that new features and materials are available since you purchased your last backpack. You’re going to spend some time looking for one that’s decent because you don’t want it to fall apart while you’re traveling and dump everything you’ve packed on a hiking trail. You might do a little research online and come to a decision relatively quickly. You might consider the choices available at your favorite retail outlet but not look at every backpack at every outlet before making a decision. Or you might rely on the advice of a person you know who’s knowledgeable about backpacks. In some way you shorten or limit your involvement and the decision-making process.

Products, such as chewing gum, which may be low-involvement for many consumers often use advertising such as commercials and sales promotions such as coupons to reach many consumers at once. Companies also try to sell products such as gum in as many locations as possible. Many products that are typically high-involvement such as automobiles may use more personal selling to answer consumers’ questions. Brand names can also be very important regardless of the consumer’s level of purchasing involvement. Consider a low- versus high-involvement decision—say, purchasing a tube of toothpaste versus a new car. You might routinely buy your favorite brand of toothpaste, not thinking much about the purchase (engage in routine response behavior), but not be willing to switch to another brand either. Having a brand you like saves you “search time” and eliminates the evaluation period because you know what you’re getting.

When it comes to the car, you might engage in extensive problem solving but, again, only be willing to consider a certain brand or brands. For example, in the 1970s, American-made cars had such a poor reputation for quality that buyers joked that a car that’s “not Jap [Japanese made] is crap.” The quality of American cars is very good today, but you get the picture. If it’s a high-involvement product you’re purchasing, a good brand name is probably going to be very important to you. That’s why the manufacturers of products that are typically high-involvement decisions can’t become complacent about the value of their brands.

1970s American Cars

(click to see video)

Today, Lexus is the automotive brand that experiences the most customer loyalty. For a humorous, tongue-in-cheek look at why the brand reputation of American carmakers suffered in the 1970s, check out this clip.

Stages in the Buying Process

Figure 3.9 “Stages in the Consumer’s Purchasing Process” outlines the buying stages consumers go through. At any given time, you’re probably in a buying stage for a product or service. You’re thinking about the different types of things you want or need to eventually buy, how you are going to find the best ones at the best price, and where and how will you buy them. Meanwhile, there are other products you have already purchased that you’re evaluating. Some might be better than others. Will you discard them, and if so, how? Then what will you buy? Where does that process start?

Figure 3.9 Stages in the Consumer’s Purchasing Process

Stages in the Consumer's Purchasing Process

Stage 1. Need Recognition

You plan to backpack around the country after you graduate and don’t have a particularly good backpack. You realize that you must get a new backpack. You may also be thinking about the job you’ve accepted after graduation and know that you must get a vehicle to commute. Recognizing a need may involve something as simple as running out of bread or milk or realizing that you must get a new backpack or a car after you graduate. Marketers try to show consumers how their products and services add value and help satisfy needs and wants. Do you think it’s a coincidence that Gatorade, Powerade, and other beverage makers locate their machines in gymnasiums so you see them after a long, tiring workout? Previews at movie theaters are another example. How many times have you have heard about a movie and had no interest in it—until you saw the preview? Afterward, you felt like you had to see it.

Stage 2. Search for Information

For products such as milk and bread, you may simply recognize the need, go to the store, and buy more. However, if you are purchasing a car for the first time or need a particular type of backpack, you may need to get information on different alternatives. Maybe you have owned several backpacks and know what you like and don’t like about them. Or there might be a particular brand that you’ve purchased in the past that you liked and want to purchase in the future. This is a great position for the company that owns the brand to be in—something firms strive for. Why? Because it often means you will limit your search and simply buy their brand again.

If what you already know about backpacks doesn’t provide you with enough information, you’ll probably continue to gather information from various sources. Frequently people ask friends, family, and neighbors about their experiences with products. Magazines such as Consumer Reports (considered an objective source of information on many consumer products) or Backpacker Magazine might also help you. Similar information sources are available for learning about different makes and models of cars.

Internet shopping sites such as Amazon.com have become a common source of information about products. Epinions.com is an example of consumer-generated review site. The site offers product ratings, buying tips, and price information. Amazon.com also offers product reviews written by consumers. People prefer “independent” sources such as this when they are looking for product information. However, they also often consult non-neutral sources of information, such advertisements, brochures, company Web sites, and salespeople.

Stage 3. Product Evaluation

Obviously, there are hundreds of different backpacks and cars available. It’s not possible for you to examine all of them. In fact, good salespeople and marketing professionals know that providing you with too many choices can be so overwhelming that you might not buy anything at all. Consequently, you may use choice heuristics or rules of thumb that provide mental shortcuts in the decision-making process. You may also develop evaluative criteria to help you narrow down your choices. Backpacks or cars that meet your initial criteria before the consideration will determine the set of brands you’ll consider for purchase.

Evaluative criteria are certain characteristics that are important to you such as the price of the backpack, the size, the number of compartments, and color. Some of these characteristics are more important than others. For example, the size of the backpack and the price might be more important to you than the color—unless, say, the color is hot pink and you hate pink. You must decide what criteria are most important and how well different alternatives meet the criteria.

Figure 3.10

A man with an Osprey backpack

Osprey backpacks are known for their durability. The company has a special design and quality control center, and Osprey’s salespeople annually take a “canyon testing” trip to see how well the company’s products perform.

melanie innis – break – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Companies want to convince you that the evaluative criteria you are considering reflect the strengths of their products. For example, you might not have thought about the weight or durability of the backpack you want to buy. However, a backpack manufacturer such as Osprey might remind you through magazine ads, packaging information, and its Web site that you should pay attention to these features—features that happen to be key selling points of its backpacks. Automobile manufacturers may have similar models, so don’t be afraid to add criteria to help you evaluate cars in your consideration set.

Stage 4. Product Choice and Purchase

With low-involvement purchases, consumers may go from recognizing a need to purchasing the product. However, for backpacks and cars, you decide which one to purchase after you have evaluated different alternatives. In addition to which backpack or which car, you are probably also making other decisions at this stage, including where and how to purchase the backpack (or car) and on what terms. Maybe the backpack was cheaper at one store than another, but the salesperson there was rude. Or maybe you decide to order online because you’re too busy to go to the mall. Other decisions related to the purchase, particularly those related to big-ticket items, are made at this point. For example, if you’re buying a high-definition television, you might look for a store that will offer you credit or a warranty.

Stage 5. Postpurchase Use and Evaluation

At this point in the process you decide whether the backpack you purchased is everything it was cracked up to be. Hopefully it is. If it’s not, you’re likely to suffer what’s called postpurchase dissonance . You might call it buyer’s remorse . Typically, dissonance occurs when a product or service does not meet your expectations. Consumers are more likely to experience dissonance with products that are relatively expensive and that are purchased infrequently.

You want to feel good about your purchase, but you don’t. You begin to wonder whether you should have waited to get a better price, purchased something else, or gathered more information first. Consumers commonly feel this way, which is a problem for sellers. If you don’t feel good about what you’ve purchased from them, you might return the item and never purchase anything from them again. Or, worse yet, you might tell everyone you know how bad the product was.

Companies do various things to try to prevent buyer’s remorse. For smaller items, they might offer a money back guarantee or they might encourage their salespeople to tell you what a great purchase you made. How many times have you heard a salesperson say, “That outfit looks so great on you!” For larger items, companies might offer a warranty, along with instruction booklets, and a toll-free troubleshooting line to call or they might have a salesperson call you to see if you need help with product. Automobile companies may offer loaner cars when you bring your car in for service.

Companies may also try to set expectations in order to satisfy customers. Service companies such as restaurants do this frequently. Think about when the hostess tells you that your table will be ready in 30 minutes. If they seat you in 15 minutes, you are much happier than if they told you that your table would be ready in 15 minutes, but it took 30 minutes to seat you. Similarly, if a store tells you that your pants will be altered in a week and they are ready in three days, you’ll be much more satisfied than if they said your pants would be ready in three days, yet it took a week before they were ready.

Stage 6. Disposal of the Product

There was a time when neither manufacturers nor consumers thought much about how products got disposed of, so long as people bought them. But that’s changed. How products are being disposed of is becoming extremely important to consumers and society in general. Computers and batteries, which leech chemicals into landfills, are a huge problem. Consumers don’t want to degrade the environment if they don’t have to, and companies are becoming more aware of this fact.

Take for example Crystal Light, a water-based beverage that’s sold in grocery stores. You can buy it in a bottle. However, many people buy a concentrated form of it, put it in reusable pitchers or bottles, and add water. That way, they don’t have to buy and dispose of plastic bottle after plastic bottle, damaging the environment in the process. Windex has done something similar with its window cleaner. Instead of buying new bottles of it all the time, you can purchase a concentrate and add water. You have probably noticed that most grocery stores now sell cloth bags consumers can reuse instead of continually using and discarding of new plastic or paper bags.

Figure 3.11

Recycling center pile

The hike up to Mount Everest used to be pristine. Now it looks more like this. Who’s responsible? Are consumers or companies responsible, or both?

jqpubliq – Recycling Center Pile – CC BY-SA 2.0.

Other companies are less concerned about conservation than they are about planned obsolescence . Planned obsolescence is a deliberate effort by companies to make their products obsolete, or unusable, after a period of time. The goal is to improve a company’s sales by reducing the amount of time between the repeat purchases consumers make of products. When a software developer introduces a new version of product, it is usually designed to be incompatible with older versions of it. For example, not all the formatting features are the same in Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. Sometimes documents do not translate properly when opened in the newer version. Consequently, you will be more inclined to upgrade to the new version so you can open all Word documents you receive.

Products that are disposable are another way in which firms have managed to reduce the amount of time between purchases. Disposable lighters are an example. Do you know anyone today that owns a nondisposable lighter? Believe it or not, prior to the 1960s, scarcely anyone could have imagined using a cheap disposable lighter. There are many more disposable products today than there were in years past—including everything from bottled water and individually wrapped snacks to single-use eye drops and cell phones.

Figure 3.12

An old trench art lighter

Disposable lighters came into vogue in the United States in the 1960s. You probably don’t own a cool, nondisposable lighter like one of these, but you don’t have to bother refilling it with lighter fluid either.

Europeana staff photographer – A trench art lighter – public domain.

Key Takeaways

Consumer behavior looks at the many reasons why people buy things and later dispose of them. Consumers go through distinct buying phases when they purchase products: (1) realizing the need or wanting something, (2) searching for information about the item, (3) evaluating different products, (4) choosing a product and purchasing it, (5) using and evaluating the product after the purchase, and (6) disposing of the product. A consumer’s level of involvement is how interested he or she is in buying and consuming a product. Low-involvement products are usually inexpensive and pose a low risk to the buyer if he or she makes a mistake by purchasing them. High-involvement products carry a high risk to the buyer if they fail, are complex, or have high price tags. Limited-involvement products fall somewhere in between.

Review Questions

  • How do low-involvement decisions differ from high-involvement decisions in terms of relevance, price, frequency, and the risks their buyers face? Name some products in each category that you’ve recently purchased.
  • What stages do people go through in the buying process for high-involvement decisions? How do the stages vary for low-involvement decisions?
  • What is postpurchase dissonance and what can companies do to reduce it?

Principles of Marketing Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book

8 Ways to Solve Prospects' Problems Through Your Marketing

Corey Wainwright

Updated: August 26, 2017

Published: May 14, 2012

You're in business because you provide solutions. You've got answers. You're the (wo)man with the plan. Let's take a look at some of our customers, for example. AmeriFirst Home Mortgage helps home buyers find the right mortgage for them. In The News helps businesses memorialize their accomplishments with custom lamination and engraving. HubSpot helps marketers get an end-to-end view of their marketing activities to determine which channels provide the most ROI.

extensive problem solving marketing

Notice how none of those explanations of what each company provides focused on the specific product or service? That's because the product or service isn't what makes a lead want to be your customer -- it's a solution to their problem that people care about. Your business is successful because it provides some solution, but if your campaigns seem to be flailing a bit, it may be because you haven't applied that problem-solving principle to your marketing.

Download Now: Free Content Marketing Planning Templates

Not yet, anyway. This post will give you plenty of ideas to implement that will make your marketing more solution-oriented. That way, your prospects see you as a helpful problem solver they actually like and trust ... not just a peddler of your product or service!

