Consumer behaviour study is based on consumer buying behaviour, with the consumer playing the three distinct roles of users, payer and buyer. Consumer behaviour is the study of when, why, how, and where people do or do not buy products. It blends elements from psychology, sociology, social anthropology and economics. It attempts to understand the buyer decision making process, both individually and in groups. It studies characteristics of individual consumers such as demographics and behavioural variables in an attempt to understand people’s wants. It also tries to assess influences on the consumer from groups such as family, friends, reference groups, and society in general.
WHAT IS CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR?
Consumer behaviour can be defined as ‘the dynamic interaction of affect and cognition, behaviour, and environmental events by which human beings conduct the exchange aspects of their lives’. There are at least three important ideas in this definition: (1) consumer behaviour is dynamic; (2) it involves interaction between affect and cognition, behaviour, and environmental events; and (3) it involves exchange.
CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR IS DYNAMIC
First, the definition emphasis that consumer behaviour is dynamic. This means individual consumers, consumer groups, and society at large are constantly changing and evolving over time. This has important implications for the study of consumer behaviour as well as for developing marketing strategies. In terms of studying consumer behaviour, one implication is that generalizations about consumer behaviour are usually limited to specific periods of time, products, and individuals or groups. Thus, students of consumer behaviour must be careful not to over- generalize theories and research findings.
In terms of developing marketing strategies, the dynamic nature of consumer behaviour implies that one should not expect the same marketing strategy to work all the time across all products, markets, and industries. While this may seem obvious, many companies have failed to recognize the need to adapt their strategies in different markets.
Further, a strategy that is successful at one point may fail miserably at another point because of the dynamism of the consumers and the markets, and this is what makes marketing strategy development such an exciting , yet challenging, task.
Many companies have developed extensive database that allow them to target individual consumers. Here are a few of them: –
NESTLE chose to launch a new pasta product through the post rather than through television. It is cheaper for them to develop a database of the right socioeconomic profile of pasta-eaters than it is to promote via television.
UNILEVER uses database marketing to target their loyal customers, trying to make loyalty last. In Sweden, they are creating a database with users of their Organics shampoo on the basis of participants in a recent competition. They have also sent out samples of a new Dove sensitive crème douche to target segments in order to create awareness.
CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR INVOLVES INTERACTIONS
A second important point emphasized in the definition of consumer behaviour is that it involves interactions between affect and cognition, behaviour, and environmental events. This means that to understand consumers and develop superior marketing strategies, we must understand what they think (cognition) and feel (affect), what they do (behaviour), and the things and places (environmental events) that influence and are influenced by what consumers think, feel, and do. Whether we are evaluating a single consumer, a target market, or an entire society, analysis of all three elements is useful for understanding and developing marketing strategies.
CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR INVOLVES EXCHANGES
A final point emphasized in the definition of consumer behaviour is that it involves exchanges between human beings. This makes the definition of consumer behaviour consistent with current definitions of marketing that also emphasize exchange. In fact, the role of marketing is to create exchanges with consumers by formulating and implementing marketing strategies.
APPROACHES TO CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR RESEARCH
Two broad groups are interested in consumer behaviour – a basic research group and an action-oriented group. The basic research group is mainly composed of academic researchers interested in studying consumer behaviour as a way of developing a unique body of knowledge about this aspect of human behaviour. These researchers have backgrounds in anthropology, sociology, psychology, economics, and marketing, as well as other fields. The majority of published work on consumer behaviour is basic research, and this work forms the foundation of our text.
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Because researchers dealing with consumer behaviour have different backgrounds, the way in which they analyse consumer behaviour, the topics they concentrate on, the kind of theories they develop, and the kind of research methods they employ differ as well. Some consumer research is very qualitative, with an emphasis on understanding a particular consumption event, a particular family’s consumer behaviour, or the success of a particular brand based on the context in which these phenomena occur and on the history leading up to the occurrence of the phenomenon. Other consumer research concentrates on finding regularities in consumer behaviour that apply in a broad variety of contexts across time and space, such as the effect of personal involvement in a purchase, on information seeking behaviour or the effect of sales promotions on shopping behaviour in supermarkets.
CONSUMER AFFECT AND COGNITION
Consumer affect and cognition refer to two types of mental responses consumers have to stimuli and events in their environment. Affect refers to their feelings about stimuli and events, such as whether they like or dislike a product. Cognition refers to their thinking, such as beliefs about a particular product.
Affective responses can be favourable or unfavourable and vary in intensity. For instance, affect includes relatively intense emotions, such as love or anger; less strong feeling states such as satisfaction or frustration; moods such as boredom or relaxation, and milder overall attitudes, such as liking McDonald’s chips or disliking Bic pens. Marketers typically develop strategies to create positive affect for their products and brands to increase the chances that consumers will buy them.
