The Consumer Decision Processes (also known as Buyer Decision Processes) refer to the decision-making stages that a consumer undergoes before, during, and after they purchase a product or service.
John Dewey introduced 5 stages which consumers go through when they are considering a purchase:
This is the first stage of the Consumer Decision Process in which the consumer is able to recognize what the problem or need is and subsequently, what product or kind of product would be able to meet this need. It is oftentimes recognized as the first and most crucial step in the process because if consumers do not perceive a problem or need, they generally will not move forward with considering a product purchase.
A need can be triggered by internal or external stimuli. Internal stimuli refers to a personal perception experienced by the consumer, such as hunger, thirst, and so on. For example, an elderly, single woman may feel lonely so she decides that she wants to purchase a cat. External stimuli include outside influences such as advertising or word-of-mouth. For example, a consumer who just moved to Minnesota may not realize he needs a heavy winter coat until he sees a store advertising for it, which triggers the need in his mind.
American Psychologist Abraham Harold Maslow believes that needs are arranged in a hierarchy. Only after a human has achieved the needs of a certain stage, does he move to the next one. None of his published works included a visual representation of the hierarchy. The pyramidal diagram illustrating the Maslow needs hierarchy may have been created by a psychology textbook publisher as an illustrative device.
This now iconic pyramid frequently depicts the spectrum of human needs, both physical and psychological, as accompaniment to articles describing Maslow’s needs theory and may give the impression that the Hierarchy of Needs is a fixed and rigid sequence of progression. Yet, starting with the first publication of his theory in 1943, Maslow described human needs as being relatively fluid—with many needs being present in a person simultaneously.
According to Maslow’s theory, when a human being ascends the levels of the hierarchy having fulfilled the needs in the hierarchy, one may eventually achieve self-actualization. Maslow eventually concluded that self-actualization was not an automatic outcome of satisfying the other human needs. Human needs as identified by Maslow:
At the top of the pyramid, “Need for Self-actualization” occurs when individuals reach a state of harmony and understanding because they are engaged in achieving their full potential.
Information search is considered the second of five stages that comprise the Consumer Decision Process. During this stage, a consumer who recognizes a specific problem or need will then likely be persuaded to search for information, whether it be internally or externally. This is also when the customer aims to seek the value in a prospective product or service. During this time, the options available to the consumer are identified or further clarified.
Internal research refers to a consumer’s memory or recollection of a product, oftentimes triggered or guided by personal experience. This is when a person tries to search their memory to see whether they recall past experiences with a product, brand, or service. If the product is considered a staple or something that is frequently purchased, internal information search may be enough to trigger a purchase.
External research is conducted when a person has no prior knowledge about a product, which then leads them to seek information from personal sources (e.g. word of mouth from friends/family ) and/or public sources (e.g. online forums, consumer reports) or marketer dominated sources (e.g. sales persons, advertising) especially when a person’s previous experience is limited or deemed inefficient.
Evaluation of alternatives is the third stage in the Consumer Buying Decision process. During this stage, consumers evaluate all of their product and brand options on a scale of attributes which have the ability to deliver the benefit that the customer is seeking . The brands and products that consumers compare – their evoked set – represent the alternatives being considered by consumers during the problem-solving process.
Sometimes known as a consideration set, the evoked set tends to be small relative to the total number of options available. When a consumer commits significant time to the comparative process and reviews price, warranties, terms and condition of sale and other features it is said that they are involved in extended problem solving.
Unlike routine problem solving, extended or extensive problem solving comprises external research and the evaluation of alternatives. Whereas, routine problem solving is low-involvement, inexpensive, and has limited risk if purchased, extended problem solving justifies the additional effort with a high-priced or scarce product, service, or benefit (e.g., the purchase of a car). Likewise, consumers use extensive problem solving for infrequently purchased, expensive, high-risk, or new goods or services.
In order for a marketing organization to increase the likelihood that their brand is part of the evoked set for many consumers, they need to understand what benefits consumers are seeking and specifically, which attributes will be most influential to their decision-making process. It is important to note that consumers evaluate alternatives in terms of the functional and psychological benefits that they offer. The company also needs to check other brands of the customer’s consideration set to prepare the right plan for its own brand.
During this stage, consumers can be significantly influenced by their attitude as well as the degree of involvement that they may have with the product, brand, or overall category. For example, if the customer involvement is high, then he or she will evaluate several brands, whereas if it’s low, he or she may look at only one brand. In low involvement buying, the activity is usually frequent, habitual to a certain extent and there is generally little difference between the brands. No strong attachment exists between the buyer and the brand. Promotions are simple and repetitive. Conversely, high involvement buying involves products with many differences. The behavior is more complex and the research is more detail oriented.
Ultimately, consumers must be able to effectively assess the value of all the products or brands in their evoked set before they can move on to the next step of the decision process.
The purchase decision is the fourth stage in the consumer decision process and when the purchase actually takes place. During this time, the consumer may form an intention to buy the most preferred brand because he has evaluated all the alternatives and identified the value that it will bring him.
According to Philip Kotler, Keller, Koshy and Jha (2009), the final purchase decision, can be disrupted by two factors:
Post-purchase behavior is the final stage in the consumer decision process when the customer assesses whether he is satisfied or dissatisfied with a purchase. How the customer feels about a purchase will significantly influence whether he will purchase the product again or consider other products within the brand repertoire. A customer will also be able to influence the purchase decision of others because he will likely feel compelled to share his feelings about the purchase.
Cognitive dissonance, another form of buyer’s remorse, is common at this stage. This is when the customer may experience feelings of post-purchase psychological tension or anxiety. For example, the customer might feel compelled to question whether he has made the right decision. They may also be exposed to advertising for a competitive product or brand which could put into question the product that they have chosen. A customer may also have a change of heart and decide that he no longer has a need for this particular product.