How to Inject Problem Solving Into Your Marketing

1) Create how-to blog content. As most inbound marketers know, success starts with content; so begin by writing blog posts that solve peoples' problems! If you'll allow me to get meta for a minute, this very blog post about how to be a problem solver is, well, solving a problem. People reading this presumably want to know how to inject more problem solving into their marketing, and this post is providing solutions to that problem. When writing your how-to blog content, focus on providing actionable advice. There's already a ton of content out there that says a lot without really saying anything at all. But you want your content to give you credibility and authority ; you can do that by making sure your reader walks away from the blog post with at least one thing he or she can do to be better.

2) Create lead gen offers that make people's lives easier. Helpful content doesn't end with blog posts, nor does successful marketing. You need to convert that blog traffic into leads, and if you've written some amazing content, your readers will probably want to learn more from you. Create lead gen content that will help your readers be more successful -- at work, at home, whatever it is your customers need. For example, HubSpot has released tons of ebooks that show marketers how to do something, like set up their Facebook page timeline , for instance. Or perhaps you'd like to create some templates for your audience, like we did with our downloadable leads waterfall graph that we encourage all marketers to use . If you're looking for some inspiration, we've written an entire guide to creating lead gen offers quickly .

3) Source problems to feed your content. I'm asking you to create all this content, but where will the topics come from? You should be speaking with the people on the front lines of your business on a daily basis -- employees working in Services, Support, and Sales hear questions from prospects and customers during every conversation. Ask all employees to document these questions and problems and send them your way to feed your solution-oriented content. And if any of them fancy themselves a writer, they can document their answers, too, for a guest spot on your blog! ( Tip: As you write this content, be sure to keep other departments in the know. Sales, Services, and Support should be equipped with an arsenal of content they can send to their prospects and customers that answers their questions. This will not only establish trust and authority between employees and your prospects and customers, but for Sales, it could shorten the buying cycle, too.)

4) Leverage the brainpower of your community. Part of being a helpful, solution-oriented marketer is connecting people with content that solves their problems ... regardless of the source. Look, nobody knows everything. You're surrounded by people that have data, research, insights, and experiences from which your audience would benefit. Tap into that brainpower, and be the one to share it with the rest of your community! We're doing this now, in fact, with our push for our social media community to contribute ideas for our next blog post.

Greatest list of marketing pet peeves - HubSpot

Not only is this an excellent way to build strong relationships with others in your industry, but it also shows that you're committed to providing answers for people regardless of the source.

5) Monitor and respond to social media inquiries. Speaking of social media, your active presence on social sites can contribute to your reputation as a thought leader, problem solver, and all around awesome business. This means more than just monitoring your Twitter stream for questions you can answer, though. Think outside of the box a bit! Visit places like LinkedIn Answers , Quora, and industry forums to see what problems people are having. Take a look at how HubSpotter Meghan Keaney Anderson improved both HubSpot's clout, and her own, by answering Scott's question on Quora. Take special note of how she linked back to a blog post HubSpot wrote that answers his question, too!

What is a content map - insights from HubSpot's product marketing manager

6) Optimize for long-tail search. Long-tail search is a critical component of any well-rounded SEO and content strategy, and it provides tremendous opportunity for marketers that are looking to be more solution-oriented with their content. That's because many long-tail keywords are centered around interrogative queries, like "what makes a good blog post," or "where should I host my blog," or "how to start a blog." Not only does centering content and SEO around long-tail keywords of this nature give you another avenue to assert yourself as a helpful marketer instead of a pushy salesperson, but it also helps you achieve higher search rankings quicker, and with a more niche market than short-tail and head terms allow. And if the keywords provide solutions to evergreen problems -- in other words, problems that your audience will always face -- your website will also enjoy ongoing organic traffic as a result of your high ranking for these long-tail queries!

7) Nurture leads with emails based on their problems. Now that you have all of this fantastic, solution-oriented content, you should use it to nurture your leads! After all, you can't have a successful lead nurturing program without a full arsenal of content. Consider segmenting your lists and creating lead nurturing tracks that address specific buyer problems. You can identify the problems right in your landing page forms. Take a look at the optional field we at HubSpot include on almost all of our landing pages to allow us to do this type of nurturing.

lead generation form field

By asking leads to identify their biggest marketing challenge, we get a better idea of what problems our audience face so we can create content to address it, and simultaneously target prospects in our email sends according to the problems they need an answer to.

8) Create apps and tools that help solve a problem. Tools and apps -- especially free ones -- are mutually beneficial for businesses and their audience. Let's take one of HubSpot's free tools, Marketing Grader , as an example. Marketing Grader helps solve a problem many marketers face ... they don't know how good their marketing is. When you enter your website into the free tool, you get a comprehensive report that tells you not just an arbitrary grade, but also actionable advice on exactly what areas of your marketing need improvement, and how you can do it. It even provides links to content that helps solve your problems. So ask yourself: "Self, is there a tool or mobile app I could develop to help my leads and customers?" If there's a problem people in your industry face, make your business the one that solves it!

How do you inject problem solving into your marketing to gain the trust and loyalty of your prospects?

Image credit: Tomasz Stasiuk

Blog - Content Mapping Template

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  • 3.3 The Consumer Purchasing Decision Process
  • 1 Unit Introduction
  • In the Spotlight
  • 1.1 Marketing and the Marketing Process
  • 1.2 The Marketing Mix and the 4Ps of Marketing
  • 1.3 Factors Comprising and Affecting the Marketing Environment
  • 1.4 Evolution of the Marketing Concept
  • 1.5 Determining Consumer Needs and Wants
  • 1.6 Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • 1.7 Ethical Marketing
  • Chapter Summary
  • Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
  • Critical Thinking Exercises
  • Building Your Personal Brand
  • What Do Marketers Do?
  • Marketing Plan Exercise
  • Closing Company Case
  • 2.1 Developing a Strategic Plan
  • 2.2 The Role of Marketing in the Strategic Planning Process
  • 2.3 Purpose and Structure of the Marketing Plan
  • 2.4 Marketing Plan Progress Using Metrics
  • 2.5 Ethical Issues in Developing a Marketing Strategy
  • 2 Unit Introduction
  • 3.1 Understanding Consumer Markets and Buying Behavior
  • 3.2 Factors That Influence Consumer Buying Behavior
  • 3.4 Ethical Issues in Consumer Buying Behavior
  • 4.1 The Business-to-Business (B2B) Market
  • 4.2 Buyers and Buying Situations in a B2B Market
  • 4.3 Major Influences on B2B Buyer Behavior
  • 4.4 Stages in the B2B Buying Process
  • 4.5 Ethical Issues in B2B Marketing
  • 5.1 Market Segmentation and Consumer Markets
  • 5.2 Segmentation of B2B Markets
  • 5.3 Segmentation of International Markets
  • 5.4 Essential Factors in Effective Market Segmentation
  • 5.5 Selecting Target Markets
  • 5.6 Product Positioning
  • 5.7 Ethical Concerns and Target Marketing
  • 6.1 Marketing Research and Big Data
  • 6.2 Sources of Marketing Information
  • 6.3 Steps in a Successful Marketing Research Plan
  • 6.4 Ethical Issues in Marketing Research
  • 7.1 The Global Market and Advantages of International Trade
  • 7.2 Assessment of Global Markets for Opportunities
  • 7.3 Entering the Global Arena
  • 7.4 Marketing in a Global Environment
  • 7.5 Ethical Issues in the Global Marketplace
  • 8.1 Strategic Marketing: Standardization versus Adaptation
  • 8.2 Diversity and Inclusion Marketing
  • 8.3 Multicultural Marketing
  • 8.4 Marketing to Hispanic, Black, and Asian Consumers
  • 8.5 Marketing to Sociodemographic Groups
  • 8.6 Ethical Issues in Diversity Marketing
  • 3 Unit Introduction
  • 9.1 Products, Services, and Experiences
  • 9.2 Product Items, Product Lines, and Product Mixes
  • 9.3 The Product Life Cycle
  • 9.4 Marketing Strategies at Each Stage of the Product Life Cycle
  • 9.5 Branding and Brand Development
  • 9.6 Forms of Brand Development, Brand Loyalty, and Brand Metrics
  • 9.7 Creating Value through Packaging and Labeling
  • 9.8 Environmental Concerns Regarding Packaging
  • 9.9 Ethical Issues in Packaging
  • 10.1 New Products from a Customer’s Perspective
  • 10.2 Stages of the New Product Development Process
  • 10.3 The Use of Metrics in Evaluating New Products
  • 10.4 Factors Contributing to the Success or Failure of New Products
  • 10.5 Stages in the Consumer Adoption Process for New Products
  • 10.6 Ethical Considerations in New Product Development
  • 11.1 Classification of Services
  • 11.2 The Service-Profit Chain Model and the Service Marketing Triangle
  • 11.3 The Gap Model of Service Quality
  • 11.4 Ethical Considerations in Providing Services
  • 12.1 Pricing and Its Role in the Marketing Mix
  • 12.2 The Five Critical Cs of Pricing
  • 12.3 The Five-Step Procedure for Establishing Pricing Policy
  • 12.4 Pricing Strategies for New Products
  • 12.5 Pricing Strategies and Tactics for Existing Products
  • 12.6 Ethical Considerations in Pricing
  • 13.1 The Promotion Mix and Its Elements
  • 13.2 The Communication Process
  • 13.3 Integrated Marketing Communications
  • 13.4 Steps in the IMC Planning Process
  • 13.5 Ethical Issues in Marketing Communication
  • 14.1 Advertising in the Promotion Mix
  • 14.2 Major Decisions in Developing an Advertising Plan
  • 14.3 The Use of Metrics to Measure Advertising Campaign Effectiveness
  • 14.4 Public Relations and Its Role in the Promotion Mix
  • 14.5 The Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Relations
  • 14.6 Ethical Concerns in Advertising and Public Relations
  • 15.1 Personal Selling and Its Role in the Promotion Mix
  • 15.2 Classifications of Salespeople Involved in Personal Selling
  • 15.3 Steps in the Personal Selling Process
  • 15.4 Management of the Sales Force
  • 15.5 Sales Promotion and Its Role in the Promotion Mix
  • 15.6 Main Types of Sales Promotion
  • 15.7 Ethical Issues in Personal Selling and Sales Promotion
  • 16.1 Traditional Direct Marketing
  • 16.2 Social Media and Mobile Marketing
  • 16.3 Metrics Used to Evaluate the Success of Online Marketing
  • 16.4 Ethical Issues in Digital Marketing and Social Media
  • 17.1 The Use and Value of Marketing Channels
  • 17.2 Types of Marketing Channels
  • 17.3 Factors Influencing Channel Choice
  • 17.4 Managing the Distribution Channel
  • 17.5 The Supply Chain and Its Functions
  • 17.6 Logistics and Its Functions
  • 17.7 Ethical Issues in Supply Chain Management
  • 18.1 Retailing and the Role of Retailers in the Distribution Channel
  • 18.2 Major Types of Retailers
  • 18.3 Retailing Strategy Decisions
  • 18.4 Recent Trends in Retailing
  • 18.5 Wholesaling
  • 18.6 Recent Trends in Wholesaling
  • 18.7 Ethical Issues in Retailing and Wholesaling
  • 19.1 Sustainable Marketing
  • 19.2 Traditional Marketing versus Sustainable Marketing
  • 19.3 The Benefits of Sustainable Marketing
  • 19.4 Sustainable Marketing Principles
  • 19.5 Purpose-Driven Marketing

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • 1 Explain the first stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.
  • 2 Summarize the second stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.
  • 3 Describe the third stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.
  • 4 Discuss the fourth stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.
  • 5 Explain the fifth and final stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.

Consumer Decision Process

This chapter has examined many of the factors that influence consumer buying behavior, but behind the visible act of making a purchase lies an important decision process that takes place before, during, and after the purchase of a product or service. Figure 3.12 shows the five stages of the consumer decision process .

A buyer passes through five stages of the consumer decision process when making choices about which products or services to buy. Let’s examine each, starting at the beginning.

