The nature of the buying task has considerable impact on a customer's approach to solving a particular problem. When a decision involves a low-cost item that is frequently purchased, such as bread, the buying process is typically quick and routinized. A decision concerning a new car is quite different. The extent to which a decision is considered complex or simple depends on (a) whether the decision is novel or routine, and on (b) the extent of the customers' involvement with the decision. A great deal of discussion has revolved around this issue of involvement. High-involvement decisions are those that are important to the buyer. Such decisions are closely tied to the consumer's ego and self-image. They also involve some risk to the consumer; financial risk (highly priced items), social risk (products important to the peer group), or psychological risk (the wrong decision might cause the consumer some concern and anxiety). In making these decisions, it is worth the time and energies to consider solution alternatives carefully. A complex process of decision making is therefore more likely for high involvement purchases. Low-involvement decisions are more straightforward, require little risk, are repetitive, and often lead to a habit: they are not very important to the consumer.5 Financial, social, and psychological risks are not nearly as great. In such cases, it may not be worth the consumer's time and effort to search for information about brands or to consider a wide range of alternatives. A low involvement purchase therefore generally entails a limited process of decision making. The purchase of a new computer is an example of high involvement, while the purchase of a hamburger is a low-involvement decision.
When a consumer has bought a similar product many times in the past, the decision making is likely to be simple, regardless of whether it is a high- or low-involvement decision. Suppose a consumer initially bought a product after much care and involvement, was satisfied, and continued to buy the product. The customer's careful consideration of the product and satisfaction has produced brand loyalty, which is the result of involvement with the product decision.
Once a customer is brand-loyal, a simple decision-making process is all that is required for subsequent purchases. The consumer now buys the product through habit, which means making a decision without the use of additional information or the evaluation of alternative choices.