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Product-junkie. Product-hoarder. Product-stasher. Do those words describe your hair product purchasing habits? Are you product-suspicious, product-leery, or a product-skeptic? What differentiates the junkie from the skeptic? How does one group of people tend toward a certain pattern while another group is on the opposite spectrum? 

The answers are found within consumer behavior science, the study of processes used to select products and services that meet consumer needs and the impacts that these processes have on individuals and society at large. This has led to the creation of many tools to help us understand how we make purchases. In 1910, John Dewey first introduced the Consumer Decision Making Process which consists of five stages; Needs Recognition, Research, Product Evaluation, Product Choice, and Post-Purchase Evaluation and Behavior. We all pass through variations of these steps in every purchasing or non-purchasing decision. Product companies with the finest marketers are well versed in this science and align their marketing strategies to fit consumer decisions and behaviors. Let’s take a closer look on how this process affects our hair product selections.

Stage 1: Needs Recognition

The start of this purchasing process begins in the awareness of a personal need or want. Without desire, no purchase will be made. The actualization of any need and want can be triggered by external or internal stimuli. Internal stimuli would be a need, felt by the individual such as running out of conditioner, or your hair feeling dry. On the other hand, external stimuli come from outside influences, such as a product rave on YouTube, or a marketing advertisement for curl definition. Although the acknowledgement of a need is the key, it does not guarantee a purchase will be made. It does however guarantee that the consumer will proceed with the decision making process.

Curly Cassie’s Case Study:  After noticing breakage, a need has risen. Her online curl community suggests deep conditioning to treat breakage. She has determined the need to stop breakage by finding a deep conditioning product.

Stage 2: Research

Once the need is identified, the buyer begins to explore ways to best meet the need. The intensity of the research is determined by the severity of the need. For example, selecting a protein may be (is) less intensive than purchasing a home. It is also determined by the consumer’s level of involvement or motivation. Highly involved consumers will seek multiple sources of information. Lower involved consumers will seek fewer sources. At the onset of researching, the consumer will rehearse prior knowledge of the brands or product solutions she has experienced. From here, she will consider third party opinions and reviews from family, friends, and media peers before considering a company sales-pitch.

Curly Cassie’s Case Study: She analyzes what has caused the breakage, removes that product, and thinks back to when her hair was the fullest and strongest to remember what products she believes contributed to that length retention. Then, she discusses the possibilities with her friends and family who make a few suggestions before going to social media to see what the curly community thinks.  From there, she visits specific product company websites to further explore the facts.

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