Defining and tracking consumer expectations

Date of publication: September 1, 1992


We define and measure expectations as being what people ideally would like in terms of the discriminating attributes of the choice category. For relevance in the interpretation of expectations it is necessary to view them for the individual and also to know which of them are the most driving of change in the category, ie importance. The theory and practice of disaggregated consumer choice modelling provides us with a framework to relate expectations and inferred importance for predictive purposes. It also provides examples for discussion. Expectations must be interpreted in the context of the other key attitudes of perceptions and behavioural intentions. We provide an operational definition of expectations and related attitudes such as needs and show their relation to perceptions or brand ratings. A motivational segmentation based on buyer needs is more informative than normal methods. We show how environmental expectations in the car market mean the personal environment in Germany but the external environment in the UK, with France in between. Trends in environmental/health expectations in a UK food category are shown to lag behind shifts in importance, with implications for brand competition. Rapid changes in the altitudinal structure of the ’isotonics' drinks market in Japan cannot be understood or responded to without knowledge of changing expectations. The effect of future likely changes in expectations and needs in the car market is examined. Our conclusion is that attribute expectations are key to understanding current and future markets, but they are only properly useful if able to be considered for individuals and in conjunction with attribute importance.

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