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Consumer Buying Behaviour sample essay


This paper is based on a group purchase from the popular coffee house Starbucks. All members were to meet and purchase a beverage and analyse the purchase and reflect on emotions and feelings prior to the purchase and also post purchase. Each group member bought something different so we were therefore able to compare each individuals experience.


Problem Recognition

Consumer A and the other consumers recognised the need for a place to meet in order to enjoy some food/a drink that was in the centre of town, within a budget and would not require a reservation. Consumer A wanted a drink but also something more filling and exciting than a regular coffee or tea. This would take the consumer from their actual state to their ideal state (Solomon et al 2010).

Information Search

Due to the high recognition and availability of the brand, when feeling the need of a drink, hot or cold, Consumer A believe that the Starbucks brand recall is one of the strongest out there. Thus meaning that it is the first one the consumer will think of and additionally the brand is widely available. Particularly in Glasgow central, there is a Starbucks on almost every corner, stimulating both her internal and external information state (Solomon et al 2010). Consumer A and the rest of the group decided upon Starbucks, dismissing other rival retailers such as Costa and Caffe Nero The consumer thought about what drinks she had seen people get and say was nice, this is known as an internal search, Consumer A also saw another female consumer drinking one of the ‘strawberries and cream frappaccino and thought it looked delicious and the pink and white colour combination is very appealing.

Evaluation of alternatives

Starbucks was chosen from the consumers evoked set (Solomon et al 2010), due to good marketing. Consumer A showed rational behaviour by opting for a drink that is quite filling so that it was less expensive than buying a drink and a separate snack. Consumer A used her prior knowledge of the drinks she had tried from Starbucks and opted for a drink she knew she liked the taste of rather than variety seeking Consumer A finds that the wide range of options in Starbucks means it can be difficult to make a decision, however they allow you to customise your drink which Consumer A likes as you can get exactly as you want.


Consumer A decided on purchasing the strawberries and cream frappaccino. Consumer A enjoyed her experience overall, service was relatively efficient and her drink did not take long. There was low risk and involvement in the purchase, due to its low price (?3.29) and the nature of the product. Consumer A, did however, feel a little panicked when she went to order as you need to stand in the queue to read the menu boards rather than being able to read and decide before joining the queue. This left Consumer A feeling a bit rushed into the decision. Consumer A was offered cream on top, this left them feeling like it was an added extra, leaving them pleased with their purchase.


Consumer A was very pleased with the purchase as it tasted delicious and was very filling. Whilst Starbucks can be perceived to have some overpriced products, consumer A did not feel like the frappaciano is one of them, so was satisfied, finding it good value for money. However having seen the high calorie content did make it somewhat less enjoyable as it inspires a little bit of post-purchase guilt. Consumer A decided to push aside any feelings of guilt, a manifestation of cognitive dissonance (Arnould et al 2004). Consumer A felt full and no longer thirsty, it had satisfied her sweet craving and so was now in her ideal state. Consumer A will continue to be a regular customer.

Consumer A considers what the drink would be if it were a car, animal and person. If the drink were a car it would probably be a convertible, something fun, quite flash and expensive. If the drink were an animal it would be something relatively exotic and colourful, like a bird of paradise. If the drink was a person, they would be very sweet, probably relatively young, vivacious and excitable, possibly flirty.


The group recognise a problem when they decide they want to meet up but need the convenience of somewhere that does not require a reservation. There are several stores offering similar products in the surrounding area, Costa, Starbucks, Pret a Manger and other less branded coffee shops; constructive processing means the decision to go to Starbucks is made rather quickly; the decision was almost automated due to the knowledge of Starbucks’ product range (Solomon et al, 2010). The group perform an internal search to locate a Starbucks within walking distance from their current position.

Whilst in line to order consumer B browses the many drinks on the menu considers the possible flavours and quickly decides to purchase a large cup of tea. The tea is chosen as it is consumer B’s favourite hot drink. As the decision to buy tea was made easily by consumer B there was time left to survey the cakes and biscuits on offer while in the queue; consumer B decided to make a hotspot purchase of a cookie to accompany the tea.

