What is consumer involvement?
Customer Involvement is the amount of time and effort a buyer invests in the search, evaluation, and buying decision-making process.
However, we don’t consciously think about all of our purchasing decisions.
We only actively think about 5-10 percent of purchasing decisions.
On the remaining 90-95 percent, we decide subconsciously, without actively thinking about it.
That means there are different levels of consumer involvement.
In general, there are high involvement products and low involvement products.
Do all consumers have the same level of involvement?
No. Consumer involvement depends on multiple factors.
Consumers that generally have a higher involvement even worry about small differences between products.
They try to optimize their choice by doing research on a new laptop or talking to the car salesman about a potential new car.
Less involved consumers are satisfied with a basic product, which isn’t too expensive.
They would buy flour that is being sold at their local grocery store and seems to be a good value for money.
The problem for buyers who feel a particular risk and fear making a mistake is that we only know if we are satisfied with a product after we bought and consumed them.
We don’t know that before we buy it.
However, many consumers are afraid to take risk. That’s why it’s so important that the overall appearance of your product demonstrates the internal quality of your product.
Examples of other such external indicators are:
- quality marks,
- place of sale or
- design of the packaging.
A strong brand is the most efficient way to give consumers an idea of these external signals.
5 Factors defining Consumer Involvement
The level of involvement depends on five factors:
- previous experiences,
- perceived risk of negative consequences,
- situation and
- social visibility.
1. Previous experiences
Previous experiences define the level of involvement that consumers have with a product or service:
- When consumers have had past experiences, the level of involvement typically decreases.
- When consumers have had no previous experiences, they will be much more involved in the purchase.
With previous experiences, consumers are familiar with the product or service and know, if it satisfies their needs.
As a consequence, they become much less involved in the purchase.
For example: at the grocery store bread aisle you’ll probably make a decision quickly, as you buy your bread here every week.
Next, you go to the wine aisle, where you buy a bottle of red wine for the first time (we’ll assume that you are a beer drinker).
Since you don’t buy red wine so often, you are much more involved in the purchase.
Consumers are much more involved in things that they like.
It could be product categories like cars, music, movies, electronics, cosmetics, or tools.
Interests vary from one person to another.
A person interested in photography will be highly involved in the camera, tripod, or camera filters they buy.
Others don’t care about these products so much and might only think about them if they want to take some photos on vacation.
3. Perceived risk of negative consequences
If the purchase of a product or service involves perceived risk, consumers are more involved.
Three types of risk may increase consumer involvement:
- Financial risk: the chance of losing money. Price and involvement are strongly related. Consumers are extremely involved when buying expensive products.
- Social risk: people’s opinions about them. Consumers fear that wearing certain clothes or driving a crappy car may affect what other people think about them.
- Psychological risk: wrong decisions might cause anxiety. Consumers may feel guilty about eating junk food.
When consumers perceive risk in a specific situation, a low involvement situation might temporarily become a high involvement situation.
For example, you might always buy the same low-priced brand of wine. However, when you have a special guest which you would like to impress you buy a fancy bottle of wine.
Or you’d get your haircut at the same barber every time. But when that barber is clothed for renovation, you have to find a different barber which turns that situation into a high involvement decision as well.
Certain situations transform a low involvement situation in a high involvement situation.
Because of the individual situation, a low involvement purchase temporarily becomes a high involvement purchase.
5. Social Visibility
People make a social statement about themselves by the car they drive or the clothes they wear.
The more visible these statements are, the more they increase our involvement when we buy these products or services.
Therefore, they also carry a social risk.
Marketing low involvement products is not exactly the dream of marketers.
After all, low involved consumers don’t even see most of your ads, messages, or information.
However, most purchases are low involvement purchases.
What is Low consumer Involvement?
Consumer involvement is low when they are not engaged in the buying process (which is 90-95 percent of the time).
When making Low-Involvement decisions, consumers are on autopilot, which influences their choices.
Consumers may not even recognize that they want to have a low involvement product until they are at the store.
That shows the relevance of things like in-store-promotion and packaging-design.
What are typical Low Involvement Products?
Typically low Involvement Products are products with no significant differences in quality.
They usually have a low price and require little to no explanation.
Typical examples are consumer goods, foodstuffs and mass products like
- toothpicks or
- toilet paper.
When consumers are buying these types of products, they only deal little with the alternatives, because they don’t see much importance in the purchase of them (= low interest).
What are the characteristics of Low Involvement Products?
There are some characteristics that Low Involvement Products usually have in common:
Low Price: low involvement products generally have a low price, so consumers don’t think twice before making a purchase. For example, kitchen towels are cheap, and all brands of kitchen towels pretty much perform the same function. So kitchen towels are low involvement products.
Low-Risk Factor: when you buy a low involvement product, and you are dissatisfied, it usually won’t hurt you. You won’t think so much about your buying decision when purchasing things like a bag of chips.
Little differentiation: if the brand of coffee you usually buy isn’t available, you’ll buy another brand. While you might have a slight preference for one of the coffee brands, they are not that different after all. So you’ll buy any available brand, instead of going into a different store.
