Consumer Behaviour & Purchase Process Analysis - Cigarette Industry

The following are Research findings regarding the purchase process in the cigarettes category –

1. Problem Recognition

·        First-time use is triggered by external stimuli such as peer group, first-time consumption is influenced by others almost 100% of the time

·        Significantly, first-time use does not have a high correlation with brand loyalty

·        Habitual users consumption need recognition may be divided into the following categories –

o       With established consumption patterns – Consumption is ranked as a majority who smoked anytime of the day, those who smoked after a fixed interval of time, and those that smoked after meals or during breaks.

o       With established consumption occasions – Frequent smokers did not exhibit specific occasion consumption. Less frequent smokers ranked occasions as follows – with friends, office breaks, with alcoholic beverages, when alone, when stressed and lastly to improve concentration.

o       Significant variation was found in the sample based on consumer gender wherein frequency of consumption with females was substantially lower and occasions were largely with friends or with alcoholic beverages. Females tended not to smoke at office or in public places.


2. Information Search/Generation of Alternatives


·        Rarely an active search – brand familiarity and loyalty among smokers is significant

·        Alternative seeking is minimal and varies inversely with rate of consumption

(i.e. frequent smokers do not exhibit variety seeking buying behaviour)

3. Evaluation of Alternatives

o       Not structured evaluation, vaguely-defined criteria.

o    Parameters for evaluation declared as follows (in descending order of rank) – taste, brand, association with self-image, availability, size, hardness, price, health.

o   Parameters were more in the consumer’s mind than obviously conscious decisions and varied with psychographics instead of demographics (common demographic segment exhibited varied evaluation criteria)


4. Purchase Decision and Implementation


o       Limited Problem Solving Behaviour

o       Huge degree of brand loyalty

o    Time and non-availability are not significant constraining factors for brand decision or long-term consumption. However, short-term consumption may be dependent on availability.

o       Transforming a purchase intention into a purchase decision is influenced by a variety of factors. In the long-term decision to purchase is based on the decision to continue, reduce or quit smoking, and is based on the following criteria (in descending order of rank) – Personal health, family pressure, family health, religious reasons, guilt. Brand decision is based on image (further dependent on peer image and association with self-image). It should be noted however, that these ranks were given by consumer’s themselves and guilt is liable to play a larger part among the younger target audience (i.e. first-time smokers) than admitted.

o       Unanticipated Situational Factors (e.g. Reactions of salespersons) are rare in occurrence and do not have significant impact on the purchase decision.

6. Post-purchase Behaviour

Satisfaction or dissatisfaction is not dependent on many factors and remains roughly similar for each consumer across purchase periods

Post-purchase evaluation is very significant for first-time users (First time use is defined as consumption not purchase as it is not usually linked with direct purchase by the final user). This phenomenon decreases as use become more prevalent, though no specific dividing timeline or use could be identified where such evaluation loses significance.

Thus, cigarette consumers exhibit typical ‘habitual buying behaviour’. Once loyalty is established, they change brand infrequently, and tend to remain loyal to a brand for extended periods of time, which change only due to extrinsic factors like change in peer group, discontinuation of brand (as in the case of Wills Lights) etc. Habitual buying results in automatic ‘reach for the brand’ behaviour, thus minimising the sales push opportunity and maximising the need for advertising and positioning in the consumer’s mind. There is a high-degree of brand familiarity as opposed to brand conviction and consumers find it hard to defend their purchase decision. Post-purchase evaluation is not a frequent occurrence though must be considered by the marketer, as given the frequency of consumption, a single bad experience could put a loyal consumer off the brand for life.