It is defined as a complex sum total of knowledge, belief, traditions, customs, art, moral law or any other habit acquired by people as members of society. Our consumer behaviour that is the things we buy are influenced by our background or culture. Different emphasis is given by different cultures for the buying, use, and disposing of products. People in South India have a certain style of consumption of food, clothing, savings, etc. This differs from the people in the North of India. Different cultures and habits are predominant in different parts of the world. Japanese have a different culture from that of USA, England or Arabian countries. Therefore, in consumer behaviour culture plays a very important part.
Within a culture, there are many groups or segments of people with distinct customs, traditions and behaviour. In the Indian culture itself, we have many subcultures, the culture of the South, the North, East and the West. Hindu culture, Muslim culture, Hindus of the South differ in culture from the Hindus of the North and so on. Products are designed to suit a target group of customers which have similar cultural background and are homogeneous in many respects.
By social class we refer to the group of people who share equal positions in a society. Social class is defined by parameters like income, education, occupation, etc. Within a social class, people share the same values and beliefs and tend to purchase similar kinds of products. Their choice of residence, type of holiday, entertainment, leisure all seem to be alike. The knowledge of social class and their consumer behaviour is of great value to a marketeer.
Social Group Influences
A group is a collection of individuals who share some consumer relationship, attitudes and have the same interest. Such groups are prevalent in societies. These groups could be primary where interaction takes place frequently and, consists of family groups. These groups have a lot of interaction amongst themselves and are well knit. Secondary groups are a collection of individuals where relationship is more formal and less personal in nature.
These could be political groups, work group and study groups, service organisations like the Lions, Rotary, etc. The behaviour of a group is influenced by other member of the group. An individual can be a member of various groups and can have varied influences by different members of groups in his consumption behaviour. An individual can be an executive in a company, can be a member of a political party. He may be a member of a service organisation and of entertainment clubs and study circles. These exert different influences on his consumption.
As has already been said, the family is the most important of the primary group and is the strongest source of influence on consumer behaviour. The family tradition and customs are learnt by children, and they imbibe many behavioural patterns from their family members, both consciously and unconsciously. These behaviour patterns become a part of children’s lives. In a joint family, many decisions are jointly made which also leave an impression on the members of the family.
These days the structure of the family is changing and people are going in more for nucleus families which consists of parent, and dependent children. The other type of family is the joint family where mother, father, grandparents and relatives also living together.
Each individual processes the information received in different ways and evaluates the products in his own personal way. This is irrespective of the influence of the family, social class, cultural heritage, etc. His own personality ultimately influences his decision. He can have his personal reasons for likes, dislikes, price, convenience or status. Some individuals may lay greater emphasis on price, others on quality, still others on status, symbol, convenience of the product, etc. Personal influences go a long way in the purchase of a product.
Consumers are also influenced by national or regional events which could be like the Asiad, the Olympics, cricket test matches, World Cup, the war or a calamity. These leave permanent or temporary impressions on the mind of the consumer and affect his behaviour. In these events, products are advertised and sometimes the use of a product like drugs, etc. is discouraged. People are urged to adopt family planning methods. Situation variables such as product display, price reduction, free gifts and attractive offers also influence consumer behaviour.
In Figure: A simplified framework for studying consumer behaviour, the broken lines indicate that these factors influence and in turn are influenced by each other. The various factors percolate from the external to the individual determinant, to finally influence the decision process.
External factors Influencing Consumer Behaviour
External factors cannot affect the decision process directly but, these are also instrumental and exert an influence on consumer behaviour.
Factors affecting consumers can also be studied by dividing the factors into four groups as shown below. This can be done under four broad headings which can have subheadings as shown in Figure: Factors influencing consumer behaviour classification in four broad categories.