Consumer behavior is the study of individuals, groups, and organizations, and how they go about purchasing, using, and consuming products and services in order to fulfill their wants and needs. It is about what motivates us as consumers to choose the products and services we do, whether we’re purchasing for ourselves or someone else, and also what we do after making our purchases – how do we use our products and services and how do we dispose of them? Marketers use this information to determine how to best persuade us to buy their products and services and also to predict future sales.
As an individual consumer, my buying decisions are influenced by advertising, trends, income, and lifestyle. I see advertising everywhere, from my browser when I’m surfing the internet to television commercials and everything in between. I’m also influenced by the buying habits of my friends and family. To broaden this a bit, consumer behavior – mine and yours – is influenced by cultural, social, personal, and psychological factors.
Consumer behavior falls into four basic types:
- Impulse purchasing: These are the random goods we pick up while waiting in line to check out with our other purchases – a pack of gum, a magazine, or a bottle of hand sanitizer seems like a good idea in the moment and it gets thrown into the cart with the rest of our items.
- Routine purchasing: This is the behavior most of us engage in most often – buying groceries, our morning Starbucks, or getting the car washed are good examples. We do these things without much conscious thought and we don’t need to consult reviews or friends to make the purchasing decision.
- Occasional purchasing: These are purchases that require limited decision-making time – finding a new hairdresser or picking out a new outfit for a special occasion are perfect examples of this type of behavior. These decisions don’t require a ton of thought, but we will usually explore two or three options before making a decision.
- Rare purchasing: These are major purchases for high-priced items like a new car, a house, or a computer, in which we, as consumers, spend a lot of time comparison shopping to ensure that we get the most value for our dollars. We might conduct this research online, with friends and family, or by reading books or magazines. The decision-making process takes longer for this type of purchase because we expect to spend more money and we also anticipate that the product we buy will last a long time (Brookins, 2017).
All of us exhibit all of these four types of consumer behavior at one time or another, but it’s how we get to that decision that is actually the most interesting part of studying consumer behavior. The consumer buying process includes six steps that show how consumers get from discovering the need for a certain product or service to actually making that purchase, and beyond.
The actual decision to purchase is made in the middle of the six stages; at this point, we have realized the need for a particular product or service, gathered information about it, evaluated our alternatives, and finally, we are ready to make a decision. It is here, in these first few stages, that we are most influenced by marketing research and design. As we research our options and choices, we are confronted with marketing every step of the way, from slick landing pages on company’s websites to video and graphical advertising on these company’s social media sites, marketers are using their skills to target and sell to us.
After that, all that is left is to actually spend the money, take our new “precious” home, and live with it. And at the end of it all, we decide whether we like the product or service enough to become repeat customers. If we don’t, that might result in a purchase, but if we do, we have become a marketer’s dream. This is known as post-purchase behavior and it all hinges on our personal satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the product or service we have purchased (“Post Purchase Behavior,” n.d.). I have had buyer’s remorse, or post-purchase dissonance, a time or two, usually in relation to customer service more than any real problem with the purchase itself.
So, tell me, what kind of consumer are you? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave me a comment!
Brookins, M. (2017). Types of Consumer Buying Behaviors & Product Decisions. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/types-consumer-buying-behaviors-product-decisions-10273.html
Jones, S. (2014, March 18). The Six Stages of the Consumer Buying Process and How to Market to Them. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://www.business2community.com/consumer-marketing/six-stages-consumer-buying-process-market-0811565#u34vi22LB65aPmlB.97
“Post Purchase Behavior,” (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2017, from https://www.boundless.com/marketing/textbooks/boundless-marketing-textbook/consumer-marketing-4/the-consumer-decision-process-40/post-purchase-behavior-204-10576/