Consumer behaviour is important and interesting. As a marketer, you will want to understand as much as possible about it. Consumer behaviour is an exciting and challenging subject. It is about people — what we purchase and why we purchase the way we do. It is about marketing — how products and services are designed, and sold to consumers in the market place.
However, it appears that the customer is the central point and all the marketing activities revolve around him. Manufacturers produces what the customer wants. Thus the producer should identify the motives which prompt them to purchase so that they can offer a complete product satisfying their needs.
Therefore, every marketer must understand his target consumers since it will be difficult to satisfy them without primarily understanding them. Rather than making what you have always made, then trying to sell it, find out what will sell, then try to make it.
“Finding out what will sell,” meant that marketers needed to solve two problems. First they had to discover what was selling, what was not selling, who was buying and who was not buying. Second, the marketer had to discover why consumers were behaving the way they were, and how they would likely react to new types of products and services.
Since consumers are human beings, one may be tempted to believe that the main path to understanding how they behave is by examining their psychological dispositions. This is true only to some extent as no specific body of knowledge can claim to be completely adequate in the total elucidation of the complex subject of consumer behaviour. However, modern methods adopt an interdisciplinary approach to the study and understanding of the subject. Disciplines like Operations Research, Sociology, Anthropology and Economics have come to claim relevance in the field of consumer behaviour.
Definition of Consumer Behaviour
Before we define consumer behaviour, we shall explain who consumer is. Consumer is the person or persons who actually use the product or service. Thus consumer behaviour simply put is the act of consuming or utilizing a good or a service (P. P. Ekerete 2000).
William L. W. (1990) defined consumer behaviour as the activities that people engage in when selecting, purchasing, and using products and services so as to satisfy needs and desires. Such activities involve mental and emotional processes in addition to physical actions.
Kotler (1996) define consumer behaviqur as the buying behaviour of final consumers — individuals and household who buy goods and services for personal consumption.
The “Seven Keys” to Consumer Behaviour
The “seven keys” are outlined in figure 8.1. Some students have successfully used the acronym MAP TRIP to help recall the keys and their exact ordering.
Consumer behaviour is motivated.
Consumer behaviour includes many activities.
Consumer behaviour is a process.
Consumer behaviour varies in timing and complexity.
Consumer behaviour involves different roles.
Consumer behaviour is influenced by external factors.
Consumer behaviour differs for different people.
Seven Keys to Consumer Behaviour
Source: William L Wilkie, Consumer Behaviour, John Wiley & Sons Inc. 1990
Key 1: Consumer Behaviour is Motivated Behaviour
Probably the most basic question we can ask is, “why does consumer behaviour occur? Our definition for consumer behaviour provided the answer: “… so as to satisfy, needs and desires”. This means that, in general, consumer behaviour is motivated behaviour aimed at achieving particular goals. The behaviour is a means to an end, with the “end” being the satisfaction of needs and desires.
Key 2: Consumer Behaviour includes many Activities.
As consumers, we have thoughts, feelings, plans, decisions, purchases and the experiences that follow. A narrow view of consumer behaviour will tend to under represent its significance in our daily lives. This range of activities provides marketers with a rich set of possible ways by which to reach, appeal to, and satisfy consumers. Thus, an understanding of consumers’ activities provides useful basis for developing marketing strategies.
For activities that are product specific, such as “Deciding to buy”, think about how many products and services there are in our market. Other activities include viewing advertisements, discussion with family members/friends, getting information, visiting stores, deciding to buy, making payments, etc.
In all, an enormous amount of time, energy, and money goes into these consumer activities.
Key 3: Consumer Behaviour is a Process.
The concept of process in one which a series of related steps occur, and this has become a major feature of the field of consumer behaviour. Implicit in these steps is the concept that a consumer’s selection would precede purchase which will in turn precede usage.
Stage 1 is the pre purchase activities
Stage 2 is the purchasing activities
Stage 3 is the post purchase activities
This stage relationship represents the decision process approach to consumer behaviour.
Key 4: Consumer Behaviour Differs in Timing and Complexity
Timing refers to when the decision takes place and how long the entire process takes. Complexity, meanwhile, refers to the number of activities involved in a decision and the difficulty of the decision itself. Timing and complexity will typically be correlated. That is, all other factors being equal, the more complex a decision is, the more time will be spent on it.
