i. When a person is hungry he recognizes that he needs to eat food in order to do away with the hunger facing him.

ii. When a person is running or walking in the morning the uneasiness may necessitate the urge to go in for sports shoes.

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iii. When one has to move during the rain or sun he may feel the need of protection and it may necessitate need for an umbrella.

Divergence between the actual state and the desired states may be either because of change in actual state or the desired state. Change in actual state could be because of replenishment demand occurring due to consumption, spoilage, wear and tear or loss of goods.

The change in income may also cause the change in actual state. Many of the Central Government employees who got Pay Band IV changed their cars, because of quantum change in their pay packets and the arrears they received. At times the need may be felt due to demonstration effect. For example, purchase of a new LED television by neighbor may be a stimulus.

2. Information Search:

Next stage to problem recognition, the prospective buyer goes in for searching information -search about the products he needs and wishes to buy. Information search stage comprises searching internally (the buyer relying on himself to find the products by remembering facts or recalling experiences) and/or externally (trying to find more information from other sources). Externally, the buyer may seek the opinion of friends, look at the advertisements promoting the product, talk to salesperson, and go through reviews done by others.

All this may provide sufficient information to the purchaser to reduce the feelings of uncertainty and risks. If the information search is fruitful the buyer would be more informed and would find it very easy to choose between alternative product answers to the needs he had before.

Information search is affected by many factors, like whether buying is for replenishment or extension. Replenishment does not require much search. Extension means to get information for the products which the consumer does not use presently; trade-off between the perceived cost of the search and the risk involved; and situational factors (emergency).

If the buyer is highly involved, or purchasing for the first time or buying something which may have long-term or financial, social or cultural implications, the information search becomes very important. The information may be sought from newspapers, brochures, TV programmes, relatives, friends, helplines, internet, etc. The risks, potential customers may face, be related to performance, financial, physical, social, and time-loss.

In case of low involvement situations, the external search does not take place and even internal search is also minimal.

3. Pre-Purchase Evaluation of Alternatives:

After recognising the need, and collecting the information from internal and external sources, the consumer has many alternative solutions to choose from to satisfy the need recognized or identified in stage one of the consumer buying process.

The individual tries to go in for the best alternative. Suppose one has to go for vacation, well there are many alternatives – Goa, Manali, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Europe, South Africa, Latin America or the USA. Many determinants like credibility of the tour operator, visa, price, quality of service, price, the number of days, food, local sight-seeing, airport tranansfers, etc. come into play to decide on what appeals to him the most.

While buying a physical product, the customer has many choice criteria, or ‘consideration set’. To buy rice from Delhi’s Naya Bazar the product features (look, how old it is, and brand name), and the price may be the typical criteria for selection. Some people wish to buy a refrigerator from the neighbourhood store, knowing well that the prices are higher than other places.

Probably the time to go to some other place, local seller’s reputation, easy to contact when needed and complain if something goes wrong might weigh in favour of local seller/store. While buying a CFL bulb, if as a matter of rule not to buy made in China product, it is already out of your consideration set.

In case of some goods, the consumer may merely look at the reputation of the brand and the store. While buying a car most of the consumers do not understand the technicalities as the mechanical engineers do.

After thoroughly evaluating the available alternatives the consumer has to make a purchase decision to buy the product in question or not. If no buying is to be made the process stops here and starts all over again. If the buyer decides to purchase the product the next step of the buying decision process is moved to.

4. Purchase:

If the buyer makes up his mind and settles on purchasing the product, the actual purchase where the buyer acquires the product through credit card, cheque or cash payment. The decision to buy a particular car may also bring in decisions like to have three year replacement guarantee, or to have teflon quoting on the car, and which accessories to go in for. The possession of the item now moves from the seller to the buyer. The consumer now uses the product (drives the car).

From the marketer’s point of view, he would be interested to know when the product is consumed (so that marketers can emphasise on the consumption), where the product is consumed (in public, in private or while doing something else), how the product is consumed (broken rice is used in Khichri, but full rice is used in Pulao), and how much is consumed (light, medium, and heavy users).

5. Post-Consumption Evaluation:

The customer or the consumer of the product may feel satisfied or dissatisfied depending on the performance level of the product. Satisfaction may be brought about by the product performing as the consumer hoped for and the opposite is true for dissatisfaction. In case of candy it is consumed instantaneously and one can feel the taste and decide about the satisfaction or dissatisfaction then and there.

However, in case of other products, it may take time to decide about satisfaction level. One may buy one brand of tyre, if he is dissatisfied, he may think that it would have been better to buy Michelin brand, though it was little costly. Thus consumption may either reinforce the decision or dissatisfy the consumer.

The level of dissonance will depend upon the degree of divergence between the expected outcome and the actual outcome; the importance of discrepancy to the individual, the degree to which the discrepancy can be corrected; and the cost of purchase in both time and money. To reduce post-purchase dissonance, the buyers may take any one of the following approaches:

i. Ignore the dissonant information and look for positive information about the product. (For example, the stereo system may not sound as good as one expected, but it looks really good.)

ii. Distort the dissonance information. (It sounds a lot better than the one you had before.)

iii. Play down the importance of the issue. (As long as it plays so you can hear the beat, it hasn’t got to be perfect.)

iv. Change one’s behaviour. (Sell the stereo and buy something else, listen to the radio instead.)

6. Disposal:

Recently, both the consumers and the manufacturers are highly concerned about disposal of the product left unconsumed, or the packaging left after product being consumed. Disposal may take any one of the following forms:

i. Dumping the product or its packaging into the street/vacant land or throwing into refuse disposable arrangement;

ii. Selling the product second-hand (selling used furniture through eBay or other websites, and old newspapers, old coolers, etc to kabadiwalas);

iii. Reusing the product (newspaper used for cleaning mirrors and glass-panes and jars for filling other items)

iv. Recycling the product (using paper to make containers in rural areas).

Many fast food companies do provide litter patrols for collection of discarded packaging and food). Many manufacturers pay if the packaging is returned to them. Recently Delhi Government has banned the use of PP bags as they are not bio-degradable. Yet in India it is a common sight to see PP bags and satches on the road site. People chewing tobacco, pan masala, and gutka often spit on the roads and walls.