People seeking to make a fundamental change in the way they transport themselves will likely need a great deal of information, some of which may provide greater clarity while others may provide confusion and resort in them seeking out another alternative product. The consumer may then look for information that will support their inquiry into a commitment to a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle as opposed to one of many alternatives.
a. Choosing a lower cost option, or in this case an option that best fits into their personal budget;
b. Choosing an alternative with greater support and/or greater available review data, i.e. something that has already been tried and embraced by consumers;
c. Choosing a product that offers the least resistance in the way of lifestyle change, where to fuel, how to fuel, easier to drive, and/or service.
2. Consulting an expert, such as the lease agent, dealer manufacturer or an expert in the technology from a scientific perspective.
a. This may result in either additional conflicting information or resolution, depending on the source material and perspectives of both insider and outsider experts.
b. Individuals often have a certain level of distrust for anyone who seeks to gain from their decision and individuals with outside (unbiased) expertise are not likely to be easy to find at this stage.
c. At this stage the consumer may seek out a test drive of the product, as unlike many other products consumers are able to use the product for a short personal review of it. This may be difficult to achieve, and the most important part of this aspect of the marketing is making the information about where to go to try the product completely accessible to the public the press and even rental/leaser agents.
3. The individual might then look to their social network for advice.
a. The individual may seek out friends, family or acquaintances who have some knowledge and/or experience with alternative fuel vehicles, and/or the manufacturer in question with regard to support, ease of access to experts and intervention when needed and also the usability of the product in question.
b. Again because of the pioneering nature of this product there may be some difficulty finding such information specific to the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle, but consumers will seek it nonetheless. They will then likely rely again on "expert" information where it can be had.
Clearly the process is not likely to be a rapid one, and the many and varied sources of information could be lacking, possibly forcing the individual to seek an alternative that offers more experiential evidence yet plainly if the price point is acceptable and the terms of the rental/lease are developed in such a way to ensure long-term and rapid support for needs the individual may still choose the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle and may still be willing to put up with some of the working out of kinks in the process. Additionally, the above consumer information search process is not likely to offer discrete and separate activities as it will likely be a cumulative process where expert opinion is sought from multiple sources over some time again offering many points of information and communication opportunities for the marketer, and opportunities for ongoing evaluation on the part of the consumer.
Collectively all this research, including both valid and questionable information will culminate to help the consumer who has reached this end, setting aside the many alternatives to seriously consider the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle as a primary choice on a short list of alternatives will have to make a decision. The decision will not likely be made lightly as much thought and work has already gone into the process. The decision to go with an innovative technology like the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle will be made with great care, possibly an additional test drive and then the individual may have to go through some sort of availability protocol, i.e. waiting for their "own" vehicle to become available as the first fleet allocations will likely be very small and the delivery of such vehicles (for consumer use) may be limited and delivered on an as ordered or needed basis. Not, unlike the first roll out of the hybrid vehicles, there may be a significant wait period and the need to support the customer through the commitment process is essential to the decision phase being successful (Katzanek, 2005). It is essential at this stage that once the individual has made the decision to rent/lease that they are not lost in the logistics of waiting for delayed gratification and that once they do receive their vehicle they are fully supported and follow up communications are frequent and helpful for the first few weeks and months. For those consumers that are still not convinced and are still looking at alternatives the issue may become one of weighing the alternatives yet again, until they feel satisfied that the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle will offer them everything they are looking for (in a vehicle; size, cargo space, comfort, amenities, drivability, handling etc.), with limited lifestyle disruption, at the best budget price. Though, again it has been proven in previous market scenarios with alternative vehicles that these consumers are willing to wait and want provable technology but have a willingness to be pioneers in making changes that they see benefiting the environment and the future (Katzanek, 2005). Consumers may also be at a very high level of curiosity about a wide variety of issues surrounding the vehicle including but not limited to hidden costs like higher registration fees used by states to offset revenue losses from fuel taxes, how the hydrogen is made, stored and transported (as if the hydrogen is produced via traditional electricity then they may feel that the technology needs to advance to a better level before commitment), cost per fill, miles per fill, and the list goes on and marketing agents must have these answers and more available to them readily, as this could become a deal breaker for a decision.
Primary marketing research is still in need of completion and development but the consumer will use all the traditional aspects surrounding the purchase of a vehicle plus a whole host of issues associated with the innovative nature of the product including but not limited to:
Traditional car purchase aspects
Cost (real and hidden)
Decision aspects specific to Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle
Are other alternative vehicles better or the same
Consumer level review information specific to technology
Offset technology issues like availability of fuel
Fuel manufacture/sourcing/distribution and safety issues
Availability, timetable and cost of service and maintenance
Endorsement by industry experts
Wait times for delivery
The availability of the information and the ease of its access will weigh heavily in the decision making process. Additional support research specific to this individual vehicle must also be accessible at the consumer level and go live prior to the introduction of the vehicle to the market.
Attitudes consist of beliefs, affect, and behavioral intentions. The latter category involves plans to either forego buying in this product category, buying our brand with or without a complimentary one, buying only a competing product, or pursuing further search. Affect is important here since use of this product is motivated by a desire on the part of consumers to utilize and support technology that is better for the environment than what is currently available, i.e. either a traditional combustion engine car or one of several alternatives. There are some competing brands associated with the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle and it would be fundamentally unwise to produce such a vehicle without brand recognition from one of the major auto manufacturers. This is a high involvement product as consumers will be likely to seek out as much information as possible before a decision is made. Consumer belief regarding the need to make a change is high, currently and will likely support such a venture but the conflicting information and varied ideation about alternative technology will also likely cloud the decisions making process and require mitigation on the part of stakeholders. Behavioral intentions are therefore driven by beliefs and can be supported toward the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle decision if appropriate communications and information is given to the consumer at the right intervals of the process. Managerial implications for this product are many and broad, most importantly more market research data must be collected and analyzed to determine the efficacy and cost effectiveness of this technology. Grants, rebates and other government support may need to be sought to create the infrastructure needed to support the product and support the consumer in his or her bid to use it. The offset costs may ultimately make the project a budget success, with the appropriate considerations for loss and additional research and development taken into consideration. It is a wise choice to make the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle available by rental/lease only as it mitigates and comforts the…