Merging Adoption Process and Organizational Buying Models

ABSTRACT - Scholars have long studied the organizational buying process using either an adoption process framework or a buying model framework. This paper merges these two frameworks into a single model of organizational buying.


David T. Wilson (1987) ,"Merging Adoption Process and Organizational Buying Models", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, eds. Melanie Wallendorf and Paul Anderson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 323-325.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, 1987      Pages 323-325


David T. Wilson, The Pennsylvania State University


Scholars have long studied the organizational buying process using either an adoption process framework or a buying model framework. This paper merges these two frameworks into a single model of organizational buying.


Scholars have long studied the industrial adoption process without considering it as part or the normal buying process of the organization. When a product or service is new to the organization its acquisition can be viewed as a new task buying process or as an adoption process. These two general models of purchasing observe the same phenomena but label and classify them into different categories. The objective of this paper is to develop a model that encompasses the constructs of both the adoption model and the organizational buying model.

The relevant literature is briefly reviewed as background to the development of a model which merges concepts from both approaches. A sample set of research propositions is developed for part of the merged model.


The number of complex organizational buying models that purport to describe the process by which an organization acquires products or services is large. They range from Webster's (1965) simple four stage model to the more complex models of Sheth (1973) and Webster and Wind (1972). Both the Sheth and Webster and Wind models incorporate a broad spectrum of buying determinants within a stimulus response format. Webster and Wind point out that their model, "does not claim to know what is the exact decision-making process. Instead, the model presents a major set of variables (blocks) that marketing personnel should identify in their attempt to understanding buying behavior (p. 39)." The Sheth model goes beyond the building block stage to hypothesize interrelationships between large number of variables in a flow chart format. It is loosely structured with such of the model untestable in its present form. Nevertheless, it does pull together and integrate the literature in the field into a logical causal model that is a starting point for understanding organizational buying behavior.

The Buygrid model (Robinson, Faris and Wind 1967) (Figure 1) is probably the best known of all the models being described in most basic marketing textbooks. The model was developed from a descriptive study that observed a large number of purchases by three firms.

The authors expanded Webster's (1965) four stage model to an eight stage model of the organizational buying process. They also noted that the buying process varies over three different buying task situations:

a) new task where the purchase situation is completely new to the organization,

b) modified rebuy where the organization has some experience in purchasing the product or service, and

c) straight rebuy where the buying situation is a reordering of previously purchased products or services.

The new task situation is akin to an adoption process situation in that the organization has no experience in buying the goods or services as is the case in the adoption of a new product or service.



Because the Buygrid is the most widely accepted of all process models it will be used in this paper as the starting point for the development of the merged model. There is nothing magic about the number of stages in an organizational buying model as they have ranged from four stages (Webster 1965) to six stages, Granbois (1963) to eleven stages (Grashof and Thomas 1976). Ghingold (1985, pp. 76-85) presents an excellent summary of the literature dealing with the steps, stages, phases or subdecisions in the organizational buying process. What is of importance is that all of these process models begin with the problem recognition phase. The models then proceed through whatever number of stages to the choice and post choice evaluation stages. The merging of the problem recognition stage with the adoption process literature is the focus of the remainder of the paper.


Like the organizational buying process, the adoption process has been conceptualized as having a number of stages. The rural sociology literature in the mid-1950s generally described the adoption process as having five stages:

1. Awareness - The individual knows of the product or idea but lacks sufficient information about it.

2. Interest - The person seeks more information.

3. Evaluation - The individual mentally tries the product or idea to decide whether to physically try it or not.

4. Trial - The individual makes a small scale trial of the idea or product.

5. Adoption - The individual adopts the idea or product.

This adoption model is probably the most widely known and is quoted in most basic marketing texts. Like organizational buying models it sakes sense in the abstract, but requires modification if it is to enrich our understanding of the adoption/buying process.

Two conceptualizations of the adoption process are of interest to this paper. Robertson (1971) suggested the model depicted in Figure 2. He suggests that there are various forms of this model with the rational/decision-making form following the full sequence or stages and the nonrational/impulse form going from awareness to trial. He added the problem perception and dissonance stages to more fully account for all possible sequences that could occur.



The addition of these two stages brings this model sore in line with the conceptualization of new task organizational buying models Robertson sees the role of problem perception as being the motivator that generates search behavior which results in the identification of the innovation alternative Dissonance can be related to the post purchase evaluation stage in organizational buying models

Although the labels are different, the main Robertson's model is an enriched version of the basic adoption model It is basically a consumer buying model and not an organizational buying model

The second model of interest is Roger's (1983) model of the stages in the innovation-decision process (Figure 3) The knowledge stages occur when the individual or the decision-making unit (DMU) becomes aware of the innovation and how it functions Persuasion is the formation of a favorable attitude towards the innovation



Decision occurs when the individual or DMU engages in the activities that lead to adoption or rejection of the innovation. This stage is akin to the organizational buying process.

Implementation involves using the innovation. Confirmation is the seeking of reinforcement of an innovation-decision already made. Confirmation is analogous to Robertson's dissonance stage or the organizational buying model stage of post-decision evaluation.

Roger's (1983) also has a model of the innovation process in organizations but it is at such a macro level so as to be of little use for this paper.


Ozanne and Churchill (1981) attempted to conceptualize the organizational buying process as an adoption process. They examined process activating factors, purchase directing factors, duration of process and the use of information sources. They concluded that, "the industrial adoption process is exceedingly complex, far more so than the individual's adoption process (1971, p. 327)." This conclusion, which is logical and intuitively obvious, could have been mate without the benefit of the study. The study perhaps was too ambitious as none of the explanatory variables produced any statistically significant results.

