Stage 1. Need Recognition Fresh graduates often think about traveling to somewhere or take a gap year to do volunteer work before accepting a job offer after graduation. A graduate realizes that he needs a new backpack that is bigger and have durable base allowing him to live outside for a month. He may think about a new car or a scooter to commute when he come back from the journey. Recognizing a need simply happens when consumers are in need of something such as a cup of coffee in the morning to stay alert, a durable backpack to travel and a vehicle for communication. Beyond needs recognized, there are other needs people will not know until other people remind them. Have you ever thought of the reason why Pepsi, Powerade, and other beverage manufacturers place the machines in gymnasiums so people can see them during a tiring workout? Marketers attempt to show customers how their products and service add value and fulfill their needs and wants. Stage 2. Search for Information For cheap products such as milk and bread, consumers may simply buy them immediately when they notice the need. Nevertheless, if a consumer are upgrading to a better and more expensive car or buy it for the first time, he may put more effort into the evaluation process. Perhaps he has experience driving cars, and he knows what he likes and dislikes about certain features or functions. Or there is a specific high-end brand that he always wants to possess one. This is the great position that every brand strives for in which the pre-purchase research stage is restrained, and consumers simply purchase the brand. If buyers do not acquire enough information to make the final decision, they may go online to gather more information from biased sources, such as advertisements, brochures, company Websites, and salesman. And/or they will get further neutral information from other channels, read comments, reviews of other consumers, product ratings, buying tips, and price information or ask opinions/experience of people in their social circle. Stage 3. Product Evaluation Apparently, there are hundreds of brands for backpacks and cars available on the market. It is impossible to check and compare all of them together. The fact that marketing professionals know that bombard customers with too many options will overwhelm them and they will ultimately purchase nothing. As a result, the option heuristics will be applied to shorten the solving problem process by finding practical ways of dealing with them or learning from past experience. In other words, it provides consumers shortcuts in the decision-making process. Consumers may also construct a set of evaluative standards to cut off the options that do not meet their standards. Brands that meet the initial standards of consumers before they move to the evaluation stage will show up in their mind. The set of evaluative standards are specific things that are vital to buyers e.g., such as the price, size, functions, and color. Some attributes are more important than others that they are willing to sacrifice. However, they must determine the most important characteristics that meet their criteria. Marketing professionals attempt to persuade their customers the evaluative standards considered present the outstanding aspects of their products. For instance, the color and functions of the backpack is more important than its size and durability. Brands may constantly remind their customers about their key selling features via various channels such as magazine advertisement, packaging information. Stage 4. Product Choice and Purchase Decision-making process for low-involvement products are relatively very short, it starts with the need recognition and ends with the product purchase. For high-involvement decisions, consumers must go through the evaluation stage in which different alternatives are evaluated and compared against each other. Some consumers may heavily weigh the availability of the product and the payment method, and consider them as evaluative criteria. The backpack at store M is cheaper than N, but M is located in a shopping mall while N is store located on way to work, and they are too busy to go to the mall. Several more relevant decisions are made at this stage if they are big-ticket items. For instance, if a consumer is buying an iPhone X, she may go to an authorized Apple Store with the guaranteed warranty service from Apple rather than a local electrical device store which offers a lower price. Stage 5. Post-purchase Use and Evaluation At this stage, consumers will know if the product they purchased is everything it was supposed to be. If it is, they satisfy with what they bought and are likely to create advocacy for the brand. If it is not, the post-purchase dissonance (buyer’s remorse) is very likely to occur. Obviously, dissonance happens if a product or service does not perform exactly like what they are advertised. Fancy ads will make consumers expectations go beyond what the product can really offers. Dissonance often occurs with relatively expensive products that are only purchased on occasion. Consumers who experience dissonance often regret that they should have spent more time searching for more independent information, or waited to get a better bargain, spend that money on something else useful. When this occurs, this is the problem for the sellers and may create adverse effect for the brand. Consumers may end the B2C relationship with the brand by stopping buying anything from that brand again. Even worse, consumers may create bad word-of-mouth by telling everyone how terrify the product was. Firms implement many programs to prevent consumers to experience dissonance. For relatively inexpensive items, companies may provide a money back warranty or they may inspire their salesman to compliment their customers for their choices. For bigger items, companies try to appear as much helpful as possible, e.g., quality guaranteed program, guideline booklets, a toll-free hotline to call when you encounter problems or a forum with several admins who are ready to answer all of customer’s questions. Companies often attempt to lower customer’s expectations on the purpose to more easily satisfy them. Service