Some companies now opt to engage their consumers with post-purchase communications in an effort to influence their feelings about their purchase and future purchases. Offering money back guarantees also serve to extend and enrich post-purchase communications between the company and its consumers. Other examples include VIP invitations to become part of a club or special and select group of consumers who buy a particular product. Another example is when customers are asked for their contact information at the point of purchase so they can be targeted later with a follow-up call that surveys the product’s performance and consumer satisfaction. This approach could help influence or alleviate feelings of cognitive dissonance or “buyer’s remorse” following a product purchase.
4.9: Influences of Personality on the Consumer Decision Process
Perception in marketing is described as a process by which a consumer identifies, organizes, and interprets information to create meaning.
Describe the characteristics of perception as a part of the consumer buying decision process
- Perception is a psychological variable involved in the Purchase Decision Process that is known to influence Consumer Behavior.
- elective Perception is the process by which individuals perceive what they want to in media messages and disregard the rest.
- Seymor Smith, a prominent advertising researcher, found evidence for selective perception in advertising research in the early 1960s, and he defined it to be “a procedure by which people let in, or screen out, advertising material they have an opportunity to see or hear.
- Selective perceptions is categorized under two types: Low level – Perceptual vigilance and High level – Perceptual defense.
- Perception can be shaped by learning, memory and expectations.
The organization, identification and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment.
- Purchase Decision Process
The decision-making processes undertaken by consumers in regard to a potential market transaction before, during, and after the purchase of a product or service.
- Consumer Behavior
The study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy needs; and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society.
Perception can have various meanings but in marketing, it is often described as a process by which a consumer identifies, organizes, and interprets information to create meaning . A consumer will selectively perceive what they will ultimately classify as their needs and wants.
Necker Cube and Rubin Vase
These are two optical illusions that illustrate how perception may differ from reality. On the left, we see a cube when in fact it is a flat image on our screen. On the right, the vase actually resembles two faces looking at each other.
Perception is a psychological variable involved in the purchase decision process that is known to influence consumer behavior. Other variables included in this consumer process include: motivation, learning, attitude, personality, and lifestyle. All of these concepts are crucial in interpreting the consumer buying process and can also help guide marketing efforts.
Selective Perception is the process by which individuals perceive what they want to in media messages and disregard the rest.
Seymor Smith, a prominent advertising researcher, found evidence for selective perception in advertising research in the early 1960s, and he defined it to be “a procedure by which people let in, or screen out, advertising material they have an opportunity to see or hear. They do so because of their attitudes, beliefs, usage preferences and habits, conditioning, etc.” People who like, buy, or are considering buying a brand are more likely to notice advertising than are those who are neutral toward the brand. This fact has repercussions within the field of advertising research because any post-advertising analysis that examines the differences in attitudes or buying behavior among those aware versus those unaware of advertising is flawed unless pre-existing differences are controlled for.
Selective perceptions is categorized under two types: a low level of perception, known as perceptual vigilance, and a higher level of perception, known as perceptual defense.
Perception can be shaped by learning, memory and expectations.
Motivation is a psychological incentive or reason for doing something.
Review the methodology of motivation as it applies to the consumer buying decision process
- Consumer behavior is strongly influenced by many internal and external factors.
- Internal conditions include demographics, psychographics, personality, motivation, knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings.
- External influences include culture, sub-culture, locality, royalty, ethnicity, family, social class, past experience reference groups, lifestyle, and market mix factors.
- An individual’s motivation, perception, attitude, and beliefs are considered psychological factors.
The psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal and elicits, controls, and sustains certain goal directed behaviors.
- External, or extrinsic Motivation
The performance of an activity in order to attain an outcome, which then contradicts intrinsic motivation.
- Intrinsic Motivation
The incentive to undertake an activity based on the expected enjoyment of the activity itself, rather than external benefits that might result.
- Motivation can originate from oneself (intrinsic) or from other people (extrinsic). Intrinsic motivation is based on taking pleasure in an activity, while common extrinsic motivations are rewards, like money.
Consumer behavior is strongly influenced by many internal and external factors, including:
- Internal conditions: demographics, psychographics (lifestyle), personality motivation, knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings
- External influences: culture, sub-culture, locality, royalty, ethnicity, family, social class, past experience reference groups, lifestyle, and market mix factors
An individual’s motivation, perception, attitude, and beliefs are considered psychological factors. Other factors such as income level, personality, occupation, and lifestyle are categorized as personal factors. Motivation is versatile enough that it spans multiple areas, including physiological, behavioral, cognitive, and social.
Motivation may be rooted in a basic human need to minimize physical pain and maximize pleasure, and it may include specific needs such as eating and resting. However, motivation is ultimately linked to emotion.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
Motivation can originate from oneself (intrinsic) or from other people (extrinsic).
- Internal, or intrinsic motivation ismotivation that is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on any external pressure. Intrinsic motivation is based on taking pleasure in an activity rather than working towards an external reward. Intrinsic motivation has been studied since the early 1970s.
- External, or extrinsic motivation comes from outside of the individual. Common extrinsic motivations are rewards, like money, and the threat of punishment. Competition is extrinsic because it encourages the performer to win, not simply to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of the activity. A cheering crowd and trophies are also extrinsic incentives.
Widely Recognized Motivational Theories
- Incentive Theory: A reward, tangible or intangible, is presented after the occurrence of a behavior, with the intent of causing the behavior to occur again. Incentive theory in psychology treats motivation and behavior of the individual as though they are influenced by beliefs, such as engaging in activities that are expected to be profitable.
