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Consumer behaviour for branded clothing

Introduction

This section of literature review studies the factors influencing purchase behaviour of consumers for branded clothes in the apparel sector. It begins by providing an overview of the global apparel market for branded clothing and proceeds with the framework of consumer behaviour towards branded clothes. Understanding consumer behaviour is very complex since the subject is deeply linked with human psychology. Thus, it is considered as one of the greatest challenge of marketers. Also, marketers are bound to have a complete understanding of the pattern of choice of consumers so that to develop the correct marketing strategies among which the integrated marketing communication strategy plays a crucial role.

Understanding Consumer Behaviour for branded clothing in the Apparel Sector

According to Grant and Graeme (2005, pp.452) consumer behaviour is a complex area, but marketers do need to try to find out as much as they can about who their customers are in order to identify their needs, how they behave, what influences them to make a decision to buy and what processes they follow when selecting a product/service.

Consumer behavior is defined as the actions and decision-making processes of buyers as they recognize their desire for a product or service, and engage in the search, evaluation, purchase, use, and disposal of that particular commodity (Rath et al., 2008). It can also be defined as ‘a mental orientation characterizing a consumer approach to making a choice’ (Sproles and Kendall, 1986).

Branding is originally an identifier, but technically a trademark. According to the UK Trademarks Act of 1994, a brand is any sign capable of being represented graphically, which is capable of distinguishing goods or services of one undertaking from those of another undertaking (Robertson, 2000, p.18). Branding was introduced to differentiate homogenous products such as clothing (O’Cass, 2000, p.546).

Brand is a name in every consumer’s mind (Mooij, 1998) and it is characterized by a noticeable name or symbol which can differentiate the goods and services from the rivals’ (Aaker, 1991; Keller, 1998). In addition to a specific brand name, a brand is also composed of products, packaging, promotion, advertising, as well as its overall presentation (Murphy, 1998).

Nowadays, consumers have a wide range of choice to choose from when they enter a shopping mall. It is found that consumers’ emotions are one of the major determinants which affect their buying behaviour (Berry, 2000). According to a research conducted by Freeride Media LLC (1998) on shopping habits, nearly one-forth of the respondents are likely to impulse-buy clothes and accessories. When deciding which products to purchase, consumers would have their preferences, which are developed in accordance with their perceptions towards the brand. Successful branding could make consumers aware of the presence of the brand and hence could increase the chance of buying the company’s products and services (Doyle, 1999).

Additionally a determinant of the degree to which customers evaluate a brand is the level of involvement with high involvement meaning extensive evaluation of the product and/or alternatives (Hawkins, Best and Coney, 1989). For clothing products the degree of involvement is suggested as being typically medium to high (Breward, 2000).

Models of Consumer Behaviour

Several models are developed with a view to provide explanations for the consumer buying behaviours. Although they vary in form of presentation, most of them are composed of stages such as pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase (hoyer and maclnnis, 2001; rayport and jaworski, 2003). The figure below shows the stages involve in the purchase decisions process.

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Figure 3: Decision Making Process http://advertisingaphasia.blogspot.com

The problem recognition stage starts when the consumer perceives a need and is motivated to address these needs, known as an unsatisfied need (Levy and Weitz, 1992).

Second stage involves looking for information so as to fulfill the need, while also considering value proposition. Belch and Belch (2007) explain that consumers carry out both internal (memory) and external search. The length and depth of search vary for different customers and depend on variables like personality, social class, income, size of purchase, past experiences, prior brand perceptions (Moorthy et al., 1997), as well as customer satisfaction.

In the third stage, the consumer will compare the information about the different brands and assess promised value of each brand. In this stage, consumers pay particular attention to the attributes which are most relevant to their needs (Kolter et al., 2005). Attributes like quantity, size, quality and price are commonly used to judge a brand by customers. Any changes in these attributes can affect consumer decisions on brand or product choices (Blackwell et al., 2006). According to Porter (2004), firms can create value by providing lower price or unique offers to the customers so as to excel their competitive advantages over the others.

