When a consumer go through his life using a product or service accumulates his experience with that brand. These experiences have an important impact on what a consumer have learned or remembered which will determine his future action. He will may make a repeat purchase or avoid and substitute depends upon what he has learned with his experience.
Consumer learning can be defined as a process through which they acquire information and experience about a consumption, which they apply to future buying behavior. It is also explained as a change in a content of long term memory and behavior. From these definitions one can deduce that it is a process that results in a concrete behavior change.
Regarding the process of learning two distinctive schools of thought exist; behavioral learning theories and cognitive learning theories.
Behavioral learning theories aren’t much of process oriented but rather it focuses on the inputs and outputs i.e. stimuli that one has been exposed to and the resultant behavior.
There are two main theories under the umbrella of behavioral approach to discuss the learning; Classical and Instrumental. Classical theory suggest that when two stimuli are closely linked together that produce a specific learned result, then even in the absence of one of the stimuli the remaining one produces the same resultant behavior. Likewise the classical approach, instrumental theory endorses the link between stimulus and the response (i.e. inputs and outputs). But this theory further elaborates the fact that the stimulus that produces the most satisfactory result for the respondent is learned. Another theory that is related with the behavioral approach is observational theory, which revolves around the idea that an action learned by observing others behavior i.e. how others have reacted to a particular stimuli and achieved a result.
Cognitive learning theory on the other hand discusses that learning takes place as a result of consumer thinking. It emphasizes the role of mental process rather than the repetition and association of rewards with the stimuli. It elaborates the phenomena of information processing and how the consumer store, retain and retrieve that information. One of the theories under this approach is hemispheral lateralization theory. This theory splits the brain into right and left brain, the former one stores the nonverbal and pictorial information. TV ads are stored into right brain, whereas the verbal information is processed by the left side of the brain that includes high involvement mediums such as print, internet etc.
Assessment of Consumer Learning
If a consumer involves into repeat purchase over a period of time, it will generate a loyal consumer base that every company strives to achieve with the consumer learning process. Whether that learning about a particular brand stems from a message that a marketer communicates to the consumer or the brand has rewarded consumer with required satisfactory outcome. Different recall and recognition test are conducted by the companies to measure the impact and recall of the ad and to measure the brand loyalty.
Schiffman L. Kaunk L ( 2007) “Consumer learning” Consumer Behavior ninth Ed New York, Prentice hall, pg 196-225.
Learning (definition) accessed on 15th October 2010 fmon the website