- Escape-seeking dichotomy model: Escapism and seeking are major factors influencing decision making. Escapism is a need to break away from a daily life routine, whereas seeking is described as the desire to learn or gain some inner benefits through travelling.
Clark Hull was the behaviorist who developed the drive-reduction theory of motivation.
- Drive-reduction theory: Individuals have certain biological drives, such as hunger. As time passes the strength of the drive increases if it is not satisfied (in this case by eating). Upon satisfying a drive, the drive’s strength is reduced.
- Cognitive dissonance theory: Cognitive dissonance occurs when an individual experiences an inconsistency between their views of the world around them and their own personal feelings and actions.
Learning in marketing is known as a psychological variable that can significantly affect the purchase decision process for consumers.
Review the characteristics of learning as it relates to the consumer buying decision process
- Learning is the process of acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences. This process may involve synthesizing different types of information.
- Learning is considered to have a psychological influence on consumer behavior, along with motivation and personality, perception, values, beliefs, and attitudes and lifestyle.
- There are three main categories of learning theory: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism.
- Purchase Decision Process
The decision-making processes undertaken by consumers in regard to a potential market transaction before, during, and after the purchase of a product or service.
The process of acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences. This process may involve synthesizing different types of information.
- Learning is considered to have a psychological influence on consumer behavior, along with motivation and personality, perception, values, beliefs and attitudes and lifestyle.
In consumer marketing, learning is known as a psychological variable that can significantly affect the purchase decision process for consumers. Learning is the process of acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences. This process may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals, and some machines.
Learning is considered to have a psychological influence on consumer behavior, along with motivation and personality, perception, values, beliefs, and attitudes and lifestyle.
Types of learning include:
- Simple non-associative learning (habituation and sensitization)
- Associative learning
- Observational learning
- Episodic learning
- Multimedia learning
- Rote learning
- Informal learning
- Formal learning
- Tangential learning
- Dialogic learning
There are three main categories of learning theory: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Behaviorism focuses only on the objectively observable aspects of learning. Cognitive theories look beyond behavior to explain brain-based learning. Constructivism views learning as a process in which the learner actively constructs or builds new ideas or concepts.
Merriam and Caffarella (1991) highlight four approaches or orientations to learning: behaviorist, cognitivist, humanist, and social or situational. These approaches involve contrasting ideas as to the purpose and process of learning and education, in addition to the role that educators should take.
David Kolb’s model
David Kolb’s model
The David A. Kolb styles model is based on the experiential learning theory.
The David A. Kolb styles model is based on the experiential learning theory, which was explained in his book Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (1984). The ELT model outlines two related approaches toward grasping experience: concrete experience and abstract conceptualization, as well as two related approaches toward transforming experience: reflective observation and active experimentation.
According to Kolb’s model, the ideal learning process engages all four of these modes in response to situational demands. As individuals attempt to use all four approaches, however, they tend to develop strengths in one experience-grasping approach and one experience-transforming approach. The resulting learning styles are combinations of the individual’s preferred approaches. These learning styles include:
Convergers are characterized by abstract conceptualization and active experimentation. They are good at making practical applications of ideas and using deductive reasoning to solve problems.
Divergers tend toward concrete experience and reflective observation. They are imaginative and are good at coming up with ideas and seeing things from different perspectives.
Assimilators are characterized by abstract conceptualization and reflective observation. They are capable of creating theoretical models by means of inductive reasoning.
Accommodators use concrete experience and active experimentation. They are good at actively engaging with the world and actually doing things instead of merely reading about and studying them.
Kolb’s model gave rise to the Learning Style Inventory, an assessment method used to determine an individual’s learning style. An individual may exhibit a preference for one of the four styles—accommodating, converging, diverging, and assimilating—depending on his or her approach to learning via the experiential learning theory model.
Attitude is a psychological variable that is known to affect the purchase decision process of consumers.
Illustrate how attitude impacts the consume buying decision
- An attitude can generally contain a positive or negative evaluation of people, objects, event, activities, ideas, or anything in the environment.
- Carl Jung’s definition of attitude is a “readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way”.
- Attitudes can be difficult to measure because attitudes are ultimately a hypothetical construct that cannot be observed directly.
- Attitudes can be measured by the use of physiological cues like facial expressions, vocal changes, and other body rate measures.
- Carl Jung
(26 July 1875 – 6 June 1961) was a Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology. Jung proposed and developed the concepts of the extraverted and the introverted personality, archetypes, and the collective unconscious. His work has been influential in psychiatry and in the study of religion, literature, and related fields.
an expression of favor or disfavor toward a person, place, thing, or event (the attitude object). Prominent psychologist Gordon Allport once described attitudes “the most distinctive and indispensable concept in contemporary social psychology. “
- Attitudes can be measured by the use of physiological cues like facial expressions, vocal changes, and other body rate measures. For instance, fear is associated with raised eyebrows, increased heart rate and increase body tension.
Attitude is a psychological variable that is known to affect the purchase decision process of consumers. Other variables are perception, learning, personality, and lifestyle.
An attitude generally contains a positive or negative evaluation of people, objects, event, activities, ideas, or anything else in the environment. However, people can also be conflicted or ambivalent toward an object, meaning that they might at different times express both positive and negative attitudes toward the same object.
Attitude is one of Carl Jung’s 57 definitions in Chapter XI of Psychological Types. Jung’s definition of attitude is a “readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way.”
Carl Jung developed a definition of attitude as it relates to the field of Psychology.
Attitudes can be difficult to measure because attitudes are a hypothetical construct that cannot be observed directly. Attempted measures may include the use of physiological cues like facial expressions, vocal changes, and other body rate measures. For instance, fear is associated with raised eyebrows, increased heart rate and increase body tension.
