Consumer Behavior: The Comprehensive Guide

By Danni White - Last Updated on April 1, 2020
What is consumer behavior?

Throughout the day, how many times do you have to make decisions even at the tiniest things? Do you often get stuck between two dresses? Do you question yourself often if you should wash your hair today or the next day? If you think about it as a consumer, we always make firm decisions while buying too.

While your decisions in the head might seem irrelevant to you or of less important but for marketers, they are very crucial to boost up revenue.

According to the survey conducted by Salesforce, more than 76% of the customers(1) expect their favorite brands and companies to know their demands and needs.

Everybody has a buying persona. However, it is up to the entrepreneurs and marketers to understand their audience’s buying personas.

In any industry, understanding the consumer’s behavior and their reaction to the products and services is very important. In this regard, keep following and we’ll have you read through the guide to consumer buying process.

Origins of Consumer Behavior

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the marketing was heavily dependent and mostly relied on research and case studies along with occasional consumer interviews. However, this method failed to fit in the behavioral science mathematical research methods. So, a new stage for marketing was set by adopting a new perspective, which was consumer behavior.

In the early years of consumer behavior, it was all about research. The marketers used the information from research to know more about their customers, their demands and needs. its influence was clearly seen in the advertisements.

After some time, the method of research changed, and marketers adopted various techniques like in-depth interviews.

To this day, consumer behavior is a substantial sub-discipline of marketing and can be studied in all the graduate and undergraduate programs.

What Is Consumer Behavior?

Consumer behavior is basically the study of individuals, organizations, and groups making certain decisions or choices. These decisions refer to purchasing, selection of products, needs, demands, disposal, and use of some products and services.

If you break the term into simpler words, it is basically a study of the consumers’ buying decisions and about their needs, how they buy the product, how they use it and what do they think of it when the product life has ended.

Why Is Consumer Behavior Important?

Studying consumer behavior is the dire need for marketers as they need to know the factor that influences the customers’ buying decisions. By knowing what they need and the demands, they can fill the void in the market and hence, identify the products that people desire to have. The same applies to the products that have gone obsolete.

Moreover, studying consumer behavior also allows entrepreneurs and marketers to market and publicize their products in a way that could maximize profits and bring high revenue. It is basically the key to have a lasting impact on customers, to engage with them and convert them into purchases for revenue.

Types of Consumer Behavior

To study consumer behavior in-depth, you need to focus on four main types. They are:

  • Complex Buying Behavior of Consumers

    This behavior is seen in consumers when they are buying an infrequently brought or an expensive product. So, consumers are highly engaged in the buying process and research before they can invest.

    For example, buying a house is a complex buying decision.

  • Dissonance Reducing Buying Behavior of Consumers

    This behavior is observed even when the consumer is involved in the buying process. In this situation, they cannot determine which brand to go for. Dissonance occurs when they have a fear that they would regret their choice later on.

  • Habitual Buying Behavior

    Habitual buying behavior does not involve the concern about brand or quality. For instance, buying the same bread at a grocery store that you have been using for 10 years is a habitual buying decision. In short, there’s little to no involvement in brand research by the consumers.

  • Variety Seeking Buying Behavior

    This is the behavior that’s observed when a consumer changes the brand not because he had a bad experience with it but because he likes to try out a new variety of the same product.

What Affects Consumer Behavior?

Here are some of the most influencing factors that affect consumer behavior:

  • Marketing Campaigns

    If marketing campaigns are done right and marketers give an impacting message to the consumers, they can even opt for their product or change the brand. A good marketing campaign increases the chances of impulse purchases.

  • Economic Conditions

    For expensive products like a car, a mobile phone or a house, the economic conditions of a consumer matter a lot. A positive economic background of the product encourages the consumer to buy the product irrespective of his or her financial stabilities. However, consumers make longer buying decisions when it comes to getting expensive products.

  • Personal Preferences

    Consumers’ buying decisions can also be influenced by personal values, likes, dislikes, moral and social values. Even though advertisements play a great role in convincing them but at the end of the day, they always make a choice based on their social values and personal preferences. For instance, a vegan would never go to a burger joint no matter if it sells the best burgers in town.

  • Group Influence

    What the family, friends, relatives, colleagues, siblings, and parents think about a product can really be significant to the consumers and can greatly impact their buying decision.

