Business / Consumer Behavior

Consumer Behavior

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Autor:  anton  20 November 2010
Tags:  Consumer,  Behavior
Words: 2301   |   Pages: 10
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Consumer behavior is the behavior that consumers display in searching for, purchasing, using, evaluating, and disposing of, products and services. The study of consumer behavior as a separate marketing discipline all started when marketers realized that consumers did not always react as marketing theory suggested they would. Many consumers rebel at using the identical products that everyone else used, instead they prefer differentiated products that they feel reflect their own special needs, personality and lifestyles.

Instead of trying to persuade customers to buy what the firm had already produced, marketing-orientated firms found that it was a lot easier to produce only products they had first confirmed, through research, that consumers wanted. Consumer needs and wants became the firm’s primary focus. This consumer-orientated marketing philosophy came to be known as the marketing concept. (Consumer Behavior; Schiffman & L.L Kamuk).

In order for a company to decide what marketing program will work, the company needs to have an understanding of how consumers make decisions. Consumers are quite unpredictable. So what might have worked yesterday or today may not work tomorrow. Therefore the marketers need to constantly improve their understanding of consumers and their behavior and form that adapt their marketing strategies to the changes in consumer behavior.

Consumer behavior has interdisciplinary roots; it was a relatively new field of study in the mid to late 1960’s. Because it had no history or body of research of its own, marketing theorist borrowed heavily form concepts which were developed in other scientific disciplines, such as psychology (the study of an individual), sociology (the study of groups), social psychology (the study of how an individual operates in groups), anthropology (the influence of society on an individual), and economics to form the basis of this new marketing discipline.

Many early theories concerning consumer behavior were based on economic theory, on the notion that individuals act rationally to maximize their benefits (satisfactions) in the purchase of goods and services. Later research discovered that consumers are just as likely to purchase impulsively and to be influenced not only by family and friends, by advertisers and role models, but also by mood, situation and emotion. All of these factors combine to form a comprehensive model of consumer behavior that reflects both the cognitive and emotional aspects of consumer decision-making. (Consumer Behavior; Schiffman & L.L Kamuk).

The decision making process can be depicted by the model of consumer decision making:

Stages of the consumer buying decision are:

1. Need recognition.

2. Identification of alternatives.

3. Evaluation of alternatives.

4. Purchase and related decisions.

5. Post purchase behavior.

1. Recognition of an unsatisfied need:

Everybody has unsatisfied needs and wants that create discomfort. Acquiring and consuming goods and services can satisfy some of these unsatisfied needs. The process of deciding what to buy stems out when a need that can be satisfied trough consumption becomes strong enough to motivate a person. When there is the depletion of an existing product, the decision process is also triggered or by the dissatisfaction of a product currently being used. However there is competition among our needs due to the fact that we have limited amounts of time and money. Therefore becoming aware of a need is not enough to generate a purchase.

2. Identification of alternatives:

The next step is to identify alternatives capable of satisfying the need. Alternative products are identified first and then alternative brands. The search for alternatives is influenced by:

Ш How much information the consumer already has form past experience and other sources.

Ш The consumer’s confidence in that information.

Ш The expected value of additional information.

3. Evaluation of alternatives:

Once a satisfactory amount of alternatives have been identified, the consumer needs to evaluate them before he or she make a decision. The evaluation may involve a single criterion, or several criteria, against which the alternatives are compared. Evaluations however can be factually incorrect, because experience is often limited or dated and information from sources such as advertisements or friends can be biased. Marketers monitor consumers to determine what choice criteria they use, to identify any changes that may be taking place in their criteria or priorities, and to correct any unfavorable misperceptions.

4. Purchase and related decisions:

After searching and evaluating, the consumer must decide whether to buy. The first outcome from the process is the decision to purchase or not to purchase the alternative, which has been evaluated as most desirable. If the decision to buy has been made, a series of related decisions must be made regarding features, where and when to make the actual transaction, how to take delivery or possession, the method of payment, and other issues. So the decision to make a purchase is really the beginning of an entirely new series of decisions that may be just as time consuming and difficult as the initial one. Alert marketers recognize that the outcome of these additional decisions affects satisfaction, so they find ways to help consumers make them as efficiently as possible.

5. Post-purchase behavior:

Going through the buying process is a learning experience for the consumer, it has an influence on how he or she will behave the next time they are faced with the same need. New opinions and beliefs are formed and old ones are revised. This change in the consumer is depicted in the model of consumer decision-making by the arrow from the post-purchase behavior stage back to the need recognition stage. There is another frequent occurrence following a purchase, know as post-purchase cognitive dissonance, which occurs when each of the alternatives seriously considered by the consumer has both attractive and unattractive features. Consumers try to reduce their post-purchase anxieties. They avoid information that is likely to increase the dissonance and they instead seek out information that will support their decision, such as reassurance from friends. (Marketing; Etzel & Stanton)

The decision-making process is the central component of any consumer behavior model; it is basically the process of perceiving and evaluating brand information, considering how brand alternatives meet the consumer’s needs and deciding on a brand. Factors that influence the consumer’s choice and the consumer-buying decision process are information, social influences, psychological factors, situational factors and marketing strategies.


Information processing is a broader aspect of the individual consumer perception. Marketers are interested in information processing because it largely determines what information consumers remember, what information they use in the process of brand evaluation, and how they use it. Basically purchase decisions require information. Until consumers know what brands and products are available, what benefits and features they have to offer, who sells them and at what price; there will be no decision process because there will be no decisions to make. There are two sources of buying information:

Ш Commercial information environment: consisting of all market organizations and individuals that attempt to communicate with consumers.