Attitudes can be changed through persuasion in response to communication. Experimental research into the factors that can affect the persuasiveness of a message include:
- Target Characteristics: These are characteristics that refer to the person who receives and processes a message. One such trait is intelligence – more intelligent people seem to be less easily persuaded by one-sided messages. Another variable that has been studied in this category is self-esteem.
- Source Characteristics: The major source characteristics are expertise, trustworthiness, and interpersonal attraction or attractiveness. The credibility of a perceived message has been found to be a key variable here; if one reads a report about health and believes it came from a professional medical journal, one may be more easily persuaded than if one believes it is from a popular newspaper.
- Message Characteristics: The nature of the message plays a role in persuasion. Sometimes presenting both sides of a story is useful to help change attitudes. When people are not motivated to process the message, simply the number of arguments presented in a persuasive message will influence attitude change, such that a greater number of arguments will produce greater attitude change.
- Cognitive Routes: A message can appeal to an individual’s cognitive evaluation to help change an attitude. In the central route to persuasion, the individual is presented with the data and motivated to evaluate the data and arrive at an attitude-changing conclusion. In the peripheral route to attitude change, the individual is encouraged to look not at the content but at the source. This is commonly seen in modern advertisements that feature celebrities.
In consumer marketing, lifestyle is considered a psychological variable known to influence the buyer decision process for consumers.
Indicate how lifestyle or personality influences buying decisions
- Lifestyle is also referred to as a buyer characteristic in the Black Box Model, which shows the interaction of stimuli, consumer characteristics, decision process, and consumer responses.
- The Black Box Model considers the buyer’s response as a result of a conscious, rational decision process, in which it is assumed that the buyer has recognized the problem.
- The Black Box Model is related to the Black Box Theory of Behaviorism, where the focus is not set on the processes inside a consumer, but the relation between the stimuli and the response of the consumer.
- Black Box Model
shows the interaction of stimuli, consumer characteristics, decision process and consumer responses.
- Buyer Decision Process
the decision making processes undertaken by consumers in regard to a potential market transaction before, during, and after the purchase of a product or service.
Lifestyle can be broadly defined as the way a person lives. In sociology, a lifestyle typically reflects an individual’s attitudes, values, or world view. A lifestyle is a means of forging a sense of self and to create cultural symbols that resonate with personal identity.
Television and Obesity
Lifestyle choices, like increasing sedentary behaviors, can lead to obesity.
A family sits in the living room and watches television.
Not all aspects of a lifestyle are voluntary. However, in consumer marketing, lifestyle is considered a psychological variable known to influence the buyer decision process of consumers.
Lifestyle is also referred to as a buyer characteristic in the Black Box Model, which shows the interaction of stimuli, consumer characteristics, decision process, and consumer responses. The Black Box Model is related to the Black Box Theory of Behaviorism, where the focus is set not on the processes inside a consumer, but the relation between the stimuli and the response of the consumer.
In this theory, the marketing stimuli (product, price, place and promotion) are planned and processed by companies, whereas the environmental stimuli are based on the economical, political, and cultural circumstances of a society. The buyer’s “black box” contains the buyer characteristics (e.g., attitudes, motivation, perception, lifestyle, personality, and knowledge) and the decision process (e.g., problem recognition, information research, alternative evaluation, purchase decision, and post-purchase behavior) which determine the buyer’s response (e.g., product choice, brand choice, dealer choice, purchase timing, and purchase amount).
The Black Box Model considers the buyer’s response as a result of a conscious, rational decision process, in which it is assumed that the buyer has recognized the problem. However, in reality, many decisions are not made in awareness of a determined problem by the consumer.
4.9.6: Shaping Public Policy and Educating Consumers
Companies can use marketing to educate consumers on a particular issue in an effort to help shape public policy.
Discuss the elements of public policy and the education of customers
- The study of consumer behavior can be applied to improving marketing strategies, shaping public policies, influencing society, and improving consumer knowledge.
- Public policy, as government action, is generally known as the principled guide to action taken by the administrative or executive branches of the state with regard to a class of issues in a manner consistent with law and institutional customs.
- Shaping public policy is a complex and multifaceted process that involves the interplay of numerous individuals and interest groups competing and collaborating to influence policymakers to act in a particular way.
- Social marketing applies a “customer oriented” approach and uses the concepts and tools used by commercial marketers in pursuit of social goals like anti-smoking campaigns or fund raising for NGOs.
- Health promotion is broadly defined as the process of enabling people to increase control over and improve their health. It occurs through developing healthy public policy that addresses the prerequisites of health such as income, housing, food security, employment, and quality working conditions.
- Social Marketing
the systematic application of marketing, along with other concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioral goals for a social good.
- public policy
the set of policies (laws, plans, actions, behaviors) of a government; plans and methods of action that govern that society; a system of laws, courses of action, and priorities directing a government action.
- For example, social marketers, dealing with goals such as reducing cigarette smoking or encouraging condom use, have more difficult goals. They must make potentially difficult and long-term behavioral change in target populations by educating them.
The study of consumer behavior can be applied to improving marketing strategies, shaping public policies, influencing society, and improving consumer knowledge.
Public policy, as government action, is generally known as the principled guide to action taken by the administrative or executive branches of the state with regard to a class of issues in a manner consistent with law and institutional customs. In the United States, this concept refers not only to the result of policies, but more broadly to the decision making and analysis of governmental decisions. Public policy is commonly embodied in constitutions, legislative acts, and judicial decisions.
Shaping public policy is a complex and multifaceted process that involves the interplay of numerous individuals and interest groups competing and collaborating to influence policymakers to act in a particular way. These individuals and groups use a variety of tactics and tools to advance their aims, including advocating their positions publicly, attempting to educate supporters, opponents and consumers, and mobilizing allies on a particular issue.
