What is a social class Consumer Behaviour

  • The relative standing of members of a society.
  • This means:
  • Higher positions imply higher status We can say that Social class is more of a continuum, i.e., a rangeof social positions, on which each member of society can beplace. But, social researchers have divided this continuum into asmall number of specific classes. Thus, we go by this frame-work, social class is used to assign individuals or families to asocial-class category.We can now define social class as The division of members of a society into a hierarchy of distinct status classes, so that members of each class haverelatively the same status and the members of all other classeshave either more or less status.

All countries and societies have variations in social standing many countries, includingChina, tried to have a classless society but not with great success. Social stratification isthus a reality of life. As shown in Figure: Shared behaviour, the behaviour of all social classes are unique within themselves.



By unique behaviour we mean that each social class has its own pattern of purchase, education, occupation, recreation, etc. This is important to marketeers, in order to understand the needs of the consumer, and accordingly to frame a marketing strategy. There are many behaviours, that are common between social classes, and all social classes behave in a similar manner without much difference. This is shared behaviour. Excluded behaviour is one which the social classes do not indulge in. They try to avoid that behaviour, as it is against their standards and norms. These could be eating behaviour, i.e., the choice of the eating place. Buying behaviour: The places one avoids going to, like discount stores, etc. for the upper class. Social classes usually meet the following five criterion:

The social classes are bound by certain tacit restrictions which include or exclude certain individuals, places or objects. These are tacit rules they follow by themselves. They restrict behaviour as they share similar educational background, occupation lifestyle etc.
All social classes have a hierarchy or stratification in terms of income, prestige and status that distinguishes them from the others.
Mutually Exclusive
The individual only belongs to one class and behaves and acts accordingly. However, the movement from one class to another is possible and goes on with time. We have a new rich class which has moved upward with the time. They are upwardly mobile and belong to the open system. Those in closed system have inherited and inscribed status. They cannot leave their social class.
That every member of a social class must fit into some class and be identified with it.
There must be behavioural variations between classes or they may be expected to behave differently.

Based on the above criteria, it is clear that a strict and tightly-defined social class system does not exist. Social classes are basically divided into three major categories upper, middle and lower. For the great spread, we have further classified them into four classes by bringing the working class in between the middle and lower.

Social-class system

Warner’s index uses 4 variables as an index of social class. These are occupation, income, house and dwelling area. Warner has categorised the social class into 6 categories. This helps the marketeers in deciding their target group and the marketing strategy for each. For instance, the concept of mass marketing can be more successfully applied to middle or the lower classes, rather than the upper class. The upper class is a target for speciality goods and rare commodities which depict their social status.
Social Classes and their Buying Patterns
The buying behaviour of individuals and groups are strongly influenced by the social class to which they belong, or aspire to belong. Social class is also linked to demographic and geographic data. These classes are found living in clusters and have relatively homogeneous geodemographicsegments in terms of housing, urbanisation and other, viz. class difference in status is symbolic for food, housing, clothing, purchases, lifestyle.

Social Class in Consumer Behaviour

In a social class, people try to make the same kind of purchases as are expected by their peers. Marketeers try to target their products on class-based market segments.
Upper Upper Class
Upper-Uppers are the social elite who live on inherited wealth and have well-known families. They maintain more than one home and send their children tothe best schools. They are in the market for jewelry, antiques, homes, and foreignvacations. While small as group they serve as a reference group to others tothe extent that other social classes imitate their consumption decisions.
Lower Upper Class
Lower Uppers are persons who have earned high income or wealth through exceptional ability in their profession or business. They usually come from the middle-class. They tend to be active in social and civic affairs and seek to buy the symbols of social status for themselves and their children, such as expensive cars, homes and schooling. Their ambition is to be accepted and the upper-upper status, a status that is more likely to be achieved by their children than themselves.

Lifestyle orientation and purchasing pattern
Upper Middle Class
Upper Middles possess neither family status nor unusual wealth. The primarily concerned with “career”. They have attained positions as professionals, independent businesspersons, and corporate managers. They believe in education and want their children to develop professional or administrative skills so that they will not drop into the lower stratum. They are civic minded and are a quality market for good clothes, homes, furniture and appliances.
Lower Middle Class
The common man represents this group. Some are highly paid workers and small business owners and may not have a very high education.This class aspires for respectability. They wish to have well maintained houses in good neighbourhoods. Marketeers sell products, to this group, which have respectability and social acceptance in the society.
Upper Lower Class
Upper Lowers are working, though their living standard is just above the poverty line. They perform unskilled work and are poorly paid. Often they are educationally deficient. Although they fall near the poverty line, they manage to maintain some level of cleanliness
Lower Lower Class
Lower Lowers are visibly poverty-stricken and usually out of work. Some are not interested in finding permanent jobs and most are dependent in charity for income. Their homes and possessions are “dirty, ragged, and broken-down”.
Marketing Strategy and the Social Classes
Marketeers are interested in supplying the right products to the right customer (target segment)at the right price at the right time and with the right promotion. For this, first the target segment is selected and this can be done on the basis of social class, which is a better prediction of a consumer’s lifestyle than income. Reasons for shopping and purchases also differ among the social classes. The upper classes shop for pleasure, and tend to visit stores which are exclusive and sophisticated. The situation of stores are also important. They visit boutiques and are particular where they go shopping. The upper and middle classes indulge in greater information search and get information through the TV, magazines, newspapers, and from groups and individuals of their social status.

The lower classes are involved in buying less costly products and have much less information. They are more concerned with social relationship and respond to products and promotion of a different nature.

Developing-marketing Strategy for social class

Marketeers thus find that a combination of social class and income are superior for product classes that are visible. These products require moderate expenditure and are symbols of social status like TV sets, cars, clothing, etc.
In designing a market strategy using social stratification, a process is followed in which
(a) The marketeer relates the status of the group to the product.
(b) Data is collected as the targeted social strata.
(c) Positions the product according to social status.
(d) Develops a proper marketing mix.
While relating a product to the status of the group or individual, one has to understand that the product or brand consumed varies according to income, which may restrict the purchase of expensive items like cars. Education influences the consumption of fine arts, of imported goods and varies with social class. Credit cards, etc. are also used by different social classes for different purposes. This provides a motivation for purchase. Some use it for convenienceand safety, orboth, others use it to pay the monthly bills. Some products are used forsymbols of prosperity, and to project their social class. Products are offered for different use situations, i.e., parties, marriages gifts, daily use, etc.

The next step is to gather data on the lifestyles of people and how they want to become upwardly mobile by aspiring to have a desired lifestyle. To promote the product to their lifestyle, proper media must be chosen and used effectively. The shopping habits of buyers and their patterns of buying are also to be studied carefully.

In the third step, the product is positioned. It is positioned according to different income groups and social classes, e.g., Maruti-800 is an economy car; Zen is a world car; Esteem is more spacious and expensive.

Consumable products can also be positioned as a health drink Bournvita, economical drink (Rasna), fizz drinks, etc. The products can be positioned according to the needs of the social classes.

The last step is to find out and offer, a proper marketing mix to the social class. This consists of product, price, promotion and distribution, which have many alternatives and have to be juggled to suit the target market. The after sales service is also very important and must be given due emphasis to satisfy the customer, and ensure repeat sales.

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