Key 5: Consumer Behaviour involves Different Roles
There are a least three significantly different functions performed within the consumer behaviour process. Each of these function has a consumer role associated with it. In brief a consumer can be an influencer, purchaser and user.
A consumer can play different combinations of these roles on any given occasion. Also, for any particular purchase, more than one person may be involved in one or more of the roles.
Key 6: Consumer is Influenced by External Factors.
Essentially, this reflects the fait that consumer behaviour is adaptive in nature; consumers adapt to the situations that surround them. Being influenced, in turn, means that a consumer’s decision process has somehow been affected by outside forces.
Influence is a natural occurrence in the consumer world; influence is not necessarily good or bad. Most people agree that some forms of influence such as manipulation are bad. However, some forms of influence are recognized to be quite beneficial. In consumer behaviour, for example, beneficial influence forms might include learning about new products and services, learning of price, receiving good purchase advice, and so forth.
Key 7: Consumer Behaviour Differ for Different People.
It is obvious that each of us under take different consumer activities and make different purchases in line with our different preferences. This problem is very real for marketing managers who must attempt to predict who will buy or patronize their product.
This individual differences also make it difficult for us to understand consumer behaviour easily.
Why Study Consumer Behaviour
The question may arise as a marketing student why you should study consumer behaviour. The following reasons could be advanced as why study consumer behaviour,
A marketer should be interested in consumers because consumption is one half of the marketing process. Thus in its elementary form, marketing consists of an interaction between a buyer and seller for the purpose of exchanging goods for money to the mutual benefit of both parties. One cannot appreciate this marketing process by observing only the seller.
Therefore, a student of marketing -has to have a depth of understanding of demand as well as supply.
Specifically, knowledge about the consumer provides the only sound basis for making marketing decision.
Markets are selected on the basis of consumer wants, as well as their location, numbers, characteristics, and expenditure patterns.
The basis for all sales appeal comes from information about the consumer.
Finally, organizations strive to satisfy the consumer in order to succeed and stay in business.
Factors Affecting/Influencing Consumer Behaviour
Several factors influences consumer buying decisions. Such factors include physical, psychological, social and cultural factors. It is the culmination of these factors that determine how the consumer behaves and reacts to various products and marketing programmes.
1. Physical: Physical factors influencing consumer behaviour include the sex of the consumer, his age, physical size and the environment to which he belongs.
Sex affects buying behaviour since the items purchased by women vary significantly from those purchased by men. In the same vein, the feeding requirement of a year old baby will be significantly different from that of an adult. Furthermore, a dwarf will require different types of dresses and shoes in size and vary from those which will be purchased by a giant.
2. Psychological: Psychological factors cannot be physically seen on the consumer, but are rather engraved on his, mind. Some of the psychological factors that influence consumer behaviour include attitude, learning, perception, personality and motivation.
Attitude: Attitude according to Martin Bell, is “a state of mind or feeling that establishes a bask orientation for or against particular objects or individuals”. While (Walters,. 1974) defines attitude as how an individual thinks or feel about something. To understand a consumer’s motives and habit, it is necessary to find out why people act in a particular way, why they hold certain attitude. A good marketer must understand that people possess attitude to everything: buying, clothing, etc; and that the attitude translates into a particular behavioural pattern. He must understand that while some attitudes are inborn, others are acquired by the individual as a reaction to environmental stimuli in the course of satisfying his needs.
Attitude helps the individual to determine his response to issues and variables as the individual’s attitude help to define his perception of the issue at stake. Unfavourable perception of the issue generate unfavourable attitude by the individual to that issue and vice versa.
Attitude also promotes development habits are consistent behaviour pattern, that have become routine on the part of the customer e.g. some people buy newspapers daily habitually whether the head line is catchy or not as they have developed a habitual behaviour or attitude towards the purchase of newspapers.
Learning: This involves a change in behaviour of an individual as a result of experience(s) he has possessed. Learning could be said to be an accumulation of our daily experiences.
As already stated, learning is a change in a person’s thought process as a result of prior experience or practice. Thus this learning process and the associated fixation or conditioning that comes with it from the root of brand loyalty which is one of the core reasons why consumers buy a particular product.
In most instances what is learnt is usually retained in memory for later use. Cognition means retentive learning or ., memory that is assimilation of what a person learns that has becomes part of the psychic structure of the individual, and such knowledge affects and determines his behaviour. Anything that differs from what is learnt creates a psychological tension in his cognition known as cognition dissonance.
