Howard Sheth Model of Consumer Behavior

Attempts to analyze and comprehend customer behavior has been ongoing since documented material on marketing operations became available. Most early attempts were made from the standpoint of the underlying discipline from which they sprang, and they needed to evaluate elements from different perspectives. Howard and Sheth's model produced a vast body of conceptual knowledge linking together most of the linked ideas in buyer behavior in a significant effort to combine the existing knowledge from 'the numerous domains that influence consumer choice processes.

Howard Sheth Model

John Howard developed the first genuinely integrated buyer behavior model using learning theory. He was the first to distinguish between issue-solving behavior (akin to rational behavior in economic theory), restricted problem-solving, and automatic reaction behavior. Howard and Sheth published "The Theory of Buyer Behaviour" in 1969 with a more meaningful elaboration: more variables influencing consumer behavior were included, and the connection between them was clarified with remarkable precision, making this model an essential milestone in the development of the theory of buyer behavior.

A simplified version and description of the model are provided below. The model attempts to explain brand choice behavior across time, making it particularly relevant to our area. The model focuses on recurring purchases and is built around four primary components: stimulus inputs, hypothetical constructions, response outputs, and exogenous factors.

Input Variables

The input variables are informative signals regarding a product's or brand's qualities (i.e., quality, price, distinctiveness, service, availability). These data cues might be meaningful because they originate from the product itself, or they can be symbolic because they come from impersonal sources such as advertising or promotional actions by the corporation.

These two sources are commercial because they represent the firm's efforts to create and convey these values in the product. A third source of informative signals may be the buyer's social milieu, including his family, reference groups, socioeconomic status, culture, etc. This source is not just non-commercial and not under the firm's control; it is also a personal source of information input.

Hypothetical Constructs

The hypothetical constructions are divided into two categories: perceptual and learning constructs—the former concerns how an individual sees and responds to information from input factors. The information received may not be worthy of 'attention,' and the intake is vulnerable to a perceived uncertainty and a lack of meaningfulness of the information received (stimulus ambiguity). This uncertainty may prompt an outright search for product information.

Furthermore, the information acquired may be affected by the buyer's frame of reference and inclination (Perceptual bias). The learning frameworks address the processes 'from buyer motives through buyer pleasure in a purchasing circumstance. The purchase intention results from buyer motives, selection criteria, brand comprehension, the resulting brand attitude, and the confidence connected with the purchase decision.

The motives describe the aims the consumer hopes to attain via purchasing; these may stem from learned needs. Attitudes towards the current brand alternatives in the buyer's evoked set also have an impact on buyer intention, resulting in the organization of an order of preference for these brands: Brand understanding is defined as "knowledge about the existence and attributes of those brands which compose the evoked set," and the buyer's level of confidence in brand comprehension, decision criteria, and purchasing intents all converge on the intention to purchase. The model contains another learning construct-satisfaction-as a feedback component of learning, which relates to the post-purchase evaluation and subsequent reinforcement of brand knowledge, attitudes, and so on.

Exogenous Variables and Working Relationships

The model also contains certain exogenous variables that are not described but are assumed to be constants. They impact all or part of the structures described above and the output. Exogenous elements include the importance of the purchase, the buyer's available time, personality attributes, financial condition, and so on.

The model's fundamental working relationships are as follows. A stimulus from one of the three categories described above affects one or more of the five senses. The stimulus ambiguity determines the degree of attention it elicits, which encourages a quest for further information. The information is received while subject to the perceptual bias caused by the interplay of attitudes and retained motivations. These informational inputs may change the current configuration of motivations and selection criteria, modifying or disrupting brand attitude, comprehension, purchase intention, and action. Whether or not a purchase decision is made is determined by the interplay of comprehension of brand attributes, the strength of attitudes towards the brand, confidence in the purchase decision, and intention (all of which are influenced by various exogenous variables such as the importance of purchase influence of culture and family, financial status, and so on).

The Choice process as Explained by the Model

The decision-making process in nearly every consumer purchase decision has piqued academic and managerial curiosity. Management scientists have attempted to describe the exact process - by which the customer arrives at a brand choice decision - using several approaches to consumer behavior. Generalized explanations for these buyer behavior models have previously been provided. An explanation of the choice process presented by Howard and Sheth in their buyer behavior model is offered here to understand the stages the customer takes and the elements that influence him while making his brand choice decision. The decision-making process in nearly every consumer purchase decision has piqued academic and managerial curiosity.

Management scientists have attempted to describe the exact process - by which the customer arrives at a brand choice decision - using several approaches to consumer behavior. Generalized explanations for these buyer behavior models have previously been provided. This model has been widely utilized in marketing literature as the foundation for giving the background for the "brand decision process" since it is an integrative model that incorporates most elements of consumer behavior. Furthermore, the model has produced a theory of consumer brand choice decision-making behavior that encompasses the dynamics of buying behavior across time.

Brand selection initiates the buying process because the customer is motivated to purchase a product. The following are the main components of his decision −

  • A set of motives.

  • Alternative brands.

  • Choice criteria or evaluative criteria, which he uses to evaluate the alternative brands by matching the motives with the attributes of the alternative brands.

Motives are typically the drivers of any activity. This is true of buyer behavior and any other type of behavior. Motives are relevant and occasionally distinctive to a product class in the product context. The buyer is presented with various courses of action in an alternate (and acceptable) brand to satisfy these reasons. He would never consider some brands. The brands that become inputs to the choice decision fall inside his acceptability range and are referred to as the "evoked set." The evoked set is often a small percentage of the number of brands that impact consumer consciousness and much smaller fractions of the total number of brands on the market.

Types of Problem-Solving Behaviour

The effect has been dubbed the "psychology of simplicity" by Howard and Sheth because the customer tends to simplify his decision-making behavior due to the procedure discussed. The steps for approaching routinization have already been described. The developers of the problem-solving paradigm have labeled these stages as follows −

  • Extensive problem-solving behavior.

  • Limited problem-solving behavior.

  • Routinized response behavior.

Extensive problem-solving behavior relates to the initial stage of recurrent choice-making. The buyer still needs to acquire strong predispositions towards any brands being investigated as alternatives, and he needs to have well-defined' criteria. The restricted stage comes after this. Problem-solving stage in which the decision criteria have a clear definition and organization due to learning experience with the brands, but the consumer still needs to figure out the natural choice among the alternatives. He has a relatively favorable attitude towards several brands within his acceptance range (which is rather broad). However, this apparent affinity for any brand has yet to crystallize.


This theory of buyer behavior, like other critical conceptual advancements, has its staunch adherents while also having certain shortcomings. The quantity of research it has spawned may be used to measure its influence on later marketing theory; most researchers believe that the study of consumer behavior was advanced and given energy by Howard Sheth Model.

The theory's main advantage and strength is the accuracy with which many variables have been connected in working relationships to cover most elements of the purchase choice and the effective exploitation of input from the behavioral sciences. The flaw derives from the fact that the hypothesis cannot be realistically evaluated due to significant measurement errors.

Updated on: 30-Mar-2023


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