Model of Consumer buyer behaviour - Marketing Management

The distinguishing feature of consumer as opposed to organizational buyer behaviour is the fact that consumer buying behaviour consists of activities involved in buying and using products or services for personal and household use. To investigate this, it is advantageous to break down the purchase process into a model to simplify the process and factors influencing purchasing behaviour. a simplified model.

As can be seen, environmental influences that are external to the consumer affect purchase behaviour. The consumer also has influences that are individually determined. Both these types of influence are carried, consciously or subconsciously, within the consumer’s memory. The third box in the diagram shows the decision-making process an individual goes through when purchasing a product. The feedback lines show that at any stage, information can be fed back and the purchase process can be stopped and resumed at an earlier stage. The model is now discussed in greater detail.

Simplified model of consumer buying behaviour

Simplified model of consumer buying behaviour

Environmental influences

Marketing communications are all around us. Some of these are retained in our memory, and we have an image of companies and the goods and services they provide. This may lead to an immediate motivation to purchase the product, or to be aware of the product, which might lead to purchase at a later stage.

Culture

As behaviour is learned, culture determines the broad values and attitudes an individual holds. Culture can be investigated by using an inventory of values. A child growing up in a certain culture learns its cultural values from socializing with other people, so the family, school and friends have a large impact on the cultural values with which the child grows up. Other aspects of culture are more dynamic. For example, the role of women in some societies has changed dramatically over the years.

Even though culture is a basic foundation of society, in the strategic management process it has to be monitored for changes. In addition, culture is often assumed, and this has led to many mistakes when companies have tried to market their products abroad where there are often substantial cultural differences. Yapprak et al.11 suggest there is a need for improved concepts and techniques of culture study in marketing and that an understanding of culture is essential for a whole range of marketing decisions from product development, advertising and communication to segmentation targeting and positioning. We explore these important international cross-cultural factors, ‘Global marketing’. Within a national culture, other aspects of the sociocultural environment include subculture, social class, group and family influences.

Subculture refers to groups in society that have distinct cultural differences. This includes nationality groups such as Indian, Ghanaian, Italian or Japanese, who have their own individual lifestyles and values. Religious groups, such as Muslims, Jews, Christians and Hindus are a subculture within the larger cultural group.

Blacks, whites and Asians are examples of broad racial groupings and geographical groups can include Northern Europeans, Southern Europeans or people living in Belgium or Spain as distinct groups. Subculture groups can vary in the products they buy, the outlets they buy from, prices paid and the media they read. Subcultures take on an array of influences; youth subculture takes on influences from fashion, music, sports personalities and family, for example. By definition subcultures are different, but some are more different from others, sometimes bizarrely so. Below are eight of the world’s most bizarre subcultures. Ever heard of them? If not, you are not part of one of them. Check them out and see what makes them bizarre!

  1. Otherkin
  2. Norwegian Black Metal
  3. Bosozoku
  4. Sukeban
  5. Goths
  6. Argentinean Floggers
  7. Lolitas
  8. Hardline

Social class

This is the grouping together of individuals or families who have certain common social or economic characteristics. Members of the same social class often exhibit similar patterns of behaviour and similar views and interests. social class is often used to segment markets and determine targeting strategies. Criteria used for this type of grouping can be occupation, education or income. People from the same social class are more alike than people from differing classes.

Social class is seen in terms of higher or lower classes (although individuals can move from one class to another) but this depends on the rigidity of the social system in a particular society. It is a major influence on buyer behaviour because it shows different product purchase behaviour in certain product categories. Examples are cars and holidays, where social class is a determining factor of the types of product purchased. The ‘best’ measures of social class include a number of factors rather than just one, such as occupation. Social class may determine not only the products people choose to purchase, but also the type of store chosen. For example, a department store, market stall, mail order, the Internet or independent retailer may be favoured by certain social classes.