Social marketing can help persuade and educate consumers on societal issues with the ultimate goal of helping to shape public policy. For example, social marketers, dealing with goals such as reducing cigarette smoking or encouraging condom use, have more difficult goals. They must make potentially difficult and long-term behavioral change in target populations by educating them. Social marketing applies a “customer oriented” approach and uses the concepts and tools used by commercial marketers in pursuit of social goals like anti-smoking campaigns or fundraising for NGOs.
The purpose of an anti-smoking campaign is to educate consumers about health risks associated with smoking.
An anti-smoking message painted on a pedestrian crossing in the Orchard Road area in Singapore.
Health promotion is broadly defined as the process of enabling people to increase control over and improve their health. It occurs through developing healthy public policy that addresses the prerequisites of health such as income, housing, food security, employment, and quality working conditions. There is a tendency among public health officials and governments—and this is especially the case in liberal nations such as Canada and the USA—to reduce health promotion to health education and social marketing focused on changing behavioral risk factors.
4.10: Social Influences on the Consumer Decision Process
Consumers have different roles in purchasing products and services, and these roles can influence their buying behavior.
Describe the different types of consumer roles
- Influencers are people who have a relatively large audience in which to tout their beliefs. In the consumer world, influencers can impact the success or failure of a product by using it or shunning it.
- A prosumer is usually a serious hobbyist, with similar interests and skills of professionals. The prosumer generally uses professional (or nearly professional) equipment and has a relatively high disposable income.
- Marketers often create a “persona” for their products and services in order to represent the different user types in a target market.
A person who or a thing which influences.
A serious, enthusiastic consumer: not professional (earning money), but of similar interest and skills to a (generally lower level) professional, or aspiring to such. The target market of prosumer equipment.
A social role.
The Influence of Roles on Consumer Purchasing
Consumers have different roles in purchasing products and services. Here, a role is defined as the expected behavior of an individual in a society. These roles can be as part of the consumer’s family, employment, or social status, among other things. For example, the role of father can be different than the role of mother in purchasing consumer goods. Although there are many different roles that can influence how a consumer behaves, three in particular are presented here: influencers, prosumers, and personas.
Influencers are people who have a relatively large audience in which to tout their beliefs. In the consumer world, influencers can impact the success or failure of a product by using it or shunning it. A marketer often targets influencers rather than the entire target market, because these influencers can alter the behavior of other people. Influencers can be influential buyers, retailers, or people, such as journalists or industry professionals (among others). Influencers are sometimes ranked according to six criteria: market reach (how many people the influencer will connect with), independence (no vested interest in product), frequency of impact, expertise, persuasiveness, and thoroughness (the extent to which influence is exerted across the decision lifecycle).
J.J. Abrams, “Apple Fanatic”
TV series creator J.J. Abrams can influence other people to buy certain products by saying how much he likes the product.
In its most common usage, a prosumer is usually a serious hobbyist, with similar interests and skills of professionals. For example, the availability and relatively low cost of photography equipment have given rise to many people who are serious about photography but are not usually paid for their work. This is an important role for marketers to consider, as the prosumer generally uses professional (or nearly professional) equipment and has relatively high disposable income. Other examples of prosumers are found in home improvement and cooking segments.
A persona is a social role. Marketers often create a “persona” for their products and services in order to represent the different user types in a target market. A marketer may decide his product is best suited for a specific demographic and will define that demographic as clearly as possible. For example, “soccer mom” might be the target market for minivans. A persona may be created to capture the “soccer mom,” perhaps by giving her a name or other defining characteristics. A persona simply helps a marketer get a clearer picture of who will be buying his product.
Families have a tremendous influence on consumer purchasing.
Describe how family dynamics and the family life cycle can influence purchasing decisions
- One way to understand the consumer behavior of a family is to identify the decision maker for a purchase.
- Families’ influence on buying habits includes how parents play a significant role and, eventually, how a spouse and children play an even more significant role.
- People go through a family life cycle composed of different stages of purchasing patterns.
- life cycle
The useful life of a product or system; the developmental history of an individual or group in society.
Many factors influence purchasing. A consumer’s family is one of the most significant factors because a family helps shape an individual’s attitudes and behaviors. One way to understand the family’s impact on consumer behavior is to identify the decision maker for a purchase. A decision maker for a purchase can be a husband, wife, or even a child, and sometimes decisions are made in collaboration. Often, the decision maker changes based on the type of purchase or the size of the purchase. A new refrigerator, for example, is likely to be a joint decision, while a week’s groceries might be selected by a single member of the family.
Families are a major influence on shopping patterns and consumer habits.
A man pushing his children in a shopping cart.
Influence of Family on Consumer Behavior
Families influence purchases in many ways. At first, the influence of parents is significant because of how parents help their children to develop political and religious beliefs, lifestyle choices, and consumer preferences. Most people are who they are because of their parents. A spouse and children, however, can exert an even more significant force on a consumer’s purchases. Interaction between spouses and the number and ages of children play a particularly powerful role on buying behaviors. These family influences affect how consumers look at purchases more directly than most other social influences on consumer purchasing.
Family Life Cycle
Another aspect of understanding the impact of families on buying behavior is the family life cycle. Most, though certainly not all, individuals and families pass through an orderly sequence of life stages that can be used to understand their purchasing patterns. A typical adult starts in the bachelor stage of being young and single and then moves to being part of a married couple without children. Then the married couple transition to Full Nest stages, where the family has dependent children living at home. Once the children leave, the family enters the Empty Nest Stage, which is typically where older married couples (working or retired) no longer have dependent children living with them. Finally, the individual reaches the “solitary survivor” stage of being an older single person. Consumer behavior and purchasing is different in each of these stages. Understanding the family life cycle is beneficial for marketers because it helps in defining target customers.