Perception: Perception is the process by which a person selects, organizes and interpret information about an object. It is the ability of a consumer to recognize and decode an urge to satisfy a need and match it with related product with a need that is itching to be satisfied.
Need, motive and perception interact in a person, and thus determine how the individual will perceive a product. This is a clear manifestation that what we perceive depends on our needs and motives.
If there is a need and motive for a product its advert will draw the attention of the consumer leading to instantaneous buying decision. When a message is perceived, it joins the horde of other messages earlier perceived by the consumer and can only be of value if it attracts the attention of the customer after which it will be evaluated as to whether it should be reacted to or not. Consumer behaviour is a result of how they see things perceive a particular product to be.
Personality: Personality is a person’s consistent way of reacting to the world. It is viewed as the individual’s charismatic traits which distinguish his pattern of behaviour from those of others. An individual personality is usually described in terms such as, traits as aggressiveness, sociability, autonomy, emotional stability, defensiveness, achievement, self-confidence, etc. Marketers also consider self-concept (or self-image) which is closely related to personality and may be described in terms of: extrovert-introvert, active-passive, creative-ordinary. Others include ego-defensive mechanism, concept of beauty, taste etc. Presumably a person will purchase a product whose brand image is consistent with the self-concept.
Motivation: Every buyer has a motive for making a buying decision. This motive is essentially what prompts the buyer to buy a particular product. Hence, it is essential for a strategic marketing manager to understand the theory of motivation as well as how motivation can influence consumer behaviour.
The field of motivation seeks to explain why behaviour occurs. The term “motivation” itself is derived from the Latin verb “movere”, meaning “to move”. Basically, then motivation refers to the processes that move a person to behave in certain ways. Motivation deals with how behaviour gets started, is energized, is sustained, is directed and is stopped. Motivation is the basis for all consumer activities.
However, an authority on motivation, Abraham Maslow, has identified up to five classes in which” needs that human beings have can be grouped. And this is called Abraham Maslow hierarchy of needs theory. Maslow held that humans are motivated to satisfy their needs in an order or hierarchy given by; Physiological needs, safety or security needs, social (belongingness) needs; esteem needs, and self actualization needs. The need creates a motive which propels the consumer to act.
3. Social Factor: Man is a social being and his behaviour is influenced by other persons and by groups he belongs to. Social classes are also group of people who are more or less equal to one another in prestige and status. It is normal for societies to be divided up into different social groups or classes. This division is known as social stratification.
Morden (1991) defined social class as a psychological -social grouping within which social, economic, educational and political interests tend to coincide. The member of any social class may be determined by such factors as tradition, family, beliefs, values and attitudes, occupation, education, wealth or income etc.
Social Class: People are thus classified into upper class, upper middle class, lower-upper class and lower-lower class. Each class has its own general characteristics and pattern of buying behaviour.
Reference Groups: Reference groups are those group of people that influence an individual’s attitude or behaviour. A reference group better explained as a group which a person looks up to in establishing his own behaviour. They are those with which an individual closely identifies. The behaviour which the consurr exhibits during most purchase decision is highly influenced the reference group to which he belongs.
Opinion leaders are people within a reference gro exercise a great influence on members of their reference groi They exercise such an influence because of their special skil knowledge, personality or other characteristics.
Family and family life cycle: The family is the first place person acquires his knowledge about the world. The wor family and household are often confused although sometimes they are used interchangeably.
Family can be defined as people living together and having blood relationship. The family always consists of mother and father, husband and wife with one or more children, whereas household refers to the people living together under the same roof; it does not require blood relationship.
In the family life cycle, the newlyweds are normally referred to as the conventional nuclear family. The nuclear family do not remain forever ‘nuclear’. Very soon they start having one child or more as the case may be and this increase the size of the family.
There will also be a point in the family life-cycle when the children will become independent of their parents and will have to leave home and rent their own apartments. A proper understanding of the family life-cycle concept and its application will go a long way to help a marketer know what to market to a family at a particular stage of the family’ s life style.
Culture: Culture is said to be a way of life of a group of people that can be passed from one general to the other, or learned over time/ Culture exerts a great influence on buying behaviour, and determines the kinds of products that may be used by the people.
According to William L. Wilkie (1990), “culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”.
Culture plays an important part in shaping people’s purchase and consumption behaviour. For example consumption of alcohol and pork is forbidden by Muslims.
Sub-culture: Every culture is consist of a sub-culture. There is usually a difference between main culture and sub-culture.
