The involvement theory is based on the concept that there are low and high involvement consumers and there are high and low involvement purchases. According to this theory consumers involvement depends on the degree of relevance of purchase to a consumer. If for instance, consumer wants to buy a packet of tea or food or bread or butter he does not feel very much involved. It is because the life of these products is very short and ones consumed they exhaust. If the experience with the product is not good, next time some other brand can be purchased.
Types of consumer involvement in buying
Communication in involvement: Communication involvement signifies sharing the available information with others in the family or organization. If one member has some information on the subject matter of decision, he should communicate it with the other members before arriving at a decision.
Commitment: Commitment is another important form of involvement. When a member of the family falls sick, the other family members are committed to arrange medical treatment for the suffering members. Similarly, functions like marriages entail the commitment of the entire family.
Ego involvement: Ego involvement is intended to satisfy one’s ego. For example, all the members of the family involve themselves in purchasing a product for a single member belonging to that family. Wife involves herself in the purchase of garments for her husband and husband involves himself in the purchase of cosmetics for his wife. Sons and daughters of the family significantly influence the purchase of laptop, TV, car, household furniture, etc. The ego of each family member is satisfied by consulting him/her before the purchase.
Extent of information: Once the consumer recognizes the need, he then engages in a search process. Search means acquisition of information from the environment. The extent of information search is part of purchase importance. When the purchase is important, information is sought from all possible sources. But in the case of routine purchase of products and services, information search will be rather minimum.
Purchase importance: Involvement of individuals depends upon the degree of importance of purchase. Suppose e flat costing lakhs of rupees is purchased, then the purchase decision assumes a great deal of importance in respect of location and area of the flat. The title deeds should be free from encumbrance.
Thus there are two set of factors which decide the degree of involvement:
(I) The nature of product or service
(II) The psychology of the consumer.
The degree of involvement depends upon past history of buyer i.e. on his level of knowledge, information, psychology, culture, life style, social system. Depending upon the circumstance of an individual, his involvement differs even for the same service or product. There is no clear cut and universally acceptable definition of involvement.
According to one view there are five types of involvement namely:
- Ego involvement.
- Communication involvement.
- Purchase importance.
- Extent of information secured
Low Involvement Decision Making:
When the stake in an item to be purchased or service to be utilized is not much and the risk of wrong decision is only short lived, decision making involves low involvement. If for instance consumer decides to buy X brand washing powder and does not find it suitable it can be rejected and repeat purchase is not made of the same brand. But the loss due to buying decision is limited to the cost of the powder.
If one develops fever and visits near by doctor and he takes longer time than normally required he can be discarded. If some one sends a courier mail from Delhi to Mumbai and it does not reach next day the service can definitely be rejected for next mail but if the mail contains important documents delay may cause loss and so risk is involved.
Thus the low involvement does not depend entirely on the nature of product or service but also on other factors such as its consequences. Therefore, even in some low involvement product or service decision making has to depend upon other factors too. However, on the whole generally no or very limited inquiry is done tor low involvement items. Very often some inquiry is made from seller but its attributes vis-a-vis of alternatives are not evaluated.
Unplanned Purchase Behaviour:
All purchase by any consumer is not preplanned. When a wife visits a market for planned purchases and if something which was not in the list she likes or finds it a bargain on-spot the short decision is taken for purchase which is called unplanned purchase. The unplanned purchases may be defined those purchase decisions which are taken on the spot without any prior planning.
Such purchase is quite large when one visits an exhibition or visits a religious place or visits mela like Khumbh Mela. One sees many products at these places and makes purchases for oneself, relatives and friends, for gifting or when innovative products are available. Generally when one visits such places he takes money for such purchases but does not know what he is going to buy.
The purchase decision in such circumstances is called unplanned purchase decision. The basic point to observe is that no prior inquiry is made nor prior information is collected. But in such purchases also often alternatives are available and one has to decide which product is better. This depends purely on mood at that point of time and liking or disliking of a particular product or its alternative. It will not be correct to say that all unplanned purchase decision is taken without considering alternatives.
Theory of Low Involvement:
Low involvement is applicable when neither performance nor image dimensions are very important. In such cases there is very vague or shallow impression and product is readily accessible. For instance, if one buys sugar one is not bothered about the name of the factory which produced it because all sugar is alike.
