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Consumer behaviour is the study of how individual customers, groups or organizations select, buy and utilize goods and services in order to satisfy their needs and wants. It refers to the action of consumers in the marketplace and the underlying psychological processes that decides the buying behaviour and ultimately, the consumer’s purchasing power. By understanding these purchasing processes, marketers are able to understand what causes the consumers to buy a certain product or service and to be able to ascertain the products that are in market demand including ways to market the product, to reach the bottom line which is profit.
In this report, a few factors are mentioned in conjunction with what influences consumer purchasing behaviour and the manner as how it affects and the importance of it.
The key psychological processes that are important in the decision making of consumers are the intention or otherwise motivation, the biogenic needs and the psychogenic need of a being. These psychological needs comes into play in the consumer behaviour as well as a person’s culture, social factors and personal factors. When all factors come into play, marketers are able to understand the consumers behaviour more in depth as in Lewin’s General Model of Behaviour where the buying behaviour influences are classified into B= f (P,E) which means that a person’s behaviour is caused by the interactions of personal influences and environmental forces where it drives needs and motives.
Culture plays a role in influencing a person’s behaviour through its manifestation which are values, heroes, rituals and symbols (Hofstede,1997). Each cultural group possesses different cultural manifestations. Such as values, where Rokeach (1968) who cited that “ a value as a centrally held, enduring belief which guides actions and judgements across specific situations and beyond immediate goals to more ultimate end-states of existence” which implies that a culture acts as a guide to which a person’s actions are based on. McCracken (1988) refers to “cultural principles” as the ideas as to which actions are planned and dispatched as people’s behaviour are rooted on these cultural principles. McCracken described the cultural categories which are time, space, nature and person that helps an individual give meaning to the world.
In a study conducted by Gregory and Munch (1997) that studies the effectiveness of ads in relation to the individualistic or collectivistic dimensions, it was concluded that ads that showed norms and roles similar to a person’s cultural values are often more effective than ads that do not depict images that resembles to the persons own values.
Another cultural aspects is based on the individualistic and collectivistic cultures. Triandis (1995) defined collectivism as a social pattern where individuals see themselves as a collective whole whereas individualism as a social pattern that consist of individuals that are motivated by their own preferences and needs where they look at themselves as an independent being. The social patterns of these different cultures affect a person’s perception which is one of the key psychological processes in consumer behaviour. According to Han and Shavitt (1994), it was found that ads emphasising on individualistic beliefs were more effective in America as America has a more individualistic culture whereas for Korea, collectivistic ads were more sought after.
It is important to understand how different cultures influences the marketability of a product as cultures are invented in a way that these values are integrated since young and shared by a fairly large group. Sub cultures are generally formed by geographical distributions, sex, religion, age and race. Religion plays a role as for example, in bridal events in a Christian culture, females wear a white gown as for Muslim culture, females wear green on important occasion. A person who is in his 60s would not wear clothes similar to people in their 20s. These sub cultures makes up an individual’s culture.
All in all, for a product to be marketable in different cultures, it is important for a company to adapt to the diverse cultures by building different business models and being open minded in the process. One widely known example of a multinational company that understands the value of different cultures is McDonalds. It is found that McDonalds in various part of the world have different menus for customers and most of it are based on the local cultures for instance, durian McFlurry was introduced to the Malaysian market whereas McVeggie is often served in India.
Social factors plays a prominent role in the processes of buying behaviour. This includes both formal ad informal group memberships other than family which are referred to as the reference group. As for reference groups to influence the buying the decision of a person, it is when informed about a certain product where it interferes with one of the psychological process which is, memory. A reference group would often bring up a certain product over and over again that would influence the memory of a person as studies have shown that with repetition, a short term memory would convert to a long term memory. A person would likely associate a product with a certain brand as they have a memory and perception which will influence the decision making processes of a consumer.
The Asch Phenomenon was derived from the findings conducted in 1951 where Solomon Asch conducted an experiment to determine the causal relationship social pressure on conformity. It was concluded that people would conform under social pressure where this allows marketers to use this idea to their advantage when presenting a product. By just having a few people giving a good recommendation of a product, marketers are able to manipulate the psychological processes of a consumer as they are more likely to follow the opinion of their peers.
Leibenstein (1950) labelled the effect that influences the lower-end brand extension, the brand wagon effect where the main goal is to enhance self-concept. People tend to desire prestige brands as a symbolic representation of a group membership where they are able to be distinguished from non-prestige reference group.
Media influence also plays into effect of the consumers behaviour as recent research has shown that consumers learn about affluent lifestyles and try to imitate by consuming similar products (Dittmar 1994) where the television have constructed a social reality where products used are most oftely associated with affluent lifestyle exposed on the television.
In conclusion, individuals will make decision and buy products that will help them achieve their ideal self-image. Studies have shown that reward circuits in our brain activates in a situation where there is a change in an individual’s perception of status. This influences the decision making where there is a reduction in drive that results from proper response.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs depicts the motivation theory common to all individuals where the basic needs of an individual is the physiological needs such as food and water and the last stage as self-actualization which is to understand meaning and inner potential and morality. For example, an Evian water that would cost around RM10 for a bottle would cover the physiological need of an individual, but what makes consumer buy it is because marketers are able to target different needs such as self-esteem needs and belonging needs meeting more than one need of the consumer.
The psychoanalytic theory by Sigmund Freud separates the human psyche into three which are id, ego and super ego. The id is a drive that operates on the pleasure principle from the unconscious needs of a human. The ego is the conscious mind that operates on the reality principle where it limits id. Super ego is the moral and ethical dimension of an individual that controls basic desires and influences ego, allowing one to strive for perfection. These three elements make up the different traits of an individual. The Freudian theory is relevant as consumers purchase decision and post purchase behaviour are a reflection of the individual’s personality, in short, people tend to match their traits to the product they buy. The three psyches plays an important role in shaping an individual’s trait as a person who is dominant in id would act irrationally where priorities are different to people who are dominant of ego and super ego.
Furthermore, a person’s occupation and financial constraints plays a significant role on buying decisions. A research that studies the impact of occupation in selecting type of retail stores concluded that occupation has a behavioural impact on consumer behaviour, for example, an engineer is more brand and quality oriented as compared to an unskilled consumer who is busy earning bread and butter.
The consumer purchasing process is a procedural process divided into stages such as realisation of need, information gathering, evaluation of alternatives, purchase of product and post purchase evaluation. The processes affecting the consumer’s decision are as such due to personal, social and cultural factors. By understanding the factors affecting such processes, marketers are able to market a product more efficiently in the marketplace combining the knowledge for example on traits and needs of a consumer to create ads or provide promotions and deals to consumers to attract customers and subsequently turn non customers into customers.
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