  • Purchasing Power

    Last but not the least, the purchasing power also affects consumers’ buying decisions unless you are a millionaire. Only then only you would not consider your budget for a particular product. Even though a brand’s marketing campaign could be on point but if the consumer does not have money for it, he cannot buy it.

Explaining Consumer Behavior Process

Still concerned? Well, here are 5 elements that’ll help you get a clearer idea of consumer behavior in the buying process:

  • Problem Recognition

    A consumer sets the chain in motion when he detects a problem in the current product or determines that he badly needs a replacement. Problem recognition is the first step towards a purchase requirement.

  • Information Search

    After then, the product user looks for replacements that would fill his needs and requirement just rightly. The information searched by a consumer is usually obtained through personal research, public research, commercial research, internet research or experiential.

  • Alternatives’ Evaluation

    Based on their extensive research, they shortlist some of the brands that they consider reliable. Again, the evaluation is sub-divided into conjunctive choice and lexicographic choice. Conjunctive choice entails the acceptable quality of all the attributed in the product while lexicographic choice is making a buying decision on one factor or attribute of the product.

  • Purchase Decision

    After analyzing all the pros and cons of the product, the consumer finally moves towards the buying decision.

  • Post-Purchase Behavior

    Depending on the product’s durability and user experience, the consumer might either recommend it to his family or friends or decide to never use it again.

How Consumer Behavior Works?

To understand how it works, we need to go through the term ‘perception’ thoroughly. But what’s perception?

Perception is the process that includes the selection and organizing the data in a way that it becomes meaningful and useful. Every marketer maximizes their profit through perception. Consumer behavior in their eyes is nothing but a product’s perception. It is the perception that makes or breaks a deal for a product.

The 4 main cornerstones of perception are:

  • Selective Attention

    Selective attention is the process when you choose a particular group of people and gather the information related to them. In short, you choose to ignore others out of stimuli and only attain information that you want to have.

  • Selective Retention

    Selective retention is when you only remember the details that matter to you on a psychological level. It means that you only remember the emotional response or affectional feelings from stimuli and forget the user inputs that matter more.

  • Selective Distortion

    Selection distortion occurs when you twist or distort information according to your personal beliefs and values. When an input is provided, you might bend the information. In this case, the chances of marketing backfire become very high.

  • Subliminal Perception

    When the sublime messages attract consumers, that’s what creates subliminal perception.  Subliminal perception is how you subconsciously connect and associate with a specific product.

Consumer Behavior Patterns

Behavior patterns do not mean buying habits by all means. Habits become spontaneous and sooner or later we have no control over them, but the pattern is predictive. Each consumer might have different buying habits but the buying patterns of all the consumers would be less or more the same. Some categories of consumer patterns are:

  • Place of Purchase

    The majority of customers divide their purchase places. Even though there are shoes and clothes available at a smaller storefront, you would still prefer to shop from a flagship store of a brand.

    When consumers have accessibility to all the stores, they do not show any loyalty to the stores. This creates challenges for marketers when they have to identify the key store locations.

  • Purchased Items

    Some items are frequently purchased such as household and grocery items while luxury items are not frequently purchased. How much each item was purchased can determine the perishability of that item, the consumers’ purchasing power, number of consumers and its price. Analyzing consumers’ shopping carts can give a lot of meaningful insights to the marketers.

  • Frequency and Time of Purchase

    Customers go product shopping whenever they have time and expect services even at the oddest hours of the day. it’s a shop’s responsibility to take care of the services that the consumers demand especially when everything is just a few clicks away.

  • Purchase Methods

    A customer might order a product on phone, order it online or walk out of the store with that item. Some purchasing methods induce more spending by customers. For instance, you would have to pay extra money as delivery charges.

Consumer Decision Styles

Consumer behavior styles are influenced by many factors. Some of them are:

  • Influenced by Various Factors

    Marketing factors including price, product design, packaging design, positioning, promotion, and distribution.

    – Personal factors such as education, income level, age, agender and preferences.

    – Psychological factors like attitude, perception of a brand, buying motives and etc.

    – Situational factors such as the store location, time of purchase and surroundings.

    – Social factors like reference groups, social status, and family.

    – Cultural factors including ethnicity, moral values, religious beliefs, and castes.