Stage four refers to the purchase decisions made by the consumers after evaluating the offers from different retailers. As stated by Blackwell et al. (2006), there are two phases contributing to the decision making processes, including retailer and in-store selection.

The last step often influences further purchase or rejection of the product.

Many previous studies nonetheless assume that the decision-making process occurs in a linear, step-by-step process. However, other authors (Fisher, 1970; Gersick, 1988; Lee and Marshall, 1998) view the process to be non-linear, proceeding in iterative cycles.

Factors influencing behaviour for branded clothes in the Apparel Sector

There are many influences on purchasing behaviour, including social (culture, sub-culture, social class, reference groups, and family), technological, political, economic and personal factors (motivation, personality, self-image, perception, learning, beliefs and attitudes) (Grant and Graeme, p.459).

Figure : Black box model of consumer buying behaviour

Source: Keegan et al. (1992, p. 193)

According to Keegan (1992) it is called the 'black box' model because little is know about how the human mind works. The model suggests that factors external to the consumer will act as a stimulus for behaviour, but that the consumer's personal characteristics and decision-making process will interact with the stimulus before a particular behavioural response is generated (Keegan et al. (1992, p. 193).

Attitudes

Jobber (2001, p.78) defines an attitude as “an overall favourable or unfavourable evaluation of a product or service”. Attitudes are basically people’s likes and dislikes regarding products, services, ideas, brands, organisations and people. Attitudes are learned through the socialisation and cognitive processes and can therefore be changed. They act as a framework on which we build thoughts and beliefs.

However, changing attitudes can be difficult, as they fit into a pattern and to change one attitude may require radical adjustments to be made to others (Kotler et al., 2001). A consumer’s attitude to a brand is very influential in the decision-making process and attitudes are shaped by many factors including education, economic circumstances, family, age, experience, the law and social background (Lamb et al., 2002; Stokes, 2002; Ross and Harradine, 2004).

Reference Group

Reference groups consist of people who share common beliefs and values and with whom we have regular direct contact and can be classified as either primary or secondary and both are important as they influence buying behaviour. Antonides and van Raaj (1998, p. 333) define a reference group as “a group of people that an individual refers to for comparison when making judgements about his or her own circumstances, attitudes and behaviour”. Family and friends therefore fall into this category, as they are important influencers of behaviour, through their social communication activities.

Brand Equity

The term ‘brand equity’ refers to a set of assets and liabilities associated with a brand, including its name and symbol, which could impose beneficial or detrimental effects on the values arising from the products or services (Aaker, 1991; Yasin et al., 2007).

For the consumers, brand equity could provide them with information about the brand which influences their confidence during the purchasing process and there is a high propensity for consumers with good perceptions to buy from the same shop again than those with poor perceptions (Aaker, 1991).

Brand equity is a broad concept which can be further subdivided into four main areas, namely brand loyalty, name awareness, perceived quality and brand associations (Aaker, 1991; Keller, 1998).

Brand Awareness

Brands with higher level of awareness would be more likely to be purchased (Yasin et al., 2007). This could probably explain why consumers tend to buy a recognizable brand rather than an unfamiliar one (Hoyer, 1990; Macdonald and Sharp, 2000).

As mentioned by Keller (1998), brand awareness can be enhanced through repeat exposure to the brand. In order to achieve brand awareness, two tasks are to be accomplished, namely increasing brand name identity and associating it with the product class. Advertising and celebrity endorsement could be some useful tools for raising brand awareness. It is found that advertisement attitude is attributable to the influence on brand attitudes, affecting consumer’s intention to purchase (Mackenzie et al., 1986; Tsai et al., 2007).

Perceived quality

As mentioned by Srikatanyoo and Gnoth (2002), consumers are inclined to develop stereotypical beliefs about the products from particular countries. Hence, consumers could have their preferences for products made from one country over another (Papadopoulos et al., 1991). Moreover, price is one of the important cues to evaluate perceived quality (Aaker, 1991).

Brand Loyalty

Brand loyalty is one of the core components of brand equity and also positively and directly affected brand equity (Atilgan et al., 2005). Under the influence of brand loyalty, consumers continue to buy the brand, regardless of the superior features, prices and convenience owned by its competitors (Aaker, 1991).

