A SYSTEMS ANOMALY: CONSUMER DECISION-MAKING PROCESS FOR LUXURY GOODS (MARKETING, SYSTEMS SCIENCES, BEHAVIOR)
Current consumer behavior theories propose two basic models of decision making: the high-involvement and the low-involvement models. The research questions were: (1) Can the current high-involvement model explain the consumer decision-making process for luxury goods? (2) If so, why are consumers of luxury goods willing to spend so much money on them? Is not that a contradiction of the rational and careful consumers proposed in the high-involvement model? (3) If such consumers do not follow the current high-involvement model, is there another decision-making model for luxury goods? The hypothesis of this research was that the consumer decision-making process for luxury goods is different from the current high-involvement model. Leica cameras were used as the research subjects, since they are representative of the luxury camera market. The literature on involvement, consumer durable goods, and pricing were extensively reviewed. Then, Ackoff and Emery's systems approach was incorporated in order to contexualize the consumer behavior in a systems environment. Also, with their choice models, the stylistic and the functional values of the choice model for luxury cameras were developed. Data collection involved two sub-stages: (1) pilot interviews with Leica customers and with the sales force of a photographic retail outlet, and (2) a Leica owner survey with selected current Leica customers of the store. A sequential, judgemental sampling was used. Data were first analyzed with frequency counts, and then with causal path analysis. The results indicated two distinctive consumer decision-making processes among the respondents. The "M4-P model" seems to be a new kind of model that does not fit the current high-involvement model, while the "R4 model" basically fits it. Two unexpected problems emerged after data analysis. First, since we unexpectedly found two processes instead of one, the respondents' biographical data turned out to be inadequate to relate the two models to customer profiles. Another problem is the lack of rigorous definition of involvement. Is involvement product-specific, consumer-specific, and/or situation-specific? Refining the definition of involvement seems to be the next research task.
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