Stage 1: Need Recognition

The buying process starts when you sense a difference between your actual state and your desired state. This is referred to as problem awareness or need recognition. You might become aware of a need through internal stimuli (such as feeling hungry or thirsty when you’re on a long road trip) or external stimuli (such as passing a bakery and smelling the wonderful aroma of cookies baking).

Sometimes recognizing the problem or need is easy. You’ve run out of toilet paper or milk. But other times recognizing the problem or issue is more complicated. For example, think about this first stage in terms of your decision to enroll in college. What was the stimulus that triggered your interest in attending college? Are you a working adult who has recognized that upward advancement in your company won’t happen without possessing a college degree? Have you long aspired to be an entrepreneur, and you wanted to get some business and marketing courses under your belt so that you’re better prepared for the challenges of entrepreneurship? Perhaps a career in marketing has been on your internal radar since high school, and you’ve decided to take the plunge and get your degree in marketing. Or perhaps, after graduating from high school, your parents gave you an ultimatum—either find a job or enroll in college.

Stage 2: Information Search

Now that you’ve identified the problem or need, you’ll be inclined to search for more information. There are two different search states. The milder search state is called “heightened attention,” in which you become more receptive to information about the product or service. The stronger search state is called “active information search,” in which you might do some research about the product or service on the Internet (referred to as an internal search), ask friends and/or family members their opinions (what’s known as an external search), or even visit stores to view and touch the product (called an experiential search).

Keep in mind, of course, that not all needs/problems identified in Stage 1 will require this second stage. If you’ve run out of bread or toilet paper, you’re probably not going to do an information search; rather, you’ll just go to the store to buy what you need, and your information search may be as simple as checking prices at the grocery store to see if your favorite brand is available or another brand is on sale. However, purchase decisions of more consequence will usually trigger an information search of some type.

Again, consider the process you went through in deciding which college to attend. What sources of information did you use to find out about the colleges or universities you considered attending? Did you look at their websites, talk with friends or family who attended that school, or perhaps even visit the campus and meet with an admissions counselor?

Stage 3: Evaluation of Alternatives

Consumers are said to view a product or service as a “bundle of product attributes,” and you evaluate several attributes of a product or service in reaching your purchase decision. For example, if you’re buying a smartphone, you’ll consider factors such as battery life, speed, storage capacity, or price. If you’re booking a hotel, you’ll probably consider its location, cleanliness, free Wi-Fi, whether it has a free breakfast in the morning or a pool, and of course price.

What bundle of attributes did you use when evaluating your college alternatives? You may have considered factors such as location, size of the campus, whether the school had the program of study you wanted, if it had online learning, and cost.

Stage 4: Purchase Decision

This stage involves actually reaching a decision on the purchase of the product or service. One way people navigate all the information, evaluations, and choices in their purchase decision is to use heuristics —mental shortcuts or “rules of thumb.” Heuristics are types of preexisting value judgments that people use to make decisions.

For example, do you believe that the more expensive product is always of higher quality than the lower-priced product? That’s known as the price = quality heuristic. Brand loyalty is another heuristic people use in reaching their purchase decisions. For example, do you eat cereal? Do you always buy the same brand, or do you buy whatever’s on sale or a brand for which you have a coupon? Country of origin is still another heuristic. Given a choice, do you prefer to buy products made in the United States versus products made in other countries?

How did you make your purchase decision to enroll in your college or university? What heuristics did you use?

Stage 5: Post-Purchase Evaluation

After purchasing the product or service, you’ll experience either satisfaction or dissatisfaction. You may have second thoughts after making a purchase decision, and these doubts lead to cognitive dissonance , or buyer’s remorse—tension caused by uncertainty about the correctness of your decision. This may lead you to search for additional information to confirm the wisdom of your decision in order to reduce that tension.

What determines if a consumer is very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, or dissatisfied with his or her purchase? Satisfaction is a function of the closeness between the buyer’s expectations and the product’s perceived performance. If the product’s performance falls short of expectations, you’ll be dissatisfied. If the product’s performance meets your expectations, you’ll be satisfied, and if the product’s performance exceeds your expectations, you’ll be very satisfied.

Think about the purchase decision you made when you decided to enroll in your college or university. Are you very satisfied, satisfied, or dissatisfied with your decision? Refer to Table 3.1 for a summary of the five stages of the consumer decision process.

Careers In Marketing

You are also a consumer.

Learn about the five stages of the consumer decision process in this video from Open Up (Upatras) Entrepreneurship and this article from Business Study Notes .

GWI , a company that researches global consumer thinking, published its 2022 consumer trends report , which showed that consumers’ needs and priorities have shifted. Read the report and see if you find the same results for yourself. Have your priorities and needs changed since the pandemic hit? What are the other factors influencing your needs assessment?

Several tools can help you with a personal needs assessment. Practice your marketing skills on yourself by trying this needs assessment worksheet . This personal awareness will help you in many ways, including finding the right job that best fits your interests and abilities. Also take a few assessments and compare your results to better identify jobs worth learning more about. There are several free career aptitude tests to try:

  • 123 Career Test
  • Interest Assessment
  • Work Values Matcher
  • A Personality Color Test

In addition to career aptitude tests, personality tests assess your skill level and your ability to succeed in a career. Try a few of these:

  • Typology Central Jung Personality Test
  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Balance Careers site also provides a wealth of resources on additional aptitude, personality, talent, and preemployment tests. It’s worth your time to dive into this information to help you identify which career might be your best fit.

Knowledge Check

It’s time to check your knowledge on the concepts presented in this section. Refer to the Answer Key at the end of the book for feedback.

  • Need recognition
  • Information search
  • Evaluation of alternatives
  • Purchase decision
  • Problem identification
  • Post-purchase evaluation
  • It is the mental conflict that occurs when a person’s behaviors and beliefs do not align.
  • It is a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments more quickly and efficiently.
  • It is a function of the closeness between your expectations of a product or service and its actual performance.
  • It is the process of assigning the cause of behavior to either internal or external characteristics.

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  • Location: Houston, Texas
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6.3 Types of Consumer Decisions

As you read through the stages of the decision making process, did you think “Wait a minute. I do this sometimes but not all the time”? That is indicative of the different levels of involvement within the decision making process. In this section, we will examine this difference in more detail and how it may impact the marketing strategy.

Levels of Involvement in Decision Making

As you have seen, many factors influence a consumer’s behavior. Depending on a consumer’s experience and knowledge, some consumers may be able to make quick purchase decisions and other consumers may need to get information and be more involved in the decision process before making a purchase. The  level of involvement  reflects how personally important or interested you are in consuming a product and how much information you need to make a decision. The level of involvement in buying decisions may be considered a continuum from decisions that are fairly routine (consumers are not very involved) to decisions that require extensive thought and a high level of involvement. Whether a decision is low, high, or limited, involvement varies by consumer, not by product, although some products such as purchasing a house typically require a high-involvement for all consumers. Consumers with no experience purchasing a product may have more involvement than someone who is replacing a product.

You have probably thought about many products you want or need but never did much more than that. At other times, you’ve probably looked at dozens of products, compared them, and then decided not to purchase any one of them. When you run out of products such as milk or bread that you buy on a regular basis, you may buy the product as soon as you recognize the need because you do not need to search for information or evaluate alternatives. As Nike would put it, you “just do it.” Low-involvement decisions are, however, typically products that are relatively inexpensive and pose a low risk to the buyer if they makes a mistake by purchasing them.

Consumers often engage in routine, or habitual, behavior when they make low-involvement decisions—that is, they make automatic purchase decisions based on limited information or information they have gathered in the past. For example, if you always order a Diet Coke at lunch, you’re engaging in routine response behavior. You may not even think about other drink options at lunch because your routine is to order a Diet Coke, and you simply do it. Similarly, if you run out of Diet Coke at home, you may buy more without any information search.

Some low-involvement purchases are made with no planning or previous thought. These buying decisions are called impulse buying. While you’re waiting to check out at the grocery store, perhaps you see a magazine with the latest celebrity or influencer on the cover and buy it on the spot simply because you want it. You might see a roll of tape at a check-out stand and remember you need one or you might see a bag of chips and realize you’re hungry or just want them.

By contrast, high-involvement decisions carry a higher risk to buyers if they fail, are complex, and/or have high price tags. A car, a house, and an insurance policy are examples. These items are not purchased often but are relevant and important to the buyer. Buyers don’t engage in routine response behavior when purchasing high-involvement products. Instead, consumers engage in what’s called extended problem solving where they spend a lot of time comparing different aspects such as the features of the products, prices, and warranties.

High-involvement decisions can cause buyers a great deal of cognitive (postpurchase) dissonance (anxiety) if they are unsure about their purchases or if they had a difficult time deciding between two alternatives. Companies that sell high-involvement products are aware that dissonance can be a problem. Frequently, they try to offer consumers a lot of information about their products, including why they are superior to competing brands and how they won’t let the consumer down. Salespeople may be utilized to answer questions and do a lot of customer “hand-holding.”

A window with the Allstate insurance company logo.

Allstate’s “You’re in Good Hands” advertisements are designed to convince consumers that the insurance company won’t let them down.

Mike Mozart –  Allstate,  – CC BY 2.0.

Limited problem solving falls somewhere between low-involvement (routine) and high-involvement (extended problem solving) decisions. Consumers engage in limited problem solving when they already have some information about a good or service but continue to search for a little more information. Assume you need a new backpack for a hiking trip. While you are familiar with backpacks, you know that new features and materials are available since you purchased your last backpack. You’re going to spend some time looking for one that’s decent because you don’t want it to fall apart while you’re traveling and dump everything you’ve packed on a hiking trail. You might do a little research online and come to a decision relatively quickly. You might consider the choices available at your favorite retail outlet but not look at every backpack at every outlet before making a decision. Or you might rely on the advice of a person you know who’s knowledgeable about backpacks. In some way you shorten or limit your involvement and the decision-making process.

Products, such as chewing gum, which may be low-involvement for many consumers, often use advertising such as commercials and sales promotions such as coupons to reach many consumers at once. Companies also try to sell products such as gum in as many locations as possible.  Many products that are typically high-involvement such as automobiles may use more personal selling to answer consumers’ questions. Brand names can also be very important regardless of the consumer’s level of purchasing involvement. Consider a low- versus high-involvement decision—say, purchasing a tube of toothpaste versus a new car. You might routinely buy your favorite brand of toothpaste, not thinking much about the purchase (engage in routine response behavior), but not be willing to switch to another brand either. Having a brand you like saves you “search time” and eliminates the evaluation period because you know what you’re getting.

When it comes to the car, you might engage in extensive problem solving but, again, only be willing to consider a certain brand or brands. For example, in the 1970s, American-made cars had such a poor reputation for quality that buyers joked that a car that’s “not Jap [Japanese made] is crap.” The quality of American cars is very good today, but you get the picture. If it’s a high-involvement product you’re purchasing, a good brand name is probably going to be very important to you. That’s why the manufacturers of products that are typically high-involvement decisions can’t become complacent about the value of their brands.

You Try It!

Marketing Copyright © by Kim Donahue is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Extensive Problem Solving

In the choice process, extensive problem solving includes those consumer decisions requiring considerable cognitive activity, thought, and behavioral effort as compared to routinized choice behavior and habitual decision making . [1]

This type of decision making is usually associated with high-involvement purchases and when the customer has limited experience with the product category. [2]

  • ^ American Marketing Association. AMA Dictionary.
  • ^ Govoni, N.A. Dictionary of Marketing Communications, Sage Publications, (2004)

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Module 4: Identifying and Understanding Customer Behavior

Increasing sales with extended problem solving, learning objectives.

  • Describe how a retailer can increase sales from customers engaged in extended problem solving

Consumers with an extended problem solving mindset put a great deal of effort into their purchase decision, gathering information through research and taking care to evaluate all options, before arriving at a decision. Because of the time and energy committed to the search, this diligence is more likely dedicated to the selection and purchase of high-consideration or high-value items like cars, electronics and appliances. Or, it may be focused on something that is new or infrequently purchased. Thus, the consumer feels compelled to do more research to ensure their needs will be satisfied.