For many companies, having loyal customers is a kind of blessing (Tam, 2007) because loyal customers could influence other customers to purchase the brand. This is typically true when the product concerned is somewhat risky.

In this case, consumers are assured to buy the product if they have some friends or relatives who recommend the same model of product. This suggests why word-of-mouth communication is one of the most powerful tools in the marketplace (Henricks, 1998; Marney, 1995; Silverman, 1997; Bansal and Voyer, 2000).

Brand Association

Brand association is such a complicated concept that connects to one another, consisting of multiple ideas, episodes, examples, and facts that create a brand knowledge network (Yoo et al., 2000).

Keller (1993, 1998) further divides brand associations into three categories, namely attributes, benefits and attitudes.

Attributes can be further categorized into product-related attributes as well as non-product related attributes. For product-related attributes, the overall features of the product or service are concerned. As for non-product related attributes, price information, packaging, user imagery as well as usage imagery are to be considered.

Benefits are another category in brand associations. They can be classified into functional, experimental and symbolic. According to Garvin’s work, consumers assess brands based on the following functional issues:

Performance

Features

Reliability

Conformance to specification

Durability

Serviceability

Aesthetics

Reputation

Finally, attitudes are regarded as the consumers’ overall assessments towards a brand. They incorporate summary evaluations of information which represent how consumers feel in a long run, lying in a continuum from positive to negative (Gabbott and Hogg, 1998).

Other Factors affecting consumer behaviour of brand choice in Apparel Sector

Gender

Gender related effects on brand involvement have been identified by researchers such as Auty and Elliot (1998) who have shown that women are more involved in fashion than men. However, interestingly, a recent study of fashion consciousness in Eastern European markets showed that young male respondents were more fashion conscious than their female counterparts (Manrai et al., 2001).

Age

Age has also been identified as an important dimension in fashion clothing. Age differences or effects in fashion clothing attachment and usage are said to exist by Auty and Elliot (1998), and O’Cass (2000).

Country of Origin

Schooler (1965) concluded that the country of origin of a product can have an effect on a consumer’s opinion of the product. Other authors mention that perceptions towards a country image have significant effects on consumers’ attitudes towards individual brands in the country (Bilkey et al., 1982).

The influence of IMC on Consumer Behaviour for branded clothes in the Apparel Sector

The influence of branded Product on consumer behaviour

Clothing is used as a code, which allows messages to be created and understood selectively (Auty & Elliott, 1998:109). According to Entwistle (2000) clothing is not simply about physical garments but takes on a multi-faceted significance where people use fashion to define and negotiate their identity in wider social contexts.

From the consumers’ perspective, brand is a guarantor of reliability and quality in consumer products (Roman et al., 2005). Added to this, consumers would like to buy and use brand-name products with a view to highlight their personality in different situational contexts (Aaker, 1999; Fennis and Pruyn, 2006).

The influence of Price on consumer behaviour

In case of apparels, especially in fashion, price is not of big importance. Service is the key today which will shift to focus on personality in the future (Source: http//www. Fibre2fashion.com). However, Price is argued as being an important indicator for customers in evaluating the quality of products and within the clothing sector this also holds true (Easey, 2002).

Guiry et al. (2006) found that the consumer who enjoyed the recreational nature of shopping more, labeled Shopping Enthusiasts, spent more time and significantly more money than those who did not view shopping as positively.

The influence of Place on consumer behaviour

Shim and Kotsiopulos (1993) found psychographic shopping orientation differences among shoppers who preferred different retail channels. Specifically, participants in this study who indicated lower confidence in shopping for themselves and less interest in fashion (Apathetic Shoppers) preferred discount stores while the participant groups who were more confident and interested in appearance (Highly Involved) and concerned with convenience (Convenience Oriented) preferred specialty stores, department stores, and catalogs. On the other hand, Moye and Kincade (2003) did not find significantly different store type preferences among different segments of female shoppers.

The influence of Promotion mix on consumer behaviour

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