Brand switching: consumers might not stick to single brands within the low involvement category. They will try out new brands (especially innovators and adopters).
Availability: a significant characteristic of low involvement products is their availability. When you go to the store, and they don’t have your favorite brand of chocolate, you’ll buy another one. You may not like it as much. However, it’s still chocolate, so you have no problem choosing another brand. Any chocolate is better than no chocolate. Therefore, the better the distribution of a low involvement product is, the higher the sales are.
Repeat purchase: when we buy products of domestic needs (like a shampoo), we usually buy the same product every time. Only if we like to switch things up and try something new, we might have to think for a little bit.
Impulse buying: impulse buying is a unique characteristic of Low involvement products where purchases are made with no planning or previous thoughts. The consumption of the product is quick.
Remember the last time you bought a car?
It probably took you quite a while until you made that decision.
Fortunately, not all of our buying decisions take that long.
What is High consumer Involvement?
Consumer involvement is high when they are very engaged in the buying process (which is 5-10 percent of the time).
When making high-Involvement decisions, buyers don’t engage in routine response behavior.
What are typical High Involvement Products?
Products that are only purchased a couple of times in a lifetime are called high involvement products.
Consumers do much more research before buying these products.
They give them much more thought because the use of these products is intended to be long-term.
Some common examples of High Involvement Products are:
- a car,
- a house,
- furniture or
- an insurance policy.
What are the characteristics of High Involvement Products?
There are some characteristics that High Involvement Products have in common:
High price: high involvement products usually have a high price. It goes hand-in-hand with the perceived risk, as buying expensive products puts yourself at a higher risk of a bad buy. Going on a cruise might be a child’s play for a rich person, but an average person will have to save up some money to go on an expensive journey.
Differentiation: differentiation is crucial for high involvement products. Product features are essential in high involvement products so that consumers can differentiate your product from those of the competitors.
Brand recall: with high involvement products, you have a much higher chance of beating your competition, when consumers can recall your brand.
Customer perceived risk: high price and high expectations lead to high perceived risk.
Available Information: you can find much more information about high involvement products online. Also, many people know a lot about high involvement products like cars while they don’t know so much about low involvement products like napkins.
After-sales service: excellent after-sales service leads to customer satisfaction, which again leads to a higher likelihood of purchase. If there is no way of fixing a product, you won’t buy it.
Consumer Involvement in Marketing
The level of consumer involvement is a very decisive factor to classify consumer buying decisions.
Marketing strategy varies according to the level of involvement of consumers.
Here are some implications for the Management of Involvement.
What is the best strategy to market High Involvement Products?
Compared to low Involvement products, consumers have a much longer process of decision making for high involvement products before buying a product.
The best way to market High Involvement Products is by giving consumers all the information they need to make a purchase decision in favor of your brand.
This information should differentiate your brand from competitors and include:
- the benefits when using your product and
- the advantages of owning your product.
Consumers must be able to understand the purpose of your business within fractions of a second.
A high amount of perceived risk also characterizes high involvement purchases.
To sell your product in the best way possible, you should aim for reducing that perceived risk as much as possible.
A strong brand is an efficient way of doing that.
What is the best strategy to market Low Involvement Products?
Consumers of Low Involvement Products may not know what product they want themselves until they are in the store.
To increase sales, you can use in-store-promotion like in-store-displays or eye-catching packaging.
Price promotions like price discounts or coupons also work well.
However, you can also use more clever pricing strategies like the magic of the middle, price threshold effects, price anchor effects, or assortment effects.
All of them emerge from consumers trying to simplify their buying decisions.
You can also try to link your product to a higher-involvement issue like Coca-Cola was able to connect its brand to happiness, togetherness, and harmony.
Example: How Coca-Cola made consumers high involved in a Low Involvement Product
Within the product category of soft drinks, consumers buying decision is primarily based on impulse.
Impulse buying is a typical characteristic of low involvement products so that we can consider soft drinks as a low involvement category.
Since its introduction, Coca-Cola has been a genius product within this product category.
It’s made from a syrup that:
- is easy to transport,
- can be highly concentrated,
- is resistant to temperature and
- can be stored for a long time.
Furthermore, the syrup is cheap to produce, allowing high margins. As a consequence, Coca-Cola has high marketing budgets to reinforce its top-of-mind position.
They were able to create such strong preferences among consumers, that they would even choose a different kind of beverage if Coca-Cola weren’t available.
That gives Coca-Cola a key competitive advantage in this low-involvement category, which has made the brand the number one drink in the world.
So far, you should have a pretty good understanding of what involvement is.
You also know how to use it to market your brand.
In case there was still something left out, here are some of the most common questions.
What is Medium Involvement?
While there is no clear definition of Medium Involvement, it’s somewhere in between Low Involvement and High Involvement.
What makes a purchase high involvement: the product or the brand?
Consumer Involvement is defined by a product category, rather than a specific brand.
A product becomes a high involvement purchase based on the risk of possibly losing money or time (you spend for/with it).
That’s why a car is a classic example of a High Involvement purchase: you spend a lot of money on it, and you spend much time with it after buying it.
If you don’t like the car after buying it, you didn’t only pay a lot of money for it. You also have to drive it for a while.