Ш Social information environment: is comprised of family, friends, and acquaintances who directly or indirectly provide information about products.

Stimuli which represents information perceived by consumers is the first influence on consumer choice; consumer perception. (Consumer behavior and marketing action; Harry Assael)

Social influences

The way in which we think, act and believe are all determined to quite an extent by social forces. The social forces around us affect the needs we experience, the alternatives we consider, and the ways in which we evaluate them.

The social force which has the most indirect impact on individual buying decisions, is culture. Culture is as set of symbols and artifacts created by a society and handed down from generation to generation as determinants and regulators of human behavior. Culture does not include instinctive biological acts but the way that people perform instinctive acts such as eating is culturally influenced. Thus, everybody gets hungry, but what, when and how people eat varies among cultures. For example, in the Ukraine, raw pig fat is considered a delicacy. (Marketing; Etzel & Stanton)

Basically culture refers to widely shared norms and patterns of behavior of a large group of people. A generally accepted norm in American society is the emphasis of slimness, as a sign of vitality and success. The consequent emphasis on diet foods is a cultural influence.

Subcultures refer to groups with norms and values that distinguish them from the culture as a whole. New subcultures bring with them different beliefs, customs, and values, not to mention languages that must be taken into consideration by firm’s attempting to sell them.

Social class is a ranking within society which is determined by the members of the society. It is a broad grouping based on education, occupation, and of residential neighbor-hood. Note that income is not one of the classification factors. This is because social class is not as indication of spending capability, it is an indication of preferences and lifestyle. Marketers recognize that there are substantial differences among classes with respect to buying behavior. Because of this diversity, different social classes are likely to respond differently to a sellers marketing program. Thus, it may be necessary to design marketing programs tailored to specific social class. (Marketing; Etzel & Stanton)

Face-to-face groups are important sources of information and influence for the consumer. Some face-to-face groups are called reference groups because they provide consumers with a means of comparing and evaluating their own brand attitudes and purchasing behavior. These groups basically influence a person’s attitudes, values, and behavior. Advertisers are relying on reference-group influence when they use celebrity spokesman. However reference-group influence in marketing is not limited to well-known personalities. Any group whose qualities a person admires can serve as a reference. The group that is most likely to influence purchasing behavior is the family.

Psychological factors

Psychological forces that impact buying decisions are motivation, perception, learning, personality and attitudes. All behavior is motivated by some arouse need.

Perception is the process of receiving, organizing and assigning meaning to information or stimuli detected by our five senses. The theory about perception and stimuli has already been discussed under the heading of social influences, information.

Changes in behavior resulting from observation and experience, is considered learning. It excludes behavior that is attributable to instinct such as breathing or temporary states such as hunger or fatigue. Interpreting and predicting consumer learning enhances our understanding of buying behavior, because learning plays a role at every stage of the buying-decision process. It should be kept in mind though that learning is not a perfect prediction of behavior because a variety of other factors also influence a consumer.

Personality is defined broadly as an individuals pattern of traits that influence behavioral responses. It is generally agreed that personality traits do influence consumers’ perceptions and buying behavior. There is however considerable disagreement as to the nature of this relationship of how personality influences behavior. The Psychoanalytic theory of personality, formulated by Sigmund Freud at the turn of the century and later modified by his followers and critics, has had a tremendous impact on the study of human behavior and also marketing. A significant marketing implication is that a person’s real motive(s) for buying a product or shopping at a certain store may be hidden. Psychoanalytic theory has caused marketers to realize that they must appeal to buyers’ dreams, hopes, fantasies and fears. Yet at the same time provide buyers with socially acceptable rationalizations for many purchases. Self-concept is a marketing application of personality theory.

Lastly attitude is a learned predisposition to respond to an object or class of objects in a consistently favorable or unfavorable way. In the buying-decision process model, attitudes play a major role in the evaluation of alternatives. A consumers attitude does not always predict purchase behavior. A person may hold very favorable attention toward a product but not buy it because of some inhibiting factor. Under such circumstances purchase behavior may even contradict attitudes. (Marketing; Etzel & Stanton)

Situational influences

Situational influences deal with when, where, how, and why consumers buy, and the consumers personal condition and the time of purchase. Situational influences are often so powerful that they can override all the other forces in the buying-decision process.


Marketers now talk in behavioral terms. A product must deliver a set of consumer benefits and must be positioned to meet the needs of a defined segment of consumers. Advertising goals are to communicate symbols and images that show how the brand meets consumer needs, to create a favorable attitude toward the brand, and to induce trial. Reinforcing favorable experiences in consumers’ minds is needed to influence people to repurchase.

The shift from sales orientation to a more behavioral orientation did not occur overnight. It is still going on today and continues to change the nature of marketing operations by:

Providing a spur to behavioral research. Marketers now require information on consumer needs and attitudes to establish marketing strategies.

Creating a more customer orientated framework for marketing strategies. Marketers are more likely to define product benefits in consumer terms. Coffee might be described by its richness, brewed flavor, or strength.

Encouraging measurement of the factors that influence consumers to purchase. What percentage of consumers want a stronger or weaker coffee? What percentage consider a certain brand as strong?

Emphasizing market segmentation. Consumers with similar needs and behavior are grouped into segments.

Emphasizing product positioning to meet consumer needs. Products are developed and advertised to establish qualities that set them apart from competition and to relate these qualities to the needs of a defined market segment.

Creating greater selectivity in advertising and personal selling. Messages must communicate to defined segments. Emphasis is now on selective marketing rather than mass marketing.

In summary, the acceptance of the marketing concept means that marketing management has recognized that the determinants of consumer behavior have a direct bearing on the formulation of marketing strategies.

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