Groups and family

Group influences affect purchase decisions. Reference groups are groups an individual is exposed to that have a direct or an indirect influence on behaviour and attitudes. Primary groups are ones with which contact is continuous and include family, neighbours, friends and colleagues. Secondary groups have less contact with individual members; e.g. members of a football team. People also have aspirations and may be affected by group pressure from an aspirational group; this is often used for example when marketing cosmetics with advertisements showing women from the aspirational group of beauty, wealth and desirability using the product. Reference groups affect people in three ways:

  1. they influence self image and attitudes;
  2. they expose individuals to new behaviour;
  3. they create pressure to conform.

Reference group importance will depend on the product in question. If group influences are strong the marketer will seek to identify opinion leaders in the group. Opinion leaders have influence over members of their reference group. For instance, if you are about to purchase a computer and a friend you know is interested in them, then you may ask this friend for advice; then the friend is an opinion leader. The family group also has an influence on purchase behaviour and many purchases are made as a family group, e.g. the purchase of a house, a holiday, a car and furniture. In family decision making, individual members may assume different roles. Depending on the purchase and individuals involved they may perform one or many roles outlined below:

  1. information gatherer;
  2. influencer;
  3. decision maker;
  4. purchaser;
  5. consumer.

For example, for the purchase of a holiday, a mother and daughter may go into a travel agent and pick up brochures; all the family will influence the decision, and the final decision might be made by the father, but the mother books the holiday and is then the purchaser. All the family are consumers. Some products within family decision making are dominated by the husband or wife; others are made jointly.

Marketers of many brands recognize that consumption habits, including brand choice and patterns of product usage, are often established early on in the consumer’s life and once established can last a lifetime.

  • Procter & Gamble’s ‘Sunny Delight’ was one of the most successful new brands to be launched in the UK. Introduced to the UK market in 1998, in just two years it had reached sales of £160 million, rivalling Coke and Pepsi. Kids loved it. But then it all went wrong. A stream of bad publicity hit the brand, centred round the fact that the product was not as healthy as it claimed. In addition one child turned orange through consuming too much of it. By 2003 Procter and Gamble sold the brand and it disappeared from the UK market. It’s now back.

Marketed once more as a healthy drink and called Sunny D. Guess what! The kids who loved it in the late 1990s still love it, even though many are young adults with children of their own. They now buy Sunny D for their children and a new Sunny D generation has been born. n One of the biggest user groups on the Internet is children. Unsurprisingly, brands like ‘Slush Puppy’ have been amongst the first to create websites on the Net that engage children.

  • Tesco launched its ‘Computers for Schools’ campaign which is sponsored by Pepsi, Tango and 7-Up brands. This is campaign is actually aimed at the parents of children, but uses the power of children to persuade their parent to buy.

Situational factors

Situational factors determine a purchase or consumption situation and can be a major aspect in purchase behaviour. If you were asked about your favourite food it would be acceptable to state that it depends upon the situation. At times you may prefer a snack, at others a meal with the family and at other times a meal in a restaurant. The consumption situation directly influences consumer brand perceptions and purchase behaviour, i.e. the place and situation in which the product is going to be consumed. Product availability, special offers and changes in price may also affect purchase behaviour.

In addition to environmental factors that influence a consumer’s purchase decisions, there are individual differences that are personal or individual to the consumer. Psychological factors include perceptions, motivations, attitudes and personality. Perception is the way in which people select, organize and interpret stimuli. This includes how a person sees and interprets a company and its products. When a message is perceived it is modified by the individual’s interpretation.

An individual selects (subconsciously) exposure to, attention towards, comprehension and retention of stimuli. This information is organized so that it can be easily understood. This is done largely subconsciously by placing information in categories or combining these into brand images. It is, therefore, important that marketers build up brand awareness so a personality for the brand is developed in the minds of prospective buyers.

Attitudes are specific: an attitude is held about a certain product or supplier in the context of consumer behaviour. Attitudes are difficult to change, so companies finding that certain products are associated with a poor attitude might be better advised to change the product than try to change consumer attitudes.