While it may be tempting to assume that these shoppers are mostly concerned with quantitative assessment of the alternatives, motivations can also be qualitative, building on external influences like cultural norms and family influences. Yet, it should be noted that these customers are deliberate in their process and are unlikely to be swayed directly by advertising, merchandising and promotion. As such, salespeople can be important in helping the consumer arrive at a decision.

For these shoppers, a salesperson will need to be able to engage the consumer to understand what their specific needs and concerns are, relative to the purchase. That is, what are they specifically hoping to get by buying the product– not the item itself, but what benefits it will provide? Further, the salesperson will need to be able to speak to how well specific features will meet the consumer’s stated needs. And, they will need to be educated on the features & benefits of both the goods they’re selling and those of competitive items, as they will likely need to compare and contract specific differences.

Because these consumers with an extended problem solving mindset are deliberate in their shopping process, salespeople should expect that they will not “close the sale,” during their first interaction. Instead, they may need to nurture the relationship with the customer, helping them arrive at their purchase decision over time. Thus, effective salespeople will be those who engage in follow-up with the shopper, making themselves available to answer questions or provide perspective.

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  • Marketing, Advertising, Sales & PR
  • Principles of Marketing

Types of Consumer Decision - Explained

What types of decisions do Consumers Make?

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Written by Jason Gordon

Updated at August 22nd, 2021

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Table of Contents

What are the types of consumer decisions.

Consumer decisions can be categorized into three primary types: 

  • Routinized Response - This is the kind of decision where you don't really have to think much about it. 
  • Limited Problem Solving - This type of purchase decision involves a little more thinking or a little more consideration. 
  • Extensive Problem Solving - This is when we're making a decision to purchase and we are really going to labor over that decision. 

Each of these is discussed further below. 

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What is a Routinized Response?

This is the kind of decision where you don't really have to think much about it. That is, it's a routine. In the context of making a purchase, this is when we make the decision to purchase without going through the consumer decision-making process. Generally, it means we simply follow or repeat a previous course of action. Think of going to the store and buying the same type or brand of grocery item that you buy every week. You do this as a routine, rather than identifying alternatives and comparing them. 

What is Limited Problem Solving?

This type of purchase decision involves a little more thinking or a little more consideration. Maybe we consider different products in making our purchase. Maybe we consider how much to buy. Whatever our considerations, we're going to spend more time and effort making this decision or making this purchase. 

What is Extensive Problem Solving?  

This is when we're making a decision to purchase and we are really going to labor over that decision. That is, we are really going to consider it thoroughly. We may do a great deal of research. We may consult friends or look at customer reviews. We generally use this approach when it is something that we have never bought before, its very technical in nature,  or when it is a very expensive item (like a car). Generally, this type of decision involves the most time, information, and effort in the evaluation of alternatives.

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4.3: Buyer behavior as problem solving

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Consumer behavior refers to buyers who are purchasing for personal, family, or group use. Consumer behavior can be thought of as the combination of efforts and results related to the consumer's need to solve problems. Consumer problem solving is triggered by the identification of some unmet need. A family consumes all of the milk in the house or the tires on the family care wear out or the bowling team is planning an end-of-the-season picnic. This presents the person with a problem which must be solved. Problems can be viewed in terms of two types of needs: physical (such as a need for food) or psychological (for example, the need to be accepted by others).

Although the difference is a subtle one, there is some benefit in distinguishing between needs and wants. A need is a basic deficiency given a particular essential item. You need food, water, air, security, and so forth. A want is placing certain personal criteria as to how that need must be fulfilled. Therefore, when we are hungry, we often have a specific food item in mind. Consequently, a teenager will lament to a frustrated parent that there is nothing to eat, standing in front of a full refrigerator. Most of marketing is in the want-fulfilling business, not the need-fulfilling business. Timex does not want you to buy just any watch, they want you to want a Timex brand watch. Likewise, Ralph Lauren wants you to want Polo when you shop for clothes. On the other hand, the American Cancer Association would like you to feel a need for a check-up and does not care which doctor you go to. In the end, however, marketing is mostly interested in creating and satisfying wants.

The decision process

Exhibit 10 outlines the process a consumer goes through in making a purchase decision. Each step is illustrated in the following sections of your text. Once the process is started, a potential buyer can withdraw at any stage of making the actual purchase. The tendency for a person to go through all six stages is likely only in certain buying situations—a first time purchase of a product, for instance, or when buying high priced, long-lasting, infrequently purchased articles. This is referred to as complex decision making .

For many products, the purchasing behavior is a routine affair in which the aroused need is satisfied in a habitual manner by repurchasing the same brand. That is, past reinforcement in learning experiences leads directly to buying, and thus the second and third stages are bypassed. This is called simple decision making . However, if something changes appreciably (price, product, availability, services), the buyer may re-enter the full decision process and consider alternative brands. Whether complex 0r simple, the first step is need identification. 1.

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Need identification

Whether we act to resolve a particular problem depends upon two factors: (1) the magnitude of the discrepancy between what we have and what we need, and (2) the importance of the problem. A consumer may desire a new Cadillac and own a five-year-old Chevrolet. The discrepancy may be fairly large but relatively unimportant compared to the other problems he/she faces. Conversely, an individual may own a car that is two years old and running very well. Yet, for various reasons, he/she may consider it extremely important to purchase a car this year. People must resolve these types of conflicts before they can proceed. Otherwise, the buying process for a given product stops at this point, probably in frustration.

Once the problem is recognized it must be defined in such a way that the consumer can actually initiate the action that will bring about a relevant problem solution. Note that, in many cases, problem recognition and problem definition occur simultaneously, such as a consumer running out of toothpaste. Consider the more complicated problem involved with status and image–how we want others to see us. For example, you may know that you are not satisfied with your appearance, but you may not be able to define it any more precisely than that. Consumers will not know where to begin solving their problem until the problem is adequately defined.

Marketers can become involved in the need recognition stage in three ways. First they need to know what problems consumers are facing in order to develop a marketing mix to help solve these problems. This requires that they measure problem recognition. Second, on occasion, marketers want to activate problem recognition. Public service announcements espousing the dangers of cigarette smoking is an example. Weekend and night shop hours are a response of retailers to the consumer problem of limited weekday shopping opportunities. This problem has become particularly important to families with two working adults. Finally, marketers can also shape the definition of the need or problem. If a consumer needs a new coat, does he define the problem as a need for inexpensive covering, a way to stay warm on the coldest days, a garment that will last several years, warm cover that will not attract odd looks from his peers, or an article of clothing that will express his personal sense of style? A salesperson or an ad may shape his answers.

Information search and processing

After a need is recognized, the prospective consumer may seek information to help identify and evaluate alternative products, services, and outlets that will meet that need. Such information can come from family, friends, personal observation, or other sources, such as Consumer Reports , salespeople, or mass media. The promotional component of the marketers offering is aimed at providing information to assist the consumer in their problem solving process. In some cases, the consumer already has the needed information based on past purchasing and consumption experience. Bad experiences and lack of satisfaction can destroy repeat purchases. The consumer with a need for tires may look for information in the local newspaper or ask friends for recommendation. If he has bought tires before and was satisfied, he may go to the same dealer and buy the same brand.

Information search can also identify new needs. As a tire shopper looks for information, she may decide that the tires are not the real problem, that the need is for a new car. At this point, the perceived need may change triggering a new informational search.

Information search involves mental as well as the physical activities that consumers must perform in order to make decisions and accomplish desired goals in the marketplace. It takes time, energy, money, and can often involve foregoing more desirable activities. The benefits of information search, however, can outweigh the costs. For example, engaging in a thorough information search may save money, improve quality of selection, or reduce risks. As noted in the integrated marketing box, the Internet is a valuable information source.

Information processing

When the search actually occurs, what do people do with the information? How do they spot, understand, and recall information? In other words, how do they process information? This broad topic is important for understanding buyer behavior in general as well as effective communication with buyers in particular, and it has received a great deal of study. Assessing how a person processes information is not an easy task. Often observation has served as the basis. Yet there are many theories as to how the process takes place. One widely accepted theory proposes a five-step sequence. 2.

• Exposure . Information processing starts with the exposure of consumers to some source of stimulation such as watching television, going to the supermarket, or receiving direct mail advertisements at home. In order to start the process, marketers must attract consumers to the stimulus or put it squarely in the path of people in the target market.

• Attention . Exposure alone does little unless people pay attention to the stimulus. At any moment, people are bombarded by all sorts of stimuli, but they have a limited capacity to process this input. They must devote mental resources to stimuli in order to process them; in other words, they must pay attention. Marketers can increase the likelihood of attention by providing informational cues that are relevant to the buyer.

• Perception . Perception involves classifying the incoming signals into meaningful categories, forming patterns, and assigning names or images to them. Perception is the assignment of meaning to stimuli received through the senses. (More will be said about perception later.)

• Retention . Storage of information for later reference, or retention, is the fourth step of the information-processing sequence. Actually, the role of retention or memory in the sequence is twofold. First, memory holds information while it is being processed throughout the sequence. Second, memory stores information for future, long-term use. Heavy repetition and putting a message to music are two things marketers do to enhance retention.

• Retrieval and application . The process by which information is recovered from the memory storehouse is called retrieval . Application is putting that information into the right context. If the buyer can retrieve relevant information about a product, brand, or store, he or she will apply it to solve a problem or meet a need.

Variations in how each step is carried out in the information-processing sequence also occur. Especially influential is the degree of elaboration. Elaborate processing, also called central processing, involves active manipulation of information. A person engaged in elaborate processing pays close attention to a message and thinks about it; he or she develops thoughts in support of or counter to the information received. In contrast, nonelaborate, or peripheral, processing involves passive manipulation of information 3. It is demonstrated by most airline passengers while a flight attendant reads preflight safety procedures. This degree of elaboration closely parallels the low-involvement, high-involvement theory, and the same logic applies.

Identification and evaluation of alternatives

After information is secured and processed, alternative products, services, and outlets are identified as viable options. The consumer evaluates these alternatives, and, if financially and psychologically able, makes a choice. The criteria used in evaluation varies from consumer to consumer just as the needs and information sources vary. One consumer may consider price most important while another puts more weight upon quality or convenience.

The search for alternatives and the methods used in the search are influenced by such factors as: (a) time and money costs; (b) how much information the consumer already has; (c) the amount of the perceived risk if a wrong selection is made; and (d) the consumer's pre-disposition toward particular choices as influenced by the attitude of the individual toward choice behavior. That is, there are individuals who find the selection process to be difficult and disturbing. For these people there is a tendency to keep the number of alternatives to a minimum, even if they have not gone through an extensive information search to find that their alternatives appear to be the very best. On the other hand, there are individuals who feel it necessary to collect a long list of alternatives. This tendency can appreciably slow down the decision-making function.

Product/service/outlet selection

The selection of an alternative, in many cases ,will require additional evaluation. For example, a consumer may select a favorite brand and go to a convenient outlet to make a purchase. Upon arrival at the dealer, the consumer finds that the desired brand is out-of-stock. At this point, additional evaluation is needed to decide whether to wait until the product comes in, accept a substitute, or go to another outlet. The selection and evaluation phases of consumer problem solving are closely related and often run sequentially, with outlet selection influencing product evaluation, or product selection influencing outlet evaluation.

The purchase decision

After much searching and evaluating, or perhaps very little, consumers at some point have to decide whether they are going to buy. Anything marketers can do to simplify purchasing will be attractive to buyers. In their advertising marketers could suggest the best size for a particular use, or the right wine to drink with a particular food. Sometimes several decision situations can be combined and marketed as one package. For example, travel agents often package travel tours.

To do a better marketing job at this stage of the buying process, a seller needs to know answers to many questions about consumers' shopping behavior. For instance, how much effort is the consumer willing to spend in shopping for the product? What factors influence when the consumer will actually purchase? Are there any conditions that would prohibit or delay purchase? Providing basic product, price, and location information through labels, advertising, personal selling, and public relations is an obvious starting point. Product sampling, coupons, and rebates may also provide an extra incentive to buy.

Actually determining how a consumer goes through the decision-making process is a difficult research task. As indicated in the Newsline box, there are new research methods to better assess this behavior.

