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.

Stage 3: Product Evaluation

Once the research is complete, the consumer evaluates the collected information offered to determine the most suitable selection. Here is where the consumer will pair the products against each other and against their most important concerns. More positive consumers will consider the best attributes of a product or service. Negative consumers may cut the list down as quickly as possible by identifying unfavorable attributes. This evaluation process always takes into account one’s personal perception of the company’s image.

Curly Cassie’s Case Study: Cassie keeps a mental list of the great qualities in every option. She creates a list of her top choices while considering her budget and discount options.

Stage 4:  Product Choice and Purchase

Here, the consumer makes her final decisions on what products and services are priority or most desirable.  As she proceeds to the register, other factors could make or break the deal such as store environment, customer service, and ease of transaction. For example, an online coupon code that doesn’t work could derail the process, therefore defaulting to another product selection. Poor customer service or purchase terms, warranties, or return policies could also be a deterrent when making a purchase.

Curly Cassie’s Case Study: Cassie decides to purchase her two entire collections of her favorite brand (product junkie in the making), but while checking out at CurlMart she receives a new promotional offer via email for a her initial choice. She naturally replaces that product with an original selection and is elated to receive the extra 10% off and free scalp treatment sample.

Stage 5: Post Purchase Behavior

Once the product is purchased and used the consumer immediately evaluates the product’s performance and whether it met the original need. To treat or prevent the feelings of buyer’s remorse, product companies often prompt consumers for feedback. If the consumer is satisfied, they could turn into a loyal customer and potentially create a loyal following of others. On the other hand, a dissatisfied consumer will simply travel the five step process all over again to find another product or service.

Curly Cassie’s Case Study: Cassie is using her two new product lines and is generally happy. She now finds herself comparing the two products lines to each other. This process helps her to understand her hair type and she determines that one product is a better fit than the other and becomes a loyal customer of Product Company #1…..well, at least until the next product trend arises.

Take Away

When it comes to your hair care, there’s no need to be swayed by every new trend or topic that arises. Consider these gentle reminders with you as you make future consumer decisions.

  • Be honest with yourself. Some products are just not for you…. and you know it.
  • Be aware of your needs. Don’t wait for a commercial to tell you something is wrong with you.
  • Be connected to a trusted community for support like Consider this community as your first option for informed, relevant research.
  • Be balanced. Too much of anything is good for nothing; including hair products!  If you have a weakness to beauty marketing, be proactive by ordering a subscription box like CurlBOX or CurlKit or give yourself a monthly product allowance to regulate your purchasing.
  • Most importantly, be conscious.

Choose not to make erratic, compulsive decisions, but informed confident decisions in a methodical, intentional way. You’ll be happy that you did.

What convinces you to purchase a new product? Curiosity or need?