Consumer B enjoys the purchase of tea and a cookie which cost ?3.70 which consumer B believes to be competitively priced with rival stores but overpriced in relation to the cost of manufacture however this has not ruined the experience. Overall the experience was a positive one; service was quick, the store was laid out efficiently, staff were friendly, consumer B enjoyed the social aspect that was made possible due to the homely store and the purchase was satisfactory too.

Consumer B considers what tea would be if it was a type of car, animal and person and determines, if a car it would be a Volkswagen Golf as it is without significant changes; if an animal it would be a dog or cat as is a lifelong companion; and if a person someone who was comforting, friendly and dependable. Tea has all of these characteristics to consumer B. (Solomon et al, 2010, pg314)


The group recognise a problem as to what time to meet up, as some group members are not nearby the selected Starbucks, and others only have a small amount of time due to work commitments. They decide to meet as soon as possible at a set point (Starbucks Buchanan Galleries) and to purchase their products as soon as they can so that all members can be involved, and the members that need to leave will just order take-away cups.

Consumer C knew that they would need to leave for work soon after she had met the group at Starbucks, so their first thought was that it would be ideal to pick up a take-away cup. This is problem recognition (Solomon et al, 2010) in the customer realising they were currently purchasing a product, but would soon need to leave the location where the product is generally consumed. Pre-purchase research had taught them that Starbucks offer a take-away service.

Having made this decision, consumer C now considered her options for a drink. Not particularly liking tea or coffee consumer C decides to buy a hot chocolate, and makes it a small as they are not that hungry. As consumer 2 is paying the cashier offers them cream and marshmallows for a small extra price, and so makes a hotspot decision to purchase cream for on top of the hot chocolate.

Consumer C enjoyed the purchase of hot chocolate with cream. It was ideal that they could sit and enjoy the drink with the rest of the group, but leave slightly earlier without having to stop drinking their purchase due to the take-away cup. Compared to home-made products was a lot more enjoyable due to extra touches such as cream and the ability to sit with friends in a comfortable and relaxed environment.

Consumer C reflects on their experience of the purchase of a hot chocolate for ?3.40. It was more satisfying than home-made products due to the services it comes with, and was an enjoyable experience with friends. If this product was a car Consumer C thinks it would be a Volkswagen Beetle as it is sweet and almost a bit childish. If it was an animal it would be a sloth because it is relaxed and happy. If it was a person it would be a grandmother type figure, as it is used to cheer people up and as an almost comfort-blanket type product.


The consumers decided to meet to discuss group work issues. Upon deciding a meeting place, there were a few options considered by the consumers: a restaurant or a cafe, as they would provide the perfect space and atmosphere in order to carry out the meeting without any major interruptions and would allow them their own space. Most of the group had already eaten lunch as this was around 2pm, so it was then decided that a cafe would be the most suitable place to meet, allowing them to also enjoy a relaxing hot drink and possibly a cake/pastry.

Consumer D already had an idea of a place which would offer the group what they required, due to “Internal information search”. Consumer D regularly visited Starbucks and had never been let down by their services, they had a very positive image of the brand. They also remembered reading “Find your local Starbucks and visit us in store for your perfect latte!”(Starbucks official website 2012) on their official website, which coincidently happened to be their favourite hot beverage. A short conversation was undertaken which involved assessing the nearby coffee shops such as Costa coffee and Pret a Manger, (mainly those who were branded, as the knowledge of their products and services were the highest) it was decided that Starbucks was the preferred option by all consumers.

Upon arriving at the nearest Starbucks, consumer D already had decided what drink they were going to purchase (a latte) as they had previously enjoyed the same drink many times before and it was their favourite. As consumer D waited in the queue (queues are present nine times out of ten in most Starbucks although that never hindered the experience) they were faced with all of the cakes and sandwiches that the cafe had to offer. Although consumer D had just eaten lunch, they were almost at eye level with their favourite cake and made a rash decision to purchase it as they usually enjoyed it alongside their favourite drink. After ordering, the assistant then asked for consumer D’s name, to place on the order, to give it a personal touch, to make experience somewhat more pleasant.

