Consumer Behavior

Consumer behavior—“how individuals, groups, and organizations select, buy, use, and dispose

of goods, services, ideas, or experiences to satisfy their needs and wants” [3]—is the result of a

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complex interplay of factors, none of which a small business can control. These factors can be

grouped into four categories: personal factors, social factors,psychological or individual factors,

and situational factors. It is important that small-business owners and managers learn what

these factors are.

• Personal factors. Age, gender, race, ethnicity, occupation, income, and life-cycle stage (where an

individual is with respect to passage through the different phases of life, e.g., single, married without

children, empty nester, and widow or widower). For example, a 14-year-old girl will have different

purchasing habits compared to a 40-year-old married career woman.

• Social factors. Culture, subculture, social class, family, andreference groups (any and all groups that

have a direct [face-to-face] or indirect influence on a person’s attitudes and behavior, e.g., family, friends,

neighbors, professional groups [including online groups such as LinkedIn], coworkers, and social media

such as Facebook and Twitter).[4] For example, it is common for us to use the same brands of products

that we grew up with, and friends (especially when we are younger) have a strong influence on what and

where we buy. This reflects the powerful influence that family has on consumer behavior.


• Psychological or individual factors. Motivation, perception (how each person sees, hears, touches,

and smells and then interprets the world around him or her), learning, attitudes, personality, and self-

concept (how we see ourselves and how we would like others to see us). When shopping for a car, the

“thud” sound of a door is perceived as high quality whereas a “tinny” sound is not.

• Situational factors. The reason for purchase, the time we have available to shop and buy, our mood (a

person in a good mood will shop and buy differently compared to a person in a bad mood), and

theshopping environment (e.g., loud or soft music, cluttered or neat merchandise displays, lighting

quality, and friendly or rude help). A shopper might buy a higher quality box of candy as a gift for her best

friend than she would buy for herself. A rude sales clerk might result in a shopper walking away without

making a purchase.

These factors all work together to influence a five-stage buying-decision process (Table 6.2 “Five

Stages of the Consumer Buying Process”), the specific workings of which are unique to each

individual. This is a generalized process. Not all consumers will go through each stage for every

purchase, and some stages may take more time and effort than others depending on the type of

purchase decision that is involved. [5] Knowing and understanding the consumer decision

process provides a small business with better tools for designing and implementing its

marketing mix.


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