  •  It Undergoes A Constant Change

    Consumer behavior is dependent on products’ natures.  The change in consumer behavior might be observed due to several factors such as brand loyalty, income level, personal preferences and etc.

  • It Varies from Consumer to Consumer

    All the consumers do not have the same opinions about a product. For instance, many tech-savvy people go beyond borrowing money from their friends and relatives to buy advanced tech devices.

  • Varies from Country to Country

    It varies from region to region as well. The consumer behavior in the rural areas won’t be the same as the urban area’s consumer behavior. People in rural areas would think more than once before buying a luxury item while buying it for the people in urban areas is not a problem.

  • Leads to Purchase Decision

    The purchase decisions might be made due to several reasons. For instance, a consumer could have multiple buying motives.

  • Varies from Product to Product

    Consumer behavior is different for every product. Some customers want quality while some want quantity. It about choices as well. For example, a middle-aged man would not spend much on clothing, but he would definitely invest money for future savings.

  • Reflects Status

    Consumer behavior reflects our status as well. A person with an expensive car, big house, and a real RADO watch would be considered of the upper-middle class.

What Influences Consumer Behavior?

Consumer behavior is influenced by 3 main common factors:

  • Personal factors: It is an individual’s interests and opinions on a particular product.
  • Psychological factors: An individual’s response to a marketing campaign would rely on his or her attitude.
  • Social factors: Family, friends, colleagues, and relatives highly influence consumer’s behavior.

Examples of Consumer Behavior

Before buying a coat, a consumer will conduct a search on different brand websites to see if someone has it on sale. After completing the research, he will compare the prices. After price selection, he would check the sustainability and durability of the coat and make his final buying decision.

Some examples of consumer behavior include:

  • Impulse buying when customers actually do not have an idea what they want to buy.
  • Limited decision making when the buyers select a product based on someone else’s recommendation.
  • Routine shopping where customers buy daily-life products without much research.

Future of Consumer Behavior

Deep learning, which is the subset of artificial intelligence has the potential to alter the marketing stage by helping the marketers to predict what the consumers want.

In an experiment, the computer was able to predict the actions of humans with 43% accuracy.

This could help the marketers to know if the consumers would end up buying the project or abandoning the shopping cart.

Consumer Behavior Analytics

There are 3 types of buyers. 24% of them are tightwads, 61% of them are unconflicted and 15% of them are spendthrifts.

Consumers are likely to spend money or take action when there are minimal set parameters.

  • Consumer Behavior Marketing Strategy

    Marketing behavior circling around consumer behavior is based on implicit and explicit consumer beliefs. However, there’s a whole process for consumer behavior marketing strategy. The strategy is:

  • Observing Customers’ Buying Behavior and Online Shopping

    Product buying has evolved so much in recent years. Take the example of a car. Consumers who were interested in buying a car used to conduct their research through auto—trade magazines and relief entirely on past experiences.

    But the prevalence of technology and information available on platforms like the internet has allowed the consumers to see the car’s power rating, availability, price, recalls, engines, customer satisfaction scores and etc.

  • Showrooming

    Have you ever gone to two stores to compare the product quality? well, this is known as showrooming. To combat showrooming, marketers should be innovative and creative and go beyond displaying the goods for sale.

  • Social Media

    Social media posts about the product can really influence consumers’ buying behavior. People use popular social media websites like Twitter and Facebook for product research and buying.

  • Competition

    Loyalties can be broken, and marketers can steal their competitors’ clients by good predictive analysis of consumer behavior. With the right level of service and marketing, you can steal potential customers.

Consumer Behavior Issues

Some of the consumer behavior issues are:

  • Reputation bias.
  • Online perception bias.
  • Solution bias.
  • Procurement process bias.

Consumer Behavior Factors

Some factors of consumer behavior include:

  • How consumers feel about different alternatives?

    Alternatives influence the purchasers’ decisions the most. Hence, the term perception kicks it. It is a process through which a purchaser organizes, selects or intercepts the product information.

    For example, a purchaser might get influenced by a product’s features. The perception of its features could influence his buying decision.

  • How consumers make a choice between two alternatives?

    Consumers’ choice depends on many factors, economic well-being being the top factor.

    For example, it is economically stable, he would choose to buy or spend even more. Hence, making his choice between two alternatives.

  • Consumers’ behavior while product researching?

