The following essay attempts to critically analyze the traditional problem solving approach to consumer decision making process with support of the study that the case study has discussed. The writing is done over nine steps. It begins with the introduction phase that discusses the importance of consumer behavior and the importance of decision making and in particular the importance of traditional consumer decision making in consumer behavior. The following subsection defines the detailed stages involved in traditional consumer decision making. Following this, is a comparative study done between traditional consumer decision making and holiday decision making based on the stages of traditional consumer decision making model. This is further, followed by a conclusion that summarizes the outcome of the study altogether.


Consumer behavior is the study of the mental and emotional processes and observable behavior of consumers during searching, consumption and post purchase of a product or service. Assessing consumer behavior and understanding the same is vital and essential for the success of any marketing strategy. Consumer decision making process is the sequential stages of processes that a consumer goes through when opting to purchase a product or a service. Any consumer is assumed to go through five staged decision making process before attempting to make any purchase. This is referred to as the Traditional Decision making process. It is very necessary for the marketer to understand the decision making process that the consumer goes through in order to successfully market the product.


The five important stages of the traditional consumer decision making process are: Need Recognition, Information Search, Evaluation of Alternatives, Purchase and Post-Purchase evaluation.

Need Recognition & Problem Awareness:

Need recognition is when a consumer has identified a particular need or a problem that has been unmet and has to be immediately met. Two different styles of need/problem recognition styles exist within consumers. The categories of consumers are those who opt a product as the present product that they are using fails to function efficiently. These consumers are referred to as “actual state type consumers". The second type of consumers are the desired state types, who need a product just because to desire to have one. So the desire becomes the trigger in their decision process. Altogether, a consumer at this stage can be referred to as an aroused consumer who is vulnerable to any stimulus of the marketers appeal.

Information Search

Information search is the search is the next subsequent stage wherein, the consumer has already identified a product that will cater to his/her need. There are two types of searches , the internal search and the external search. The internal search is when the consumer recollects his/her past experiences and makes that the base for his/her current decision making. An external search is when the consumer consults external environment factors for making his/her choice decision. This is because the consumer lacks sufficient experience. In many purchase decisions, a consumer conducts an internal search in combination with an external search as well. Normally, the consumers tend to involve themselves in extensive information search in products that involve high risk and are more costly than in case of products that involve low risk and are inexpensive. The search conducted before buying a shoes would differ from the search conducted before buying a car.

Evaluation Of Alternatives

In this corresponding stage, the consumer has identified a number of particular product/service that will satisfy his/her need. It is here that the consumer makes the decision between the available potential alternatives on the basis of brands and number of preferred criteria against which these products are assessed. The set of brands that comes in the consideration list of the consumer is called ‘’evoked set’’. ’’Inept set’’ is the set of brands that the product does not consider because it is looked upon by the consumer as unacceptable. ‘’Inert set’’ is that set of brands that the consumer is indifferent towards because the consumer, does not consider the product to be having any particular advantages.


This is the stage wherein the consumer actually purchases a particular product after identifying need, conducting search and evaluating possible alternatives. Consumers are normally identified to be making three types of purchases which are namely trial purchases, repeated purchases and long term commitment purchases. The trial purchase refers to the instance wherein a consumer tries to evaluate a product or brand by using it for the first time. Repeated purchase is a case of established brand loyalty wherein consumers repeat product purchases. Long term commitment is when consumers associate themselves in opting to purchase a particular brand of a product and over again in time.

Post purchase Evaluation

This is the stage wherein the consumer has bought and used a particular product, the consumers’ reflection on whether the product was satisfying or disappointing. In cases where the consumers needs are met or exceeded the consumer can be referred to as satisfied. If that does not happen, the consumer begins to experience ‘’cognitive dissonance’’ which is an internal conflict that the consumer experiences because of having conflicting ideas.

(Schiffman G.L, Kanuk L.L, Hansen.H , 2008)


When the holiday decision making plan of 27 Belgian households were analyzed, it was found that Holiday decision making model did not have any fixed sequential stages, unlike the traditional decision making model. It was observed that in the Holiday decision making model, the administrative factors played a vital role in deciding choice and time of holiday decision making. Apart from this, it was found that unlike in the traditional decision making model, while planning for a holiday, there was no sequential evolution of holiday plans. The typical factors that influence the need and the decision of holiday decision making process was found to be situational factors, levels of involvement, day dreaming & nostalgia, anticipation.

This is completely different from the Traditional Decision making process which has very well structured and sequentialized. The need for a particular product/service is identified, following which the information search and evaluation of alternatives is done. This further leads the consumer towards making a purchase and then post purchase evaluation. Unlike in the Holiday decision model the factors that influence the decision making process of a consumer in traditional consumer decision making is the need that is triggered due to the failure of a product that they are using or the desire to have a new product. Decision for choosing a product is done here.


. The information search in traditional consumer decision making is well structured, which is at times internal or external or a combination of both based on the value /risk of a product.

The information search phase in the holiday decision model was found to be unstructured unlike the traditional decision making model .In holiday decision making, information collection was identified to be an ongoing process that still continues even after the holiday has been booked. Information is gathered during and after the holiday experience owing to cognitive dissonance, prolonged involvement/hedonic consumption. Moreover, the information search in holiday decision making is found to be more internal or memory based, than external or stimulus based. However, all the information collected were not always used. The holiday decision makers were also found to be low information searchers. Information accumulated naturally in a non purposive way and they become really important in the last days before a booking is made. There is a shift observed from internal to external source of information and from general to more specific information altogether. Hence in holiday decision making, information search information collection is not a direct predictor of actual choices but helps in strongly pointing out the preferences of a consumer.

