Sun, Qian, Sridhar, Naren and O'Brien, Mark (2009) Consumer Perception Of Product Stimuli: An Investigation into Indian Consumer Psychology and its Implications for New Product Development, Process and Strategy. In: D2B2: the 2nd Tsinghua International Design Management Symposium, 23-26 April 2009, Tsinghua University , Beijing , China.

Consumer perception of product value is central to all stages of the process of bringing products to markets, from design and manufacture to distribution and retail. As a result, product strategy needs to respect customer needs in order to achieve or retain competitive advantage in providing innovative and differentiated products. Increasingly however, markets are becoming saturated with homogenous product offerings with little differentiation in terms of technology or function. In many mature markets the process of consumer decision making is no longer governed by intrinsic factors such as pricing or performance; instead it is extrinsic factors such as brand, service and ethical behaviour that is becoming increasingly influential to consumer product choices.

As one of the most important emerging markets, India has attracted a large number of international brands. The Dramatic changes within the economy have resulted in many new opportunities. There has been a significant rise in consumer disposable income, a development of modern urban lifestyles, and an increase in consumer awareness. These changes have affected buying behaviour and the consumer decision making process. However, relatively little is still known about how Indian consumers perceive products.

This paper examines the visual associations and the correlation between various product stimuli in the decision making process of Indian consumers from the perspective of consumer cognitive psychology and psychoanalysis.

Based on an original survey of 128 respondents, the paper postulates that the stimulus of ‘visual aesthetics’ can have a ‘collective sub-conscious’ psychological association and therefore can be analysed and considered within the chosen demographic group. The data also suggests that ‘visual aesthetics’ is now as equally important to the consumer decision making process in India as the traditional elements of price and functionality. However, the study suggests that intrinsic factors are still far more important than extrinsic ones in the Indian consumer decision making process

The implications to design strategy and the new product development process in India are addressed. The study concludes that (i) a psychological approach towards understanding Indian consumer associations is both possible and can act as an important tool in determining consumer needs. (ii) ‘Visual Aesthetics’ is one of the key factors in the decision making process of the Indian consumer, however, ‘extrinsic’ factors are still not as significant a contributor as ‘intrinsic’ factors such as product visuals and features.

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