firms such as restaurants often apply this technique. Consumers are more satisfied if the hostess tells them that their table will be ready in 30 minutes, but they are seat in 15 minutes. Likewise, if the waitress tells consumers that their meal will be finished in 20 minutes, yet consumers have to wait for 10 minutes, they will be very likely satisfied. Stage 6. Disposal of the Product Previously, nobody paid attention to the disposing process of products, so long as people purchased them. Nowadays, it is changed. The way products are disposed has become extremely vital to people and the community. Products which are hard to self-destruct such as electrical devices (computers and batteries) have been concerned most because their chemicals damage the ground. Consumers and firms have become aware of this problematic situation. Take Crystal Light, a special kind of beverage that needs water to be drinkable. Apart from the usual form “liquid stored in the bottle”, Crystal Light offers consumers the concentrated form that consumers manually add water to transform it into drinkable liquid. Therefore, consumers do not need to purchase and discard of the plastic bottle. Windex is another example of this practice. Consumers can buy the concentrate and add water whenever they are run out of window cleaner. Or in some supermarket such as Mega Market that now sells shopping bags that can be reused rather than keeps using and dispose of plastic or paper bags. Companies whose sales revenue depends on the durability of their products. Simply put, if their products are too good, consumers will rarely replace them with newer versions. Therefore, these companies are more concerned about planned obsolescence instead of conservation. Planned obsolescence is a policy of manufacturing consumer goods that quickly become obsolete and need to be replaced. This can be achieved by constant updates in design, termination of the supply of spare parts, and/or the use of non-durable materials. This can be seen as a strategic goal of the company to boost sales by encouraging consumers to upgrade their products. Constant innovation in design or functions, and release of new items keep themselves attractive in the eyes of consumers, and remind the marketplace about their existence. Take Google, the release of Google Pixel smartphone is the dead announcement for Google Nexus generation. The approximate length of support or the end-of-life (EOL) dates were set for all of Nexus devices. Google released new update of Android e.g., version 7.0 Nougat and version 8.0 Oreo while Nexus devices are allowed to update to version 6.0 Marshmallow, this will lead to the incompatibility with the older software versions. Another obvious example of planned obsolescence is Microsoft Word. Formatting functions in MS 2007 are different from that of MS 2013 which does not allow consumers to open documents properly. As a result, people are more likely to upgrade the present software version1. Debate over Effects of Sales Promotion on Brand Loyalty Impact of sales promotions on brand preference after promoting period has been the debatable topic for years2. Advertising was believed to be the primary tool in the marketing mix, if not the only one, for branding. While promotions were believed to be the temporary tool used to stimulate sales volume or to help accomplish short-term objectives. “It is generally assumed that enhancing a product with features that do not negatively affect other attributes, such as offering a free premium or sweepstakes, can only help short term sales”3. Gedenk and Neslin claimed that experimental proof collected supports that promotions can be strengthening if consumers already develop positive attitudes towards the brand, and this will be particularly true when using non-price promotions. “Non-price promotions are even more effective because they enhance rather than hurt repeat purchasing. So even though they are not quite as effective in the short-term, their stronger long-term effects enable them to generate more sales” 4. To support Gedenk and Neslin, the PMA/Northwestern University 2002 study, Promotion, Brand Building and Corporate Performance Research also illustrated that brand experience, and relationship between brand and its consumers may be enhanced using promotions. Van Heerde and Neslin discovered the same results proving that long-term consumer behavior may be affected by promotions5. Whereas Palazo?n-Vidal and Delgado-Ballester believed that price-promotions are less effective in branding due to their focus on the monetary association (the price)6. Simply put, they drive people to become more price-sensitive and habituate them to look for bargains whenever they intend to buy something. Price discounts have conventionally been the robust form of sales promotions, consumers expectations move from quality improvement to price reduction, and hence simply decreasing prices is indeed problematic7. Darke and Chung conducted a research to investigate the pros and cons of price cuts in comparison to other promotional programs such as everyday-low-prices (EDLP) and free gift. The research demonstrated that free gifts were more effective in improving quality perceptions towards the brand and delivering value to consumers than EDLP promotional strategy8.
Bawa and Shoemaker developed a model to examine the impact of free samples on incremental sales and brand preference. They found that free samples plays an crucial role in producing brand loyalty, and generate sales after the trials due to a high level of customer’s retention, increase in purchase probability among those who have tried the brand with a sample9.
A meta-analysis integrating 51 studies was conducted by DelVecchio, Henard, and Freling to assess the findings of earlier published studies that relates the application of sales promotion to implication of post-promotion brand choice. They found out that in general, sales promotions statistically have little effect on brand preference beyond the time promotion are in effect. Nevertheless, based on the degree of congruency between types of promotions and the promoted products, promotions can either improve or erode the brand loyalty10.