Postpurchase behavior

All the behavior determinants and the steps of the buying process up to this point are operative before or during the time a purchase is made. However, a consumer's feelings and evaluations after the sale are also significant to a marketer, because they can influence repeat sales and also influence what the customer tells others about the product or brand.

Keeping the customer happy is what marketing is all about. Nevertheless, consumers typically experience some postpurchase anxiety after all but the most routine and inexpensive purchases. This anxiety reflects a phenomenon called cognitive dissonance . According to this theory, people strive for consistency among their cognitions (knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, values). When there are inconsistencies, dissonance exists, which people will try to eliminate. In some cases, the consumer makes the decision to buy a particular brand already aware of dissonant elements. In other instances, dissonance is aroused by disturbing information that is received after the purchase 4. The marketer may take specific steps to reduce postpurchase dissonance. Advertising that stresses the many positive attributes or confirms the popularity of the product can be helpful. Providing personal reinforcement has proven effective with big-ticket items such as automobiles and major appliances. Salespeople in these areas may send cards or may even make personal calls in order to reassure customers about their purchase.

Capsule 8: Review

Influencing factors of consumer behavior

While the decision-making process appears quite standardized, no two people make a decision in exactly the same way. As individuals, we have inherited and learned a great many behavioral tendencies: some controllable, some beyond our control. Further, the ways in which all these factors interact with one another ensures uniqueness. Although it is impossible for a marketer to react to the particular profile of a single consumer, it is possible to identify factors that tend to influence most consumers in predictable ways.

The factors that influence the consumer problem-solving process are numerous and complex. For example, the needs of men and women are different in respect to cosmetics; the extent of information search for a low-income person would be much greater when considering a new automobile as opposed to a loaf of bread; a consumer with extensive past purchasing experience in a product category might well approach the problem differently from one with no experience. Such influences must be understood to draw realistic conclusions about consumer behavior.

For purpose of discussion, it may be helpful to group these various influences into related sets. Exhibit 11 provides such a framework. Situational, external, and internal influences are shown as having an impact on the consumer problem solving process. Situation influences include the consumer's immediate buying task, the market offerings that are available to the consumer, and demographic traits. Internal influences relate to the consumer's learning and socialization, motivation and personality, and lifestyle. External influences deal with factors outside the individual that have a strong bearing on personal behaviors. Current purchase behavior is shown as influencing future behavior through the internal influence of learning. Let us now turn to the nature and potential impact of each of these sets of influences on consumer problem solving. Exhibit 11 focuses on the specific elements that influence the consumer's decision to purchase and evaluate products and services.

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Situational influences

Buying task

The nature of the buying task has considerable impact on a customer's approach to solving a particular problem. When a decision involves a low-cost item that is frequently purchased, such as bread, the buying process is typically quick and routinized. A decision concerning a new car is quite different. The extent to which a decision is considered complex or simple depends on (a) whether the decision is novel or routine, and on (b) the extent of the customers' involvement with the decision. A great deal of discussion has revolved around this issue of involvement. High-involvement decisions are those that are important to the buyer. Such decisions are closely tied to the consumer's ego and self-image. They also involve some risk to the consumer; financial risk (highly priced items), social risk (products important to the peer group), or psychological risk (the wrong decision might cause the consumer some concern and anxiety). In making these decisions, it is worth the time and energies to consider solution alternatives carefully. A complex process of decision making is therefore more likely for high involvement purchases. Low-involvement decisions are more straightforward, require little risk, are repetitive, and often lead to a habit: they are not very important to the consumer 5. Financial, social, and psychological risks are not nearly as great. In such cases, it may not be worth the consumer's time and effort to search for information about brands or to consider a wide range of alternatives. A low involvement purchase therefore generally entails a limited process of decision making. The purchase of a new computer is an example of high involvement, while the purchase of a hamburger is a low-involvement decision.

When a consumer has bought a similar product many times in the past, the decision making is likely to be simple, regardless of whether it is a high-or low-involvement decision. Suppose a consumer initially bought a product after much care and involvement, was satisfied, and continued to buy the product. The customer's careful consideration of the product and satisfaction has produced brand loyalty, which is the result of involvement with the product decision.

Once a customer is brand-loyal, a simple decision-making process is all that is required for subsequent purchases. The consumer now buys the product through habit, which means making a decision without the use of additional information or the evaluation of alternative choices.

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Market offerings

Another relevant set of situational influences on consumer problem solving is the available market offerings. The more extensive the product and brand choices available to the consumer, the more complex the purchase decision process is likely to be.

For example, if you already have purchased or are considering purchasing a DVD (digital versatile disc), you know there are many brands to choose from—Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, and Sanyo, to name several. Each manufacturer sells several models that differ in terms of some of the following features–single or multiple event selection, remote control (wired or wireless), slow motion, stop action, variable-speed scan, tracking control, and so on. What criteria are important to you? Is purchasing a DVD an easy decision? If a consumer has a need that can be met by only one product or one outlet in the relevant market, the decision is relatively simple. Either purchase the product or let the need go unmet.

This is not ideal from the customer's perspective, but it can occur. For example, suppose you are a student on a campus in a small town many miles from another marketplace. Your campus and town has only one bookstore. You need a textbook for class; only one specific book will do and only one outlet has the book for sale. The limitation on alternative market offerings can clearly influence your purchase behavior.

As you saw in the DVD example, when the extent of market offerings increases, the complexity of the problem-solving process and the consumers' need for information also increases. A wider selection of market offerings is better from the customer's point of view, because it allows them to tailor their purchases to their specific needs. However, it may confuse and frustrate the consumer so that less-than-optimal choices are made.

Demographic influences

An important set of factors that should not be overlooked in attempting to understand and respond to consumers is demographics. Such variables as age, sex, income, education, marital status, and mobility can all have significant influence on consumer behavior. One study showed that age and education have strong relationships to store selection by female shoppers. This was particularly true for women's suits or dresses, linens and bedding, cosmetics, and women's sportswear.

DeBeers Limited, which has an 80 per cent share of the market for diamonds used in engagement rings, employed a consumer demographic profile in developing their promotional program. Their target market consists of single women and men between the ages of 18 and 24. They combined this profile with some lifestyle aspects to develop their promotional program.

People in different income brackets also tend to buy different types of products and different qualities. Thus various income groups often shop in very different ways. This means that income can be an important variable in defining the target group. Many designer clothing shops, for example, aim at higher-income shoppers, while a store like Kmart appeals to middle-and lower-income groups.

External influences

External factors are another important set of influences on consumer behavior. Among the many societal elements that can affect consumer problem solving are culture, social class, reference groups, and family.

A person's culture is represented by a large group of people with a similar heritage. The American culture, which is a subset of the Western culture, is of primary interest here. Traditional American culture values include hard work, thrift, achievement, security, and the like. Marketing strategies targeted to those with such a cultural heritage should show the product or service as reinforcing these traditional values. The three components of culture-beliefs, values, and customs-are each somewhat different. A belief is a proposition that reflects a person's particular knowledge and assessment of something (that is, "I believe that ..."). Values are general statements that guide behavior and influence beliefs. The function of a value system is to help a person choose between alternatives in everyday life.

Customs are overt modes of behavior that constitute culturally approved ways of behaving in specific situations. For example, taking one's mother out for dinner and buying her presents for Mother's Day is an American custom that Hallmark and other card companies support enthusiastically.

The American culture with its social values can be divided into various subcultures. For example, African-Americans constitute a significant American subculture in most US cities. A consumer's racial heritage can exert an influence on media usage and various other aspects of the purchase decision process.

Social class

Social class , which is determined by such factors as occupation, wealth, income, education, power, and prestige, is another societal factor that can affect consumer behavior. The best-known classification system includes upper-upper, lower-upper, upper-middle, lower-middle, upper-lower, and lower-lower class. Lower-middle and upper-lower classes comprise the mass market.

The upper-upper class and lower-upper class consist of people from wealthy families who are locally prominent. They tend to live in large homes furnished with art and antiques. They are the primary market for rare jewelry and designer originals, tending to shop at exclusive retailers. The upper-middle class is made up of professionals, managers, and business owners. They are ambitious, future-oriented people who have succeeded economically and now seek to enhance their quality of life. Material goods often take on major symbolic meaning for this group. They also tend to be very civic-minded and are involved in many worthy causes. The lower-middle class consists of mid-level white-collar workers. These are office workers, teachers, small business people and the like who typically hold strong American values. They are family-oriented, hard-working individuals. The upper-lower class is made up of blue-collar workers such as production line workers and service people. Many have incomes that exceed those of the lower-middle class, but their values are often very different. They tend to adopt a short-run, live-for-the-present philosophy. They are less future-oriented than the middle classes. The lower-lower class consists of unskilled workers with low incomes. They are more concerned with necessities than with status or fulfillment.

People in the same social class tend to have similar attitudes, live in similar neighborhoods, dress alike, and shop at the same type stores. If a marketer wishes to target efforts toward the upper classes, then the market offering must be designed to meet their expectations in terms of quality, service, and atmosphere. For example, differences in leisure concerts are favored by members of the middle and upper classes, while fishing, bowling, pool, and drive-in movies are more likely to involve members of the lower social classes.

Reference groups

Do you ever wonder why Pepsi used Shaquille O'Neal in their advertisements? The teen market consumes a considerable amount of soft drinks. Pepsi has made a strong effort to capture a larger share of this market, and felt that Shaquille represented the spirit of today's teens. Pepsi is promoted as "the choice of a new generation" and Shaquille is viewed as a role model by much of that generation. Pepsi has thus employed the concept of reference groups.

A reference group helps shape a person's attitudes and behaviors. Such groups can be either formal or informal. Churches, clubs, schools, notable individuals, and friends can all be reference groups for a particular consumer. Reference groups are characterized as having individuals who are opinion leaders for the group. Opinion leaders are people who influence others. They are not necessarily higher-income or better educated, but perhaps are seen as having greater expertise or knowledge related to some specific topic. For example, a local high school teacher may be an opinion leader for parents in selecting colleges for their children. These people set the trend and others conform to the expressed behavior. If a marketer can identify the opinion leaders for a group in the target market, then effort can be directed toward attracting these individuals. For example, if an ice cream parlor is attempting to attract the local high school trade, opinion leaders at the school may be very important to its success.

The reference group can influence an individual in several ways 6. :

• Role expectations: The role assumed by a person is nothing more than a prescribed way of behaving based on the situation and the person's position in the situation. Your reference group determines much about how this role is to be performed. As a student, you are expected to behave in a certain basic way under certain conditions.

• Conformity: Conformity is related to our roles in that we modify our behavior in order to coincide with group norms. Norms are behavioral expectations that are considered appropriate regardless of the position we hold.

• Group communications through opinion leaders: We, as consumers, are constantly seeking out the advice of knowledgeable friends or acquaintances who can provide information, give advice, or actually make the decision. For some product categories, there are professional opinion leaders who are quite easy to identify–e.g. auto mechanics, beauticians, stock brokers, and physicians.

One of the most important reference groups for an individual is the family. A consumer's family has a major impact on attitude and behavior. The interaction between husband and wife and the number and ages of children in the family can have a significant effect on buying behavior.

One facet in understanding the family's impact on consumer behavior is identifying the decision maker for the purchase in question. In some cases, the husband is dominant, in others the wife or children, and still others, a joint decision is made. The store choice for food and household items is most often the wife's. With purchases that involve a larger sum of money, such as a refrigerator, a joint decision is usually made. The decision on clothing purchases for teenagers may be greatly influenced by the teenagers themselves. Thus, marketers need to identify the key family decision maker for the product or service in question.

Another aspect of understanding the impact of the family on buying behavior is the family lifecycle . Most families pass through an orderly sequence of stages. These stages can be defined by a combination of factors such as age, marital status,and parenthood. The typical stages are:

• The bachelor state; young, single people.

• Newly married couples; young, no children.

• The full nest I and II; young married couples with dependent children:

• Youngest child under six (Full nest I)

• Youngest child over six (Full nest II)

• The full nest III; older married couples with dependent children.

