Stage 2 Information Search

An aroused consumer who recognizes a problem will be inclined to search for more information. We can distinguish between two levels of arousal. At the milder search state of heightened attention, a person simply becomes more receptive to information about a product. At the active information search level, a person surfs the Internet, talks with friends, and visits stores to learn more about the product. Consumer information sources include personal sources (family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances), commercial sources (advertising, Web sites, salespersons, dealers, packaging, displays), public sources (mass media, consumer-rating organizations), and experiential sources (handling, examining, using the product). The consumer usually receives the most information from commercial (marketer-dominated) sources, although the most influential information comes from personal sources.

Through gathering information, the consumer learns more and more about competing brands. The first box in Figure 3-3 shows the total set of brands available to the consumer. The individual consumer will come to know only a subset of these brands (awareness set). Some of these brands will meet initial buying criteria (consideration set). As the person gathers more information, only a few brands will remain as strong contenders (choice set). The person makes a final choice from this set.27

Figure 3-2 Five-Stage Model of the Consumer Buying Process

Figure 3-2 Five-Stage Model of the Consumer Buying Process

Figure 3-3 Successive Sets Involved in Consumer Decision Making

Figure 3-3 makes it clear that a company must strategize to get its brand into the prospect's awareness set, consideration set, and choice set. The company must also identify the other brands in the consumer's choice set so that it can plan competitive appeals. In addition, the company should identify the consumer's information sources and evaluate their relative importance so it can prepare a range of effective communications for the target market.

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