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Free online Course on Consumer Behavior and Motivation


Consumer behavior encompasses all the actions involved in selecting, purchasing, using, and disposing of goods and services. Whenever you watch a commercial on television, buy a new pair of shoes, read a book, or recycle soft drink cans, you are engaging in consumer behavior.


Consumer Behavior

Selecting, seeking, purchasing, using and disposing of goods and services


The consumer decision process is influenced by psychological, sociocultural, and situational factors-as well as by the marketing mixes of the company and its competitors.


Consumer Buying Behavior

Deciding what goods or services to buy and then obtaining them


The consumer's decision process is influenced by a number of forces, as Figure 3.1 illustrates. Your marketing mix and those of your competitors influence purchase behavior. The influences of your mix can be strong or weak, positive or negative, depending on how well you understand the consumer and how effectively you can design a marketing mix based on that knowledge. Note that not only does the marketing mix influence the consumer's decision process but the process influences the marketing mix as well. On one hand, the consumer influences you because you design a mix based on your marketing research and your understanding of consumer behavior. On the other hand, you hope that your marketing efforts have a positive influence on the consumer's behavior.


You simply can't design an effective marketing strategy without knowing what your customers think and how they will behave. Let us start with internal forces‑the customer's psychological influences and impulses.



Influences on the consumer decision process

The consumer decision process is influenced by psychological sociocultural and situational factors-as well as by the marketing mixes of you and your competitors.

Psychological influences (The internal forces)

Each person's actions are influenced by a variety of internal forces, including his or her needs, the motives, perceptions, learning experience, attitudes, and personality characteristics. These psychological influences affect all behavior, including consumer behavior.

Psychological Influences

Characteristics within the individual that influence consumer behavior

Needs: A felt discrepancy between your actual state and your desired state e.g. you may own a Maruti 800 car and desire for Esteem car. This establishes a need.

Motives: Internal factors that activate and direct behavior towards some goals e.g. need to look smart may motivate a teenager to buy a pair of Levis jeans.

Perception: Before consumers can buy a product, they must be aware that it exists. This is a process that starts with being exposed to the stimuli that represent a particular product, attending to these stimuli and interpreting them to form on overall perception of the object. Here's a look at each of those steps:


Reception and interpre­tation of sensory stimuli

Exposure: The first step in perception is exposure to the stimulus, such as seeing a TV guide or display at the supermarket checkout counter.

Attention: Mere exposure to a stimulus doesn't guarantee that consumers will pay attention to it. Most people live in an environment that is filled with sensory stimuli, but their capacity to handle this information is limited. This phenomenon is called selective attention. For example, it has been estimated that people notice less than 15 per cent of the ads they are exposed to.

Selective Attention

Choosing to attend to only a small portion of the stimuli to which you are exposed

Interpretation: Even if consumers pay attention to your message, they may not interpret its meaning accurately. In fact, misinterpretation of marketing communications is quite common.

Learning: Consumer learning is the process by which people acquire the knowledge and experience that they apply to buying and using products.


Learned tendency to respond to objects, people, ideas, or products in a particular way

Attitudes. This is an important topic for marketing managers because many consumer behaviors are related to attitudes. Attitudes have three components; the cognitive, the affective and the behavioral.


A person's consistent way of responding in a wide range of situation

Personality and self‑concept: Marketers are interested in personality as a way to target consumers. Are people with particular personalities more likely to buy certain products? This question has intrigued consumer researchers for quite a while, but so far they have come up with few conclusive answers.

Self Concept

Your perceptions, beliefs, and feeling about your-self

As a consumer, you naturally buy goods and services that fit your‑self concept, which consists of your perceptions, beliefs, and feelings about yourself. It encompasses both your private self (how you see yourself) and your public self (how others see you), as well as your actual self (how you really are) and your ideal self (what you would like to be).


A person's interests, ac­tivities, likes and dislikes, and consumption patterns.

Self‑concept is also important to marketers because it serves as the    internal basis of life style. Your life‑style consists of all your interests, activities, like and dislikes, and consumption patterns. Although you consciously choose your life‑style to some extent, it is also a function of your mental make up, age, conditioning and similar factors. The alone set of psychological influence play a big role in the way consumers behave, but they represent only the internal forces.

Sociocultural influences (The external forces)

Sociocultural Influences

Characteristics of culture and society that influence consumer behavior

Consumers live in a complex social environmental. The kinds of products they buy can be influenced by the culture they grew up in, by demographic factors such as their age and income, by their social status, by their household makeup, by the groups they belong to, and by the people they know. All these factors external to the individual are referred to as sociocultural influences on consumer behavior.


The beliefs, values, and objects shared by a group and passed on to succeeding generations


A group of people who share beliefs, values, and customs different from those of the larger cul­ture

Demographics: The second sociocultural influence concerns characteristics of the populations. This includes such factors as age, income, educations, and geographic location, which are all matters of demographics. It includes four variables:

                   i)        Age                                 ii)       Income

                   iii)       Education                         iv)      Geographic location.


The characteristics of populations

Social status: The third important sociocultural influence is social status.

Social classes

Stratified groups in soci­ety made up of people with similar values, life­ styles, Interests, and behaviors

Social class is determined primarily by occupation but is also based on income, education, possession, personal success, social skills, community participation, and other factors.

Reference group

A group that has an influence on a particular Consumer

Reference groups: The fourth important sociocultural influence comes from all the groups to which a consumer belongs. Any group that influences consumer decisions is considered a reference group, which may be one to which the consumer belongs (such as a family, a club, or a subculture), one to which he or she aspires to belong (and thus identifies with), or one that he or she shuns. Reference groups influence people's decisions by providing information, by pressuring them to conform to group norms, or by offering a set of values for people to identify with and express. Individuals are more likely to rely on reference groups in marketing consumer decisions when

                  They lack information about or experience with the product

                  They are particularly committed to the group

                  The reference group is particularly credible, powerful, or attractive

                  The product is conspicuous (publicly consumed)

                  The product is a luxury rather than a necessity

                  The product is particularly relevant to a dominant activity of a reference group.

Word of Mouth

Transmission of consumer information from person to person

Opinion leadership and word of mouth: The fifth major sociocultural influence is word of mouth-obtaining consumer information from other consumers rather than from mass media or sales personnel. People often consult with their friends and family members before making purchases, and they consider this word‑of‑mouth information to be particularly credible.

Opinion Leaders

Individual who exert influence on consumer decisions through word of mouth

Opinion leadership is more likely to occur when the opinion leader and the consumer have similar backgrounds and attitudes. Opinion leadership also happens when the consumer has high involvement with the product but low product knowledge, when the product is complex and difficult to evaluate.

Negative word of mouth should be of particular concern to marketers; many studies have shown that unfavorable information has a stronger impact on consumer buying behavior than favorable information does. The most common types of negative word of mouth are consumer complaints and rumors. Effective handling of complaints and public relations efforts focused on providing accurate and truthful information are important means of avoiding or neutralizing negative word of mouth.


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