Cognition refers to the mental structures and processes involved in thinking, understanding, and interpreting stimuli and events. It includes the knowledge, meaning, and beliefs that consumers have developed from their experience and stored in their memories. It also includes the processes associated with paying attention to and understanding stimuli and events, remembering past events, forming evaluations, and making purchasing decisions and choices. While many aspects of cognition are conscious thinking processes, others are essentially automatic.
SOME BASIC QUESTIONS ABOUT CONSUMER AFFECT AND COGNITION
1. How do consumers interpret information about marketing stimuli such as products, stores, and advertising?
2. How do consumers choose among alternative product classes, products, and brands?
3. How do consumers form evaluations of products and brands?
4. How does memory affect consumer decision making?
5. How do affect and cognition influence behaviour and environments?
Behaviour refers to the physical actions of actions of consumers that can be directly observed and measured by others. It is also called overt behaviour to distinguish it from mental activities, such as thinking, that cannot be observed directly. Examples of behaviour include shopping at stores, buying products, or using credit cards.
Behaviour is critical for marketing strategy because it is only through behaviour that sales can be made and profits earned. While many marketing strategies are designed to influence consumers’ affect and cognition, these strategies must ultimately result in overt consumer behaviour for them to have value for the company. It is therefore critical for marketers to analyse, understand, and influence overt behaviour.
SOME BASIC QUESTIONS ABOUT CONSUMER BEHAVIOURS
1. How do behaviour approaches differ from affective and cognitive approaches to studying consumer behaviour?
2. What is classical conditioning, and how is it used by marketers to influence consumer behaviour?
3. What is operant conditioning, and how is it used by marketers to influence consumer behaviour?
4. What is vicarious learning, and how is it used by marketers to influence consumer behaviour?
5. What consumer behaviours are of interest to marketing management?
The consumer environment refers to everything external to consumers that influence what they think, feel, and do. It includes social stimuli that influence consumers, such as the actions of others in cultures, subcultures, social classes, reference groups, and families. It also includes other physical stimuli, such as stores, products, advertisements, and signs which can change consumers’ thoughts, feelings, and actions.
The consumer environment is important for marketing strategy because it is the medium in which stimuli are placed to influence consumers. For example, marketers run commercials during TV programmes that their target markets watch in order to inform, persuade, and remind them to buy certain products and brands.
SOME BASIC QUESTIONS ABOUT CONSUMER ENVIRONMENT
1. In what physical environments do consumer behaviours occur?
2. How do environments affect consumers’ affect and cognition and behaviour?
3. How do consumers’ affect and cognition and behaviour affect the environment?
4. What effect does culture have on consumers?
5. What effect does subculture have on consumers?
RELATIONSHIPS AMONG AFFECT AND COGNITION, BEHAVIOUR, AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Each of the three elements can be either a cause or an effect of a change in the other element. For example, a consumer might see an advert for a new laundry detergent that promises to wash clothes cleaner than OMO. This might change what the consumer thinks about the new brand and lead to a purchase of it. In this case, a change in the consumer’s environment (the advert for the new detergent), led to a change in cognition (the consumer believed the new detergent was better) which led to a change in behaviour (the consumer bought the new brand).
Another possibility is that a consumer might be dissatisfied with his or her current brand of laundry detergent. On the consumer’s next trip to the grocery, other brands are inspected, and one that promises to get white clothes whiter is selected. In this example, a change in affect and cognition (dissatisfaction) leads to a change in the consumer’s environment (inspecting other brands) which leads to change in behaviour (purchase of a different brand).
While there are other ways changes could occur, these examples serve to illustrate our view of consumers. Namely, that not only do consumer processes involve a dynamic and interactive system, but they are also a reciprocal system. A reciprocal system is one in which any of the elements could be either a cause or an effect of a change at any particular time. Affect and cognition could change consumers’ behaviour and environment; behaviours could change consumers’ affect, cognitions and environments. Environments can change consumers’ affect, cognition and behaviour.
There are five implications of viewing consumer processes as a reciprocal system involving affect and cognition, behaviour, and the environment. First, any comprehensive analyses of consumers must consider all three elements and the relationships of them. Description of consumers in terms of only one or two of the elements is incomplete.
Second, it is important to recognize that any of the three elements may be the starting point for consumer analysis. While we think that marketing strategists should start with an analysis of the specific overt behaviours consumers must perform to achieve marketing objectives, useful analyses could start with affect and cognition by researching what consumers think and feel about such things as the various brands of a product.
Third, since this view is dynamic, it recognises that consumers can continuously change. While some consumers may change little during a particular time period, others may frequently change their affect, cognition, behaviour, and environments. Keeping abreast of consumers therefore involves continuous research to detect changes that could influence marketing strategies.
