Consumer behavior is the study of how individual customers, groups or organizations select, buy, use, and dispose ideas, goods, and services to satisfy their needs and wants. It refers to the actions of the consumers in the marketplace and the underlying motives for those actions.
Marketers expect that by understanding what causes the consumers to buy particular goods and services, they will be able to determine—which products are needed in the marketplace, which are obsolete, and how best to present the goods to the consumers.
The study of consumer behavior assumes that the consumers are actors in the marketplace. The perspective of role theory assumes that consumers play various roles in the marketplace. Starting from the information provider, from the user to the payer and to the disposer, consumers play these roles in the decision process.
The roles also vary in different consumption situations; for example, a mother plays the role of an influencer in a child’s purchase process, whereas she plays the role of a disposer for the products consumed by the family.
Some selected definitions of consumer behavior are as follows:
According to Engel, Blackwell, and Mansard, ‘consumer behavior is the actions and decision processes of people who purchase goods and services for personal consumption’.
According to Louden and Bitta, ‘consumer behavior is the decision process and physical activity, which individuals engage in when evaluating, acquiring, using or disposing of goods and services’.
Nature of Consumer Behavior
- Influenced by various factors
The various factors that influence the consumer behaviour are as follows:
- Marketing factors such as product design, price, promotion, packaging, positioning and distribution.
- Personal factors such as age, gender, education and income level.
- Psychological factors such as buying motives, perception of the product and attitudes towards the product.
- Situational factors such as physical surroundings at the time of purchase, social surroundings and time factor.
- Social factors such as social status, reference groups and family.
- Cultural factors, such as religion, social class—caste and sub-castes.
- Undergoes a constant change
Consumer behavior is not static. It undergoes a change over a period of time depending on the nature of products. For example, kids prefer colourful and fancy footwear, but as they grow up as teenagers and young adults, they prefer trendy footwear, and as middle-aged and senior citizens they prefer more sober footwear. The change in buying behavior may take place due to several other factors such as increase in income level, education level and marketing factors.
- Varies from consumer to consumer
All consumers do not behave in the same manner. Different consumers behave differently. The differences in consumer behavior are due to individual factors such as the nature of the consumers, lifestyle and culture. For example, some consumers are technoholics. They go on a shopping and spend beyond their means.
They borrow money from friends, relatives, banks, and at times even adopt unethical means to spend on shopping of advance technologies. But there are other consumers who, despite having surplus money, do not go even for the regular purchases and avoid use and purchase of advance technologies.
- Varies from region to region and country to county
The consumer behavior varies across states, regions and countries. For example, the behavior of the urban consumers is different from that of the rural consumers. A good number of rural consumers are conservative in their buying behaviors.
The rich rural consumers may think twice to spend on luxuries despite having sufficient funds, whereas the urban consumers may even take bank loans to buy luxury items such as cars and household appliances. The consumer behavior may also varies across the states, regions and countries. It may differ depending on the upbringing, lifestyles and level of development.
- Information on consumer behavior is important to the marketers
Marketers need to have a good knowledge of the consumer behavior. They need to study the various factors that influence the consumer behavior of their target customers.
- Leads to purchase decision
A positive consumer behavior leads to a purchase decision. A consumer may take the decision of buying a product on the basis of different buying motives. The purchase decision leads to higher demand, and the sales of the marketers increase. Therefore, marketers need to influence consumer behavior to increase their purchases.
- Varies from product to product
Consumer behavior is different for different products. There are some consumers who may buy more quantity of certain items and very low or no quantity of other items. For example, teenagers may spend heavily on products such as cell phones and branded wears for snob appeal, but may not spend on general and academic reading. A middle- aged person may spend less on clothing, but may invest money in savings, insurance schemes, pension schemes, and so on.
- Improves standard of living
The buying behavior of the consumers may lead to higher standard of living. The more a person buys the goods and services, the higher is the standard of living. But if a person spends less on goods and services, despite having a good income, they deprives themselves of higher standard of living.
- Reflects status
The consumer behavior is not only influenced by the status of a consumer, but it also reflects it. The consumers who own luxury cars, watches and other items are considered belonging to a higher status. The luxury items also give a sense of pride to the owners.