• The empty nest I and II; older married couples with no children living with them:

• Adults in labor force (Empty nest I)

• Adults retired (Empty nest II)

• The solitary survivors; older single people:

• In labor force

• Retired

Each of these stages is characterized by different buying behaviors. For example, a children's clothing manufacturer would target its efforts primarily at the full nest I families. Thus, the family cycle can be helpful in defining the target customers.

Internal influences

Each customer is to some degree a unique problem solving unit. Although they can be grouped into meaningful segments, in order to fully appreciate the totality of the buying process, a marketer needs to examine the internal forces that influence consumers. They are learning/socialization, motivation and personality, and lifestyle.

Learning and socialization

As a factor influencing a person's perceptions, learning may be defined as changes in behavior resulting from previous experiences. However, learning does not include behavior changes attributable to instinctive responses, growth, or temporary states of the organism, such as hunger, fatigue, or sleep. It is clear that learning is an ongoing process that is dynamic, adaptive, and subject to change. Also, learning is an experience and practice that actually brings about changes in behavior. For example, in order to learn how to play tennis, you might participate in it to gain experience, be exposed to the different skills required, the rules, and so forth. However, the experience does not have to be an actual, physical one. It could be a conceptualization of a potential experience. In other words, you could learn to play tennis by reading about how to play without actually doing it. This is called nonexperiential learning .

Nonexperiential learning is particularly relevant in consumer behavior. For example, assume you are considering purchasing a bottle of Zinfandel wine. You ask the salesclerk what it tastes like, and he tells you it tastes like a strong ginger ale. Not liking the taste of ginger ale, you reject the purchase. Thus you have learned that you do not like Zinfandel wine without having a direct taste experience. A great deal of our learning is of this type. This may be one reason why marketers try to identify opinions leaders who in turn tell others in the market about the benefits of the product.

Another characteristic of learning is that the changes may be immediate or anticipated. In other words, just because we do not see immediate evidence that learning has taken place is no reason to assume that learning has not occurred. We can store our learning until it is needed, and frequently do this in terms of making purchase decisions. For example, we are willing to learn about many product attributes even though we do not expect to buy the product in the near future.

As new information is processed and stored over time, consumer learning takes place There are several theories of learning: one of the most useful to marketers is that of socialization. Socialization refers to the process by which persons acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that make them more or less able members of their society. The assumption made is that behavior is acquired and modified over the person's lifecycle.

The social learning approach stresses sources of influence–"socialization agents" (i.e. other people)–that transmit cognitive and behavioral patterns to the learner. In the case of consumer socialization, this takes place in the course of the person's interaction with other individuals in various social settings. Socialization agents might include any person, organization, or information source that comes into contact with the consumer.

Consumers acquire this information from the other individuals through the processes of modeling, reinforcement, and social interaction Modeling involves imitation of the agent's behavior. For example, a teenager may acquire a brand name preference for Izod from friends. Marketers can make use of this concept by employing spokespersons to endorse their products and services who have strong credibility with their target consumers, as in the case of Bill Cosby (Jell-O). Reinforcement involves either a reward or a punishment mechanism used by the agent. A parent may be reinforced by good product performance, excellent post-purchase services, or some similar rewarding experience. The social interaction mechanism is less specific as to the type of learning involved; it may include a combination of modeling and reinforcement. The social setting within which learning takes place can be defined in terms of variables such as social class, sex, and family size.

These variables can influence learning through their impact on the relationship between the consumer and others. It should be noted that an individual who promotes learning can be anyone—such as parent, friend, salesperson, or television spokesperson.

Motivation is a concept that is difficult to define. In fact, the difficulty of defining motives and dealing with motivation in consumer research accounts for its limited application. For the most part, the research in motivation involves benefit segmentation and patronage motives. Patronage motives typically concern the consumer's reasons for shopping at a particular outlet. Consumers are classified, for example, as price-conscious, convenience-oriented, service-oriented, or in terms of some other motivating feature.

A motive is the inner drive or pressure to take action to satisfy a need. To be motivated is to be a goal-oriented individual. Some goals are positive, some are negative, some individuals have a high level of goal orientation, some have a very low level. In all cases, the need must be aroused or stimulated to a high enough level so that it can serve as a motive. It is possible (and usual) to have needs that are latent (unstimulated) and that therefore do not serve as the motive of behavior. The sources of this arousal may be internal (people get hungry), environmental (you see an ad for a Big Mac), or psychological (just thinking about food can cause hunger). It is possible (and usual) to have needs that are latent (unstimulated) and that therefore do not serve as the motive of behavior.

For motivation to be useful in marketing practice, a marketing manager must understand what motives and behaviors are influenced by the specific situation in which consumers engage in goal-directed, problem-solving behavior.

Motivation flows from an unmet need, as does all consumer problem solving. Perhaps the best known theory dealing with individual motivation is provided in the work of A H Maslow. One of the most important parts of Maslow's theory is his development of a model consisting of several different levels of needs that exist in a human being and relate to each other via a "need hierarchy”. Maslow has differentiated between five levels of needs. The first of these concerns itself with physiological needs; that is, hunger, thirst, and other basic drives. All living beings, regardless of their level of maturity, possess physiological needs. Physiological needs are omnipresent and are of a recurrent nature7.

Safety and security needs are second in Maslow's hierarchy. The difference between physiological needs and safety and security needs is somewhat hazy. Safety and security imply a continued fulfillment of physiological needs. This is an extension of the more basic needs.

Third in Maslow's hierarchy of needs are the love needs. These are the needs for belonging and friendship. They involve a person's interaction with others. The fourth level of needs in Maslow's hierarchy is the esteem needs. These are needs related to feeling good about oneself and having a positive self-image.

The fifth and highest level in Maslow's needs hierarchy is the need for self-actualization or self-fulfillment. This need can be defined as the need of a person to reach his full potential in terms of the application of his own abilities and interest in functioning in his environment.

It is important in discussing these levels of Maslow's hierarchy to point out two additional factors. First, Maslow has clearly indicated that these five levels of needs operate on an unconscious level. That is, the individual is probably not aware of concentration upon one particular need or one assortment of needs. One of the misunderstandings associated with Maslow's theory is that he believes the five needs to be mutually exclusive. That, in fact, is not the intent of Maslow. To the contrary, several of these needs may occur simultaneously for any one individual; the relative importance of each need for any one individual determines the hierarchy involved.

When we attempt to integrate Maslow's needs hierarchy with the concept of segmentation, we can see that a manager might find certain subgroups that fit together because of some homogeneity of needs. For example, a marketer may target a group with strong self-esteem needs in designing a promotional program for cosmetics. Appeals to higher-order needs are important for many products and services, even basic commodities.

Personality is used to summarize all the traits of a person that make him/her unique. No two people have the same traits, but several attempts have been made to classify people with similar traits. Perhaps the best-known personality types are those proposed by Carl Jung, as is a variation on the work of his teacher, Sigmund Freud. His personality categories are introvert and extrovert . The introvert is described as defensive, inner-directed, and withdrawn from others. The extrovert is outgoing, other-directed, and assertive. Several other more elaborate classifications have also been devised.

Various personality types, like people with various motives, are likely to respond in different ways to different market offerings. For example, an extrovert may enjoy the shopping experience and rely more on personal observation to secure information; thus, in-store promotion would become an important communication tool. Knowing the basic personality traits of target customers can be useful information for the manager in designing the marketing mix. Marketers have, however, found personality to be difficult to apply in developing marketing strategy. The primary reason for this is the lack of good ways to measure personality traits. Most available measures were developed to identify people with problems that needed medical attention. These have little value with consumers who are mentally healthy. As a result, most marketers have turned to lifestyle analysis.

One of the newer and increasingly important set of factors that is being used to understand consumer behavior is lifestyle. Lifestyle has been generally defined as the attitudes, interests, and opinions of the potential customer. Such variables as interest in hunting, attitude toward the role of women in society, and opinion on the importance of dressing well can be used to better understand the market and its behavior.

It is the multifaceted aspect of lifestyle research that makes it so useful in consumer analysis. A prominent lifestyle researcher, Joseph T Plummer, summarizes the concept as follows:

...life style patterns, combines the virtues of demographics with the richness and dimensionality of psychological characteristics....Life style is used to segment the marketplace because it provides the broad, everyday view of consumers life style segmentation and can generate identifiable whole persons rather than isolated fragments. 8.

A useful application of the lifestyle concept relates to consumer's shopping orientation. Different customers approach shopping in very different ways. They have different attitudes and opinions about shopping and different levels of interest in shopping. Once people know their alternatives, how do they evaluate and choose among them? In particular, how do people choose among brands of a product? Current description of this process emphasizes the role of attitudes. An attitude is an opinion of a person, idea, place, or thing. Attitudes range based on a continuum from very negative to very positive. Traditionally, an attitude is broken down into three components: cognitive, affective, and behavioral. That is, an attitude is first what we know/believe, followed by what we feel, and ending with an action. Thus, we have learned that a particular company has been polluting a local river; we feel very strongly that business should not do this and feel very angry; and we boycott the product made by that company.

A great deal of marketing strategy is based on the idea that the cognitive, affective, and behavioral components of an attitude tend to be consistent. Thus, if it is possible to change what people believe about Yamaha CD players, their feelings and their actions may eventually change as well. However, this relationship among the three components of an attitude seems to be situation–or even product–specific. For example, attitudes tend to predict behavior better in high-involvement decisions. Thus, if someone has a strong attitude about wearing stylish clothes, then it is possible to predict that the person will restrict purchases to a particular set of brands. Furthermore, we do not react to products in isolation. The situation, or our attitude toward the situation, plays an important role in how well attitudes predict behavior. For example, assume that a consumer likes pizza but does not like Pizza Inn pizza. In a social setting where everyone wants to go to Pizza Inn for pizza, this person might eat this brand rather than not have pizza at all.

Despite limitations on the predictive power of attitudes, attitudes can help us understand how choices are made. However, we need to carefully assess the validity of the attitude-behavior relationships for each situation and product.

Capsule 9: Review

Given the hypothesis that attitudes influence buying behavior, how can a company bring its products and consumers' attitudes into a consistent state; that is, into a situation where consumers evaluate a given product or brand as satisfying their need? Marketers have two choices: either they can change consumers' attitudes to be consistent with their product, or they can change the product to match attitudes. It is easier to change the product than to change consumers' attitudes. Nevertheless, attitudes can sometimes be modified. Modifying attitudes might be the only reasonable choice, as when a firm is introducing a truly new product or an unusual new use for an existing one. Marketers should nevertheless face the fact that it is extremely difficult to change consumers' attitudes. If there is to be change, it is most likely to occur when people are open-minded in their beliefs or when an existing attitude is of weak intensity; that is, when there is little information to support the attitude or very little ego involvement on the individual's part. The stronger a person's loyalty to a certain brand, for example, the more difficult it is to change that attitude.

1. [1] Sources : Jennifer Gilbert, "New Teen Obsession," Advertising Age, February 14, 2000, p. 8; "School Daze," American Demographics, August 1999, p. 80; Krestina Filiciano, "Just Kidding," Adweek, May 1, 2000, p. 58.

2. [2] Sources : Joanne Gordon, "Shrink Rap," Fortune, February 7, 2000, pp. 110-111; Ronald B. Liebier, "Storytelling: A New Way to Get Close to the Customer," Fortune, February 3, 1997, pp. 102-105; Kendra Darko, "Zooming In On What's Important." American Demographics, August 1999, pp. 46-47.

Skills for Effective Problem Solving

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Problem-solving skills.

An effective problem-solver uses many skills to devise and implement solutions including:

Creative skills

Research skills, team-working skills.

  • Decision-making skills, and

Risk-taking skills

Creative skills allow big and boundless thinking. They involve the consideration and analysis of ideas, concepts, and solutions that no one else has considered before. Thinking creatively requires you to set aside any biases or assumptions that you may hold and to take a different look at things. By approaching a problem with an open mind, you allow yourself the chance to think creatively. Often, a problem may seem to be insurmountable and it is only by practicing creativity and innovation that a workable solution can be found. Considering a problem from different viewpoints and being open to a change in perspective is key.