    A consumer’s behavior is dependent on its occupation, social life, culture, family involvement, economic stability. For example, a white-collar worker would always research for office clothes, lunchboxes and etc.

  • How consumers are influenced by their environment?

    Consumers are influenced by peoples’ behavior and want around them, known as the culture. The culture does not only comprise of the society’s norms but includes preferences, perceptions and buying patterns of relatives and family as well.

  • How marketing campaigns can be improved for better results?

    Sellers need to come up with innovative ideas so that more and more consumers could adapt to the use of new products.

  • If the products are marketed to the right audience.

    Businesses won’t get important insights on consumer behavior unless they are targeting the right audience. Therefore, they cannot look at the social divisions in society.

  • Offering something extra along with the product/service may alter consumer’s decision.

    Providing the consumers with a manual or instruction brochure along with the product could boost up sales.

  • Most of all, pricing plays a key role in consumer behavior.

    Knowing about the overall income climate is very important because it helps the sellers to form income groups. To take benefit of the economic climate, the consumers would always spend more.

  • Consumer choices are always related to the society roles.

    People always tend to choose products that represent them as a person. For example, owners of the firms always attend meetings in a suit and drive a Mercedes or a Ferrari. When it comes to a status symbol, it’s important in this industry.

Consumer Behavior Framework

The consumer behavior framework is segmented into 6 parts:

  • Benefits sought.
  • Timing or occasion based.
  • Usage rate.
  • Status of brand loyalty.
  • Consumer status.
  • Consumer buying journey stage.

Consumer Behavior Strategies

  • Compensatory strategy

    Environmental modifications made within the premises to enhance attention, memory, cognitive skills, and other executive functions.

  • Equal weight strategy

    As the name suggests, equal weight strategy simply weighs ever product/service in a portfolio equally irrespective of its size and price.

  • Weighted additive strategy

    Employing this strategy lets consumers accept a higher value attribute in return for a lesser value attribute.

  • Non-compensatory strategy

    It plays a key role in decision making. Most of the time, consumers make non-compensatory decisions without knowing much about the importance, attributes, pros, and cons of a service.

  • Lexicographic strategy

    It helps in decision problem and to avoid any disagreement. Thus, if your targeted audience finds it difficult to make the final decision, now is the right time to employ a lexicographic strategy.

  • Conjunctive strategy

    A conjunctive strategy or brand model is the image consumers make in their heads before making a purchase. This strategy will help you think from your audience’s perspective.

Differentiate between consumer buying behavior and business buying behavior

Consumer Buying Behavior Business Buying Behavior
Consumer buy products in smaller amounts Businesses go for bulk purchasing.
Consumers prefer finished products rather than raw materials. Businesses may also invest in raw materials or parts.
Most of the times, consumers make purchase at the time of sales and tend to bargain the price. Businesses do not wait for discounted offers or sales; they make the purchases right away.

Frequently Asked Questions about Consumer Behavior

Q. Who Benefits from the Study of Consumer Behavior?

A. Not only do the marketers, businesses, and entrepreneurs benefit from consumer behavior studies but the customers benefit as well. A lot of consumers expect the sellers to sell according to their requirements and demands.

Q. Why Do Marketers Study Consumer Behavior?

A. To get useful insights about consumers’ buying decisions. Accurate predictive analysis with regard to their buying decision could actually generate more revenue and maximize profits.

Q. How Content is Used to Understand Consumer Behavior?

A. Conducting surveys and uploading content on focus groups and chatting forums is a great way to understand consumer behavior. Marketers get the chance to provide useful content with regard to consumers’ questions and queries.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, all marketing decisions are based on knowledge of consumer behavior. Researching and studying consumer behavior is a complex process but it becomes easy when you make them after listening to your audience, observing their needs and building a healthy relationship with them. Detecting consumer behavior patterns is hard but with useful insights, it becomes possible.

Danni White

Danni White | Danni White is the Director of Content Strategy and Development at Bython Media and the Editor-In-Chief at TechFunnel.com, a top B2B digital destination for C-Level executives, technologists, and marketers. Bython Media is also the parent company of OnlineWhitepapers.com, BusinessWorldIT.com, List.Events, and TheDailyPlanIOT.com.

Danni White

Danni White | Danni White is the Director of Content Strategy and Development at Bython Media and the Editor-In-Chief at TechFunnel.com, a top B2B digital destin...

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