Sub-culture is a group of people within a” main culture that has its own values, customs, and behaviour pattern. The members of any particular sub-culture usually embrace the majority of cultural values, custom and behaviourial norms of the dominant culture, as well as those.of the particular subculture. Sub-culture may be important to the marketer because of their effect on the type and brands of products and services demanded by those that adhere to the values of the sub-culture.
Consumer Buying Decision Process
The consumer takes his buying decision, for some products immediately without much consideration, while for some other products he thinks much before taking a decision to purchase it.
Types of Buying Decision Behaviour
John Howard, Jagdish Sheth and Skinner (1990) identifies three types of consumer decision behaviour. The three types of buying behaviour are:
1. Routine decision making
2. Limited decision making
3. Extensive decision making
Routine Decision Making: This involves the purchase of low-priced convenience items or product which are frequently purchase. Such products are snack foods, soft drinks, mirror stationery, where the buyer has good knowledge of the product availability, with no search effort or time to the purchase.
Limited Decision Making: This involves higher-priced goods or products purchased occasionally and there is need for information on available brands, and therefore devotes more search effort and time in the buying process in order to reduce the risk of mistake.
Extensive Decision Making: Extensive decision making involves the purchase of expensive goods, which are infrequently purchased items like cars, home appliances and furniture set. Considerable time and effort are devoted to collecting information, visiting stores, and comparing brands’ price and quality before final decision.
The Buying Decision Process: Generally, the consumer passes through five distinct stages in taking a decision for purchasing a particular product or service.
These stages are:
i. Problem or need recognition
ii. Information search or identification of alternatives
iii. Evaluation of alternatives
iv. Purchase decision
Problem or Need Recognition: The buying Process begins with problem or need recognition. A need can be activated through internal or external stimuli. The basic need of a common man which he strives to satisfy are hunger, thirst, sex etc. This is the case of internal stimulus. A need can also be aroused by an external stimulus such as the sight of a new thing in a shop while purchasing other things. The marketer must identify the drive that might actually connect to the product class or brand and make the buyer feel that the product can satisfy .the drive or need.
Information Search/Identification of Alternatives: Once the need is recognized, the consumer may or may not search for additional information. Depending upon the intensity of need. The consumer will not search for long if the drive is strong. The consumer may want more information about the product, its key attributes, qualities of various brands and about the outlets where they are available. There are several consumer information sources:
Personal Sources (family, friends, neighbours, etc.)
Commercial Sources (advertisements, salesmen, dealers, etc.)
Public Sources (mass media, and consumer rating organisation).
Evaluation of Alternatives: Having collected information, the consumer clarify and evaluate the alternatives, in order to find one option that will maximize his satisfaction. The consumer evaluates the possible alternatives based on some established criteria such as price, quality, ease of use, colour, size, etc.
Purchase Decision: Evaluation of alternatives leads to the consumer to form a ranked set of preferences. Normally a consumer buys the product he likes most but there are some important consideration for taking the buying decision such as:
a. Attitude of others (wife, relatives and friends),
b. Anticipated situational factors (family income, expected total cost of the product and the expected benefits of the product)
c. Unanticipated situational factors (loss of job, change in price etc).
The marketer must consider these factors and try to provide information and support that will help the consumer.
Post Purchase Evaluation: After buying and trying the product, the consumer will feel some level of satisfaction or distribution. There may be no problem if the expectations are met, but if they are not, it result to cognitive dissonance which is a dissatisfaction that occurs because the consumer questions the wisdom in his choice. Marketers can assist in reducing cognitive dissonance by providing information support for the chosen alternative. This the marketer must do by making claims about the performance of the product that are congurent with its quality so that the consumer would feel satisfied.
Models of Consumer Behaviour
Models are devices designed by man to stand for the things brought to the attention of his senses. A model is said to be a representation of some or all of the properties of a large system.
Therefore, a consumer model is anything used to represent all or part of the variables of consumer behaviour.
i). Verbal or qualitative models: Verbal models employ language or words as their means of expression, while quantitative models rely on mathematical symbolism,
ii). Static or dynamic models: Static models deals with specific points in time, it does not focus on a change. Dynamic models account for changes that occur in variables over time.
iii). Hypothetical or concrete models: Hypothetical models represent assumed situations, while concrete ones represent specific phenomena,
iv). Partial or holistic models: Partial models deals with some part of a system while holistic ones seek to model the whole system or all the variables of consumer behaviour.
v). Descriptive or Analytical models: Descriptive models try to explain some aspect, of consumer behaviour, while analytical models try to compare, interpret or challenge concepts.
