Consumer learning can be thought of as the process by which individuals acquire the purchase and consumption knowledge and experience that they apply to future related behavior. In order for learning to occur, certain basic elements must be present. The elements included in most learning theories are motivation, cues, response, and reinforcement. Five of the most important general characteristics of learning are strength of learning, extinction, stimulus generalization, stimulus discrimination, and the response environment.
There are many types learning theories such as Behavioral Theory of Leaning, Cognitive Theory of Learning, Involvement Theory of Learning. Knowledge of learning principles can be useful in understanding how consumers wants and motives are acquired and how their tastes are developed. General characteristics of learning helps marketing managers to make marketing decisions. This work deals with the following aspects: what is consumer learning, elements of consumer learning, and different theories of consumer learning.
DESCRIPTION What is Consumer Learning? Consumer Learning can be thought of as the process by which individuals acquire the purchase and consumption knowledge and experience they apply to future related behavior. Several points can be noted in this definition: First, Consumer Learning is a process; that is it continually evolves and changes as a result of newly acquired knowledge or from actual experience. Then, the term experience does not always mean that it is deliberate. It may be intentional or incidental.
For example, the success of Creast toothpaste by Procter & Gamble, recognized as the best toothpaste by The American Dental Association, was because of it’s consumer learning. Which enables them to add fluoride with the toothpaste. Elements of Consumer Learning Despite their different viewpoints, learning theorists in general agree that in order for learning to occur, certain basic elements must be present. The elements included in most learning theories are motivation, cues, response, and reinforcement.
Motivation: The concept of motivation is important to learning theory. Remember, motivation is based on needs and goals. Motivation acts as a spur to learning. The degree of relevance, or involvement, determines the consumer’s level of motivation to search for knowledge or information about a product or service. Uncovering consumer motives is one of the prime tasks of marketers, who then try to teach motivated consumer segments why and how their products will fulfill the consumer’s needs.
Cues: If motives serve to stimulate learning, cues are the stimuli that direct these motives. In the marketplace, price, styling, packaging, advertising, and store displays all serve as cues to help consumers fulfill their needs in product-specific ways. Cues serve to direct consumer drives when they are consistent with consumer expectations. Marketers must be careful to provide cues that do not upset those expectations. Response: How individuals react to a drive or cue-how they behave constitutes their response. Learning can occur even when responses are not overt.
Reinforcement: Reinforcement increases the likelihood that a specific response will occur in the future as the result of particular cues or stimuli. Theories of consumer learning There are several theories of consumer learning. These are Behavioral Theory of Leaning, Cognitive Theory of Learning, Involvement Theory of Learning , Behavioral Theory of Leaning Behavioral learning theories are sometimes referred to as stimulus-response theories because they are based on the premise that observable responses to external stimuli signal that learning has taken place.
Under the behaviorist approach, consumers operate on the environment (e. g. people do things). There are several types of Behavioral learning theories. Such as: * Classical Conditioning * Instrumental Conditioning * Modeling or Observational Learning Classical Conditioning Theory A behavioral learning theory according to which a stimulus is paired with another stimulus that elicits a known response that serves to produce the same response when used alone. Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, was the first to describe conditioning and to propose it as a general model of how learning occurs.
According to Pavlovian theory, conditioned learning occurs when a stimulus that is paired with another stimulus that elicits a known response serves to produce the same response when used alone. Pavlov demonstrated what he meant by conditioned learning in his studies with dogs which is shown below: Strategic Applications of Classical Conditioning Three basic concepts derive from classical conditioning: Repetition, Stimulus generalization, and Stimulus discrimination. Each of these concepts is important to the strategic applications of consumer behavior. Repetition
Increases the association between the conditioned and unconditioned stimulus and slows the pace of forgetting. In this advertising wear out is a problem. Stimulus generalization This theory suggests learning does not merely depend on repetition but also on generalization. This helps “me-too” products to succeed Useful in product extensions. Stimulus discrimination Stimulus discrimination is the opposite of stimulus generalization and results in the selection of a specific stimulus from similar stimuli. This discrimination is the basis of positioning which looks for unique ways to fill needs.
Instrumental (Operant) Conditioning A behavioral theory of learning based on a trial-and-error process, with habits forced as the result of positive experiences (reinforcement) resulting from certain responses or behaviors. Like classical conditioning, instrumental conditioning requires a link between a stimulus and a response. This model of learning applies to many situations in which consumers learn about products, services, and retail stores.
American psychologist B. F. Skinner is the pioneer in this theory. He distinguished several types of reinforcement in this theory. These are: * Positive Negative * Forgetting * Extinction A Model of Instrumental Conditioning is given below: Observational Learning Observational Learning is a process by which individuals observe how others behave in response to certain stimuli and reinforcements. It is known as modeling or vicarious learning. Consumers often observe how others behave in response to certain situations and the ensuing results that occur, and they imitate the positively reinforced behavior when faced with similar situations. An advertisement is shown, where the consumer observes a positive response by two teens. Cognitive Theory of Learning
Cognitive Learning Theory holds that the kind of learning most characteristic of human beings is problem solving which enables individuals to gain some control over their environment. Cognitive theories are concerned with how information is processed by the human mind: how it is stored, retained, and retrieved. A simple model of the structure and operation suggests the existence of three separate storage units: the sensory store, the short term store, and the long term store. Information Processing Information Processing relates to cognitive ability and the complexity of the information.
Individuals differ in imagery – their ability to form mental images which influences recall. Movement from short-term to long-term storage depends on * Rehearsal * Encoding How consumers store, retain, and retrieve information is shown below: Involvement Theory of Learning Involvement theory proposes that people engage in limited information processing in situations of low importance or relevance to them and in extensive information processing in situations of high relevance. Issues in involvement theory: * Consumer Relevance * Central and Peripheral Routes to Persuasion * Measure of Involvement Consumer Relevance
Involvement depends on degree of personal relevance. High involvement is: Very important to the consumer, Provokes extensive problem solving. Central and Peripheral Routes to Persuasion Central route to persuasion: For high involvement purchases, Requires cognitive processing. Peripheral route to persuasion: Low involvement, Consumer less motivated to think, Learning through repetition, visual cues, and holistic perception. Measures of Involvement There are several measures of involvement found by different studies. These are: brand involvement, product involveme
Learning certainly occurs intentionally, as when a problem is recognized and information is acquired about products which might solve the problem. Knowledge of learning principles can be useful in understanding how consumers wants and motives are acquired and how their tastes are developed. Also, appreciation of learning can aid marketers of how frequently to repeat advertising messages and develop brand loyalty. Marketing stretegies are based on communicating with the customers-directly,through advertisements, and indirectly,through product appearance,packaging,price,and distribution chennels.
So the successful organizations are interested in every aspect of the learning process. However,despite the fact that learning is all-persasive in our lives, ther is no single theory of how people learn. Instead there are two major school of thought concerning learning process-one views learning as a function mental process,that is cognative learning theory and other views it as obsevable behaviors that occurs as the result of exposure to stimuli, that is behavioral learning theory.
These theories offers insights to marketers on how to shape their messages to consumers to bring about desired purchase behavior. Besides,this is important that how marketers use learning theories in their marketing strategies, but it also includes ethical issues with consumer learning.