Demographic variables describe individuals according to age, sex, income, education and occupation. Demographic factors have a bearing on the types of product individuals want, where they shop and how they evaluate possible purchases. For instance, a teenage girl might generally want different clothing products than those purchased by her mother. A concept similar to age is life cycle stage. Throughout life, people go through stages: single, married, married with children, children left home and retired. At each of these stages their product needs will be changing. Some never marry, but their needs change at different periods of life.

Lifestyle variables encompass an individual’s activities, interests and opinions (called AIO research). A person’s lifestyle is how they interact with their environment, which has implications for purchase behaviour. Lifestyle concepts and research are useful to the contemporary marketer, especially with regard to market segmentation and targeting and these are elaborated.

The economic situation an individual faces affects purchase decisions. This not only encompasses how much income individuals have, but whether they have borrowing power and their attitude toward spending. Individual and environmental influences may then be stored in an individual’s memory, which will be used during the decision-making process.

The decision-making process

The decision-making process is shown in the lower box and encompasses five stages. The first stage is when an individual feels a need that a product will satisfy and is motivated to evaluate the goods on offer. People have many varying needs. If a need is intense they become motivated to purchase the product that will satisfy it. Abraham Maslow12 described different needs of humans as being hierarchical. This shows, at the bottom of the pyramid, physiological needs which are the most basic of human needs.

When needs are met lower in the pyramid, individuals move up the hierarchy to fulfil ‘higher’ needs. Purchasing motivation can be stimulated by marketing. For instance, when people see an advertisement for a burger they may feel hunger and purchase one or they may seek alternatives like going to a restaurant to fulfil this need. This search for alternatives may be external i.e. physically looking for alternatives or internal i.e. searching through memory.

Marketers need to research how they can stimulate need for their products and the types of information consumers require.

An example of how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be useful to the development of strategic marketing plans is contained in research by Swoboda et al.13 In a study which looked at the relevance of service in the retail environment they found that many customers had moved on from looking to simply meet their basic needs when purchasing. Instead they had moved up the hierarchy of needs and were looking for much more personal service from the retailers they shopped at. Personal service quality appealing to what Maslow might have identified as social and achievement needs was extremely important in building an effective retailer brand image.

Ozuem, Howell and Lancaster14 conducted research that suggested that the advent of the Internet and its widespread deployment as a means of communication was changing the information environment where once fragmentation was the ruling condition. Technology, they argued, is creating a ‘defragmented’ society.By providing a new common interface for shopping at ‘lightning’ pace in a competitive environment, the traditional idea that a valuable shopping experience depends on a human marketplace is now giving way to virtual computer-mediated marketing environments, and they concluded that the web-enabled marketing environment is best suited for information gathering.

There are numerous sources of information including that from friends or word-of-mouth, from advertisements and media sources such as press articles about a particular product or service. Another source of information is the handling of the products. When information has been assimilated by the individual, he or she can make judgements about alternative brands that are available. Marketers, as well as building awareness, need to ensure their products have unique selling propositions (USPs) so they stand out amongst competing brands.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

When consumers have enough information they will evaluate alternatives. Criteria on which products are evaluated vary depending on the products and how many brands are available. The evaluative criteria used depend on what need is being fulfilled by the product. Most often highlighted is the role of price and the brand image.

It is imperative that marketers know on what basis their products are being judged. If there are common themes from consumers for the evaluation of alternative products and the ideal product offering, this has implications for marketing management. It means that products can be tailored to suit consumer needs and marketing communications can respond to the evaluation criteria they use. Evaluating products often coincides with actually searching for the products.

When a product or brand has been evaluated, one product is selected for purchase. However, purchase intention can be affected by unforeseen factors e.g. a price rise or other people’s opinions can have an effect on purchase choice even at this late stage. There may, therefore, be no purchase at all.

Purchase outcomes or post-purchase behaviour will be either satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the purchase choice. Again, the product will be judged against the needs that were to be fulfilled by it and by the criteria on which alternative brands were judged. Satisfaction occurs when expectations of the product are either met or exceeded. This is remembered next time it is purchased. The consumer may then tell friends about being satisfied with the product.

