Post-purchase dissonance is when the customer may be unsatisfied or unsure of their purchasing decision; they may rethink their decision in the post-purchase stage. This is usually due to what is known as a discrepancy between what the consumer initially thought of their purchase versus what they really experienced or noticed about the product after they had decided to purchase.
An instance would be that of a cashmere sweater.Initially the customer may have considered the sweater to be the perfect investment; the sweater feels nice, soft, buttery-smooth and has a very cuddly feel. Soon after however they have actually purchased the sweater, the customer notices that the quality is not that good, or that the color does not really as attractive as they had earlier thought it would; when seen in the light the sweater appears dull, sallow looking and doesn’t even suit their figure in fact!
The things that the customer may note in their purchase may often enough be true or not true based on their future perceptions of the product.
However the reality now is that once the discrepancies in the product have been noticed, the customer feels uneasy and wishes to reduce their feelings of discomfort.
Before we look at how the customer tries their best to take away the current feelings of discontent and unease surging through them, we should take a look at how exactly these feelings of uneasiness are caused.
Conditions Leading To Dissonance
1- The customer suddenly looks around and realizes that instead of the unsuitable green sweater that they have brought, they might as well change their decision and consider a lovely pink sweater instead that is on the shelves of that same shop. In other words, the customer abruptly realizes that there are other better alternatives in place of the investment that they have already made.
2- Very often a customer may be committed to a purchase because that is what their shopping partner wishes them to stay committed to.
However in situations where no pressure is applied, for instance there is no issue with refunds or the shopping partner is supportive of the customer or even if the customer is alone and they can freely make their own choices then discrepancies will be more evident in the customer’s behavior and decisions pre or post purchase.
They will be more critical of the shopping choice they have made and due to the freedom given to their mind they can rapidly switch decisions and opt for another sweater or another item if they want to.
Ways To Reduce Dissonance
1- The customer can consider their other options; for instance the customer suddenly feels less uneasy as s/he realizes that they can just purchase another coat or return a dress they now consider to be unfit.
2- The customer can re-evaluate their perception of the item bought. More often than not how we think or feel about something is simply based on our evaluation of the situation; there may really be neither anything extraordinary about the product not something very wrong with it.
Hence our feelings of dissonance in this situation can be changed as we can re-think about the product or investment and realize that there is nothing wrong with it. Or we decide to think about the product in a more positive way- we can decide at the moment that the product actually isn’t as bad as we think it is and hence feel better about the situation at hand.
3-The customer can also seek to gain more information about the current choice which they feel so bad about.
The customer can ask the sales person to clerk in charge more about the product; for instance gaining assurance that the sweater actually is as soft and buttery as it feels or that it really does suit the customer’s figure will do wonders for the customer’s mood.
They may abruptly straighten up and realize that it was all in their head; there is nothing really wrong with the product at hand and this may make them feel more assured about their choice.
Disadvantages Of Dissonance
The major disadvantage here is that having experienced dissonance even once may cause the customer to wish to avoid situations that cause dissonance in the future.
While we may all wish to forego situations that produce unease we all have to face up to them- whether it is a shopping situation or even real life, trying to avoid situations that expose one and make you feel raw and vulnerable or uncertain is rather unhelpful and does not allow for the development of one’s character.
So be it in the case of a shopping scenario or even a case where one has to face feeling uncomfortable and at unease, it is best to realize that this is also unavoidable and hardliner decisions must immediately be made.