Consumer involvement refers to that “state of mind that motivates a consumer to identify with a product or service offerings, their consumption patterns and consumption behavior”.
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Involvement enables consumers to develop the urge to search for or think about the available product categories before selecting a preferred brand and purchasing a product. Involvement reflects the amount of effort (physical and mental) that a person invests in the process of making a purchase decision.
Involvement creates a level of relevance to the product or service offering and this, prompts the consumer to collect and interpret relevant information about the product before making a purchase decision (Schiffman and Hansen, 2011, p. 89).Thus, it influences the consumer’s decision making process, as well as, the process of searching, processing and transmitting information.
Involvement varies across persons, situations, product offerings and time. The strength and intensity of involvement determines the consumer’s level of involvement. Thus, involvement can be high or low (East, Wright and Vanhucle, 2008, p. 132). Involvement can also be short-term and situational or long-term and enduring.
Additionally, involvement is often directed at the elements of marketing mix. This paper focuses on purchase involvement and the process of consumer decision making.
Purchase involvement refers to the “level of concern for or interest in the purchase process, once the purchase process has been triggered by the need to consider a particular purchase” (Quester, Pettigrew and Hawkins, 2011, p. 67). Purchase involvement is a temporary state that is typical of a consumer, and exists in a process.
Purchase involvement is influenced by current external variables which include the product, situation, and communication. It is also influenced by past external factors such as enduring, ego, as well as, central values. Thus, purchase involvement reflects the time, thought, as well as, the energy that consumers dedicate to the process of purchasing a given product.
Difference between Purchase Involvement and Product Involvement
Purchase involvement differs from product involvement in the following ways. First, purchase involvement refers to the consumer’s interest in the buying or purchase process (Kim and Sung, 2009, pp. 504-519). This interest is initiated by the need to purchase a product.
Product involvement, on the other hand, refers to a consumer’s or a person’s interest in purchasing a given product and the consumer’s commitment to purchase a particular brand (Quester and Lim, 2008, pp. 22-38).
Thus, purchase involvement focuses on the interest in the purchase process, whereas product involvement focuses on the interest in a particular product or brand. In the context of product involvement, the arousal, interest, as well as, emotional attachment is evoked by the product, whereas in purchase involvement, these attachments are evoked by the need to purchase the product.
Second, purchase involvement is situational, whereas product involvement is enduring. Situational involvement occurs when the consumer attaches relevance to a product in the short-term. Thus, it is temporary in nature. Purchasing a computer as a gift to a student on his birthday is an example of situational involvement.
In this case, the involvement disappears as soon as the purchase is completed. Enduring involvement, on the other hand, occurs when the relevance attached to a particular product last for a long period. A high school student planning to purchase a computer to use in collage three years from now is an example of enduring involvement.
In this case, the student has three years to get involved with the product offering and plan for the purchase. Finally, consumers can have a high purchase involvement in a product without necessarily having a high product involvement.
For example, a person purchasing a dish washing machine may have a high purchase involvement due to the high cost of the product. However, he may have a low product involvement due to band loyalty.
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Factors Influencing Purchase Involvement
The factors influencing purchase involvement includes the following. First, the consumer and his personal characteristics such as interests, lifestyle, attitude and motives/ needs determine the level of purchase involvement (Bezenco and Blili, 2011, pp. 682-708). A prudent consumer will always explore and evaluate the available alternatives before deciding on what to buy.
A shrewd consumer tends to search for more information in adverts, and sale offers. Additionally, they are willing to spend more time in shopping in order to obtain the product with the lowest price. A consumer who is price conscious gives priority to price when making a purchase decision (Harari and Hornik, 2010, pp. 499-506).
The consumer’s cognitive ability determines the extent to which he or she can process, as well as, draw conclusions before purchasing a product. These characteristics lead to high purchase involvement. In general, products associated with the consumer’s image and personality normally leads to high purchase involvement.
Consumers associated with high levels of apathy and hassle-free attitudes tend to be less concerned with the shopping process. Thus, their levels of purchase involvement tend to be low.