The review of the buying and adoption literature leads one to conclude that a simple application of the basic adoption model is not appropriate for the study of new product/new idea adoption by organizations.

The model described in Figure 4 is a composite of the Robertson model, the Buygrid model and an attribute motel of organizational buyer choice (Wilson and Lichtenthal 1985). Two forms of the model are required to account for buying center activity. Some firms are much more active in the scanning of the environment for new ideas or products that will improve their organization's competitiveness. In the active organizations, its likely that the stakeholders (Patchen 1963) become aware and comprehend s new product or idea before the buying process is initiated by the problem recognition stage. It is likely that these stakeholders become advocates of the new ides or process and try to initialize the buying process within the organization.

She second point of departure from traditional models is that needs are conceptualized as being represented by bundle of attributes that are product/service related, supplier company related and salesperson related. In other words, it is possible to describe and specify the buying situation in terms of this set of attributes. This conceptualization allows us to draw upon attitude theory as we model the adoption/decision process.

The third point of departure is that Robertson's adoption model is nested within the organizational buying model. For example, in the passive model, awareness and comprehension are the result of search. Search is the activity and awareness and comprehension are the results. Similarly the evaluation of proposals describes an activity where the outcomes are an attitude structure based upon the attributes of the purchase. This attitude structure leads to the legitimization stage where the buying of the new product or idea seems to be an appropriate course of action. This leads to trial which helps evaluate the product or idea.

The selection/adoption process is determined by the attitude based upon the total bundle of attributes. What sakes the organizational buying/adoption process so complex is that this attitude is really a summary of the individual members buying center attitudes. There is a need to develop a methodology of integrating the attitude structures of the buying center. The operative attitude that moves a product/idea through legitimization to trial to selection/adoption is dependent on the influence relationships within the buying center.



The post decision evaluation is the same as dissonance and confirmation in the adoption models.


Research in the organizational adoption process needs to be based upon constructs from both the adoption-innovation literature and the organizational buying behavior literature. This paper indulges in some "re-invention" (Rogers 1983, p. 17) in trying to merge these two schools of thought into a single model.

It is possible to begin to generate a number of testable propositions based upon the merged model. For example, the following propositions are based upon the active/ passive buying center concept.

Proposition 1. Active buying centers become aware of a new product before passive buying centers.

Proposition 2. Members of active buying centers achieve awareness and comprehension before a problem is defined.

Proposition 3. Members of passive buying centers achieve awareness and comprehension after a problem is defined.

Proposition 4. Stakeholders are more likely to be environmental scanners in active buying centers than other members.

Proposition 5. The advocate in the active buying center will make other members of the buying center aware and achieve comprehension in the search/ persuasion stage.

As this example illustrates, a large number of propositions can be developed to help explore the merged model.

Although the merged model is not totally new in concept it provides a richer understanding of how new products or ideas are purchased by organizations than either of the models by itself. It is a synergistic merging in that the insight of this model is greater than the sum of its parts.


Ghingold, M. (1985), "A Social Process Examination of Organizational Buying Behavior," unpublished Ph.D. dissertation.

Granbois, D. H. (1963), in Proceedings of the American Marketing Association Educators' Conference.

Grashof, J. F. and G. P. Thomas ( 1976), "Industrial Buying Center Responsibilities: Self Versus Other Member Evaluations of Importance," in Proceedings of the American Marketing Association Educators' Conference.

Ozanne, U. B. and G. A. Churchill ( 1968), "Adoption Research: Information Sources in the Industrial Purchasing Decision," Proceedings, Chicago: AMA, 353-359.

Patchen, M. ( 1963) , "Alternative Questionnaire Approaches to the Measurement of Influence in Organization," The American Journal of Sociology, 69 (July) , 41-52.

Robertson, T. S. ( 1971), Innovative Behavior and Communication, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.

Robinson, P. J., C. W. Faris and Y. Wind ( 1967), Industrial Buying and Creative Marketing, Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Rogers, E. M. (1983), Diffusion of Innovations, New York: The Free Press.

Sheth, J. N. (1973) , "A Model of Industrial Buyer Behavior," Journal of Marketing, 37 (October), 50-56.

Webster, F. E., Jr. ( 1965), "Modeling of Industrial Buying Process," Journal of Marketing Research, 2 ( November ), 370-376.

Webster, F. E. and Y. Wind (1972) , Organizational Buying Behavior, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Wilson, D. T. and J. D. Lichtenthal ( 1985) , "Testing for Deterministic Salesperson Attributes in Mature Markets," Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 23-30.



David T. Wilson, The Pennsylvania State University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14 | 1987

Share Proceeding

Featured papers

See More


F8. Dual Routes for Consumer Responses to Corporate Social Responsibility: The Role of Positive Moral Emotions, Attitudes, and Empathy

Chunyan Xie, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences
Richard P. Bagozzi, University of Michigan, USA

Read More


H9. Market Emergence: the Alignment Process of Entrepreneurs’ Socio Cognition and Consumers’ Perception of the Market

Hao Wang, University of South Florida, USA

Read More


L6. The Influence of Social Exclusion on Consumers’ Perceptions of and Responses to Consumer-Dense Retail Environments

Veronica Thomas, Towson University
Christina Saenger, Youngstown State University

Read More

Engage with Us

Becoming an Association for Consumer Research member is simple. Membership in ACR is relatively inexpensive, but brings significant benefits to its members.