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The consumer problem solving process and techniques are applied in all countries despite the difference in economic, political, and social influences on the market and subsequent impact on the consumer decision making. Five essential steps summarize the consumer decision-making process and are universal. The first being the problem recognition level whereby the customer identifies the gap between reality and ideal situation. It is important to evaluate how different countries affect consumer behavior in relation to consumer decision-making process (Bettman, Johnson, & Payne, 1991).
The second step involves the search for alternative solutions. Evaluation of alternatives is the third step, and the fourth step is acceptance, or purchase of the best solution based on evaluations done by the consumer, such as durability, affordability, and compatibility of the solution to the ideal situation. The last step in the decision-making process is after purchase of the best possible solution depending on customer evaluation and includes use of the selected solution followed by a reevaluation of the chosen alternative solutions (Bettman et al., 1991).
Despite this process being universal in any customer decision-making process, it is subjected to change, influence and manipulation of market forces, culture and individual customer tastes, preferences and different ways of doing things in various countries. Consumer behavior in various countries depends on the tradition or culture of people in a given country, the real situation in the country and general exposure of the citizens that creates the desire for the ideal state of things.
To begin with, problem recognition in various countries is not the same. What is the desired ideal state in one country is the real state in another country. As much as every consumer will have to identify the desired real self, the exposure that creates the desire for ideal state is essential (Erdem & Keane, 1996; Isen, 2001; Shocker, Ben-Akiva, Boccara & Nedungadi, 1991). Besides, people are limited from recognizing their probem due to lack of exposure that comes with the education, the political outcry, interaction with other people in the world and general malaise in adopting new approaches to improve one’s state. The influence of those factors varies from one country to another, thus creating an enormous impact on the first step of the problem solving process.
The culture of people in different countries is an important determinant of how people identify the ideal state and compare with the real state. Some cultures are prohibitory on attempts to change the status quo. Therefore, even if the ideal state is identified, people are not motivated to achieve it. Hence, problem recognition is not the same from one country to the other. Problems are differ in different countries. Moreover, people in different countries are looking for different ideal state. Hence, there is a challenge using a similar process to recognize their problems. Problem recognition is based on what is available at a specific time and existence of awareness on the desired products or state (Von Hippel, 1994).
Another challenge is that search for alternative solutions is different in different countries due to a number of reasons that contribute to consumer behavior. Consumer behavior mainly depends on the available purchasing power, the available products in the market and available time to look for alternative solutions. Consumers in different countries have differing purchase power that influences their determination to look for several alternative solutions (Shocker et al., 1991). It is for the reasin that search for an alternative solution is limited to the level that clients can afford. Therefore, individual consumers with low purchase power cannot exploit the search for alternative solutions due to lack of interest and inability to purchase some alternatives.
Moreover, the economy of countries differs, thus, some alternative solutions are not available in certain countries. Consumers might be willing to purchase but cannot have a chance to consider them to the limited number of alternative solutions in their market. Hencee, they cannot evaluate all their possible solutions leading to varied choices and subsequent outcome of the decision-making process.
Culture plays a key role in consumers and their decision making process. It creates biasness on some possible solutions while advocating, or demanding the selection of other product. However, various governments discourage choice of certain products, services, or brands through unfair taxation to put them at very high prices and thus limit consumer choice. Therefore, it indirectly discourages independent consumer choice and behavior as well as indirectly influences consumer behavior towards certain products, brands, or services. The overall outcome of taxes and incentives is a consumer decision-making process that is hampered with (Erdem & Keane, 1996).
Another issue is the existence of laws that inhibit the use of certain products. Some products are illegal in some countries while they are legal in other countries. Consequently, the government interferes with the consumer decision-making process that enables the consumers to understand what is important to them (Erdem & Keane, 1996).
In addition, the decision-making process is coordinated by different people or committees, especially in institutions and organizations as fraud prevention strategies. Therefore, those identifying the gap are not allowed to search for a solution or purchase. They only identify a gap and give a report. In such a scenario, the person buying a solution faces a challenge of identifying the best solution due to limited understanding of the real problem (Bettman et al., 1991).
In conclusion, consumer problem solving process is a universal stepwise process that is applicable all over the world. However, it depends on consumer behavior in each country. Existence of differing cultures, laws, taxations and incentives influence consumer behavior, thus interfering with the decision making process. Besides, the purchase power and the availability of several alternatives affect a decision-making process varies from one country to the other.