This was the case with wheat flour also till recently but now with a number of brands, the level of involvement is increasing. In India where larger number of products is sold without brands the level of involvement is low. This is particularly true of rural market or poor persons purchases who largely buy a product and not a brand. In such cases use of brain is very limited. For poor person tea is tea and sugar is sugar. He takes decision largely on price consideration because “beggar cannot be chooser”. Thus use of brain is minimal.
According to involvement theory involvement depends upon the importance of product in purchase. But this is not always true. In India a person below the poverty line only decision is that he must get a product be it wheat, tea, sugar, bread or milk, because he has little choice to make.
However, theory remains intact that the level of involvement depends upon the product to be purchased and involvement remains low in case of commodities and goes up as the level of purchases relates to branded products. The persons, the product and the situation decide the degree of involvement. Thus a poor person in India has low involvement in purchases. The product of general nature and of daily consumption does not involve much risk and so have low involvement.
The other important factor in low involvement theory is that purchase decision in such cases have little impact of advertisement and consumer tries new brands for experience and adopt them if found suitable. In such cases job of marketer is to make consumer aware about a particular brand so that it may be purchased instead of alternatives.
There must be attractive displays in shops and stores so that it may catch the eye of the customer Packaging also induces customers repeatedly some brand and packaging promotes purchase behaviour in case of low involvement products.
Strategic Implications of Low Involvement Decision Making:
In case of low involvement decision making, it is more likely that consumer changes the brand if he finds equally good brand in the market or there is bargain sale or discount sale. In products of low I involvement there is class of consumers for whom “brand loyalty” has little meaning. Moreover, studies in India suggest that brand loyalty is weakening.
The bargain sales are attracting customers like buy two trousers and get-one free, buy a toothpaste and get tooth brush free, buy Nature Fresh Atta and get a scratch coupon free. There are a number of others who offer 10 to 20 percent extra quantity without extra price.
The consumer purchase decisions are influenced by such bargains because he belongs to none specially in case of low involvement products. The thumb rule in Indian discount bazars is that who gives best deal to buyers thrives. It has been realized by marketers that price value score cover brand.
Complex Decision Making:
In case of high involvement products and services decision making is complex and difficult. If for example someone is seriously ill besides the reliability of a doctor one has to look to his pocket and permanent loss of funds if treatment does not succeed.
The heart operation cost Rs. 3 Lakh in one hospital and Rs. 1 lakh in another hospital. The concern person has to decide whether it is worth spending Rs. 3 lakhs instead of Rs. 1 lakh. In such case psychology, emotion, price, pocket play a part along with reliability. There are social culture inputs consisting of non-commercial influences which are considered. Social class, culture, sub-culture, information, recognition, opinions of users all play apart.
If someone decides to buy a car, it is available from Rs. 2 lakhs onwards going up to Rs. 25 lakhs or more for imported car. The decision to buy a particular model does not depend mearly on technical factors, reliability of operations, trouble free operation but also on non-utility factors.
The buyer considers his status, ego satisfaction, impression on friends and relatives and satisfaction that most of his known persons do not process that high price model. But there are others whose decision is based only on utility.
Process of Decision Making:
The process of buying decision is concerned with the process adopted by buyers. He considers perceived risk
The perceived risks may be of following types:
The product may not perform as expected at the time of purchase.
- Physical Risk:
Some products may harm physically to the user or others. For instance, synthetic fabrics are not considered safe for user. The ne-chemical and electronic products may causes injury due to defects in the products or due to its very nature.
- Financial Risk:
The product may not be worth its price For instance, there are many management schools and computer centres who charge heavy fees and one pays though his nose in the expectation that good job will become available after passing out but when one does not get a good job it is not worth the expenses and this is a financial risk.
- Reliability Risk:
One buy certain brands in the hope that they will be reliable but when they break down very often they causes inconvenience and discomfort. This may not cause financial loss because of warranty but is a great risk.
- Social Risk:
If a car breaks down on its way or food is found bad at the time of serving it causes embarrassment and results in social risk and it has to be considered while taking purchase decision.
- Ego and Psychological Risk:
The poor purchase may hurt the ego of buyer and he may be psychological depressed.
- Durability Risk:
When consumer buys durables, he expects certain life from a product like car, TV, computer, furniture, AC, generator etc.; he expects some trouble free service from it but when it is not realized there is loss of funds, and inconvenience is caused. The perception of risk depends upon product purchased and the psychology of the purchaser. The risk perception differs from culture to culture, region to region and country to country.