Second, purchase involvement is determined by the product or service to be purchased. The features or benefits associated with the product will influence the level of purchase involvement (Harari and Hornik, 2010, pp. 499-506).
Thus, a consumer who is concerned about quality will be willing to spend more time comparing brands with varying benefits and features. Additionally, purchase involvement can be low if the consumer is loyal to a particular brand.
The amount of risk associated with the consumption or purchase of the product will also determine the level of purchase involvement. The level of involvement will be high if the product is associated with high risk levels (Radder and Huang, 2008, pp. 232-243).
Third, purchase involvement is determined by the situation under which the act of purchasing a product is undertaken (Ozdipciner, Li and Muzaffer, 2012, pp. 34-43). For example, a person purchasing a gift for a loved one will tend to be highly involved in the purchase process in order to obtain the best product or brand.
Social pressures such as shopping in the presence of friends also influence the level of purchase involvement. Socially, individuals tend to be more conscious of the products or brands they buy in the presence of their friends as compared to when they are alone.
The amount of time devoted to the purchase process also has a bearing on the level of purchase involvement (Benerjee, Koshy and Shobha, 2007, pp. 746-763). In this case, the available time determines the consumer’s ability to collect and process or interpret the information about the product to be purchased. The level of purchase involvement will be low if the time to be spent in shopping is little and vice versa.
Consumer Decision Making
Consumer purchasing decisions “fall along a continuum of three categories namely, habitual decisions-making, limited decision making and extended decision making” (Neal and Quester, 2007, p. 56). This continuum is anchored by habitual response behavior on one end and extended decision making process on the other extreme.
The categories of decision making are influenced by, the level of involvement, available time, information, and the availability of alternatives. The difference between the three decision making categories can be explained as follows.
Habitual Decision Making
In habitual decision making, the consumers do not make any decisions regarding the purchase of a product (Quester, Pettigrew and Hawkins, 2011, p. 67). In this case, the consumers simply purchase a given product whenever there is a need to consume that particular product.
The consumers normally depend on their long-term memory to identify the preferred band (Chang and Ling, 2003, pp. 94-107). Thus, no effort is devoted to the process of searching for information about the product. In habitual decision making, post-purchase evaluations are rarely done.
In most cases, the consumers evaluate the product or brand only when it fails to function as expected. Habitual decisions are often made when the level of purchase involvement is very low. Additionally, the option of not purchasing the product is hardly considered by the consumer.
For example, a person whose body lotion has run out may purchase the same brand. In this case, the decision is habitual since, the consumer is loyal to a particular band which she purchases without much thought or consideration of all available alternatives. Habitual consumer decision making can be classified into two categories namely, “brand loyalty and repeat purchase decisions” (Parsons and Maclaran, 2008, p. 88)
Repeat purchase decisions occur when the consumer buys a particular brand repeatedly without being committed to that particular brand. Repeat purchase can be made as a result of apathy. Apathy is a situation in which the consumer is indifferent towards the available brands (Grebila, Colson and Menapare, 2011, pp. 112-115).
Consequently, the consumer can settle for any brand that is readily available. For example, a student can be indifferent towards the brands of pens available at a local store.
Thus, the student will buy the pen she or he finds in the store. Repeat purchase decisions can also be made due to non-availability of alternative brands. For example, a student can continually purchase locally made pens if the government restrict importation of pens.
In the context of brand loyalty, the consumer is usually committed to a particular brand. This usually occurs when the consumer is emotionally attached to a product due to the actual and perceived superior qualities of the product (Gunjan and Amitava, 2011, pp. 430-432).
Due to the high level of loyalty, the consumer will always prefer a particular brand over the rest in the market. For instance, a consumer can consistently purchase a particular brand of soft drink until a better brand is launched in the market.
Limited Consumer Decision Making
Limited consumer decision-making occurs or exists between the habitual and the extended decision making categories (Quester, Pettigrew and Hawkins, 2011, p. 69). The difference between limited and habitual decision making is that the former involves a limited search for information prior to making the purchase decision.
