While the decision-making process appears quite standardized, no two people make a decision in exactly the same way. As individuals, we have inherited and learned a great many behavioral tendencies: some controllable, some beyond our control. Further, the ways in which all these factors interact with one another ensures uniqueness. Although it is impossible for a marketer to react to the particular profile of a single consumer, it is possible to identify factors that tend to influence most consumers in predictable ways.
The factors that influence the consumer problem-solving process are numerous and complex. For example, the needs of men and women are different in respect to cosmetics; the extent of information search for a low-income person would be much greater when considering a new automobile as opposed to a loaf of bread; a consumer with extensive past purchasing experience in a product category might well approach the problem differently from one with no experience. Such influences must be understood to draw realistic conclusions about consumer behavior.
For purpose of discussion, it may be helpful to group these various influences into related sets. Figure 4.2 provides such a framework. Situational, external, and internal influences are shown as having an impact on the consumer problem solving process. Situation influences include the consumer's immediate buying task, the market offerings that are available to the consumer, and demographic traits. Internal influences relate to the consumer's learning and socialization, motivation and personality, and lifestyle. External influences deal with factors outside the individual that have a strong bearing on personal behaviors. Current purchase behavior is shown as influencing future behavior through the internal influence of learning. Let us now turn to the nature and potential impact of each of these sets of influences on consumer problem solving. Figure 4.2 focuses on the specific elements that influence the consumer's decision to purchase and evaluate products and services.