A variety of sociological, psychological and economic models had been applied in marketing, sometimes with some adaptation. However, we shall attempt to discuss some of the important models.
Nicosia (1966), the model discusses the relationship that exit between the firm and its customers. This relationship is maintained through circular communication flows from the firm (advertising for a new product) to the consumers and back to the firm in form of purchase reactions by the consumers. In “field .1” the consumer is exposed to and receives the message, with an outcome of the development of some attitude, towards the product; “field 2” is concerned with the search and evaluation process, which has as its output the arousal of the individual’s motivation, leading to “field 3”, which is defined as “possible transformation of the motivation into an act of purchase”. If purchase occurs, “field 4” becomes the area of storage and use of the product, with a related output of experience the form of feedback to the firm. The experience could be satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
Allport Socio-Psychoanalytic Model
Allport in the nature of prejudice, was not seeking a theory of consumer behaviour. However, he defines prejudice very close to what is referred today as attitude. Allport said prejudice is, “a feeling, favourable or unfavourable, towards a person or thing, prior to, or not based on actual experience”. Allport does an excellent job of identifying most of the major exogenous and endogenous variables that affect human decisions toward an object stimulus such as a product (Allport 1954).
The variables of Allport have been adapted to consumer behaviour. While the model is a static representation, it begins with the broadest exogenous variable, culture, and works down to the endogenous variables of personality and motivation. The purchase decision is seen as the result of an interaction between the individual, who has been influenced by his environment, and the product.
The important contribution of Allport lies in identifying the major areas of external and internal human influence that can be applied to consumer behaviour.
Howard – Sheth Model
Howard – Sheth model developed in 1969. In its simplest form, the model consist of sets of elements — the inputs, the hypothetical constructs, exogenous variables and the response variables. The inputs consist of stimuli of information emanating from the environment. These inputs consist of various items of information about the available brands in the market. They include the quality, price, distinctiveness and availability of the brand as well as its accompanying services. When obtained from the brand itself, they are described as significative stimuli. Symbolic stimuli are those communicated through the mass media such as newspaper and television advertisements. They may also be communicated through the social environment such as interpersonal discussions between two friends about various brands in the market. Through their interaction with the hypothetical constructs -they are usually modified via perceptual processes.
The hypothetical constructs describe internal process within the buyer and consist of two sets in the perceptual constructs and the learning constructs.
The learning constructs are motives, brand potential of the evoked set, decision mediators, predispositions, and satisfaction.
The third set of variables in the model are the exogenous variables which are: importance of purchase, time pressure, financial status, personality traits, social and organizational setting, culture and social class.
A notable feature of this model is its comprehensiveness. It deals extensively with information search, information processing, the role of perceptual and learning variable, the influence of socio-cultural and economic factors, and finally how these factors shape a consumer behaviour towards the purchase or non-purchase of a product.
Engel-Kollat-Blackwell Model (EKB)
This model was developed in 1968. The model has undergone at least four major revisions, the fourth being by James Engel and Roger Blackwell in 1982.
The model depicts the buyer as either being voluntarily exposed to brand information or as actively searching for such information which may come from marketer dominated sources or sources outside the firm’s control.
The Engel, Kollat and Blackwell model is designed around three major components: (i) the central control unit (ii) information processing, and (iii) the decision process.
The central control unit of the consumer contains stored information and experiences, attitudes towards alternatives, and personality characteristics. The information inside the central control unit filter incoming information or stimuli, rejecting some and retaining others.
The decision process component sees to problem recognition, evaluation of alternatives, and processing the outcome of any purchase outcomes.
Problem recognition invariably leads to information search which includes searching long term memory and external sources if stored memory is inadequate. Next the individual compares the information gained through the search process against his evaluative criteria (standards for evaluating and making choices among brands). This alternative evaluation and the third step in the decision process.
Kotler’s Behaviourial Choice Model
Not all economists agree with the classical presentation of consumer choice. Thorstein Veblem struck off in a different direction by asserting that a consumer’s choices are largely conditioned by the groups to which he belongs and the groups to which he aspires. Veblem felt that while satisfaction was a strong motivator of personal consumption, it was greatly influenced by prestige seeking and emulation of others (Kotler 1965 in Ekerete (2000) Consumer Behaviour Theory and Practice).