For example, the US Air Force Research Laboratory required an update for their supercomputer but the cost was well over their budget. So, by thinking creatively and looking for alternative solutions, they realized that they could purchase 300 PlayStation 3s that would fulfil their computing needs instead. To quote their creative decision: “The processors in the Sony PlayStation 3 are the only brand on the market that utilizes the specific cell processor characteristics needed for this program at an acceptable cost.”

Another example of creative problem-solving is from the inventor and founder of Dyson® vacuum cleaners, James Dyson. While his competitors were focused on how to design a better filter for the paper bags in their vacuum cleaners, he came to the realization that he had to approach the problem from a more creative direction. The result was that he created a ‘cyclone’ vacuum cleaner which could separate dust from air, and brought the world's first bagless vacuum cleaner to the market.

Another important set of skills for problem solving are research skills . How can you find out what you don’t know? By doing research.

Being able to demonstrate the following competencies is key to ensuring your research is effective:

  • Attention to detail
  • Critical thinking
  • Planning and scheduling
  • Technical skills
  • Statistical and Graphical Analysis of Data, and
  • Interviewing

Because data is so easily accessible these days, it is important to check that the data you are relying on has come from a trusted source.

Team-working skills are also very useful when it comes to problem solving. If you lead a team, you can help your team or colleagues to solve problems in many ways.

Create easy wins to begin with. Pick the ‘low-hanging fruit’ for the team to practice upon, that is, the tasks that are easiest to achieve, or the problems that are easiest to solve. Resist the temptation to offer a solution to hurry the process along; act as a facilitator instead and guide your team toward the answers. The greatest impact can come from giving the accountability of owning both the solution and the implementation of the solution, to the team. By delegating the problem, you reinforce your confidence and trust in the work of the team.

You can also use the 'framing effect'. The ‘framing effect’ is a cognitive bias, whereby people decide on options based on whether the options are presented with positive or negative connotations; for example, as a loss or as a gain. Show your team or colleagues how to practice the skill of framing an issue from differing perspectives, for example, positive, negative, or neutral, and how to devise specific solutions for each frame.

Another method is to remove yourself from the team problem-solving equation. Consider the unintentional influence you may have that might lead to potential biasing of the group with your views. In addition, be understanding and willing to support the team by working across the organization to acquire resources and budgets.

Avoid getting angry at a failure by the team as this is almost always destructive. Instead, instruct the team to take a step back and pause to consider the situation and analyze what did and did not work. Give them time to consider how to respond, learn, and move on.

Be sure to avoid group-think by drawing in individuals with areas of expertise and knowledge not currently held by the team. A common pitfall of group-think is that the team narrowly focuses on their own held-knowledge and plays down any outside or differing viewpoints, limiting the possibility of the most effective solution as an outcome.

Decision-making skills

Decision-making skills are another key component of problem solving. According to the economist Evan Davis, “If you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard.” This is true of many people, because due to their lack of experience, confidence, or authority, they resist the taking and making of decisions. The more decisions you make, the stronger your decision-making skills become. As long as you learn from your decisions and mistakes, then the more mistakes you make, the better it is for your decision-making ability!

Having the ability to take risks is an important skill for effective problem solving. It is usually better to take determined risks rather than undetermined risks. Being able to distinguish between the two takes experience, skill, and knowledge.

An undetermined risk is a risk that is taken without performing due diligence or accounting for possible negative outcomes; that is, you may have found a positive solution, but you don’t know what the final cost will be or what the ‘knock-on’ effects are.

A determined risk requires detailed research, and while you may not actually achieve success, you know that enough research has been carried out to ensure that there is a high likelihood of success.

Many people become risk-averse from building pros and cons into every single decision they make. We tend to avoid taking risks for the following reasons:

  • A fear of failure
  • A fear of the inflated consequences of failure, and
  • A fear of handling the consequences of risk

However, a certain amount of risk-taking is necessary for every new solution, particularly in the beginning. Aiming to take calculated and well-informed risks only is a healthy and effective approach to problem solving.

Cathal Melinn and Kevin Reid

Cathal Melinn is Digital Marketing Manager at Digital Marketing Institute.

  • 13 years’ experience in search and display
  • Worked at Yahoo! Search in 2005 as a Senior Search Strategist for the UK Financial Services vertical
  • Moved to the world of agency in 2010 as Head of Search and Online Media for five years 
  • Currently working at the Digital Marketing Institute as a Digital Marketing Manager
  • Previous clients include Apple, Vodafone, Expedia, Virgin, Universal Music Group, Amazon, Compare the Market, and HSBC

Kevin Reid is CEO of Personal Skills Training, Senior Coach at Kevin J Reid Coaching, Co-founder and Communications Director of The Counsel.ie, and Lead Collaborator of LeitrimMade.com.

  • A consummate and skillful international communications trainer, facilitator, and coach
  • Has over 15 years of learning development experience with individuals, teams, and entire organizations
  • Has facilitated communications workshops and training across numerous sectors in Ireland, the UK, Europe, America, and Africa

By the end of this topic, you should be able to:

  • Compare techniques for enhancing creative thinking skills.
  • Analyse strategies to improve problem-solving skills in the workplace  

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ABOUT THIS DIGITAL MARKETING MODULE

Creativity Skills

Creative skills aren’t just for artists and designers! Everyone can learn to be more creative. In fact, the ability to think creatively is an invaluable skill in today’s workplace.

With the help of Cathal Melinn, you will learn how to enhance your creative thinking skills – which should help you generate new ideas, find innovative solutions to problems, and develop new products and services. You will also learn how to remove barriers to creativity and the importance of persevering when your ideas fail.

When it comes to tackling specific workplace difficulties, you will be introduced to a six-step method you can use to solve problems. And you’ll learn about the skills you need to cultivate in order to be an effective problem-solver.

You will also turn your creative attention to the art of giving presentations. You will discover how to create and structure an effective presentation, and the preparations you need to make in advance, as well as useful tips on how to deliver an engaging presentation and how to hold a Q&A session at the end.

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Top Marketing Problems and Solutions: How to Strategically Combat Issues

In the world of marketing, there are a lot of innovative and creative campaigns that help businesses achieve great results. But an industry as vast and expansive as advertising also allows space for problems to arise. If you’ve experienced (or are currently experiencing) issues, you may feel like your troubles are unique. Take heart! You’re definitely not the only person — or company — going through digital marketing woes. 

Several situations have proven consistently tricky for many branding and marketing agencies all over the world. The COVID-19 pandemic was the stem of some of these issues like hiring, but others are just typical problems that many advertising agencies experience simply because they work in the marketing industry. 

We’re going to explore some of the most common types of situations that marketers find themselves facing, what solutions you can implement, signs that problems are occurring (even if you may not see it) and how a strong and set marketing strategy can help any agency avoid falling into the trap of common complications. 

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!

Common Marketing Problems You May Be Facing

The worst possible response to marketing problems is to freak out. First, you must understand that this is, sadly, much more normal than you’d expect. There are certain obstacles nearly everyone in the industry encounters at one time or another. 

Before diagnosing a situation, you should start by figuring out if it’s a marketing problem or a business problem. Although advertising agencies are called to fix marketing problems, if you do a deep dive into what’s going on, you may actually discover that it’s a problem connected to the business. 

  • Business Problems: Any hurdle, situation or variation that leads to a difference between the desired objectives and actual accomplished results is a business problem. This type of issue can’t be solved with more marketing. For example, if your message isn’t connecting with the intended audience, saying it louder or more frequently isn’t going to fix anything. You’ve heard the saying “putting lipstick on a pig,” right? Well, dressing up your business with marketing when the inherent problem is much deeper than that won’t do a thing. 
  • Marketing Problem: If you don’t have a business problem inhibiting your efforts from being effective, then you most likely have a marketing problem. This type of issue can be defined as any factors in a campaign that affect the results you may be looking for, like a lack of strategy, a bad understanding of your target audience or unengaging social media posts. These are the types of problems that we’re going to discuss today. 

So, what are the most common types of marketing or advertising challenges? Here are a few examples that many companies experience: 

Recruiting Talent

During the shutdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses had to adjust how they run their business , and marketing was no different. Now that the recovery and revival of “normal” is taking place, some agencies have found that hiring and keeping employees is a difficult task to undertake. The HR managers put much effort to make  team extension  as quality and profitable for their business as possible. 

Talented marketers are often in high demand, making recruiting and maintaining an accomplished staff an issue. Many marketing professionals have found ways to offer their staff benefits and positive work experiences including more flexibility, educational opportunities and higher salaries. 

Lack of Clear Strategy

About 50% of companies using digital marketing have no plan or strategy in place for their efforts. This is a problem because if you don’t know why and how you’re doing something, it will most likely not yield helpful or beneficial results. Having a plan of attack for all things, from email marketing and content creation to website design and social media, will enable you to make informed decisions and will most likely deliver you the outcomes you’re hoping for. 

With a marketing strategy you can:

  • Find your target demographic.
  • Create SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goals.
  • Keep your team on the same page.
  • Be timely. 
  • Make your brand more authentic.
  • Ensure brand awareness.

No Alignment With Buyer Personas

If marketers don’t know who they’re creating content for, then it will be difficult to effectively communicate with them. No industry is the same, meaning that every audience that is being targeted has specific needs that should be met, and tones of voice and language choices that resonate with them. If you aim at nothing, you’re sure to hit it.

Another common sector of buyer persona problems is shooting for the wrong group of people. Trustmary found that 80% of content marketing is targeted at the wrong audience . Basically, a marketing team could have the best possible creative work to send out, and a great marketing plan to execute, but if it’s given to the wrong people, it won’t land properly. 

Showing ROI

Often, when a company experiences financial hardships, the first thing to be cut is marketing spend. The reason for this might be that proving its value can be difficult without specific tactics in place to do so. Hubspot’s State of Marketing Report found that demonstrating the return on investment (ROI) of marketing activities to be the No. 1  roadblock for marketers . 

When done correctly, marketing does offer a boundless supply of benefits for companies. But if you can’t specify what the impacts of advertising efforts like market research, email campaigns or social media marketing are to upper management or clients, it’s going to be difficult to continue producing quality work. 

You have probably found yourself knee-deep in one of the situations above, but there are solutions to these problems. Continue reading to learn what you can do to help yourself and your clients get the results you’re hoping to achieve. 

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Effective Solutions for Bumps in the Road

For every marketing problem, there’s a solution. Some issues might take more effort than others, but all fixes require strategic thinking and research to fully understand where the problem stems and what the best steps forward are. Let’s look specifically at the challenges we listed above:

How to Fix Your Recruiting Practices

There are loads of ways to make your current employees happy as well as bring in new talent, but we’re just going to talk about a few. First, ensure your marketing team is heard and satisfied by adding feedback channels in the workplace. This could be a digital platform that collects remarks, or could be a physical version in your office. Either way, make sure your employees know their thoughts are valued by actually giving them the ability to share.

Word of mouth is everything nowadays. If your employees share that they’re happy on social media platforms like LinkedIn, or if they speak positively about your company with their friends and family, more people will be prone to apply to your open positions. And, you’ve hired your team for a reason — pay attention to who they think would be a good fit for the business. 

Creating a Clear Strategy

A set strategy is vital for consistent and effective marketing, but that doesn’t mean it’s a breeze to build. Let’s break down the process for creating a marketing strategy :

  • Define Your Goals: Have your target objectives in mind before you start creating any advertising content. This can make sure your hard work is going to serve a specific purpose and will help you have an end goal to aim for. 
  • Think of Your Audience: Understand and highlight who it is that you’re trying to reach. Every industry and type of business speaks to very unique people, meaning that your marketing initiatives must work for your target audience. Create buyer personas to help you visualize the set group of customers as you work.
  • Build Brand Messaging: Since you’re speaking to your specific audience, ensure that they can recognize and pick out your brand from the competition using a set tone and voice. 
  • Research Your Competitors: You should never ever copy what your competitors are doing — you bring a unique voice to the market. But, it’s smart to pay attention to what other brands are bringing to the table. 

Once you go through the process of creating your marketing strategy, you’re off to the races! 

