The lesson addresses consumer behavior in marketing. Consumer behavior is explained and the way companies learn about consumer behavior is discussed. The way that marketing benefits from understanding consumer behavior is examined.

What is Consumer Behavior in Marketing?

Marketing is so much more than creating a catchy phrase or a jingle people will sing for days. Understanding consumer behavior is a vital aspect of marketing. Consumer behavior is the study of how people make decisions about what they buy, want, need, or act in regards to a product, service, or company. It is critical to understand consumer behavior to know how potential customers will respond to a new product or service. It also helps companies identify opportunities that are not currently met.

A recent example of a change in consumer behavior is the eating habits of consumers that dramatically increased the demand for gluten-free (GF) products. The companies that monitored the change in eating patterns of consumers created GF products to fill a void in the marketplace. However, many companies did not monitor consumer behavior and were left behind in releasing GF products. Understanding consumer behavior allowed the pro-active companies to increase their market share by anticipating the shift in consumer wants.

The Three Factors

To fully understand how consumer behavior affects marketing, it's vital to understand the three factors that affect consumer behavior: psychological, personal, and social.

Psychological Factors

In daily life, consumers are being affected by many issues that are unique to their thought process. Psychological factors can include perception of a need or situation, the person's ability to learn or understand information, and an individual's attitude. Each person will respond to a marketing message based on their perceptions and attitudes. Therefore, marketers must take these psychological factors into account when creating campaigns, ensuring that their campaign will appeal to their target audience.

Personal Factors

Personal factors are characteristics that are specific to a person and may not relate to other people within the same group. These characteristics may include how a person makes decisions, their unique habits and interests, and opinions. When considering personal factors, decisions are also influenced by age, gender, background, culture, and other personal issues.

For example, an older person will likely exhibit different consumer behaviors than a younger person, meaning they will choose products differently and spend their money on items that may not interest a younger generation.

Social Factors

The third factor that has a significant impact on consumer behavior is social characteristics. Social influencers are quite diverse and can include a person's family, social interaction, work or school communities, or any group of people a person affiliates with. It can also include a person's social class, which involves income, living conditions, and education level. The social factors are very diverse and can be difficult to analyze when developing marketing plans.

However, it is critical to consider the social factors in consumer behavior, as they greatly influence how people respond to marketing messages and make purchasing decisions. For example, how using a famous spokesperson can influence buyers.

Consumer Behavior Models

Through research and observation, several models have been developed that help further explain why consumers make decisions, including the black box, personal variables and complex models.

The black-box model is based on external stimulus-response, meaning something triggers the consumer to make buying decisions that are influenced by many factors, including marketing messages, sampling, product availability, promotions, and price.

When influenced by the personal-variable model, consumers make decisions based on internal factors. These internal factors may include personal opinions, belief systems, values, traditions, goals, or any other internal motivator.

The third consumer behavior model is the complex model. The complex model considers both internal and external variables.

How It's Studied

There are many ways to study consumer behavior but the three most common ways include:

1. Focus Groups - Getting several consumers together at the same time and place offers a chance to ask marketing questions and determine how consumers feel about existing or new products.

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2. Surveys - Asking people for input allows the marketing group to understand how consumers feel, what they want, and how they will react. If it is clear consumers are not happy with a current product or will not want a future product, companies can make accommodations for consumer behavior and capitalize on greater sales elsewhere.

3. Track Sales History - Past consumer behavior helps predict future consumer behavior. By studying what consumers have done historically, companies can make predictions of what customers will do in response to changes. Think about the last time you went to the market and scanned your rewards card. The data collected from your purchases is combined with millions of other transactions to better understand consumer behavior.

Importance in Marketing

Once companies have a better understanding of consumer buying habits and consumer behavior, they have valuable information about what consumers want, how they learn about products, and how they spend their money. Marketing takes this information to create ad campaigns about existing and new products with the intent to create a demand for products and services. By understanding consumer behavior, the marketing department of a company can effectively create an entire campaign to support the awareness and demand for a product or service.

Lesson Summary

Let's review! Consumer behavior is the study of how people make decisions about what they buy, want, need or act in regards to a product, service or company. Consumers have more options than ever, with more companies competing for their attention and money. Understanding consumer behavior is critical to being competitive.

Companies that tailor their marketing efforts to match consumer behavior are more likely to understand their customers and provide products or services that appeal to them. To understand consumer behavior, marketers must understand the factors that affect it, including psychological, personal and social factors. Additionally, there are several ways to study consumer behavior, like the black-box, personal-variable and complex models.

Consumer Behavior Facts

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  • Consumer behavior is the study of how people make decisions about what they buy, want, need, or act in regards to a product, service, or company.
  • The three factors that affect consumer behavior are psychological, personal, and social.
  • Consumer behavior is studied through focus groups, surveys, and tracking sales history.
  • Consumer behavior models include the black-box, complex, and personal-variable models.

Learning Outcomes

As you complete the lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define consumer behavior
  • List and describe the three factors that affect consumer behavior
  • Describe how consumer behavior is studied
  • Identify three consumer behavior models
  • Discuss the importance of understanding consumer behavior in marketing


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