In recent times, marketplaces are becoming extremely competitive. It is essential for companies to recognise the needs of consumers and ensure they are satisfied with the goods or services provided in order to survive and grow in the future. A company that is able to meet the needs of consumers and identify consumer behaviour better than the competition is more likely to be successful.
This essay will discuss what consumer behaviour is, why it is so important and how it is influenced by consumer needs, motivations and goals. This will be supported by comparing and contrasting the purchase and use of a service with the purchase and use of a good. The purchase and use of the service provided by McDonalds will be compared and contrasted with the purchase and use of the good provided by the Coca-Cola soft drink company. It is important to note that Coca-Cola is in partnership with McDonalds as they offer their soft drink products with the food service.
Consumer behaviour focuses on the buying behaviour of consumers who use goods and services personally for their own consumption. This includes being able to recognise what influences the consumer decision-making process such as their culture, social class, lifestyle and many more. One theory of understanding consumer behaviour would be to link an individual’s self-concept with symbolism and is determined by a buyer’s personality and the perceptive image around the good or service (Grubb & Grathwohl, 1967). What this means is that the marketer must find out how individuals perceive themselves and what symbols appeal to them in order to influence the buying process.
Understanding consumer behaviour through self-concept and symbolism is essential to companies as it provides information which is used to make decisions about the marketing mix (Grubb & Grathwohl, 1967). Analysing consumer behaviour can lead to finding out the value of a product and creating a price for it which will appeal to consumers.
Identifying the Link between Consumer Needs and Values
Consumer needs are often referred to as a day-to-day survival requirement such as food. However, a need can be affected by value and desire making it a want. Recognising and becoming aware of these needs and wants is the first stage of the decision-making process.
Kim et al (1984) argues that consumers choose particular goods and services because they provide benefits and express themselves with them. There a three different types of consumer needs such as functional, social and experiential needs. Functional needs are those that satisfy a product’s purpose. Social needs are satisfied when it positively affects a consumer’s social image whereas experiential needs are more like wants and reflect a consumer’s desire for pleasure which is considered the most important need (Kim et al 1984). However, this is contrasted with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which places physiological needs such as hunger and first as more important than self-esteem needs (Preston 2009). The Kim et al (1984) theory of the three different types of needs along with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs show that is it essential to understand the link between values such as culture with the needs of consumers as satisfying consumer needs affects consumer behaviour and the decision-making process.
A good or service is expected to satisfy unfulfilled consumer needs. Hill (1977) defines a good as a physical object which serves some sort of function to benefit a consumer and can be transferable between economic units. He also argues that a good or service must be able to be the subject of a transaction between economic units as there. It is easily to identify the process of production and the output of a good. For example, the soft drink produced by Coca-Cola is a good which is designed to satisfy the needs of consumers when they exchange economic units. It is clear that the soft drink bottle with the packaging is the good, and the process of production is the operations performed when creating the good.
“Services are not goods and their characteristics differ fundamentally from goods” (Hill, 1977, p. 315). He defines a service as a change in the condition of a person arising from the activity of another economic unit. Zeithaml et al (1985) describes intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity and perish ability as the main differences between a good and s service. The service fundamentals can be added to provide unique features matching customer needs (McDonald et al. 2001). Unlike goods, the process of production for a service is the activity which has some sort of an effect on a person and the output is the change in the condition of the consumer. For McDonalds, the process of production is making the food and the output is satisfying the hunger of the consumer. McDonalds is a food service retailer which caters to the needs of consumers. An example of McDonalds satisfying the needs is recognising that consumer’s value self-image which influences the decision-making process and offering their new range of healthy foods on their menus. Rowley et al. (2004) states that McDonalds is the world’s leading food service retailer due to meeting the needs of consumers using the internet, which is now a huge part of business operations.
Motivating and Attracting a Consumer to Satisfy Their Needs
Motivation is the term used to describe the internal drive of an individual to satisfy consumer needs or reach their goals. There are many motivators of purchasing a good or service which influence the buying process.
