The Role of Knowledge-based Consumption in the Consumers’ Purchase Decisions of Heating Products
The increasing role of the Internet enables the spread of knowledge-based consumption; consumers are turning to their social environment to exchange information and experiences with products either through personal contacts or by contacting others on the Internet. Several former studies analyzed the influencing role of experience-based communication on a variety of products but in the case of heating appliances the scientific literature is lacking. The goal of the study is to reveal the influence of experience in the various stages of the purchase process and to identify the credible information sources that consumers consult while making a decision. A two-step exploratory research was conducted in 2013 with homeowners in Hungary on the residential heat market. Consumers were found be active decision-makers and deliberately planned the purchase of heating products. The influencing role of experience prevails not only in the consumers’ personal experience but also in the experience of other users they interact with and in the experience of professionals they consult. Personal experience starts at the early age as respondents’ recall childhood memories with heating, which influences the consumers’ expectations in the early stage of the purchase process. The experience of other users prevails along the whole purchase process through credible sources and the experience of professionals influences mainly the information search and validation phase of the purchase process. Consumers consult other users (strong and weak social sources) personally or via online sources by the final decision rather than turning to the installer.