What do you understand by Consumer Behaviour?

The aim of marketing is to meet and satisfy target customer’s needs and wants. The field of consumer behaviour studies how individuals, groups and organizations select, buy, use and dispose of goods, services, ideas or experiences to satisfy their needs and desires.

A consumer’s buying behaviour is influenced by cultural, social, personal and psychological factors.

I. Culture, sub-cultures and social class are particularly important in buying behaviour. Culture is a fundamental determinant of a person’s wants and behaviour. The growing child acquires a set of values, perceptions, preferences and behaviours through his or her family and other key institutions.

Each culture consists of smaller subcultures that provides more specific identification and socialization for their members. Subcultures include nationalities, religions, social groups and geographic regions. Enough companies often design specialized marketing programs to serve them. Such are known as “diversity marketing”

Virtually all human societies exhibit social satisfaction, stratification sometimes takes the form of caste system where the members of different castes are reared for certain roles and cannot change their caste membership. More frequently, it takes the form of ‘Social Classes’ relatively homogeneous and enduring divisions in a society, which are hierarchically ordered and whose members share similar values, interests and behaviour. Social classes show distinct product and brand preferences in many areas, including clothing, home furnishings, leisure activities and automobiles. Social classes differ in media, magazines & books and lower class consumers preferring television. Even within a media category such as TV, upper-class consumers prefer news and drama, and lower-class consumers prefer soaps operas and sports programmes

II. Social Factors – In addition to cultural factors, a consumer’s behaviour is influenced by such social factors as reference groups, family and social roles and statuses.

A person’s reference group consists of all the groups that have a direct (face to face) or indirect influence on the person’s attitudes or behaviour. Groups having direct influence on a person called “ membership groups”. Some members groups are primary groups, such as family, friends, neighbours and co-workers with whom the person interacts fairly continuously and informally. People also belong to secondary groups, such as religious, professional and trade-union groups, which tend to be more formal and require less continuous interaction.

People are significantly influenced by their reference groups in at least three ways. Reference group expose an individual to new behaviours and lifestyles and influence attitudes and self-concept; they create pressure for conformity that may effect actual product and brand choices.

Family is the most important consumer buying organization in society, and family members constitute the most influential primary reference group. The family orientation consists of parents and siblings. From parents a person acquires an orientation towards religion, politics and economics and a sense of personal achievement, self-worth and love. Even if the buyer no longer interacts very much with is parents, their influence on the buyer’s behaviour can be significant.

Role and statuses: A person participates in many groups- family, clubs, organizations. The person position in each group can be defined in terms of role and status. A “role” consists of the activities a person is expected to perform. Each role carries a “Status”. A Supreme Court justice has more status than a sales manager, and a sales manager has more status than an office their role and status in society.

III Personal Factors: A buyer’s decision are also influenced by personal characteristics. These include the buyer’s age and stage in the life cycle, occupation, economic circumstances, lifestyles and personality and self concept.

People buy different goods and services over a lifetime. The eat baby food in the early years, most foods in the growing and mature years and special diets in the later years. Taste in clothes, furniture and recreation is also age related.

Occupation also influences consumption pattern. A blue-coller worker will buy work clothes, work shoes and lunch boxes. A company president will buy expensive suits, air travel and country club membership.

IV. Psychological Factors: A Person buying choices are influenced by four major psychological factors- motivation perception, learning and beliefs and attitudes.

A Person has many needs at any given time. Some needs are biogenic, they arise from psychological states of tension such as hunger, thurst or discomfort. Other needs are psychogenic; they arise from psychological states of tension such as the need for recognition, esteem or belonging. A need becomes a motive when it is aroused to a sufficient level of intensity. A motive is need that is sufficiently pressing to drive a person to act.

When people act, they learn. Learning involves changes in an individual’s behaviour arising from experience. Most human behaviour is learned. Learning theorists believe that learning produced through the interplay of derives, stimuli, cues, responses and reinforcement. A derive is a strong internal stimulus impelling action. Cues are minor stimuli that determine when, where and how a person responds. Learning theory teaches marketers that they can build up demand for a product by cues and providing positive reinforcement.

Through doing and learning, people acquire beliefs and attitudes. These in turn influence buying behavior. A belief is a descriptive thought that a person holds about something. People’s beliefs about product or brand influence their buying decisions.

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