Taking into consideration all the qualities of the drink, the consumer decided that if it was to be compared to a car, it would most resemble an Audi as it was a safe option, it was reliable and not just a regular coffee, it was an upgraded sophisticated version. If the drink was to be compared to a person, it would most resemble a woman/mother in a well-paid occupation as it gives vibes of confidence and sophistication, due to the sharp coffee taste but also an understanding and warming vibe due to milk being the basis of the drink. It was then considered that if the latte was an animal it would be a Persian Cat, mostly due to the similarity of the colours and the cuddly yet classy image that they project.

Consumer D was just as impressed as they always were with their Starbucks purchase; they believe that the brand is very consistent with the quality of their products which draws them in as they never have the risk of being disappointed. Although it cost them ?5.25 for a coffee and a cake, it was not grudged as it is now accepted as the norm for all branded coffee shops. Consumer D had also enjoyed the free Wi-fi, as it assisted the group whilst they were enjoying their beverages so they could socialise, discuss and research all at the same time.

Consumer D identified that the purchase was one of low involvement as during the information search, it was limited and not many options were considered; when it came to the purchase, they knew what they wanted to buy, they didn’t have look into any other product – the behaviour was habitual and post purchase, there was little evaluation on the purchase and no research was undertaken.


Prior to the visit to Starbucks, Consumer E was thrilled at the chosen place of purchase. Consumer E is familiar with the American Coffee House and visits regularly. Although Consumer E has been countless times before, this experience was to be different and the trip was to be made with a group of friends who had not spent time with each other before. Consumer E felt wary and anxious about how the group would all get along and how the experience would be. Consumer E was more concerned about the people attending the meeting than actually making the purchase. Consumers E was considering whether to stick with the regular order or try something new to add to the whole ‘new’ experience. Consumer E gathered information from the Starbucks website on what other beverages and snacks they serve to be prepared for meeting. Consumer E had decided on the purchase going to be made, however, before doing so, compared alternatives on the menu by analysing nutrition information. Consumer E then confirmed her choice before the day of the meeting.

Friday 15th February was the day the group planned to meet at the Coffee House. Consumer E was running late so felt rushed when arriving. The remainder of the group were already sitting down, chatting, and seemed delighted that Consumer E had finally arrived. After around 5 minutes of brief chat, the group were ready to make their purchase. As everyone made their way to order, Consumer E realised that the firmed choice of hazelnut hot chocolate was not desired any longer. Consumer E had been in such a great rush to get to the meeting that the needs had changed and now craved something cold and refreshing.

The queue was terribly long, so Consumer E had plenty of time to evaluate alternatives. When the caramel Frappuccino had been ordered, Consumer E felt no warmth and friendliness from the staff, which is normally the atmosphere created in Starbucks. The staff did ask the name of the consumer to write on the cup, which is a nice, personal touch. The member of staff questioned whether the consumer would enjoy cream on their beverage or would prefer without. Consumer E agreed to the cream and made the purchase of ?3.29.

After making the purchase, Consumer E realised there was no up sell of snacks or biscuits which the felt was disappointing and thought effort was lacking from the staff members. When the drink was ready, it was made aware that it was served in a plastic cup even though the consumer had stated they were sitting in. When arriving back at the table to join the remaining group members, Consumer E felt slightly out of place as the other members were sipping from large, Starbucks stamped mugs. Their experience seemed more homely, warm and comforting whereas Consumer E felt their Frappuccino was over-priced to be served in a plastic cup, with a straw.

The consumer understood that the type of drink is slightly different; however, the purchase made should not affect the overall experience of consuming in such a place where expectations are so high. Consumer E felt as though they had been given a take away, and although the beverage was lovely, it would have been more enjoyable if it had been consumed the same way as the other group members; from a mug like you’re sitting at home!

Overall, the experience of the purchase was slightly disappointing; however, Consumer E loves the social aspect of Starbucks. If the consumer had the chance to indulge in the atmosphere predicted before the purchase was made, then the outcome may have been different.


Problem Recognition

The consumers recognised a variety of reasons as to why they made their purchase. Consumer A was thirsty and wanted something quite filling, Consumer B wanted a drink and a snack, Consumer C wanted the convenience of a takeaway cup, Consumer D wanted a drink and was also hungry for a cake, and Consumer E also wanted a drink. All the consumers identified the need for somewhere convenient and not too expensive to meet.

