Buying Behavior: How Consumers Handle Perceived Risk

Consumption Behavior
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Tendekai Dzinamarira
Manager, Zimbabwe

Buying Behavior: How Consumers Handle Perceived Risk

What is Consumer Perceived Risk. Definition

Perceived risk is defined as the uncertainty that consumers experience when they can not foresee the consequences of their purchase decisions. it is the uncertainty a consumer is feeling when buying items, especially expensive products.

Perceived Risk by Consumers versus Actual Risk

Perceived risk is different from actual risk in that PERCEIVED RISK is the predicted, assumed, felt, experienced risk in the consumer's mind (which can be but is not necessarily real) while ACTUAL RISK is the fundamental, underlying, real risk.

Types of Risk Perceivers among Consumers

  • High risk perceivers
    These are consumers who limit their product or service choices to a few safe alternatives. These are also known as narrow categorizers.
  • Low risk perceivers
    These customers tend to make their choices from a wider range of alternatives. This group is known as broad categorizers.

Types of Perceived Risk by Consumers

Consumers perceive the following risks when making purchase decisions especially when buying new products or services:
  1. Functional Risk
    Functional risk is the risk that product will not perform as expected. Does the battery of a newly introduced cellphone last long?
  2. Physical Risk
    This is the concern that a product will be dangerous and might potentially harm or injure the consumer or someone else. Does the newly introduced gadget safe or it produce harmful radiation?
  3. Financial Risk
    This risk arises when the consumer thinks about their Return on Investment (ROI). Normally this occurs when consumers are assessing whether the product they intend to purchase is worth its price and whether the benefits of the products outweigh the investment they make.
  4. Psychological or Social Risk
    This is the risk associated with poor product choice that could then affect the ego of the consumer. It is associated with unforeseen consequences if the product or service is or is not consistent with the buyer's sense of self-identity.
  5. Time Risk
    Time risk is associated with time spent in product search. This is the potential loss of time associated with making a bad purchasing decision and time maybe wasted if the product does not perform as expected.

How Consumers Handle Perceived Risk?

Obviously, the mentioned buyer types and their tolerance for risk taking and the degree and types of risk that consumers perceive are factors that influence their purchase strategies. Here are some generic consumer tactics to deal with perceived risks when buying something:
  1. Seek Information
    Consumers seek information about the product and product category through word of mouth (WOM) from people whose opinions they value, through various promotional tools at their disposal or from sales persons. When consumers suspect a high degree of risk they search for more information about product alternatives.
  2. Stay Brand Loyal
    Consumers avoid perceived risks by remaining brand loyal to a brand with which they have been satisfied instead of purchasing a new or untried brands. High risk perceivers are more likely to be loyal to their old brands and less likely to purchase newly introduced products or brands.
  3. Select by Brand Image
    When consumers have no experience with a product, they tend to trust a well known brand name. This gave them assurance of quality, dependability performance and service.
  4. Rely on Store Image
    Store image also provides customers with an opportunity or assurance of return privileges and adjustment in case of dissatisfaction. If consumers have no other information about a product they often trust the judgement of merchandise buyers of reputable store and depend on them to have made careful decisions in selecting the products or services.
  5. Buy Most Expensive Models
    Consumers perceive that the most expensive products or services are probably the best in terms of quality.
  6. Seek Reassurance
    Customers seek reassurance through money back guarantees, warranties, pre-purchase trials for example test drives before closing the car sale deal.
Kindly help to develop this very interesting topic and put your comments below. Thanks beforehand.
Peter P J and Olson J C (2005) Consumer Behavior and Marketing Strategy, 7th Edition, McGraw-Hill High Education
Schiffman L and Kanuk L (2014) Consumer Behavior, Global and Southern African Perspectives, 10th Edition, Pearson Education


Tendekai Dzinamarira
Manager, Zimbabwe

Self Image and Perceived Risk

According to William James(1890), "A man's self is the sum total of all that he calls his". This se... Sign up

Dr. Eyal Policar
Entrepreneur, Israel

Risk is Risk is Risk

It doesn't matter if it perceived or actual - damn if I know the difference. Risk is something you t... Sign up

Franco Savanco
Entrepreneur, Argentina

Semantics on This Area...

@Dr. Eyal Policar: Departing from the idea that absolutely every definition is man made, every post ... Sign up

Stephen Hunt
Entrepreneur, Australia

Market Forces

An interesting read. I agree with consumers' "handling of risk". All except their tendency to buy m... Sign up

Helen Strong
Business Consultant, South Africa

Business Buying Behavior / Perceived Risks

Great topic which clearly outlines the major risk areas consumers are perceiving when buying goods. ... Sign up

Maurice Hogarth
Consultant, United Kingdom

Risk versus Gamble

@Dr. Eyal Policar: Some agreement with your point. Rationally a person will assess what their 'purc... Sign up

Helen Strong
Business Consultant, South Africa

Emotions in the Buying Decision

Another aspect within the buying decision is the way in which emotions affect our perspectives. prof... Sign up


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