Our last post in the consumer purchase decision series covered the first step, problem recognition. You have to know there’s a problem before you can do anything about it, right? If you missed that post, you can find it here.
Now that you’re all caught up, we’ll move along. The next step in the consumer purchase decision is information search. This is the step in which you seek out information on ways to fix the problem you’ve recognized.
You have conducted an information search before, whether you realized it at the time or not. Your trusty mixer broke and you need a new one right away; those Christmas cookies aren’t going to mix themselves! So, you hop on your computer for a quick Google search and maybe ask your mother, the kitchen master, which mixer to buy. Soon enough, you have a new mixer and are mixing up your second batch of dough.
There are two different methods in which you can search for information, internally and externally. An internal search relies on your memory while an external search relies on, well, external information. Regardless of which method is used, a successful information search results in multiple options for the buyer to choose from.
Nearly all searches begin with an internal search, sometimes you may not even realize it. For example, in your search for a new mixer, did you realize that before using Google and asking your mom, you struck all past mixers that didn’t live up to expectations from the list of potential purchases? That can be classified as an internal search. You used your memory to seek out information which, in this instance, was what products to avoid.
Most low involvement purchases only utilize internal information searches. Remember, low involvement decisions are the ones that don’t require much thought. Often, they are basic human needs or not very expensive. Let’s say you’re hungry. Your internal search probably consists of all your favorite foods. At the end of your information search, you may be left with the following options: pizza, leftover Chinese food, and Mexican food. Granted, if your internal information search did not provide the results you were expecting, you will move onto an external search.
Turning to a Google search and your mother, the kitchen master, in your quest for a new mixer are examples of an external information search. You branched out beyond the knowledge you possess to learn information from a different source, widening the variety of brands and products to choose from.
Would you be surprised to find out that about 80% of people research products online before making a purchase? And ever wonder why people follow brands on social media? Nearly one-third of people do so to continuously browse new products. Now that is some commitment to the external information search.
High involvement decisions generally utilize an external information search. These decisions require more thought and are often more expensive. For instance, when you’re in search of a new car you probably won’t limit your information search to the knowledge you already have, although that is where you will begin. No, most people reach out to multiple external sources for information, including word of mouth, online reviews and the information provided by car manufacturers.
Knowing the different manners in which you conduct information searches is important, but it’s equally important to realize no search is independent from influence. There are multiple factors that can influence an information search.
- Motivation: If you are highly motivated to find the best solution, you’re more likely to comparison shop, or look for the best option, than just convenience shop.
- Perception: The way you perceive a brand or product will influence whether or not you consider it an option in your information search.
- Selective perception: This occurs when your perception is only focused on certain attributes. A great example of this would be classifying food as healthy or not. If your definition of healthy is any low-fat food option, then you would view sugary cereal as healthy and almonds as unhealthy. Selective perception can also determine which brands and products you will consider viable in your information search.
Isn’t it exhausting to think of all of the minute steps your mind takes before making any purchase? The average person is not attuned to notice each step of the purchase process. And to think, we’re not even halfway through the process, nor are we scratching the surface at the mounds of information compiled on this subject.
Next up: Evaluation of Alternatives.