Whereas, in traditional consumer decision making the information search is mainly internal oriented (like past experience) for products with low risk and products that are less expensive, external (like person reference) for products those involve high risk and are expensive. The higher the past experience, the lesser the external search would be done. Information is considered very important and the information gathered becomes the driving force in the decision making of a consumer. The kind of shift from general to specific information hunt is not quite significant in traditional consumer decision making. In traditional consumer decision making, the search begins as internal and then proceeds to external and then a combination of both. It is also observed that unlike holiday decision making, traditional consumer decision making consumers are keen information searchers and conducts a thorough research before deciding on a particular product. And finally, in traditional consumer decision making, information collection strong points the preferences of consumer, and also is a vital predictor of the actual decision that the consumer tends to take.


When it came to the evaluation of alternatives in case of holiday decision making, the study conducted brought to light that holiday decision making was an ongoing circular process that began with the making of a decision. Ideally, as one holiday ended, the holidays decision makers involved themselves in making the next plan. It was also observed that the decision makers involved themselves in making a number of plans at the same time. So does the evaluation of alternatives. As they constantly keep gaining information they tend to keep switching their preference for alternatives.

And each of the plans that the holiday maker made comprised of different time horizons, different formulas and different types of decision making processes. Another instance in the case , highlighted the fact that holiday decision making was mostly found to be adaptable and opportunistic. In these cases holiday decision makers , though had willingness to go to a particular place for a holiday , they were found to be going only when the opportunity struck. Hence, adaptability and opportunity were found to be the two major criterias on which a holiday decision maker was found to evaluating and deciding on the option of a holiday destination. Moreover, these strategies were found to be aligned with situation and to the type of decision making unit in which they were involved. So while evaluating the alternative, the alternative that is more favorable to adapt and to which there was a prevailing opportunity was given more importance than a on e which wasn’t favorable and for which there was no opportunity.

Altogether, it was found that while evaluating alternatives and decision making, adaptability and the decision making unit to which a holiday decision maker belonged influenced to situations and decision making unit to which they belong. When it came to evaluation, preferences were more given to experience based techniques than pre-planned ones. Many holiday makers didn’t use any well defined strategies while making their decisions. Needs and desires were directly connected to choice solutions because they are evoked at the same time. Finally, they prefer simple decision rules even if they are not accurate. Alongside, holiday makers decision strategies were characterized by factors like limited amount of processing, selective processing, qualitative reasoning, attribute based non compensatory rules and a lack for the evaluation of each alternative.

In comparison to this, in the traditional consumer decision making model the consumer evaluates products based on brands and critetrias. Unlike in holiday decision making, in traditional consumer decision making consumers follow a method wherein initially, a evoked set is generated based on the list of brands from which they plan to make their selection following which criterias will be used to evaluate each brand separately. Based on the ranking of criterias, the final product choice is made. Evaluation of alternatives is not an ongoing process and it is done only when a particular product is recognized to be catering to a particular need/problem identified. Hence traditional consumer decision making is not in any manner not adaptable nor opportunistic rather its completely need/desire oriented. Also pre planned decisions were the one that was given more importance when it came to evaluation. Strategies are clearly made based on ranking of features of a particular product of a brand. In traditional consumer decision making, evaluation of alternatives is characterized by the knowledge of the brand, information gathered and the preference of criterias evaluated for each brand/product of the evoked set.


When analyzing the purchase stage of the holiday decision making, it was found that the final decision making was made by consumers in the last minutes. This was mainly done to reduce the risk involved, expectancy, availability, loyalty and personality.

It is also found from the case that the purchase of the holiday decision making, is done instantaneously depending on momentary moods and emotions. Emotional factors in fact were identified to be a major factor based on which the holiday choices were made. The purchase is also done instantly as the holiday decision makers are consumers whose choices are made suddenly for sudden pleasure. This highlights the fact that affective choice mode is more relevant than traditional information processing mode in Holiday decision making model that in itself is a highly experiential product.

Most of the holiday decision makers tend to be optimistic and idealistic in the starting but they become realistic only over time and final purchase is made only the last moment. The reason for this trend of shift was identified to be the objective intervention or subjective perception of contextual factors. However contextual factors like occupation, family, situation are first considered before contextual inhibitors like time, money and budget.

The feeling of cognitive dissonance can be thoroughly noticed in case of holiday decision making. Because of this experience of cognitive dissonance that is a post purchase concern it was seen that the informants involved themselves in gathering information during and after the holiday experience altogether. The informants in many cases were found to be experiencing cognitive dissonance which continuously strived to reduce.

In the traditional decision making model, model of feel-learn-do is observed to be important whereas the feel-learn-do and feel-do-learn sequence appear more important in the holiday decision making. Contrary to the holiday decision making, in traditional consumer decision making the consumer plans sequentially before making the purchase. They discover a need, conduct information search, evaluates the alternatives and decides to purchase a chosen product. Unlike in holiday decision making, in traditional consumer decision making the consumers are observed to be optimistic, idealistic and realistic right from the need recognition stage till this stage of purchase. Also, in case of traditional consumer decision making, the post purchase cognitive dissonance experienced by a consumer was found to be directly proportional to the risk or value involved with the product.


Based on the comparative study made it can be evidently summarized that holiday decision making processes evidently varies from the traditional consumer decision making. Right from the beginning stage of need recognition till the stage of post-purchase evaluation stage the disparities are evident and noticeable. holiday decision making is highly based on opportunities, adaptability and emotions to a very large extent. Unlike traditional consumer decision making holiday decision making is found out to be combination of many processes. Hence altogether holiday decision making, is identified to be a rational process and holiday decision making processes and considered to be quite important as they are vital in achieving higher order goals.


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