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High and low purchase involvement

Involvement and type of purchase

Customers or consumers can be either highly involved in the purchase or have a lower level of purchase involvement which can impact their purchase behaviours.

High purchase involvement is where the customer or consumer needs to gather a lot of information about the prospective purchase due to either personal or social risk - such as expense or how they think others may perceive them or how they would like to be seen by peers.

A low level of involvement is where there is limited risk; the customer or consumer may be very familiar with the brand, product or service, or they may see the product or service as a habit or functional aspect of their life.

The level of involvement in a purchase can vary based on three things:

  1. Familiarity with the category, product or brand: previous experience with your brand or your competitor’s brand will increase the familiarity and lower the involvement in the purchase.
  2. The level of social risk the purchase may carry: purchases that carry a degree of risk amongst friends and family may impact the level of involvement in the purchase causing the customer or consumer to take more time to consider whether the purchase is acceptable to those around them.
  3. The level of financial risk: the more something costs, the more likely a customer or consumer is to spend more time seeking a product and making comparisons with other products (similar and acceptable substitutes).

Further, understanding the level of involvement will also be impacted by the type of purchase. There are several types of purchases:

  • Infrequent purchases: these are usually novel or important purchases that demand time and effort in order to make a decision to purchase. For example, buying a new outfit to wear to a close friend's significant birthday celebrations.
  • Repetitive consumption: these are purchases that are undertaken on a regular basis. Often, these types of purchases are made repetitively and are made at convenient locations, such as supermarket purchases. For example, deodorants and soaps, washing powders or liquids etc.
  • Involuntary consumption: customers and consumers may have little or no choice in having to purchase the product or service. For example, if you drive a car then you need to buy petrol, therefore you have to buy the category (petrol) if you wish to continue to use your car.
  • Group consumption: the decision to purchase is influenced by more than the person undertaking the purchase. For example, the purchase of a product or service by a few people rather than just the individual who is making the purchase. For example, breakfast items (such as cereals, bread etc) for the family.


How long does it take you to decide which drink to buy when you visit your local store to purchase a drink? The purchases that you make quickly, either because you are familiar with the product or brand, or it has low social risk or low financial risk, are those purchasing decisions that have a low involvement level. You also purchase drinks frequently so this is also a repetitive purchase.

Now, let’s think about a purchase that would usually carry some degree of social, financial or personal risk. An example of a higher risk purchase would be a big ticket item like a car. This type of purchase is not made frequently and it would be considered an important purchase.

Below are some examples of differing levels of involvement purchases, overlaid with repetitive purchases and important purchases.

Levels of involvement

These are illustrative examples only. It is important to remember that familiarity with the item could move a customer or consumer from high to low involvement and that what constitutes a repetitive purchase versus an infrequent purchase could vary for customers or consumers in different countries.


Thinking about the types of high and low involvement items in the image above, what other items could you add to the list of high or low involvement? Post your thoughts to the Comments section.

Do you agree with other learners' perceptions of what is high or low involvement? Don't forget to tell us why.

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This article is from the free online course:

Online Business: Customer Profiling for Success

RMIT University