4.10.3: Reference Groups
Reference groups are groups that consumers will look to for help in making purchasing decisions.
Distinguish between an opinion leader and reference group
- Reference groups are groups that consumers compare themselves to or associate with. They can heavily influence purchasing patterns.
- Friends, clubs, religious groups, and celebrities can all act as reference groups.
- If a reference group endorses a product, either through use or statements about the product, those that look to the group will often purchase that product.
- opinion leader
The agent who is an active media user and who interprets the meaning of media messages or content for lower-end media users.
- target market
A group of people whose needs and preferences match the product range of a company and to whom those products are marketed.
Reference groups are groups that consumers compare themselves to or associate with. Reference groups are similar to opinion leaders in that they can have a profound influence on consumer behavior. Reference groups are considered a social influence in consumer purchasing. They are often groups that consumers will look to to make purchasing decisions. So if a reference group endorses a product, either through use or statements about the product, those that look to the group will often purchase that product. On the other hand, if a reference group disapproves of a product, those that associate with that group will probably not purchase the product.
Types of Reference Groups
Reference groups can be either formal or informal. Schools, friends, and peers are examples of informal reference groups . Clubs, associations, and religious organizations are usually formal reference groups. Individuals can also be reference groups (usually known as opinion leaders). Additionally, celebrities can be used as a reference group. A company might use a celebrity it feels will match its target market to get that market to purchase its product. For example, a few years ago Shaquille O’Neal was used to endorse Pepsi because Pepsi felt he represented the spirit of teenagers of the time.
Friends are one of the most powerful reference groups because they influencing our consumer behavior.
Two women talking to each other.
Influence of Reference Groups
Reference groups can and do have a tremendous influence on purchasing decisions. This is evident in a number of ways, such as through roles. Everyone is expected to behave in a certain way based on the reference group we belong to. Students act like students. In keeping with this idea, people will often modify their own behavior to coincide with group norms (even those that profess non-conformity are in some ways conforming with other people who want the same thing). Reference groups communicate through opinion leaders, who influence what others do, act, and buy. In the consumer world, this means that if a reference group purchases a product, those that associate with the group likely will as well.
4.10.4: Opinion Leaders
Opinion leaders are people consumers look to for guidance in making purchase decisions, usually someone with more knowledge of the subject.
Discuss the importance of opinion leaders in marketing and how they can influence the success of a product or service
- Consumers seek out help in making consumer purchases. One source of help is an opinion leader.
- Opinion leaders are usually seen as being honest and impartial. They have the standing to be able to influence others.
- Finding opinion leaders can be vital to the success of a marketing plan, as they can then influence others to purchase the product or service.
- Celebrities are often used as opinion leaders in promoting a product.
- reference group
A reference group refers to a group to which an individual or another group is compared.
Influence or effectiveness, especially political.
Our purchase decisions are influenced by any number of people or groups. We often look to opinion leaders for help in our consumer decisions. Opinion leaders are usually people who are more knowledgeable about a certain product or service than the average consumer. As such, opinion leaders can shape how a product is viewed. Consumers are constantly seeking out the advice of knowledgeable friends or acquaintances who can provide information, give advice, or actually make the decision. For some product categories, there are professional opinion leaders who are quite easy to identify–for instance, auto mechanics , beauticians, stock brokers, and physicians. All these professionals can influence the decisions consumers make within their area of expertise. Sometimes, these opinion leaders can actually be groups, known as reference groups.
Mechanics can be considered opinion leaders in the automotive industry.
Characteristics of Opinion Leaders
Opinion leaders are generally people who have the ability to influence others. They usually have deeper expertise in a certain area, and are often looked to for help in making consumer decisions. For example, a local high school teacher may be an opinion leader for parents in selecting colleges for their children. Often, an opinion leader is among the first to use a new product or service, and can then pass on his or her opinions of the product to others. Opinion leaders are often trusted and unbiased and have the social network of friends, family, and coworkers necessary to disperse information.
Opinion Leaders in Marketing
Opinion leaders are particularly useful in marketing. If a marketer can identify key opinion leaders for a certain group, she can then direct her efforts towards attracting these individuals. In marketing, celebrities are often used as opinion leaders. Although they may not actually know more about a product or service, there is usually the perception that they do. Celebrity endorsements in marketing are a way to give clout to a product or service . Opinion leaders can have a profound influence on the success of a product, and on one’s own consumer purchases.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Celebrities are opinion leaders for the products or services they promote.
4.10.5: Social Classes
Marketers should understand that a person’s social class will have a major influence on the types and quantity of consumer goods purchased.
Illustrate how social class impacts consumer behavior and buying patterns
- People are usually grouped in social classes according to income, wealth, education, or type of occupation.
- There is a major difference in the consumer behavior of different social classes. The upper class, for example, has more disposable income and can thus spend more on most products.
- Each social class has distinct characteristics and approaches to consumer purchases. A marketer should understand the dynamic of the social class he or she is targeting.
- social class
A class of people, based on social power, wealth or another criterion.
- disposable income
The amount of a person’s or group’s monetary income which is available to be saved or spent (on either essential or non-essential items), after deducting all taxes and other governmental fees.
A major influence on one’s purchasing habits and consumer behavior is the social class in which one finds him or herself. Social class is considered an external influence on consumer behavior because it is not a function of feelings or knowledge. Social class is often hard to define; in fact, many people dispute the existence of social classes in the United States. Usually, however, people are grouped in social classes according to income, wealth, education, or type of occupation. Perhaps the simplest model to define social class is a three-tiered approach that includes the rich, the middle class, and the poor. Other models have as many as a dozen levels. People in the same social class tend to have similar attitudes, live in similar neighborhoods, dress alike, and shop at the same type of stores.