If expectations have not been met, the consumer experiences some post-purchase dissonance. There are many ways in which consumers try to reduce post-purchase dissonance. They can find information to support their product choice, or avoid information that will not confirm their purchase. If dissonance is strong, the consumer may take action either against the company directly, perhaps asking for a refund, or indirectly by telling friends about problems with the product.

Marketers should be conscious of the importance of post-purchase feelings, and in particular the need to ensure that customers are satisfied with their purchase decisions. Effective marketers contact customers after purchase to enquire whether they are happy with their purchase and the way they have been dealt with. This cannot always be done on an individual personal basis, but it is possible to communicate with customers in writing to demonstrate that the company values their custom and are willing to respond to any dissatisfaction they may be experiencing as a result of having purchased the products or services.

Similarly, companies can use tracking studies to assess levels of customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction over time. Research findings show that dissatisfied customers will on average express this dissatisfaction to nine other actual or potential customers. As we have seen in the context of reference groups, word-of-mouth is extremely important in influencing customer choice. In addition, marketers appreciate that it is more cost effective to retain existing customers than to attract new ones.

Research has shown that attracting a new customer costs approximately five times the cost of retaining an existing one. The importance of this initial cost difference is further underpinned by the lifetime value of loyal customers, which can mean substantial amounts of revenue and profit to a company. It is vital to assess levels of customer retention and causes of customer attrition, and take steps to increase the former while reducing the latter. There is strong evidence that the customer’s experience of relationship quality has a major impact on reducing post-purchase perceived value. Moliner et al.15 contend that the higher the quality of the relationship, the greater will be the perceived value of the purchase and the greater will be customers’ likelihood of purchasing again. Recognition of the importance of keeping customers and building loyalty is a major reason for the growth of relationship marketing.

Whether or not all these behavioural stages are experienced, as well as the time spent at each stage, depends on the individual and the product purchased. Some products require extensive problem solving where a great deal of information is required to make a decision. This type of product is usually expensive, complex to understand, and/or has not been bought previously e.g. a house, a personal computer or a car. Limited search and evaluation will be used when there is some knowledge of the products on offer e.g. a small item of furniture or bed linen for the house. When customers know a great deal about the product, there is little search and evaluation.

The purchase may be habitual e.g. repeat buying of the same brand of toothpaste or washing powder. This ‘low involvement’ decision making causes some problems for marketers. Should they try to make such decisions ones of ‘high involvement’? Are consumers being brand loyal to products in an active way or are they displaying inertia? What is the best way of promoting the product in a low involvement market? Ways in which marketers try to increase involvement of consumers include:

  1. Link the product with an issue, e.g. the marketing of relatively mundane products being described as being environmentally friendly or ‘green’.
  2. Use advertising that involves consumers, e.g. ‘try the Pepsi challenge’.
  3. Change product benefits, e.g. The washing detergent ‘Radion’ advertisements emphasize the benefit of effectively cleansing work-stained clothes and making them clean smelling.

Using a model the marketer how to break down consumer behavior into aspects that can be analysed for effective strategic marketing planning. Many aspects of consumer behaviour can also be used to evaluate organizational buying behaviour and we now turn our attention to this.

A Shocking Example

A more extreme example of trying to increase levels of consumer involvement is the controversial approach to advertising used by the Benetton Company. Luciano Benetton’s belief is that ‘communication should not be commissioned from outside the company, but conceived from within its heart.’ Their campaigns for clothing products have included pictures of dying Aids patients and kissing nuns. Although the advertising campaigns are complex and multifaceted they have nothing to do with Benetton clothing: as much as anything, they are designed to increase customer involvement with the product and brand by linking these products with issues.

These campaigns have gathered international awards, but at the same time have provoked fervent reactions, confirming that they are a focal point of discussion of confrontational ideas. When photographs of Death Row inmates were included in their advertising the backlash from families of murder victims was so severe that they convinced the Sears chain not to stock Benetton products, which was an enormous setback. This led to the end of the tenure at Benetton of Toscani, their photographer and creative marketing director, who specialized in confronting the public with challenging issues.


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