Consumer Buyer Behaviour: Principles of Marketing


Consumer buyer behaviour

Consumer buyer behaviour is the buying behaviour of final consumers: individuals and households that buy goods and services for personal consumption. All these consumers add up to the consumer market: all the households and individual that buy or acquire goods and services for personal consumption. Consumers make buying decisions every day, but it can be difficult to determine why they make certain decisions.

Consumer purchases are influenced by different characteristics.

Cultural factors
Cultural factors have an influence on consumer behaviour. Culture is the set of basic values, perceptions, wants and behaviours learned by a member of society from family and other important institutions. A subculture is a group of people with shared value systems based on common life experiences and situations. They are distinct, but not necessarily mutually exclusive. Social classes are relatively permanent and ordered divisions in a society whose members share similar values, interests and behaviours.

Social factors
Another influence is social factors. Groups are two or more people who interact to accomplish individual or mutual goals. Many small groups influence a person’s behaviour. Membership groups are groups in which a person belongs, while reference groups serve as direct points of comparison.

Word-of-mouth influence of friends and other consumers can have a strong influence on buying behaviour. An opinion leader is a person within a reference group who, because of skills, knowledge, personality or other characteristics, exerts social influence on others. Marketers try to identify the opinion leader and aim their marketing efforts towards this person. Buzz marketing involves creating opinion leaders to serve as brand ambassadors. Online social networks are online communities, such as blogs, social networking sites or even virtual worlds, where people socialize or exchange information and opinions.

Family can have a strong influence on buying behaviour as well. Buying role patterns in families change with evolving consumer lifestyles. A person belongs to many groups beside the family, also clubs, organisation and online communities. The position of a person in a group is defined in terms of role and status. A role consists of the expected actions of a person. People usually choose products appropriate to their role and status.

Personal factors
Personal characteristics also have an influence on consumer buyer behaviour. These characteristics can be the person’s age and life-cycle stage, the person’s occupation and economic situation, but also lifestyle and personality. Lifestyle is a person’s pattern of living as expressed in his or her activities, interests and opinions. Personality is the unique psychological characteristics that distinguish a person or group.

It can be said that brands also have personalities. A brand personality is the mix of human traits that may be used to describe the brand. There are five general brand personality traits: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness.

Psychological factors
Buying behaviour is influenced by four major psychological factors: motivation, perception, learning and beliefs and attitudes. Motive (drive) is a need that is sufficiently pressing to direct the person to seek satisfaction of the need. Motivation research refers to qualitative research designed to find consumer’s hidden motivations. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs categorizes needs into a pyramid, consisting of psychological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs and self-actualisation needs.

Perception is the process by which people select, organise and interpret information to form a meaningful picture of the world. People form different perceptions of the same stimulus because of three perceptual processes: selective attention, selective distortion and selective retention. Learning describes changes in an individual’s behaviour arising from experience. A drive is a strong stimulus that calls for action. Cues are minor stimuli that determine how a person responds.

A belief is a descriptive thought that a person holds about something. An attitude is a person’s consistently favourable or unfavourable evaluations, feelings and tendencies toward an object or idea. Attitudes can be difficult to change, because they are usually part of bigger pattern.

There are different types of buying decision behaviour. Complex buying behaviour is characterized by high consumer involvement in a purchase and significant perceived differences among brands. The buyer will pass through a learning process, developing beliefs and attitudes and then a purchase choice will follow. Dissonance-reducing buying behaviour is consumer buying behaviour characterised by high involvement, but few perceived differences among brands.

Habitual buying behaviour is consumer buying behaviour characterized by low consumer involvement and few significantly perceived differences. Repetition of advertisements can create brand familiarity (but not conviction), which can lead to habitual purchases. Variety-seeking buying behaviour is consumer buying behaviour characterised by low consumer involvement, but significant perceived brand differences.

The buyer decision process has five stages.

  1. Need recognition is the first stage, in which the consumer recognises a problem or need.
  2. Information search is the stage in which the consumer is aroused to search for more information, the consumer may simply have heightened attention or may go into active information search. Information can be obtained from personal sources, commercial sources, public sources and experiential sources.
  3. Evaluation of alternatives. Alternative evaluation is the process in which the consumer uses information to evaluate alternative brands in the choice set.
  4. Purchase decision is the buyer’s decision about which brand to purchase. Both the attitude of others and unexpected situational factors can influence the ultimate decision.
  5. Post-purchase behaviour is the stage of the buyer decision process in which consumers take further action after purchase based on their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a purchase. Cognitive dissonance is buyer discomfort caused by post-purchase conflict.

The buyer decision process can be different for new products. A new product is a good, service or idea that is perceived by some potential customers as new. The consumer must decide to adopt them or not. The adoption process is the mental process through which an individual passes from first hearing about an innovation to final adoption. There are five stages in the adoption process: awareness, interest, evaluation, trial and adoption.

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