What Is Consumer Behavior?
Consumer behavior is the analysis of how consumers make decisions about what to buy, when to buy it, and how to do so. As well as purchasing behavior, it also involves how consumers think about various brands, how they choose between them, how they behave while deciding what to buy and how they are influenced by marketing campaigns, personal preferences, social and economic pressures and the wider culture.
Understanding consumer buying behavior is vital for marketers, as it sheds light on why consumers make the decisions they do. In turn, this will help marketers to understand which of their campaigns are more effective, and to more highly target their marketing spend in the future, increasing return on investment.
There are three types of human needs: basic needs (such as food, water, warmth and security), psychological needs (such as loving relationships) and self-fulfillment needs (reaching one’s full potential). When one of these needs isn’t being met, the consumer might decide that making a purchase will rectify this.
For example, maybe their running shoes have worn out, meaning they can’t exercise and so can’t meet their self-fulfillment needs of staying healthy, hence the search for a new pair.
Once they have recognized the problem (that their old product is no longer fit for purpose), they embark on an information search. In this case, it would mean searching the internet for running shoes, checking them out in-store, viewing ads, reading consumer reviews and getting advice from friends and acquaintances. Then they evaluate the alternatives, including brands, models and prices before making a purchase decision.
Finally comes post-purchase behavior – does the customer love the product, or hate it? And will they make their feelings known by writing a review or commenting on social media for other potential shoppers to see?
Different Types of Consumer Behavior
There are four main types of consumer behavior:
1. Complex buying behavior
This refers to buying infrequent, expensive products, like a house or a car. Because of the expense and emotional investment involved, consumers are highly involved in the purchasing process, and do extensive research.
2. Dissonance-reducing buying behavior
The consumer is still highly involved, but has difficulty choosing between brands and worries they may regret their choice.
3. Habitual buying behavior
With these purchases, the customer has little involvement in the product or brand category. These patterns are established over the long term, and typically involve low-cost items – for example, the type and brand of bread, soda and milk you buy.
4. Variety seeking behavior
Consumers sometimes change their purchasing behavior for no reason other than to try something new. They might be perfectly happy with their brand of coffee, for example, but just want to see what a different make is like.
What Influences Consumer Behavior?
Many variables affect customer behavior. You can control some of these, but for some, you will just have to bear in mind if you want to understand consumer behavior and then influence it.
Marketing campaigns can prompt customers to switch brands, stay loyal, and even start buying types of products and services that were previously alien to them.
Personal purchasing power
Economic factors have a direct bearing on personal purchasing power. This affects everything from big ticket items like houses and cars right down to everyday buys like groceries.
Each consumer has their own personal preferences in terms of tastes, morals, priorities and values. These are shaped by individual principles, value as well as the wider culture.
The purchasing decisions of others in our social circle will also play a big part in determining customer behavior.
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