Influence on Consumer Behavior
Social class can have a profound effect on consumer spending habits. Perhaps the most obvious effect is the level of disposable income of each social class. Generally, the rich have the ability to purchase more consumer goods than those with less income, and those goods are of higher quality . There is also a distinction in the type of goods purchased. For example, the upper class tend to be the primary buyers of fine jewelry and often shop at exclusive retailers. The lower class, in contrast, are much more concerned with simply getting by; they focus more on necessities.
Social class has a profound effect on the types and quantity of consumer goods purchased.
A dining room table with upper class dinnerware.
Effect on Marketing
Marketers must be very aware of the social class of their target market. If a marketer wishes to target efforts toward the upper classes, then the market offering must be designed to meet their expectations in terms of quality, service, and atmosphere. A marketer should understand the dynamic of the social class as well. For example, the upper-middle class are generally ambitious, future-oriented people who have succeeded economically and now seek to enhance their quality of life. Material goods often take on major symbolic meaning for this group. Effective marketers will understand that and be able to tailor their approach accordingly.
Culture can have a profound effect on consumer behavior and purchasing, and can affect how a product is marketed.
Discuss the three components of a culture and how they impact consumer behavior.
- There are three components of a culture: beliefs, values, and customs. Each plays a role in influencing consumer purchasing.
- Culture can be further divided into subcultures. One’s race, religion and class are all ways subcultures can be established.
- The marketing strategy should show the product or service as reinforcing the beliefs, values and customs of the targeted culture.
Of or pertaining to a combination of social and economic factors.
Culture can have a profound effect on consumer behavior and impact how a product is marketed. In this sense, culture is defined as the distinct way peoples’ experiences, customs and beliefs define how they behave . American culture, for example, values hard work, thrift and achievement. There are generally three components of a culture: beliefs, values, and customs.
Cultural practices can have a huge impact on consumer behavior.
Cultural performers take part in a show on a large stage.
- A belief is a proposition that reflects a person’s particular knowledge and assessment of something.
- Values are general statements that guide behavior and influence beliefs. The function of a value system is to help a person choose between alternatives in everyday life.
- Customs are modes of behavior that constitute culturally approved ways of behaving in specific situations. For example, taking one’s mother out for dinner and buying her presents for Mother’s Day is an American custom.
Culture can be further divided into subcultures. One’s race, religion and class are all ways subcultures can be established. For example, a person can be a part of the larger “American” culture and still be a member of other subcultures based on his or her socio-economic background. Each of these subcultures will have specific influences on consumer behavior.
Culture as an Influence on Consumer Behavior
Culture is considered an external factor in influencing consumer behavior. Since different cultures have different values, they will have different buying habits. Marketing strategies should reflect the culture that is being targeted. The strategy should show the product or service as reinforcing the beliefs, values and customs of the targeted culture. Failing to do so can result in lost sales and opportunities.
4.10.7: Consumer Misbehavior
Consumer misbehavior refers to the common occurrence of consumers acting outside the norm.
Give examples of common types of consumer misbehavior and common retailer tactics for addressing consumer misbehavior issues.
- Consumer misbehavior is specifically related to retail and other markets, and includes things from cutting in line to fights between customers to credit card fraud.
- Common types of consumer misbehavior include shoplifting, abusive behavior, credit card fraud, and black markets.
- Since the cost of consumer misbehavior can be very high, many retailers feel it is worth fighting, and use a variety of tactics to do so.
- Black Friday
The day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.
- credit card fraud
A wide-ranging term for theft and fraud committed using a credit card or any similar payment mechanism as a fraudulent source of funds in a transaction. The purpose may be to obtain goods without paying, or to obtain unauthorized funds from an account.
Consumer misbehavior refers to the common occurrence of consumers acting outside the norm. It is generally recognized that there are social behaviors that are acceptable in a given situation. Anything outside of those accepted behaviors is considered misbehavior. Consumer misbehavior is specifically related to retail and other markets, and includes things from cutting in line to fights between customers to credit card fraud. Combating consumer misbehavior is an expensive, time-consuming activity. Some economists estimate the total monetary value of consumer misbehavior to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
Common Types of Consumer Misbehavior
Shoplifting is the theft of goods from a retail establishment. Although a very common crime, it is still considered consumer misbehavior. Researchers divide shoplifters into two categories: “boosters,” professionals who resell what they steal, and “snitches,” amateurs who steal for their personal use. Researchers generally agree that shoplifters are driven by either economic or psychosocial motives. Psychosocial motivations may include peer pressure, a desire for thrill or excitement, impulse, intoxication, or compulsion.
Credit Card Fraud
Credit card fraud is a wide-ranging term for theft and fraud committed using a credit card or any similar payment mechanism as a fraudulent source of funds in a transaction. The purpose may be to obtain goods without paying, or to obtain unauthorized funds from an account. Estimates put the cost of credit card fraud to billions of dollars.
Credit card fraud is a form of consumer misbehavior that can cost billions of dollars a year.
Black & Grey Market Economies
A black market or underground economy is a market in goods or services which operates outside the formal one supported by the established state power. It often involves illegal, smuggled, or counterfeit goods. In many parts of the world, black markets operate side by side with legal markets, sometimes openly. Worldwide, the underground economy is estimated to have provided 1.8 billion jobs. Similar is a gray market economy where a company makes their products available even they are not authorized to do so.
