In today’s competitive business environment, there is a great need of in-depth consumer insights in order to sustain and grow the business. This means that marketers are in constant search for detailed knowledge about the customers’ needs, wants, behaviors and the meaning behind particular actions or behavior. Modern marketing is consumer oriented rather than product oriented which means marketers are not required to persuade the customers to buy what the company produces rather they are required to understand the needs of their customers and satisfy them. The key objective of Integrated Marketing Communications is to find the ways to satisfy customers’ needs and wants. The main aim of IMC is to influence consumer behavior by creating a marketing message and send it to target market through most appropriate communication channels. Mihart (2012), in a study, has discussed IMC on a wider perspective and defined the critical micro and macro aspects of the IMC that are critical in developing an effective marketing communication mix. Micro and macro aspects of IMC are discussed in detail in the later part of this chapter.
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Hawkins, & Mothersbaugh, (2009) have defined consumer behavior as the decisions of the consumers that they take when they are purchasing, consuming or acquiring goods, services, activities, experience. Enis (1974, p. 228) has defined consumer behavior as “a process, which through inputs and their use though process and actions leads to satisfaction of needs and wants.” “Buying behaviour of consumers is defined as both individuals and households, who buy goods and services for personal consumption” (Kumar, 2010, p.218). Consumer behavior does not only imply the purchase of tangible goods like soap and house, but it also means consumers using services, their activities and experiences like going to a dental clinic, attending a concert (Keller, 2001).
One of the crucial aspects of consumer behavior is how the consumer makes a buying decision. A consumer goes through the buying decision process before making a final purchase. There are six stages in consumer buying decision process that are as follows (Hoyer, Maclnnis, and Pieters, 2013):
According to an economic view, the consumer makes rational decisions which involve a search process (Solomon, 2009). However, many consumer researchers criticized this type of model, and they say it is impossible to gather all the information to make a “perfect decision," so many buying decisions are not made by rational process. On the contrary, there is a passive view, according to which consumers do not make buying decisions independently, but rather their decisions are manipulated by marketing activities (Schwarz, 2004).
Then there is a cognitive view in which the consumer plays a receptive and active role. Here the consumer searches for the information and based on that information makes a satisfactory decision (Mihart, 2012a). This theory is also faced with criticism such as Bouyssou, Dubois, Prade, & Pirlot, (2013) in a book referred to one of the criticism of the cognitive aspects of the decision making and implied that cognitive perspective ignore the role of the process of the problem solving and the resources required and available for problem solving. This criticism led the role of integration of the Artificial intelligence in the process.
The emotional view of buying decision says that feelings and emotions also play a significant role in the purchase process. Sometimes consumers buy things impulsively; they do not go through the whole purchase process of searching information and comparing alternatives (Mihart, 2012a).
In order to understand consumer buying decision process, it should be kept in mind that a person does not necessarily follow every step of the decision-making process every time he makes a buying decision. A consumer gives time, effort and attention to the decision-making process depending on the importance of a problem to be solved by the purchase decision (Mihart, 2012a).
The role of consumer involvement in the decision-making process is presented in the approach of the consumer as problem solvers (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2009; Solomon, 2009). According to researchers’ consumers first evaluate how much effort is required to make a particular choice, and then they come up with a strategy for buying for constructive processing. (Lerner, Han, & Keltner, 2007; Lynch Jr & Zauberman, 2007; Nelson, 2004).
There are three perspective of consumer buying behavior or decision-making process: the decision making, the experiential and the behavioral influence (Simonson & Nowlis, 2000). Also, there are three levels of decision making as described by the approach of consumer as problem solver (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2009; Solomon, 2009): extensive problem solving, limited problem solving and routinized response behavior (Mihart, 2012a).
According to the decision-making perspective, consumers initially go through various stages of the problem solving task that finally results in buying behavior. The decision making process of the consumers to buy any product or service can be related to the decision making process that a person takes for solving extensive problem. At this level, a consumer does not have any set criteria for product category evaluation; vast information is required to set criteria in order to evaluate different brands in the category, and similarly sufficient information of different brands in the product category is needed (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2009). Sometimes it can be recognized as the experiential perspective because consumers’ choices cannot be fully explained by rational perspective even with the consumers’ great involvement in decision making. In such a situation, the experiential perspective explains that sometimes consumers buy things inspired by their feelings and emotions and not through any wish to solve the problem. When consumers are at the limited problem solving level, they usually have set criteria to evaluate the product category and various brands in that category, but they are not certain about the set of brands that will fulfill their needs (Loewenstein & Lerner, 2003).
Some decisions are made under conditions of low involvement; such decisions are inspired by the environmental cues (Schwarz, 2000), and it is known as behavioral influence perspective (Mandel, 2003). According to the behavioral influence approach, in some cases environmental characteristics influence consumers’ buying decision (Isen, 2001). Some extent of information search and deliberation time is a part of extended and limited problem solving approaches (Slovic et al., 2005). Routinized decision making is different from above two approaches; it requires minimum effort and conscious decision (Ariely, 2000).
It is important to understand that each of the approach to the consumer decision making has its own relevance at its place. These can be further defined as the consumer behavior approaches account different ways of seeing the single thing. For instance, Mowen, (1988) has referred approach selection is often a consequence of hierarchy of effect. Furthermore, most of the perspective faces the criticism of focusing only single aspect whereas consumer behavior in decision making is often a combination of different aspects and leads to the recommendation of new approach. For example, Gutnik, et al. (2006) in a paper have attempted to develop a model that not only unifies these factors lends aspects from the discipline of economics, the impact of psychology, and the influence of neuroscience. The relevance of the approach is also affected by the discipline and the environmental factors that have an impact. An interesting approach in the context of the policy making and environmental factors is discussed in the book entitled Consumers, Policy and the Environment: A Tribute to Folke Ölander (Grunert, Thøgersen,& Ölander, 2005). The referred book discussed the postmordern approach implies the removal of boundaries in terms of rejecting any norms or values that are considered applicable universally. Hence, it can be safely stated that application and understanding of every consumer or set of consumer varies accordingly.
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As discussed above according to Schwarz (2004), consumers’ buying decisions are not made independently, but rather their decisions are manipulated by marketing activities. The major marketing activity which aims to influence consumer behavior is marketing communication.
Traditional communication is the process of sending, receiving and processing of information. According to conventional linear direct marketing process companies first develop a product, create messages and add incentives to the mix. Then marketers make products available to the customers through various media or sales force (Schultz, 2000). This methodology assumes that all consumers follow the conventional buying decision process. A few years ago this strategy was useful because consumers had limited knowledge, and so with proper targeting and smart advertising, marketers could influence the consumers, buying behavior. However, the spread of technology like internet, mobile phones, tablets, search engines and on-demand TV has made consumer and buying behavior more sophisticated. The conventional linear marketing and communication process has lost its effectiveness after the spread of technology. Now consumers can easily get rid of the marketing messages with the help of spam filters, pop-up blockers, remote controls and do-not-mail –list (Constantinides, 2006). Therefore, it implies that understanding of the consumer behavior significantly requires understand of the various evolving marketing communication techniques that has its impact on the consumer behavior. This consistently evolving scenario of marketing communication in turn has implied and resulted in the integration of marketing communication where every technique is giving due consideration in order to drive the optimum response from the consumer.
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