Preston (2009) recognises the theory of motivation known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which claims that people are motivated to satisfy their basic needs such as hunger before they can satisfy more complex needs such as love and intimacy. However, it is argued that hedonistic needs are more motivating in some purchases (Kim et al. 1984). Grubb & Grathwohl (1967) argue that an individual’s emotions about their self-image will act as a motivator in the decision-making process.
McDonald et al. (2001) explains that the theory of the fast-moving consumer goods model is used to build branding and create a corporate image along with their famous red labelled packaging. Coca-Cola uses this to distinguish between their main competitors such as Pepsi Co. Their product is easily identifiable due to the red label on their unique shaped bottles which creates brand awareness and the perception of Coca-Cola as unique brand. Coca-Cola understands that motivations are influenced by emotions, therefore creating slogans in their advertisements that establish a connection with the target market which influence the behaviour of consumers. These types of goods are known as utilitarian goods as they are cognitively driven (Dhar & Wertenbroch 2000)
McDonalds capitalise on basic needs such as hunger and thirst. This is shown through their “I’m lovin’ it” campaign (Rowley et al. 2004). Rowley et al. (2004) explains that this campaign establishes a connection with the target market and it depicts what foods people love from McDonald and other feelings they feel about the service which influences the decision-making process. Understanding the importance of various motivations in market research can lead to changes in goals and procedures to attract a consumer’s attention (Bargh 2002). With the use of advertising, McDonalds have little trouble with customer loyalty and relationship marketing and achieve their goals.
Setting and Achieving Consumer Goals
A goal can be defined as a desired result which a company wishes to achieve. When consumer needs are satisfied due to their motivation to make a purchase, they have reached their goal. Goals are essential as they give purpose to consumers which therefore motivates them to achieve their desires. Consumer goals include social, cultural and physical goals. Ratneshwar et al. (2000) assumes that goals are “cognitive representations of desired end-states” which guide consumer behaviour and consumption.
Ligas (2000) explains that there are three different levels of the hierarchical of model of consumer goals: the having, doing and being levels. Having level goals centre on individuals desires to own a product because of the brand and attributes associated with it. Doing level goals focus on individual wants to achieve an outcome in a certain situation. Being level goals are focused around the values of an individual (Ligas 2000). Ratneshwar et al. (2000) includes life and themes, life projects, current concerns, consumption intentions, benefits sought and feature preference as part of the consumer goal levels.
Bagozzi & Dholakia (1999) state that consumption can achieve goals. Goals influence consumer behaviour and a desired outcome enters the mind of the decision maker. Goals which are set must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
Coca-Cola influence consumption behaviour and appeal to consumers by understanding consumer goals which are linked to motivations. They help consumers satisfy their needs and goals by providing a branded soft drink that is affordable and is highly valued through market research and advertising to their target market. McDonalds act in a similar way to Coca-Cola. They provide good quality service and a range of products for consumers. They also understand the goals of consumers and create awareness of their food service which therefore consumers can then achieve their goals by purchasing the McDonalds service, therefore showing how goals influence consumption behaviour.
In summation, when a consumer becomes aware of a need or want, they must be motivated to satisfy that need which means that they are trying to achieve their goal. Consumer needs, motivation and goals are all affected by emotions which therefore influence consumption behaviour (Grubb & Grathwohl 1967). Coca-Cola which offers goods to consumers are able to recognise how consumer needs, motivations and goals are linked and influence the consumption behaviour. Therefore they are very successful as they cater those needs and motivate consumers to achieve their goals of purchasing the product.
Services are different to goods (Hill 1977). McDonalds is the world’s most successful food service retailer due to their ability to successfully market their service online to their target markets. The use of the internet has helped them meet the needs of consumers, motivate them the purchase their service and achieve their goals, therefore influencing consumption behaviour.
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