What is the correct model of consumer decision making?
Question: We’re a small fast food outlet in the university belt. For our student customers, we have food that’s as good as that sold by nearby and more known fast-food stores, but cheaper.
Last month, we introduced a new menu item. There was sales in the first two weeks but almost none now. We asked our daughter, who’s a marketing student in San Beda, to tell us what could have happened.
She said she would ask her professor who told her that it must have been the way we offered and presented the menu item to our customers.
My wife and I were disappointed. We offered the new menu item as we have done for our other food items.
Our menu board even had a section featuring the new product. As we talked more, my wife said that maybe we were wrong in assuming that our customers will continue to decide and behave just the way they did with our existing products.
Maybe they have changed how they decide to buy something new. Can you please tell us what’s the correct customer decision process to guide our selling of this new menu item?
Answer: I must say at the outset that you and your wife have an admirable marketing mind-set that is both consumer- and marketer-driven.
Your wife’s analysis starts with the customer and only secondarily with what you’ve done as marketers. That’s good marketing thinking. But let’s start with the current situation and problem.
Your new menu item is no longer being bought, just two weeks after introduction. So where is the source of the problem?
You have two alternative “guesses.”
The first traces the problem to the failure of your chosen marketing mix—that had brought previous success—to work the same magic on the new product. The second looks at perhaps the wrong guide to or basis for the marketing of the new menu item.
That guide is the assumed customer buying decision making process.
Because all marketing decisions and solutions derive from the assumed consumer choices and preference, going consumer includes in it solving the marketer side of the problem. So, we’ll focus on and discuss your second hypothesis.
Your wife says that you may be wrong in assuming that your customers will continue to behave just the way they did with your existing menu items.
What exactly was your assumed model of customer buying decision making? It’s a rational model of buying decision.
From the menu board, the consumer chooses among food products and considers her reasons for buying. She then compares the tentatively chosen food item with another product along those buying reasons.
If the food item she started with outscores the alternatives, she then proceeds with her original buying choice.
Assuming that this buying decision model is at work for your new menu item, the consumer decision process took place in the first two weeks but did not continue. And so you and your wife concluded that your guide must be a wrong guide.
The consumer decision model you’re using as guide is a wrong model. So, what’s the correct one?
In understanding consumer behavior, we like to believe that a consumer decision is deliberate and reasoned out. Consumer advocates like this model for the protection of consumers against crafty marketers who may take advantage of emotionally driven buying.
But the larger truth and reality is in fact non-deliberative consumer buying decision making.
In my 2014 consumer coping behavior survey, consumers considered 70 percent to 82 percent of the 151 product categories surveyed as low involvement products.
Consumers consider these products as not necessary and say that they “can live or do without them.” There is no deliberative decision making process that accompanies their buying.
In 2011, the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman put science into this non-rational model of consumer behavior in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Kahneman presents overwhelming evidence that most consumers think and behave more along the fast lane than along the slow rational road.
So, are fast-food products including your new menu item low involvement, non-necessity, can-do-without kind of product?
If they are, then your problem is not about having the wrong customer buying decision model as guide.
It’s more about selling and marketing according to consumer’s low-involvement behavior.
How do you do that kind of selling? Let me quickly summarize my MRx’s on this issue.
For example, in advertising and promoting low-involvement products, attend more to awareness.
If you’ve kept your new product on top-of-mind and/or on top-of-heart of consumers, they will buy without having to learn first or feel good first about your new product.
For this to happen, you don’t need credible advertisements. What will work better is to advertise so that consumer will have top-of-mind awareness for your product.
My supporting examples for this are the low-involvement soy sauce and laundry detergent products.
Keep your questions coming. Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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