Theory Of Varied Consume Choice Behavior and Its Importance


For decades, scholars and practitioners have been frustrated by the very
limited capacity of either psychological or marketing models to predict
individual choices on particular occasions. This paper discusses a theory
which explains the degree to which the extant models omit important influences
that produce varied individual choice behaviour. The focus of this paper is on
the sequences of product purchases. Discretionary actions and activities are
also covered.

THE THEORETICAL AND APPLIED RELEVANCE OF VARIED BEHAVIOUR

The assumption that consumers make rational, utility-maximizing choices
has played an important role in economic thought. As long as preferences remain
unchanged, the consumer is expected to choose the most preferred of the
available products. Thoughts about consumers\' behaviour towards substitutes
hold a similar position. If a consumer\'s preference for the most preferred
alternative product declines or the product is currently unavailable, the
consumer is expected to choose a close substitute. From the firm\'s strategic
point of view, this means that the marketer of a secondary brand should make
its brand similar to the most popular brand.
Careful consideration of the preceding description of consumer choice
behaviour and the firm\'s selection of a strategy immediately leads one to
question the general applicability of these assumption / thought. Although
consumers often display stable preferences, sound choice behaviour seldom
remains constant. Instead, consumers frequently change their choices of
products or brands. Furthermore, the choices made on different occasions often
involve two very different products or brands. In summary, changing, varied
behaviour is the rule. Managers often avoid the use of simple "me-too" brands,
recognizing that consumers are seeking more than simple substitutes. This
tendency is seen directly in a number of product categories in which successful
products are seldom replaced with highly similar products. Instead, a degree of
product newness is viewed as being essential to maintain consumer interest.
The theory of consumer choice behaviour that is presented in this paper
is designed to explain the typical degree of variability that consumers exhibit
in a series of related choices. Should this theory more accurately describe
individual choices, than the meaning and predictive power of many models must be
questioned. For example, the results from all preference-based mapping methods,
such as MDPREF (Carroll, 1972) and the Schonemann-Wang (1972) models, should be
interpreted with great care. In these cases, the analyst must resist jumping to
the conclusion that the choice objects that appear close to each other have
similar characteristics. All simple attribute-based choice models, such as the
widely used conjoint method, must also be interpreted carefully. Here one must
resist the assumption that the set of most preferred items will necessarily have
similar characteristics. Typically, the set of most preferred or most
frequently chosen products will contain items that are very different. These
products do not necessarily satisfy the notion that the objects\' attributes will
surpass the total utility produced. For example, sometimes a consumer may want
a cold beverage and at other times the same consumer may want a hot beverage.
Furthermore, the more of one kind of beverage that an individual consumes, the
less likely the consumer will make the same choice on the next occasion. Unlike
the reasons that produce constant-purchase and / or constant-use behaviour,
different motives produce changes in purchase and use. To predict the choice
made on the next occasion, one needs to account for the consumer\'s prior choice
behaviour.

A THEORY OF VARIED CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR

Psychologists have long recognized that individual judgements and
choices contain an important random element that leads to inconsistent behaviour.
Thurstone\'s Law of Comparative and Categorical Judgement modelled individual
judgements and choices. The random component present in most contexts of
interest to marketing professionals include larger variables that are too costly
to measure or for which practical measurement methods have not been developed.
Consider the purchase of breakfast cereal. At the point of purchase, a
favourite brand may be out of stock, the customer may be distracted, the
shopper\'s child may make the selection, or a clerk restocking part of the
assortment may contain choice. Although this list contains only a few of the
conditions which can affect consumer choice, it demonstrates the difficulty of
observing and recording all of the relevant influences. All unmeasurable
influences are labelled inexplicable causes of varied behaviour.

There are two important types of explicable causes of varied behaviour. The
first type of the explicable cause of varied behaviour has to do with an
individual\'s motives that indirectly or incidentally produce patterns of varied
behaviour, while the second one has to do with an individual\'s direct motives
where varied behaviour is valued. Purchasing for multiple uses in an example of
the first