Mending Your Buyer Personas

Finding a solution for your either lack of or incorrect target audience comes from having a clear marketing strategy, which we’ll get into more later. After you create your strategy for all marketing and advertising efforts, you should understand who it is that you’re trying to reach. With that knowledge, you can ask yourself the following questions before creating any content:

  • Is my customer really interested in this?
  • Will they actually care about this topic or information?
  • What needs am I meeting or problems am I solving for my target audience?
  • Is there a better way that I could connect with my audience?

If you’re confident in your answer, go ahead and interact with your buyers! And if you’re not? It may help to create buyer personas — model people who match your ideal customers. Give him or her a name, a detailed description and think about them every time you’re working on a component of your marketing. This can help you cut generalizations about who you’re creating content for, and be more specific and focused on the right group of people. Then you can create inbound marketing to attract these people and build more brand loyalty. 

Better Prove Your ROI

Your digital marketing efforts should be full circle, meaning that you should always end up with actual results and data that you can either determine successful or not. Without the power of marketing and sales working together, it’s really difficult to calculate ROI. Discover how much impact your content actually had on your target audience by looking at data points like impressions, qualified leads, web traffic, conversion rates and actual sales. After checking over the relevant information, compare those numbers to the specific goals that you’d made prior to creating the content. 

Did you meet your objectives like you’d hoped? We hope so! Either way, it’s time to put those numbers into a dashboard that can be easily displayed and read by your clients or upper management. By showing the impact of the advertising procedures you followed throughout the project timeline, you’re better able to discuss and prove the work was worth it and made a difference for your clients. 

Maybe none of these issues are things that you’ve experienced — so you think. But what if problems are occurring that you’re unaware of? If that’s the case, you could be losing money or potential customer partnerships without even knowing it. Want to learn more about how to know if you’re flying blindly into challenges? You’ve come to the right place. 

Tell-Tale Signs That You’re Experiencing Issues

We sincerely hope your marketing efforts are going well, but if they’re not, we want you to be aware. Here are some common red flags that you may be missing with your current advertising:

  • Email Unsubscribes: This happens pretty normally, but not at alarmingly high rates. If you’ve had a drop-off in subscriber numbers, it’s probably because the content may be irrelevant or targeted toward the wrong people. This could also be a sign to check in on your email marketing platform to ensure your leads and contacts are being handled correctly. 
  • Wrong Audience: Have people been clicking on your organic listings without converting? Maybe it’s time to reassess your messaging and brand personas. 
  • Ad-Heavy: We’ll say it very loudly: Paid advertising isn’t bad! But, if you’re solely relying on it to be noticed by any members of your audience, then you should consider creating meaningful content that can draw more organic traffic to your brand. 
  • Losing Followers: Similar to email subscribers, if you’re seeing a large dip in social media followers lately, it could be smart to reassess your social media marketing strategy. Although this is a common marketing problem, it can be more serious than some understand.

How Strategy Can Safeguard Your Marketing Practices

We’ve talked a lot about strategy, and that’s because it’s super important to find success with your brand. 

To ensure your marketing is strategic, you must create goals that your efforts can adhere to. And, to pinpoint objectives you need to do a bit of research. Here are the key elements of a brand strategy:

  • Value Proposition: A simple statement that summarizes why a customer would choose your product or service over the competition.
  • Key Brand Messaging: Set tone, language and values that articulate how your brand sounds and speaks to your audience.
  • Target Customers: The specific audience that your product or service is aiming to please, as well as the competition that you’re battling.

Also described as the four Ps of marketing: product, price, place and promotion. Having these factors defined can help your team align to achieve specific goals, tie your efforts to business objectives, identity and test what resonates with your target audience and helps you stay up-to-date and capitalize on emerging technological and cultural trends. 

Although these marketing problems are common, they don’t have to be inevitable. Avoid the above issues (and any unlisted situations) and find success by efficiently recruiting, defining your strategy, targeting the right people and proving your ROI. 

extensive problem solving marketing

By Madelyn Gardner

extensive problem solving marketing

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extensive problem solving marketing

DanielNytra.com

Extensive problem solving

The benefits of extensive problem solving.

Problem solving is an essential skill that everyone needs to master to be successful in life. Having the ability to identify a problem and then come up with a successful solution is key to navigating both work and personal situations. Extensive problem solving takes this skill to a higher level, allowing you to break down complex problems in order to find a solution that works.

What is Extensive Problem Solving?

Extensive problem solving is a systematic approach to breaking down complex problems into manageable pieces. It involves analyzing the problem from multiple angles, identifying all the factors that are contributing to the problem, and then coming up with a comprehensive solution. This process can be used to tackle any problem, from personal and professional issues to more abstract problems like developing an effective marketing strategy for a business.

The Benefits of Using Extensive Problem Solving

Here are some of the benefits that come with using extensive problem solving:

  • You can get to the root of the problem. By breaking down a problem into its component parts, you can get to the root of the issue and identify any underlying issues that are causing the problem. This helps you come up with a more effective solution.
  • It encourages creative thinking. By looking at a problem from different angles, you can come up with creative solutions that you may not have considered before.
  • You can save time and resources. By breaking down a problem into its component parts, you can identify which steps need to be taken to solve it, which can save you time and resources.
  • It encourages collaboration. By involving other people in the problem-solving process, you can benefit from their knowledge and expertise, which can help you come up with a better solution.

Extensive problem solving is a powerful tool that can help you tackle any problem and come up with a successful solution. By breaking down a problem into its component parts and analyzing it from multiple angles, you can get to the root of the problem and come up with a comprehensive solution.

Further Reading

  • Extensive Problem Solving: A Step-by-Step Guide
  • 10 Problem Solving Strategies for the Workplace
  • How Problem Solving Can Help You Succeed in Business

COMMENTS

  1. Extensive Problem Solving

    Marketing and Strategy Extensive Problem Solving - Definition, Importance & Example Published in Marketing and Strategy Terms by MBA Skool Team What is Extensive Problem Solving? Extensive problem solving is the purchase decision marking in a situation in which the buyer has no information, experience about the products, services and suppliers.

  2. Extensive Problem Solving

    Extensive Problem Solving Marketing dictionary Extensive Problem Solving buying situations which require considerable effort because the buyer has had no previous experience with the product or suppliers; also called Extensive Decision Making. See: Limited Problem Solving Rate this term +2 -1 Search Browse A-Z

  3. 7 Problem Solving Skills Marketing Managers Need & How to Improve Them

    Published: November 03, 2021 Think back to a time you had to solve a problem but didn't have all of the right information. What did you do? Situations like this pop up all the time at work and put your problem solving skills to the test. As a marketing manager, one may think your job doesn't revolve around problem solving.

  4. 10 Consumer Behavior Models (& Which One Applies to Your Business)

    Extensive Problem-Solving: In this stage, customers know nothing about the product they're seeking or the brands that are available to them. They're in active problem-solving mode to find a suitable product. ... Inputs: This refers to the marketing messages and imagery a consumer receives while they're going through the decision-making ...

  5. Involvement Levels

    Push marketing; mass advertising; TV; radio; billboards; coupons; sales promotions: ... When it comes to the car, you might engage in extensive problem solving but, again, only be willing to consider a certain brand or brands (e.g. your evoke set for automobiles). For example, in the 1970s, American-made cars had such a poor reputation for ...

  6. The Consumer Decision Process

    Likewise, consumers use extensive problem solving for infrequently purchased, expensive, high-risk, or new goods or services. In order for a marketing organization to increase the likelihood that their brand is part of the evoked set for many consumers, they need to understand what benefits consumers are seeking and specifically, which ...

  7. 3.2 Low-Involvement Versus High-Involvement Buying Decisions and the

    Limited problem solving falls somewhere between low-involvement (routine) and high-involvement (extended problem solving) decisions. Consumers engage in limited problem solving when they already have some information about a good or service but continue to search for a little more information. Assume you need a new backpack for a hiking trip.

  8. Is Your Marketing Solving The Right Problems?

    The most essential part of your problem definition process is making sure that what you are trying to solve is an actual consumer problem. Solving consumer problems drives growth; solving internal ...

  9. 13 Key Elements Of Problem-Centric Selling

    Don't keep it at the surface level, dig deep and constructively. Ask enough questions to get to the root cause of client problems. Bring a value-add point of view to the discussion. - Maureen ...

  10. 8 Ways to Solve Prospects' Problems Through Your Marketing

    1) Create how-to blog content. As most inbound marketers know, success starts with content; so begin by writing blog posts that solve peoples' problems! If you'll allow me to get meta for a minute, this very blog post about how to be a problem solver is, well, solving a problem.

  11. PDF Problem Solving and Marketing Science

    Hence problem solving behavior is the basic subject of study in marketing science. Psychology, sociology, and anthropology, as they move toward an integrated science of human behavior, give greater prominence to the functionalist viewpoint. The second main line of advance is toward a steady improvement in problem solving as a systematic process.

  12. 3.3 The Consumer Purchasing Decision Process

    Learning Outcomes. By the end of this section, you will be able to: 1 Explain the first stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.; 2 Summarize the second stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.; 3 Describe the third stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.; 4 Discuss the fourth stage in the consumer purchasing decision process.; 5 Explain the fifth and final stage ...

  13. 6.3 Types of Consumer Decisions

    Instead, consumers engage in what's called extended problem solving where they spend a lot of time comparing different aspects such as the features of the products, prices, and warranties.

  14. Principles of Marketing: Buyer Behavior

    Andre Benz What Is Buyer Behavior? Buyer behavior is the set of activities a consumer goes through in obtaining products. It also includes the decision process that preceded or determined those activities. There are essentially two types of buyer behavior: consumer and industry.

  15. 4.21: Increasing Sales with Extended Problem Solving

    Consumers with an extended problem solving mindset put a great deal of effort into their purchase decision, gathering information through research and taking care to evaluate all options, before arriving at a decision. Because of the time and energy committed to the search, this diligence is more likely dedicated to the selection and purchase ...

  16. Extensive Problem Solving

    Definition In the choice process, extensive problem solving includes those consumer decisions requiring considerable cognitive activity, thought, and behavioral effort as compared to routinized choice behavior and habitual decision making. [1]

  17. How to Solve Problems Effectively as a Marketer

    1 Define the problem 2 Generate ideas 3 Evaluate and select ideas 4 Implement the solution 5 Review and learn 6 Here's what else to consider As a marketing professional, you face various...

  18. Increasing Sales with Extended Problem Solving

    Consumers with an extended problem solving mindset put a great deal of effort into their purchase decision, gathering information through research and taking care to evaluate all options, before arriving at a decision.

  19. Types of Consumer Decision

    Extensive Problem Solving - This is when we're making a decision to purchase and we are really going to labor over that decision. Each of these is discussed further below. Types of Consumer Decisions What is a Routinized Response? This is the kind of decision where you don't really have to think much about it. That is, it's a routine.

  20. 4.3: Buyer behavior as problem solving

    Global Text Project. Consumer behavior refers to buyers who are purchasing for personal, family, or group use. Consumer behavior can be thought of as the combination of efforts and results related to the consumer's need to solve problems. Consumer problem solving is triggered by the identification of some unmet need.

  21. Skills for Effective Problem Solving

    Team-working skills are also very useful when it comes to problem solving. If you lead a team, you can help your team or colleagues to solve problems in many ways. Create easy wins to begin with. Pick the 'low-hanging fruit' for the team to practice upon, that is, the tasks that are easiest to achieve, or the problems that are easiest to solve.

  22. Top Marketing Problems and Solutions: How to Strategically ...

    First, ensure your marketing team is heard and satisfied by adding feedback channels in the workplace. This could be a digital platform that collects remarks, or could be a physical version in your office. Either way, make sure your employees know their thoughts are valued by actually giving them the ability to share.

  23. Extensive problem solving

    Extensive problem solving is a systematic approach to breaking down complex problems into manageable pieces. It involves analyzing the problem from multiple angles, identifying all the factors that are contributing to the problem, and then coming up with a comprehensive solution.

  24. Startup

    1,524 likes, 1 comments - marketing.growmatics on February 18, 2024: "Deepinder Goyal, a distinguished graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), has amasse..." Startup | Marketing on Instagram: "Deepinder Goyal, a distinguished graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), has amassed an impressive net worth of Rs 2030 crore ...