The evaluation of alternatives stage is where the gathering of the previous information is analysed with the purpose of evaluating the most preferred options available and coming to a final decision. In this stage consumers use the performance levels to compare different brands in the light of their particular consumption problem. The number, type and importance of evaluative criteria used differ from consumer to consumer and across product categories. (Hawkins, 2004). In the TV example, a lot of thought has been put into the research, and Chris has looked at a number of brands and has compared and contrasted the features by using a set of criteria’s for making the decision such as: cost, brand, features and warranty. He has looked for products with a certain set of attributes that deliver the benefits he’s after and is within the budget. There are 3 types of choice processes when deciding between products and services: affective choice, attitude-based choice, and attribute choice. Affective choice is when a consumer will make a choice based on his feelings (it feels right) and makes them feel good about themselves. This leads to buyers purchasing the product even though it doesn’t contain all the features they’re looking for. On the other hand, the attitude-based choice is when the consumer goes through the entire process from need to research to evaluation, and will make sure that the product meets each and every need that has been identified. (Lake, 2009) Furthermore, the attribute choice is strictly based on benefit and feature-by feature comparisons across specific brands or products. The consumer making this choice will be sitting down and going through each feature or benefit one by one and crossing a product off when it doesn’t correspond with their need. The product that’s left is the one on consumer purchases (Lake, 2009). In Chris’s example, he would most likely be using the attribute choice, where he would classify each TV, listing each feature and comparing those, making sure he gets the best TV with most of the features he’s looking for within the price range. Purchase decision is the next step in this stage. In this step, the consumer determines where to purchase and how to purchase as well as when he should purchase (Lake, 2009). This is where the brand is selected as well as the outlet from which the product will be bought. Neal, Quester, Hawkins, 2004 claim there are three ways these decisions can be made: 1) simultaneously; 2) item first, outlet second; or 3) outlet first, item second. In many situations, consumers engage in a simultaneous selection process of stores and brands. In Chris’s Teac LCD TV example, he may chose a set of brands based on both the product’s technical features (attributes) and availability of brands in the TV stores and mail-order catalogues he knows well. It is also possible that he decides where to buy (e.g. Harvey Norman) and then chooses one or two brands the store carries (Samsung, LG). Once the brand and outlet have been decided, the consumer moves on to the transaction The last stage of the process is the post-purchase stage. As Best, Hawkins, and Coney (2001) suggests, following some purchases, consumers experience doubts or anxiety about the wisdom of the purchase, and may feel that an alternative would’ve been preferable. In Chris’s case he might realise that LG would’ve been a better alternative than the Samsung TV he purchased, as LG had a better warranty and features, leading to post-purchase cognitive dissonance. By understanding the behaviours of consumers, more informed decisions can be made, that can increase customer retention and profitability for organisations. Considering the fierce competition among companies, this process is vital to the success of on organisation, having a greater chance of winning their business.
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