For example, a consumer who is interested in purchasing coffee may spare some time to compare the prices of various coffee brands. The consumer may also be interested in trying a new coffee brand. Hence, he or she will have to seek information on the quality and prices of the available coffee brands.
Limited decision making is likely to occur if the consumer has past experience with the product. For instance, a consumer interested in trying a new toothpaste brand may allocate limited time to compare available brands.
Limited decision making can also occur if the risk associated with the product or making the wrong choice is moderate. In this case, failing to search for some basic information about the product may be costly to the customer (Broderick, Graley, and Dentiste, 2007, pp. 678-681).
However, the consumer may not devote a lot of time and resources in searching for product information since the risk associated with the product is moderate. Lack of knowledge about the available brands can also lead to limited decision making. With limited decision-making, consumers tend to depend on personal information rather than external sources of information.
Limited decision making is also associated with low levels of purchase involvement. This is because the consumers devote limited time and effort to searching information or comparing available alternatives. Additionally, the post-purchase evaluations are hardly done.
Extended Decision Making
This is the most complex purchase decision making process. Extended consumer decision making occurs when the consumer intends to buy a new product. In this case, lack of knowledge about the product will prompt the consumer to consider external sources of information (Torres-Moraga, Vasquez-Parraga and Zamora-Gonzalez, 2008, pp. 302-313).
Extended decision making also occurs when the product is very expensive or the product is one that is seldom bought. For example, the purchase of a house involves extended decision making.
The person intending to purchase the house must extensively search for information about the house, the financing options and the quality of the environment in which the house is located. Since a house is a very expensive product, purchasing it involves a high risk.
This is because the consumer is likely to lose a large potion of his or her investments if the wrong choice is made. In order to avoid these risks, the consumer must engage in extensive information search, as well as, evaluation of available options (Dobbelstein and Zielke, 2007, pp. 112-121). The evaluation normally involves reviewing the attributes of each brand at a time.
The attributes of each brand are then matched to the desired characteristics or expectations of the consumer. The consumer will depend mainly on external sources of information to make the right decision, especially, if the consumer has no past experience with the product.
The internal search or the consumer’s memory is also considered an important source of information in extended decision making. Other products that involve extended decision making include cars, and plasma TVs. Extended decision making involves high level of purchase involvement.
The extended decision making differs from limited and habitual decision making in the following ways. First, limited and habitual decision making are characterized with low risk products and low purchase involvement.
The extended decision making on the other hand is characterized with high risk products and high purchase involvement. Second, limited and habitual decision-making involve little or no information search. The acquired information is often processed passively, and the consumer is likely to make in-store decisions.
Extended decision making, on the other hand, involves extensive search for information about the product’s quality, price, promotions and discounts. In extended decision making, information is often processed actively. Additionally, the consumer usually consults multiple sources before settling on a preferred brand or product.
Finally, habitual and limited decision making involves limited shopping time. The shopping process is normally self-service in nature with little or no help required from the store attendants. Additionally, the choice of products or brands is often influenced by the store or shop displays (Delgado-Ballester and Munuera-Allemon, 2001, pp. 1238-1258).
The extended decision making, on the other hand, involves visiting several outlets in order to find the best shopping deal. Communication or assistance from the store personnel is normally required to help the consumer to make the right choice.
Consumer involvement is a high state of awareness that stimulates a person to search for, attend to, as well as, think about a product’s information before purchasing the product. It reflects the interest, as well as, the importance that a person attaches to the process of acquiring and consuming a given product.
In this context, involvement can be conceptualized in terms of product and purchase involvement. Product involvement refers to the interest a person has in purchasing a product and the person’s commitment to a particular brand.
Purchase involvement, on the other hand, refers to the consumer’s interest in the purchase process. The level of involvement influences the purchase decision making process. Consumer decision making can be classified into three categories namely, habitual, limited and extended decision making.
Habitual decision making does not involve any decision. In limited decision making, the consumer searches for limited information before making any decision (Quester, Pettigrew and Hawkins, 2011, p. 69). Habitual and limited decision making are associated with low purchase involvement. Extended decision making, however, involves extensive search for information and high purchase involvement.
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