Buyer Behavior – Black Box Model

The aim of buyer behavior models is to take complex interrelated variables involved in purchase decisions, and simplify them to be of use to the marketer. Buyer behavior models describe the characteristics affecting purchases of goods and services as well as giving insights into potential outcomes of marketing strategies. Many buyer behavior models have been developed from a ‘black box’ model. The information that is processed by the buyer is not explained by the model.

Below diagram represents the black box model of buyer

Black Box

Sets of stimuli enter the buyer black box and then produce certain responses. Marketing must try to work out what goes in the mind of the consumer, as it is difficult to read one’s mind this is termed as black box.

The black box model shows the interaction of stimuli, consumer characteristics, decision process and consumer responses. The black box model is related to black box theory of behaviorism, where the focus is not set on the processes inside a consumer, but relation between stimuli and response of the consumer.

The marketing stimuli are planned and processed by the companies; whereas the environmental stimuli are by social factors based on economical, political and cultural circumstances of a society.

This basic model has been developed into more complex models. In this model, the process and influences on the buyer’s decision are not explained. Multivariate models try to explain in more detail what is going on in the buying decision. Most of these models view the buyer as a ‘problem solver’ and concentrate on the influences upon behavior and the processes involved in purchase. Awareness of a problem arises from some stimuli (e.g. recognizing the need for a new item of clothing), information is processed, environmental and individual influences are evaluated and there is an output of purchase or non-purchase. Models have been developed for consumer, family and organizational buying. Discussions of the most popular models can be found in Schiffman and Kanuk.

Criticisms have been made regarding the practicality of these models because of the difficulty in testing them empirically. Tuck criticized multivariate models as they were not operational. He suggested that the approach took the basic ‘black box’ and merely broke it into many black boxes so the prediction criterion for a good model was not fulfilled. However, although this criticism is legitimate, most agree that multivariate models give valuable insights on the influences and processes involved in buying decisions and it is our view that these are fundamental to an understanding of customers. They provide a framework that marketers can use to evaluate important marketing opportunities in the buying process. Despite the contributions of multivariate models, in recent years the trend has been towards modeling specific aspects of buyer behavior using partial models such as for example Damparat and Jolibert’s model of buyer–seller relationships or Talluri et al. and their model of ‘buyer/supplier negotiations’.


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