You buy products for yourself. But you also buy products for other people, in which case you are merely functioning as the buyer while someone else ends up using it. In fact, there are five generally identified roles in the buying process. These are:
- Initiator. This is the person who first suggests the idea of buying a particular product or service.
- Influencers. These people’s views or advice can influence the eventual selection of what to buy.
- Decider. The person (or persons) who ultimately has the final say on what to buy.
- Buyer. The person who makes the actual purchase.
- Users. The person or persons who end up actually using the product.
Applying the above breakdown to your own buying processes, you may quickly conclude that the roles break down when you are buying something simple such as, say, a piece of candy. Nobody suggested that you should buy one or influenced what brand you should buy (or so you think), and you basically buy it for your own consumption. In these cases, yes, you are your own .initiator, decider, buyer, and user. Influencers? It is likely you made, the purchase based on advertisements that you have seen or perhaps the candy display itself.
The roles, however, become more pronounced as purchases become more complex or risky. In this context riskiness means expensive and/or degree of object permanence. A newspaper, for instance, is a cheap and disposable purchase so it represents minimal risk (and therefore you may tend to fill out all the roles yourself). But a car is a relatively expensive item and once you buy it, your family may be stuck with it for quite a while. Therefore, there is bound to be more defined roles in this situation.