Extensive Decision Making: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Katryn Stewart

Katryn has a Masters degree in Management, has been PHR certified, and has taught college business and human resource management courses.

There are different levels of thought that go into a consumer's purchase decision. Sometimes a purchase decision can be made very quickly and easily - for example, what type of milk to buy at the grocery store. Other times the decision making process requires a little more thought and research. This article discusses Extensive Decision Making, which is the detailed process of seeking information and evaluating purchase alternatives in order to make a purchase decision.

Consumer Influences

There are multiple methods of analyzing consumer buying processes to determine what actually makes people buy specific products. People who sell products - whether large organizations, marketing companies, or small business owners - know that there are many influences involved in a consumer's decision to buy a product. One of these influences is psychological motivation and attitude; in other words, 'How do you feel about a product?' or 'What do you think you need?' Another influence is personal factors such as lifestyle or income. It makes sense that a person with less money may buy different products than a person with more money. A third, and perhaps one of the strongest influences, is social influence. What are your friends and family buying? What is it that your peer group sees as essential? Lastly, influences such as cultural groups or social class may also have a strong determination on what a consumer purchases.

Consumer Buying Process

These five steps are commonly referred to as the Consumer Buying Process.

While there are several factors that influence what a person buys, marketers have developed various methods of determining what actually occurs during a purchase decision. While most purchase decisions made on a day-to-day basis require very little thought (e.g. Where do we want to eat lunch? Whole milk or two percent? Which shirt will I buy?), some purchase decisions require an added level of research and decision-making. Most of the time, these purchase decisions also involve greater amounts of monetary investment; this makes sense because the more money we are investing in a product or service, the more time we want to spend making sure we are making the best purchase decision.

The basic model of the Consumer Buying Process that is used by most marketers and organizations recognizes five steps: Problem or Need Recognition (i.e. I want/need this); Information Seeking (i.e. What do I need to know before purchasing this product?); Evaluation of Alternatives (i.e. What other options are out there?); Purchase Decision (i.e. This is what I'm going to buy); and Post-Purchase Evaluation (i.e. Did I make a good choice?). Extensive Decision-Making comes into play during the 'Information Seeking' and 'Evaluation of Alternatives' parts of this process and refers to the amount of time a consumer invests in product research and contemplating a purchase decision.

Different Levels of Decision-Making

Different levels of thought and research go into making a purchase depending on what a person is intending to buy. Routine decision-making involves purchases that require very little thought after the original decision has been made. Think about putting gas in your car. The first time you fill your tank you may spend a little more time deciding between competitive gas stations and deciding to use unleaded, plus, or premium gasoline; however, moving forward, that purchase decision becomes 'routine.' Each time, with little thought, you will purchase the same product. Marketers strive to become 'routine' purchase decisions for consumers.

Limited decision-making refers to the next level of decision-making, in which more thought will go into the purchase decision than in routine decision-making, but less than in extensive decision-making. An example of this would be when you choose between two shirts at a department store. You may look at price, style, and color in order to make your choice, but you likely won't undertake the extensive research and information seeking that is part of extensive decision-making.

Extensive Decision Making requires greater levels of thought and research prior to making a purchase decision

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