Consumer buyer behavior relates to the end consumer who purchases products and services for employee use. This section will summarize the main sources of influence on consumer buyer behavior to explain the influences that influence consumer purchase decisions. Influences can be divided into four major categories: social, personal, psychological and situational.

Social influence

There are many social influences on consumer buying behavior.

Culture: Behavior is largely learned so the traditions, values and attitudes of the society in which a person grows up influence their behavioral. Cultural norms create codes that guide behavior. Therefore the use of first names in formal business meetings may be acceptable in informal cultures such as the USA or the UK. In other cultures such as mainline China more formal behavior will be the norm. Within a larger culture there are sub-cultures which may be based on religion, nationality, geographical area or ethnic groups.

Social Class: A person's social class is seen as an important influence on consumer behavior. Individuals from lower social groups are often seen as more culture bound. Social class groups depend largely on the cultural background of a society. Some societies are more hierarchical than others, with many having a few people in the upper and lower classes, as well as a majority in the middle. However some societies such as Scandinavia and Japan have very flat structures. Some societies are more open than others i.e. individuals can move freely from one class to another in a society.

In Western societies social classification is criticized as a predictor of purchasing behavior. In the UK a family in a higher AB category may have less disposable income than a lower category C2 or D family after paying for their children's mortgage and private school tuition. There can also be a great deal of disparity in shopping patterns among social groups. Individuals are also influenced by smaller social groups such as friends, colleagues, and family. It can be classified into reference groups and families.

Reference Groups: Reference groups can be formal. May be a member of a professional association or society. or social friends etc. in an informal group. These reference groups influence an individual's behavior or attitude. Individuals will exhibit purchasing behavior that is considered acceptable by their reference group. Group norms and the role a person plays in the group significantly influence their behavior. Recent research into the behavior of first-time mothers has illustrated the power of reference groups to shape their expectations of the quality of service they experience during their stay in the maternity ward. For individuals in low-income residential areas, information from doctors, midwives, and antenatal classes was less influential than that of children's friends and, more importantly, that of the individual's sister and mother. These reference groups influenced their subsequent behavior in terms of treatment and length of stay. It also highlights the power of a key reference group, the family.

Family: The family is an important group not only because it is a primary reference group but also because it is a group into which individual shopping behavior is socialized. Attitudes and beliefs in general and purchasing behavior patterns in particular are all initially learned from the family in which a person is born and raised.

Once a person starts having children of their own, they form their own family unit. This developing family group also influences the individual's behavior. Moreover, there are purchasing decisions made by the family as a unit that reinforce the family as the main primary reference group.

Personal influence

A person's personal attributes influence their buying behavior. Factors such as a person's age, occupation, personality, their financial situation, their family life cycle and their lifestyle in general affect the way they make consumption decisions. These factors are commonly used as criteria for classifying consumer markets.

Psychological influence

Four major psychological factors: belief, motivation, perception, learning, and attitude further influence consumer behavior.

Motivation: Individuals have basic biological needs such as the need to satisfy hunger, thirst and physical discomfort to psychological needs such as social recognition, esteem or belonging. These needs may be dormant at any particular time but once awakened to a high level of intensity they become a driving force. A motive is a need that motivates a person to find ways to reduce his demands. There is a whole body of theory in this area that cannot be explored in this text, however it is worthwhile to summarize two of the most influential theories to illustrate their impact on marketing practice.

  • Freud's Theory of Motivation: Freud theorized that individuals are motivated by unconscious psychological factors. Moreover, as a person grows up, they follow social norms that require them to suppress many desires and passions. This theory would suggest that a person's consciously stated reason for purchasing a product may mask a more fundamental unconscious motive. A person proposing to buy an executive car may claim that the decision is based on the need for quality and reliability, while an unconscious desire may be for status.
  • Maslow's Theory of Motivation: Maslow suggested that individuals have a hierarchy of needs. Individuals at the lowest level are driven by basic physiological needs. When individuals are able to satisfy needs at one level, they will be motivated by needs at the next level in the hierarchy. What the theory means for marketers is that people will seek out different products and services as they move up this hierarchy.

This theory is not universal and is biased towards Anglo-Saxon cultural values, particularly individualism and the need for self-development. While these requirements are not as important as in Japan or Germany, personal safety and conformity are given high priority.

Motivation theories are concerned with customer needs, and satisfying customer needs is a central tenant of marketing. Hence these motivation theories have influenced the market segmentation approach. It should be noted that although Freud and Maslow's theories have been very influential in management, marketing theory and practice, they have been challenged on the grounds that the research evidence supporting their usefulness as a psychological theory of motivation is weak. However they are useful for marketers as they help classify customers into groups based on needs.

Perception: The way a person perceives external stimuli affects their response. The processes of selective distortion, selective attention, and selective perception can cause individuals to have different perceptions of the same stimulus:

  • Selective attention: A person cannot observe all possible stimuli in the external environment. Selective attention refers to the tendency of individuals to examine the majority of stimuli to which they are exposed.
  • Selective bias: Individuals process information within the limits of their current attitudes and beliefs. The tendency to adjust perceptions to fit their current mindset is called selective distortion.
  • Selective retention: Individuals do not remember everything they notice. They are more likely to retain information that reinforces their attitudes and beliefs.

Perceptual behavior is related to the segmentation process because of its association with beliefs, knowledge, and attitudes.

Learning, Attitudes and Beliefs: Learning refers to any change in a person's long-term memory and how information is processed. There are various approaches to learning, including conditioning, social learning theory, and cognitive learning theory.

  • Conditioning Learning Theory: Individuals need reinforcement to develop attitudes and beliefs. So if a person has a positive experience with a particular product, it will reinforce their positive attitudes and beliefs about the brand. If the experience is negative, the customer is unlikely to purchase the product again. A negative attitude formed about a product may also affect a person's attitude toward other products and services offered by the company or associated with the brand.
  • Social Learning Theory: Proposes that learning can occur without direct personal reinforcement. Individuals can remember slogans associated with a brand name and form an attitude toward its attributes without any direct reinforcement. A person can learn by observing the behavior of others and the recognition or rewards they receive.
  • Cognitive Learning Theory: In high involvement buying a person can develop their attitudes and beliefs about a product by using their own cognitive reasoning.

Creating attitudes and beliefs about products effectively creates a position for a product or brand in the minds of consumers relative to other products and brands. It is at the heart of product positioning that is central to the successful implementation of a segmentation strategy.

Purchase conditions

The buying process that a person goes through when making a purchase decision is influenced by the specific situational factors surrounding the activity.

High involvement purchasing refers to situations where the use of both information seeking and reference group consultation is extensive, post-purchase evaluation occurs when the following factors are involved:

  • Self-image: Shopping has a big impact on a person's self-image like buying a car.
  • Perceived Risk: The consequences of making the wrong purchase will dramatically affect the consumer. Expensive purchases fall into this category. Any mistake can have a huge impact on a person's financial status.
  • Social Factors: A person's social acceptance may depend on the right purchase decision.
  • Hedonic factor: Purchases are related to products or services that are related to providing personal pleasure.

Consumer behavior theory is a complex field and only a brief overview is provided here. Consumer behavior is central to the segmentation, targeting and positioning process, especially when establishing useful segmentation criteria.


Finance Sitemap

Time management