By Melanie Barbarula
Is marketing just a ploy? Is there a common consumer decision making pathway that can be determined to establish when the right time is to deliver the right message?
My answer to these questions is posed as another question: Is there a right message? I do not believe there is a right or wrong answer to this question, but rather there are many factors to be considered.
Don E. Schultz indicates in his research article, “5 Myths of Consumer Behavior”, that there are widely held beliefs about consumer behavior that are, in fact, myths. He argues that: marketing concepts are irrelevant; there are no “markets”; there are no generalized pathways that customers follow; only big data – large samples collected over time – can help marketers truly understand consumer behavior in present era; and, last but not least, that marketing’s future decision-making will be networked, interactive, and occur in real-time. (Shultz, 2015) I agree with his notion that previous marketing models are becoming irrelevant and that generalizations should only be used as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules.
Marketers no longer control the system and old models, such as the AIDA model (Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action) and the “Hierarchy of Effects” model, are becoming irrelevant. Linear processes have become antiquated as the customer does not follow a general set of consumer shopping behaviors. According to Marshall & Johnson (2015), the process is much more evolved then the previous model’s phases: cognitive, affective and behavioral. At the time these models were created (1960’s), the only retail channel was brick and mortar and options were limited at best. With the development of technology and internet purchasing, locations and options are now limitless. (Marshall & Johnson, 2015)
With the shift in retail channel sales there is, therefore, a change in the purchasing process. This is further explained by research from Prosper International’s syndicated study, which indicates that out of 16,228 adults (who made purchases in a 30 day period in 10 product categories) 45% made retail purchases from brick and mortar establishments and 55% made purchases in online and mobile channels. The study further proves that there is no real process or hierarchy of effects. In other words, there is no real rhyme or reason for consumers’ purchasing patterns; consumers are purchasing based on their individual needs and not on their so called “market” (i.e. women, 18-49, middle income, and two kids). Furthermore, it is assumed that there is a cognitive learning process (i.e. research is performed as part of the decision-making process in the second step: problem recognition, search for information, evaluation of alternatives, product choice decision, and post purchase decision). However, many decisions are made with little to no research, as indicated in Shultz’s research: 18.8% of apparel, 44.2% gift cards, 40% home décor, 38% beauty products, 34.4% home improvement are purchased without prior research. (Shultz, 2015)
Research depends on a customer’s involvement with his or her decision-making process, which comes in two types: high and low involvement. High involvement is indicated by the customer making an active and committed choice, forming an emotional connection with their decision based on their research, and finally making an informed purchase decision. On the other hand, low involvement is used for frequent purchases where a pattern is formed or a habit is established; there is no evaluation of salient product characteristics and choices are made based on shelf position or price. (Marshall & Johnson, 2015)
It is interesting to see the difference between low and high involvement in the decision-making process, and how this relates to short and long term marketing. A customer with low involvement may be attracted to short term marketing promotions, such as coupons, rebates, or discounts. These marketing promotions are used as tools in hopes that they will raise consumer involvement to further research the product and continue use. The alternative of long term involvement is a value proposition, where additional features are introduced to draw in new customers. As defined by Marshall & Johnson (2015), some of these features are: better reliability, more responsive service, as well as strong marketing campaigns that speak to customer issues or concerns that raise involvement with the products. (Marshall & Johnson, 2015)
It is important to understand consumer behavior in order to plan how to market products at the optimal time. Even though decision-making models offer insights into consumer decision-making, factors are ever-changing. It is difficult to see the path of marketing into the future, but it looks like we are headed toward networked, interactive, integrated marketing and communication plans that will adapt and change to the continuously changing customer. (Schultz, 2015)
Shultz, D. E. (2015) ‘Marketing Insights’, American Marketing Association, (September/October 2015 Issue), Available at: https://www.ama.org/publications/MarketingInsights/Pages/the-path-not-taken.aspx (Accessed: 14 November 2015).
Marshall & Johnson (2015), Marketing Management (2nd Edition). McGraw-Hill Global Education Holdings, LLC.