Information Search

The consumers used different methods of collecting information. The choice of Starbucks was largely based on all the consumers’ previous experiences and awareness of the brand, showing successful marketing, as all of the consumers noted that they had previously been and it was thought of as an easy and convenient choice. Consumer E, D and A admit to being regular customers, thus illustrating not only their brand loyalty but also how integrated the ‘Starbucks’ brand is within consumers internal search, strong brand recall (Solomon et al 2010). Consumer E also used an external search by looking at the product options prior to their trip, comparing prices and calories. Additionally Consumer D recalled knowledge of one of the brands advertisements on their website.

Evaluation of Alternatives

The evaluation of alternatives was somewhat unique for each consumer. Consumer E had decided upon their purchase beforehand, Consumer D stuck to her favourite drink, whilst Consumers C, B and A perused the menu and made more impulsive decisions from the extensive menu. Consumer A was relatively price conscious. All the consumers evaluated whether they would enjoy the purchase beforehand and stuck to drinks they had tried before to avoid disappointment.


Consumers had different experiences when making their purchases, despite it being the same staff. Whilst Consumer E was disappointed by the lack of up-sell, Consumer A thought this was a positive aspect of the experience as she felt that being pressured into purchasing more is a turn-off. Whilst Consumers A, C and D were okay with the price, Consumer B thought it slightly overpriced especially in relation to the manufacture cost of her tea; however all the consumers agreed on the enjoying the social aspects of the Starbucks experience.

Post-Purchase Evaluation

The consumers post purchase evaluations also differed despite being together in the same Starbucks at the same time. Personal preference would be best identified as the driving force behind why some Consumers were more pleased with their purchases than others. Due to the nature of the products purchased the consumers were able to test the product immediately. Consumer A was pleased with her purchase despite a little post-purchase guilt and experiencing a little post purchase dissonance, Consumer E was left slightly disappointed with their purchase, whilst consumers B, C and D were all satisfied, describing it as a positive experience and purchase. Whilst Consumer E was left unhappy with the fact their frappacciano came in a take away cup, this was seen as a positive for Consumer C, for whom the ease of the plastic cup allowed them not to rush before heading to work commitments.


In conclusion, consumers A, B, C, D, and E, all used the ‘Individual Decision Making Process’ when going about their purchase from Starbucks. Consumers A and purchased their drink through need as well as want, they were thirsty. Consumers C and were more driven by want as they weren’t particularly hungry or thirsty. In the Information search stage, all the consumers followed a relatively similar pattern, due to the high brand awareness of Starbucks and its easy availability. None of the consumers set an exact budget, but all the purchases retailed under ?7. On the whole all the Consumers, except consumer E who expressed a little disappointment, had a positive experience and Consumers E and D are already loyal customers. Therefore they are likely to go back and continue to purchase from Starbucks. The consumers’ decision making processes are somewhat unique and are more complex due to the extensive menu and options available.


James R. Bettman, ‘The Decision Maker Who Came in from the Cold’ (presidential address), in Leigh McAllister and Michael Rothschild (eds), Advances in Consumer Research 20 (Provo, U.T.: Association for Consumer Research, 1993): 7-11; John W. Payne, James R. Bettman and Eric J. Johnson, ‘Behavioural decision research: A constructive processing perspective’, Annul Review of psychology 4 (1992): 87-131; J.R. Bettman, M.F Luce and J.W. Payne ‘Constructive consumer choice processes’, Journal of Consumer Research 25(3) (December 1998): 187-217; for an overview of recent developments in individual choice models, see Robert J. Meyer and Barbara E. Kahn, ‘Probabilistic Models of Consumer Choice Behaviour’, in Thomas S. Robertson and Harold H. Kassarjian (eds), Handbook of Consumer Behaviour (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1991): 85-123. Cited in Consumer Behaviour a European Perspective, 2010, fourth edition: Prentice Hall Michael R. Solomon, Gary Damossy, Soren Askegaard, Margaret K. Hogg, 2010, Consumer Behaviour A European Perspective, Fourth Edition: Prentice Hall

Solomon, Bamossy, Askegarrd and Hogg, (2006), Consumer Behaviour: A European Perspective, 3rd Edition, Prentice Hall. Arnould. E, Price. L, Zinkhan. G, (2004). Consumers, (2nd ed), McGraw-Hill.

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