If you look at the family life cycle, you will find that as a person grows in stature in his life, he begins purchasing more and more products which are high involvement purchases. A high involvement purchase is nothing but a product which has a higher price or where the decision making is lengthy because of the numerous factors at play.
Typical consumer products which are high involvement purchases are – Air conditioners, a costly smartphone, a high end laptop or television, or anything that is costly and requires some thinking before spending the money. There is a risk associated with the purchase. What if you spend such a high amount of money and the product does not meet your expectations?
Not only at consumer level, decision making of high involvement products is difficult at the B2B level as well. In fact, most of B2B products are high involvement purchases. The best example of high involvement purchases where B2B products are concerned are – machinery, air conditioners for offices, chairs for the whole building, New equipments etc.
There are multiple factors that influence the purchase of high involvement products. Let us look at each of these factors or variables in detail.
1. Product Features
The number 1 factor which influences high involvement purchase is the features of the product. Quite simply, imagine approaching a management committee in B2B channel with a product that is inadequate or not upto mark. Similarly, imagine selling a high involvement product with very regular features to a group of consumers.
The better the product features, the more likelihood of the consumer or the buyer being impressed. In fact, product features are a major influencer in High involvement purchase because of the next point.
Product features are important in high involvement purchases but so is the differentiation of the brand or the product from those of the competitors. If you think about it, the actual function of a Macbook or a laptop is the same. Most people use it just for documents. So why is a Macbook so costly and why are laptops cheaper? This is because of the differentiation between both products created over the ages.
A Macbook is definitely a high involvement purchase (at least the first time around). This is because it is costly, the user has not used it and knows it is different from Windows, but the user has heard so much about it, that he wants to try it. At such times, differentiation is the clear influencer of a high involvement purchase.
The same goes for a normal thing like Gillette mach 5. In the category of Razors, Gillette mach 5 is premium and quite costly. But the premium users, who want differentiated products, are more likely to buy the Mach 5 then any other razor offered on the shelf. On the other hand, a normal person might pick normal blades with a razor.
3. Brand recall
Brand recall and brand equity is another factor influencing a buyer in a high involvement purchase. Let’s take the competition between Audi, BMW and Mercedes. All these brands are high involvement purchases and the reason that the buyer does not consider other products like Premium cars of Hyundai is because of the brand recall of these 3 brands as “Premium cars”.
Year and year again, BMW, Audi and Mercedes are involved in creating the WOW aspect. So when the buyer comes across such a brand, he wants to feel the WOW factor. All this can be done only if the brand makes a mark over a period of years. The brand should be a WOW factor for the consumer. This will make high involvement purchase easier.
4. Word of mouth
If you wanted to buy an air conditioner, it is likely that you will ask your friends or your parents of which type to buy. You will collect data from 3-4 people and then make a decision of which air conditioner to buy for your house. Thus, even if the air conditioner was poor in performance, you will not come to know because you are relying on “Word of mouth”.
Word of mouth is one of the strongest influencers where high involvement purchase is concerned. If we considered two purchases which were exactly the same in all aspects, but one of the purchaser had a friend who recommend Brand 1 over Brand 2, then in 7 times out of 10, the consumer will buy Brand 1 over brand 2. This is because as per research, 74% of the times, word of mouth is a key influence in purchases of products. (source: Ogilvy)
5. Product fit with the customer requirement
A branded product with the right features might not be something which the customer wants EVERY TIME. This is why, even in this day and age of 4k Ultra HD TV, customers are still buying smaller 14 inch televisions to access when they are on the road or in their shop. So many times, a high involvement purchase might be lost because the product features did not fit the customers requirement.
Price is a major factor in high involvement purchase. In fact, price is the reason that the product becomes a high involvement purchase. If someone was offering me an AUDI car for 1000 dollars, it will be a no brainer purchase. I will buy it immediately. But looking at the high price of Audi, i might have to think 2,3 or even 10 times and work out my complete financial statements before i think of purchasing the car (I am upper middle class. This situation might be different for the rich kids)
On the other hand, high involvement products cannot afford to keep lower prices because they will lose the “Premium” tag. Besides this, high involvement products have to give higher margins to their dealers and distributors who are going to stock the product for long time. These dealers expect a high margin value to give them the satisfaction of the sale and to keep them motivated. As a result, Price has to be kept high. But price alone does not influence high involvement purchase. There is another thing bundled with Price that can influence your customers and that’s – value.
7. Value provided
The price of Rolls Royce or a Lamborghini is very high. It is higher then Audi, BMW or Mercedes. But is the brand not selling in the market then? In fact, the brand is selling more number of products per year. So, when bundled with price, the value provided with the product is also a major influence factor in high involvement purchase.
If there were 3 products having the same high price, the product which will sell maximum is the one which provides the maximum value. If there were 3 products with increasing price, then it is still possible, that the product with the highest price sells more units. This is because of the value provided by the product having the highest price, its features, its brand recall and various factors.
It is all connected. Just like to get a higher price, you need to give a higher value. Similarly, to provide higher value, you need to communicate better with your customers. This is where Marketing plays a crucial role. Marketing is the influencer for the consumer even before they have thought of the purchase.
I have been looking at the Macbook since my school days. But i did not dare purchase it till i started earning a good amount of money. That’s how long i waited for the Macbook. But i purchased it nonetheless! If there is a brand which is recognised for its marketing abilities worldwide then its Apple. It has been the number 1 valued brand many times in the past 2-3 decades. And that’s how Apple influences the consumers to purchase their product – Smart Marketing (and some fantastic product features, which again, Apple markets like crazy)
9. After sales service
No one is going to buy a high involvement product if they find out that the after sales service is poor. Samsung has recently launched several televisions which are very high priced. Yet, people prefer Samsung over others because the brand is known and loved for its after sales service.
The trust on Samsung’s service comes not because of prior experience of Television service, but because of experience with their smartphones. Samsung has a very good service network and positive feedback for their smartphone service issues. This positiveness reflects across the complete brand, such that consumers decide on purchasing a television as well just because they trust Samsung.
In fact, in B2B, it is very difficult to sell a product which has poor after sales service. You need to have your infrastructure and service points up to date when catering to the B2B network. Because a B2B buyer might give you an order for units to be placed across the country. At such times, he wants to go with the brand which is known for customer service.
Word of mouth is when someone you know refers you to a product. But due to the internet, people have shifted much of their research online. There are reviews, forums, box openings and many such innovative product researches published online.
A whopping 68% people trust online opinions and purchase as per these opinions. (source: Nielson) It is therefore no surprise that most brands want to come online and have their own online marketing team. Many brands have started their own E-commerce stores on their own websites besides selling the products on Amazon or Ebay. Users can comment the brand’s websites and socially interact on the brands twitter account or Facebook pages.
Even customer service has started effectively through social media. You just make a tweet or a post to the brand and they will reply quickly. The research done on the internet is also a major influencer for high involvement purchase.
Overall, above are the 10 major factors influencing high involvement purchase. Can you think of any more variables which can influence the purchase of high involvement products? Would love to hear from you!!