Fourth, while our example focused on a single consumer, consumer analysis can be applied at several levels. It can be used to analyse not only a single consumer, but also a group of consumers that make up a target market, a larger group of consumers which make up all of the purchasers of a product in an industry, or for an entire society.
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Finally, this framework for analysing consumers highlights the importance of consumer research and analysis in developing marketing strategies. Consumer research and analysis should be key activities for developing marketing strategies. Consumer research includes many types of study such as test marketing, advertising pre-tests, sales promotion effects, analysis of sales and market share data, pricing experiments, traffic and shopping patterns, brand attitude and intentions, and many others.
Consumer research and analysis should not end when a strategy has been implemented. Rather research should continue to investigate the effects of the strategy and whether it could be changed to be more effective. Thus, marketing strategy should involve a continuous process of researching and analysing consumers, developing strategies, implementing them, and continuously improving strategies.
Once the consumer has recognized a problem, they search for information on products and services that can solve that problem.
Sources of information include:
â€¢ Personal sources
â€¢ Commercial sources
â€¢ Public sources
â€¢ Personal experience
The relevant internal psychological process that is associated with information search is perception. Perception is defined as ‘the process by which an individual receives, selects, organizes, and interprets information to create a meaningful picture of the world’.
THE SELECTIVE PERCEPTION PROCESS
â€¢ Selective exposure consumers select which promotional messages they will expose themselves to.
â€¢ Selective attention consumers select which promotional messages they will pay attention to.
â€¢ Selective comprehension consumers interpret messages in line with their beliefs, attitudes, motives and experiences.
â€¢ Selective retention consumers remember messages that are more meaningful or important to them.
The implications of this process help develop an effective promotional strategy, and select which sources of information are more effective for the brand.
At this time the consumer compares the brands and products that are in their evoked set. How can the marketing organization increase the likelihood that their brand is part of the consumer’s evoked (consideration) set? Consumers evaluate alternatives in terms of the functional and psychological benefits that they offer. The marketing organization needs to understand what benefits consumers are seeking and therefore which attributes are most important in terms of making a decision.
Once the alternatives have been evaluated, the consumer is ready to make a purchase decision. Sometimes purchase intention does not result in an actual purchase. The marketing organization must facilitate the consumer to act on their purchase intention. The provision of credit or payment terms may encourage purchase, or a sales promotion such as the opportunity to receive a premium or enter a competition may provide an incentive to buy now. The relevant internal psychological process that is associated with purchase decision is integration.
It is common for customers to experience concerns after making a purchase decision. This arises from a concept that is known as “cognitive dissonance”. The customer, having bought a product, may feel that an alternative would have been preferable. In these circumstances that customer will not repurchase immediately, but is likely to switch brands next time.
To manage the post-purchase stage, it is the job of the marketing team to persuade the potential customer that the product will satisfy his or her needs. Then after having made a purchase, the customer should be encouraged that he or she has made the right decision. It is not affected by advertisement.
Consumer behaviour is influenced by: demographics, psychographics (lifestyle), personality, motivation, knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings. Consumer behaviour concern with consumer need consumer actions in the direction of satisfying needs leads to his behaviour of every individual depend on thinking process.
Consumer behaviour is influenced by: culture, sub-culture, locality, royalty, ethnicity, family, social class, reference groups, lifestyle, and market mix factors.
From a consumer point of view, a marketing strategy is a set of stimuli placed in consumers’ environments designed to influence their affect, cognition, and behaviour. These stimuli include such things as products, brands, packaging, advertisements, coupons, stores, credit cards, price tags, salespeople’s communications, and in some cases sounds (music), smells (perfume), and other sensory cues.
Clearly, marketing strategies should not only be designed to influence consumers, but should also be influenced by them. For example, if research shows that consumers are disgusted (affect and cognition) with the advertisements for Armani jeans, the company may want to change its adverts to better appeal to the market. If research shows that consumers in the target market do not shop (behaviour) in stores where a company’s product is featured, then the distribution strategy may have to be changed. If the research shows that consumers want to be able to get information from a company’s homepage (environment) and none exists, the company may want to create one. Thus marketing strategies should be developed, implemented, and changed based on consumer research and analysis.
Peter J .P, Olson J.C and Grunert K .G (1999) Consumer Behaviour and Marketing
Strategy, McGraw-Hill, Berkshire, England.
Schiffman L .G and Kanuk L .L (1995) Consumer Behaviour, Prentice-Hall of
India, New Delhi.
Consumer Behaviour curled from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/consumer_behaviour
Consumer Psychologist curled from http://www.consumerpsychologist.com/
THE ROLE OF CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR IN STRATEGIC MARKETING COMMUNICATION
â€¢ Consumer Affect and Cognition
â€¢ Consumer Behaviour
â€¢ Consumer Environment
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