The Joint Effect of Product Involvement and Prior Knowledge on the Use of Information Sources and the Choice of Decision-Making Paths by Consumers

Article excerpt

This paper examines the joint effect resulting from the interaction between product involvement and prior knowledge, and to analyze how this joint effect can make an impact on the consumers' utilization of different information sources in their decision-making processes. The findings in this paper discover that when consumers have little prior knowledge of the product the external information sources utilized by the consumers will show a dominant influence over the decision-making process in spite of the high/ low product involvement they have. Moreover, this paper also shows that different groups (high/low product involvement with high/low prior knowledge) of consumers' decision-making paths are drastically different.

I. Introduction

Studies have shown that prior knowledge and product involvement do have certain effect on the decision-making process of consumers (Huffman and Houston 1993; Howard 1994). Although there are quiet a few studies related to this subject, yet most of them focus specifically on just one single variable (Park and Lessig 1981; Alba 1983; Slama andTashchian 1985; Engel, Blackwell and Miniard 1986; Petty and Cacippo 1986; Laroche, Kim and Zhou 1996). Rarely do we find studies available that examine both variables at the same time and explore the possible impact they might make on the consumers in their decision-making path. Hence, this paper intends to examine the joint effect resulting from the interaction between product involvement and prior knowledge, and to analyze how this joint effect can make an impact on the consumers' use of different information sources in their decision-making processes. Moreover, this paper will provide relevant decision-making paths as a guideline for the marketers to follow when they are setting up their marketing strategies.

Generally speaking, the more brand familiarity the consumer has with a particular product, the more knowledge he has with the product. When his familiarity with a brand accumulates to a certain extent, he will naturally stick to the brand he formerly chose (Hoyer 1984). Bettman, Luce, and Payne ( 1998) assumed that consumers basically resort to different strategies in solving various decision-making problems, but the strategies they possess and propose usually have some bearing on their previous experience and training. Besides, Park, Gardner, and Thukral (1988) maintained that lower self-evaluation knowledge tends to increase the consumer's recognition and acceptance of external information. Base on the studies above, one goal of this paper is to clarify that different levels of prior knowledge tend to bring about different purchasing processes. Besides, our study also claims that the less prior knowledge the consumer has, the great impact the external information makes on him.

Quiet a few studies point out that product involvement actually has very remarkable effect on the consumer's handling of information and purchasing behavior (Lee and Lou 1995/1996). Lilien, Kolter and Moorthy (1992) illustrated most current consumer evaluation processes are cognitively oriented, that is, consumers are supposedly conscious and rational when making judgment of products. But as a matter of fact, this rational evaluation process doesn't seem important at all to many low involvement products. Therefore, the study assumes that different involvement levels will lead to different consumer decision-making processes. But for Moorthy, Ratchford and Talukdar (1997), the uncertainty of any specific brand or related brands for a consumer with high prior knowledge is equivalent to zero. It means that under this circumstance the consumer does not require any further information before making a decision. Even though a consumer is faced with similarly high involvement products, his decision-making process will still vary with his prior knowledge of each. Therefore this paper assumes that even though products are of high involvement, if consumers possess different prior knowledge, their decision-making processes will be drastically different. …


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