When it comes to solving a want or a need, customers’ decision making process will often fall in one of the following two categories: limited problem solving or extended problem solving. In some cases, the user will fall into a third behaviour: routinised response behaviour. This third status is is the most desirable status for a marketing point of view, as it means that the customer knows without thinking that the best solution for his problem is the product being offered.

Limited Problem Solving

Customers are Ignoring You

Customers are Ignoring You (Photo credit: ronploof)

Limited problem solving happens when the customer is only willing to put minimal effort into making a decision about how to satisfy his need or want. They will reach a decision by following simple rules, with an in-store purchase being highly likely and minimal research done. The customer is not terribly bothered about the solution being absolutely the best, and it’s not very involved as it perceives the problem as being low-risk. The user has limited time or resources to invest in the search, and doesn’t perceive enough of a benefit of comparing alternatives to research heavily.

Customers who apply the limited problem solving behaviour to a purchase are often looking at low cost items or utility items they have no emotional investment into. For example, a customer purchasing toothpaste or nails won’t likely compare heavily different brands or stores, and just get it whenever it’s convenient.

Extended Problem Solving

A customer approaching a search with the extended problem solving mindset is a though nut to crack. He will research, compare and put a lot of effort into taking the best decision that satisfies his needs. A typical customer will look at external sources of information, such as online and offline reviews, recommendations and chats with store staff, often going to several outlets to gather information before a purchase is made. Often, the need or want is something new to the user or infrequent enough that he doesn’t have tools to take a decision quickly, and approaches it as a research project: the customer is not likely to just blindly follow store displays and advertisement in order to make a decision.

Customers applying extended problem solving are often looking to purchase high value items, such as a car or electronics, or even a trip or event. Since this kind of high ticket items are often bought infrequently, the customer needs to do new research and will compare prices and features in order to reach the best decision.

Routinised Response Behaviour

This behavioural response involves a customer who doesn’t need to think to make a purchase: he knows, by habit, which is the product that better answers his needs, and as such he buys it without really paying more thought to the decision. Ideally, this is the kind of behaviour you would hope to achieve with your customers, as it renders marketing unnecessary. However, it is pretty difficult to reach this point, and it can take years to make a customer into a convert, or never happen. A high degree of routinised response behaviour means high customer satisfaction with a brand of product, and it’s generally a worthy goal.

Adapting your marketing to the way your potential customers approach decision making means you will be able to influence them in a way that is meaningful and make your marketing more effective. If you are aware of the decision making process preferred by your target audience, be it extended problem solving or limited problem solving, then you can tailor your marketing efforts to cater for it.

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