Combating Consumer Misbehavior
Although fairly expensive to do, many retailers have begun fighting consumer misbehavior. Retailers often employ more security and staff during times where the propensity for consumer misbehavior increases, such as during “Black Friday” sales. Many also use electronic tracking devices on products and closed-circuit television to fight shoplifting and fraud. Since the cost of consumer misbehavior can be so high, many retailers feel it is worth fighting.
4.11: Consumer Experience
4.11.1: Factors Influencing Experience, Involvement, and Satisfaction
The main factors that influence experience, involvement, and satisfaction with a product are personal, social, object and situational.
Explain the factors influencing the consumer experience, involvement and satisfaction
- A person’s perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, and values can substantially influence his or her experience and involvement with products.
- Personal or individual factors can also serve as strong influences, including gender, age, income level or social class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
- A consumer’s social network has a strong influence on the level of involvement with many products because individuals tend to rely on the opinions and advice of friends and family.
- Products that can easily conform to and enrich a consumer’s lifestyle tend to be consumed with more frequency and involvement.
- The degree of information that a consumer has about a product, including how well he or she can distinguish its characteristics, can also effect experience, involvement, and satisfaction.
- Other social influences can include opinion leaders and reference groups.
- reference group
A concept referring to a group to which an individual or another group is compared. It is the group to which the individual relates or aspires to relate himself or herself psychologically.
The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation. The beliefs, values, behavior and material objects that constitute a people’s way of life.
The organization, identification and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment.
- Certain cultures highly discourage women from exposing some of their body parts as part of their religious beliefs, which inevitably affects their consumption of clothing.
In general, four main factors influence a consumers’s experience, involvement, and satisfaction with a product:
Personal Factors: A person’s perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, and values can substantially influence his or her experience and involvement with products. For example, certain cultures highly discourage women from exposing some of their body parts as part of their religious beliefs, which inevitably affects their consumption of clothing. Other examples of cultural influences include language, myths, customs, rituals, and laws. Consumers tend to be more involved with products that they believe can fill their own needs, which in turn are regarded as holding importance and relevance in their lives. Personal or individual factors can also serve as strong influences, including gender, age, income level or social class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
Religious beliefs can impact consumers’ clothing choices. Muslin women must be covered at all times so they cannot wear bathing suits.
Woman wearing “burqini” swimwear in Egypt.
Object Factors: The degree of information that a consumers have about a product, including how well they can distinguish its characteristics, can also effect their experience, involvement, and satisfaction. Typically, the higher a consumer’s product knowledge, the more involved with it he or she will be. Deeper knowledge about a product also translates into higher involvement because the consumer perceives it as more important, especially if some of that knowledge pertains to characteristics that hold personal meaning.
Situational Factors: Products that can easily conform to and enrich a consumer’s lifestyle tend to be consumed with more frequency and involvement. For example, a busy working mother might rely heavily on her smart phone to keep her organized and effective in an effortless manner.
Social Factors: Social influence can deeply affect consumer behavior, especially as related to the products they consider and consume. A consumer’s social network has a strong influence on the products he or she uses, since individuals tend to rely on the opinions and advice of friends and family. Other social influences can include opinion leaders and reference groups.
4.11.2: Marketing Changes Due to Involvement
A company should consider the level of involvement a consumer has with a product in order to guide its marketing strategy.
Examine the impact of customer involvement in consumer marketing and experience
- In general, consumer involvement tends to be higher for products that are very expensive or are considered highly significant in the consumer’s life.
- Print advertising is considered high-involvement because newspapers and magazines provide information that can be processed clearly and can help shape attitudes and influence decisions.
- TV advertising is considered low-involvement because it presents information that is considered passive.
- consumer involvement
The level of interaction and regard that a consumer has with a given product.
- Low-involvement products (e.g., some consumer packaged goods) in a category where brands are not distinctly different require that marketers provide sales and promotions as part of their marketing strategy.
Consumer involvement tends to vary dramatically depending on the type of product and its relationship to the consumer. In general, consumer involvement tends to be higher for products that are very expensive (e.g., a home, a car) or are considered highly significant in the consumer’s life (e.g., a newborn baby product).
Purchasing a Vehicle
Consumer involvement tends to be higher for expensive products like vehicles.
A Chevy Suburban.
Marketing strategy should take into account the level of involvement that a consumer has with a specific product, as this also dictates the type of information that the consumer needs to process in order to make a purchase decision.
The following levels of information processing are required, which can help dictate the marketing approach that should be used:
- Low-Involvement purchases tend to be made by habitual decisions (e.g., dish washing liquid, toothbrush). These require minimal information processing.
- Moderate-Involvement purchases tend to be made by simple decisions (e.g., orange juice, snacks). These often may require some evaluation of alternatives.
- High-Involvement purchases tend to be made by lengthy or more involved decisions (e.g., a car or a house). These are usually considered highly important to consumers and require extensive information processing.
Print advertising is considered high-involvement because newspapers and magazines provide information that can be processed clearly and can help shape attitudes and influence decisions. Television advertising is considered low-involvement because it presents information that is considered passive.
The four main types of buying behavior in consumer marketing depend on the level of consumer involvement:
High involvement & significant differences between brands (complex buying behavior):
- Example: Houses, kitchen renovation
- One-time sale
- Consumers need evaluation and pre-sale learning
- Selling activities are key
Low involvement & significant differences between brands (variety-seeking buying behavior):
- Example: Retail food stuff
- Consumers have added buying triggers
- Consumers want free samples, special deals
High involvement & few differences between brands (dissonance-reducing buying behavior):
- Example: Consumer electronics, top-line sport equipment
- Decision making is difficult both pre- and post-purchase
Low involvement & few differences between brands (habitual buying behavior):
- Example: Food, personal care products
- Brand familiarity and promotion with convenience is key
- Consumers look for price/sales promotions