4 Types of Consumer Buying Behavior (Assael)

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Shubhi Kotiya
CxO / Board, Germany

4 Types of Consumer Buying Behavior (Assael)

Marketers need to be aware that consumer decision making varies with the buying behavior of the consumer. Henry Assael distinguished four types based on:
  • DEGREE OF BUYER INVOLVEMENT (high/low)
    Consumers are highly involved when the product is expensive, bought infrequently, risky and highly self-expressive.
  • DEGREE OF DIFFERENCES AMONG BRANDS (few/significant)
    Consumers may perceive significant differences between brands or just few.
Based on these 2 variables, Assael's four types of consumer buying behavior are:

  • COMPLEX BUYING BEHAVIOR
    Consumers go through complex buying behavior when they are highly involved in a purchase and aware of significant differences among brands.
    Example: This applies to high-involvement products such as a laptop computer. Buyers may not know what attributes to consider in these products, so they do research. This buyer will pass through a learning process characterized by first developing beliefs about the product, then attitudes, and then making a thoughtful purchase choice.
    Marketing strategy: Knowing this, marketers can help educate buyers about product, attributes, differentiate and describe the brand's features, and motivate store personnel and others to influence the final brand choice.
  • DISSONANCE-REDUCING BUYING BEHAVIOR:
    In some cases the consumer is highly involved in a purchase, but sees little difference between the brands.
    Example: This applies to high-involvement products such as carpeting. Carpeting is expensive and self-expressive, yet the buyer may consider most brands in a given price range to be the same. After buying, the consumer might experience dissonance after noticing certain disquieting features or hearing favourable things about other brands.
    Marketing strategy: Marketers should supply beliefs and evaluations that help consumers feel good about their brand choices.
    In this case, the buyer will shop around to learn what is, available but will buy fairly quickly because brand differences are not pronounced. The buyer may respond primarily to a good price or to purchase convenience.
  • HABITUAL BUYING BEHAVIOR:
    Many products are bought under conditions of low consumer involvement and the absence of significant brand differences.
    Example: This applies to low-involvement products such as detergent or salt. Consumers keep buying the same brand out of habit, not due to strong brand loyalty because they are passive recipients of information conveyed by advertising.
    Marketing strategy: Ad repetition creates brand familiarity rather than brand conviction. Marketers of such products can use price and sales promotions to entice new customers to try their products. The ad should stress only a few key points. Visual symbols and images are important because they can easily be remembered and associated with the brand. Marketers can try to convert the low-involvement product into one of higher involvement.
  • VARIETY-SEEKING BUYING BEHAVIOR:
    Certain buying situations are characterized by low consumer involvement but significant brand differences. Here consumers are known to do a lot of switching between brands.
    Example: This applies to low-involvement products such as potato chips. In this category, consumers switch brands often because they want more variety.
    Marketing strategy: The marketing strategy is different for the market leader and the minor brands in this product category. The market leader will try to encourage habitual buying behavior by dominating shop shelf spaces, keeping shelves stocked, and running frequent reminder ads. Challenger firms will encourage variety seeking by offering lower prices, coupons, free samples, and ads that offer reasons for trying something new.
Note that Asmael's framework is aimed at customer buying behavior in B2C environments. In B2B, buyers are better educated professionals and the products being bought are often more complex and more expensive.
Sources:
Henry Assael (1987), "Consumer Behavior and Marketing Action", Kent Publishing.
Philip Kotler, (2002). "Marketing Management Millenium Edition", Tenth Edition, 2002, pp. 96-97

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