Consumer behavior is the study of the course by which customers select, purchase and use goods and services. In essence, the consumers’ attitude, personality, and motivation determine whether or not to buy and use the products in the market. Organizations should therefore put effort into understanding the way customers perceive their products and what influences them to make their buying decisions. The study of consumer behavior is important as it helps the marketing managers to get quality information that would be used in designing good marketing strategies (Marsden 2001).
“The key to a company’s survival and growth in a highly competitive marketplace is its ability to identify and satisfy unfulfilled consumer needs better than the competition”
This statement clearly depicts the business environment because for organizations to survive they must concentrate their efforts on satisfying their customers’ needs. This is because, through the satisfaction of customers’ needs, the organization gets to earn the customers’ loyalty which in turn ensures the stability of the organization’s profits. It is thus important for marketers to embark on effective marketing strategies to capture a desirable market share. This would be achieved by carrying out extensive and detailed research on customers’ needs and how to satisfy them. A discussion of consumer needs follows below.
Consumers are compelled to purchase goods and services to satisfy their needs. There are different types of consumer needs. For instance, an individual can make purchasing decisions based on his or her love of the product or just to get self-fulfillment. In addition, consumers are also triggered by their safety needs in their buying decisions. In this regard for example an individual will install a car alarm in his or her car to prevent it from being stolen. One other type of consumer need is prestige. Individuals will purchase commodities just to prove their status. They do not consider how much it costs as long as it satisfies their prestigious needs then they are willing to pay for it (Murthi & Kannani 1999).
Individual characteristics and qualities also dictate how consumers attend to their wants. There are those consumers who will buy products based on the physical outlook and how they are appealed by the same. On the other hand, other consumers purchase goods based on their quality and usefulness. The educated classes are critical in their decision-making and will buy something after they are well convinced that it will suit their needs and they do try to make comparisons on the best options. Other individuals who are politically motivated tend to look for commodities that are associated with a good public image and establish a sense of power. It is these factors that marketers should look into in the identification of consumer needs. That is the marketers should understand the consumer’s mind, personal traits, social and cultural values as these dictate the choice and use of goods and services (Martel & Kardes 1999).
To illustrate how the aspect of identification of consumer needs is important let’s make a comparison between the purchase of a service in the commonwealth bank and buying Coca-Cola soft drinks. That is, for an individual to seek services from the commonwealth bank he or she should have a specific need in this case let’s say a security need. One of the services that the individual would seek is a loan may be to expand his or her business. In essence, banks offer different types of loans, and thus to satisfy the individual’s diversified needs marketers of bank services need to seek adequate information on bank loans. By so doing they may design these loans in a way that captures the consumers’ attention. For example, referring to loan as ‘save business loan.’ This ensures that when the individual approaches the bank for the business loan, he or she gets the opportunity to choose that type of loan that satisfies his need to expand his premises.
On the other hand, a consumer may choose specifically to buy a Coca-Cola soft drink, in this case, a soda, and not from any other company. This would happen because the Coca-Cola Company has well identified the consumers’ needs and in turn earned their loyalty. That is even though other soft drinks companies are present in the market they do not satisfy the consumer’s needs. The consumer need here is to quench thirst and though there are a variety of soft drinks from other companies that consumers can buy, their purchasing decision is based on quality.
This shows that for companies to survive and grow in the competitive business environment they should embark on identifying and satisfying consumers’ needs. Marketers should ensure the cohesive connectivity of their products with the customers. For example, the use of a slogan like; “The customer’s wish is our command” could be an effective way to sensitize the consumers that their needs are well taken care of.
Another important aspect which marketers should consider in the evaluation of consumer behavior is consumer motivation. That is what triggers the consumers to make purchase decisions of goods and services. Consumer motivation refers to that inner state which compels individuals to select and purchase products that satisfy their needs. The satisfaction of a person’s needs determines whether or not that individual will buy again the good or services. Otherwise, if the individual is not satisfied then he or she will look for an alternative to satisfy that need. Marketers should therefore identify the consumers’ motives in the formulation of their marketing strategies as they do influence the consumers’ behavior (Solomon 2003).
Consumers do have motivation levels in that their levels of motivation vary in degree. This usually depends on the importance and cost of buying a certain commodity or service. For example, the motivation level of purchasing milk is low compared to the motivation level of purchasing a complex thing like a motorcar. It follows that more thought and dedication are needed in deciding to buy a car than it is in buying milk. Consumer motivation is usually accompanied by certain behaviors. For instance, one cannot wake up one day and decide to buy a house. He or she needs to embark on research to identify a good location of the house, preferred design, and even the cost of the house. The person may even want to make a comparison of different houses and choose the best from available alternatives (Bucklin & Lattin 1991).
Consequently, consumers’ motivation is driven by various factors like the social status, economic state, personal perception of a product, and also what one’s friends and family think of the product. This means that a person can be driven to purchase a certain commodity because his or her parents have been purchasing it. That is it is like a family’s habit to purchase that thing and thus any time the individual comes across the product he or she is compelled to purchase it. A consumer will also buy goods and services because according to him or her they are good. In this case, the individual makes a personal judgment of the product or brand and decides to purchase the same (Percy & Elliot 2009).
Availability of money can also compel a consumer to make a purchase decision. For instance, when the country’s economy is doing good most consumers engage in buying decisions. It is at this time that individuals buy houses, plots, building materials, and households. On the other hand, when the economic state is unfavorable and people are facing a financial crisis they are bound to avoid purchasing decisions. In addition, the order of satisfaction of customers’ needs also determines what the consumer buys. In essence, most people make a list of the order of the needs that they are supposed to be fulfilled. One will thus fulfill first those needs that are very important followed in that order. This elaborates that in making purchasing decisions individuals have to forego the satisfaction of one need at the expense of another (Chintagunta & Vilcassim 1998).
Taking a case whereby a consumer is making two purchasing decisions of buying a product from Coca-Cola Company and using Common Wealth Bank services. Considering the first purchasing decision the consumer would be motivated to buy Coca-Cola soft drinks because of various factors. One of the factors would be the individual’s perceptions of Coca-Cola soft drinks. That is the individual may have previously used Coca-Cola products and has deduced their features, quality, or are hygienic. In essence, the consumer is knowledgeable about these products. Secondly, the consumer can be motivated to make the purchasing decision as a result of influence from friends. Friends influence each other as they do share ideas and thus if one’s friend buys and uses Coca Cola products, he or she is bound to convince the person to buy too.
On the other hand, let’s see what would motivate consumers to use Common Wealth Bank services. Commonwealth Bank provides a wide range of services to its customers. One of them is different types of loans for example a mortgage loan. One factor that is bound to compel individuals to use this loan is the personal desire to grow. The other factor is the influence that individuals get from friends. That is, through the ideas that individuals share with their friends they will be compelled to do as their friends are doing. That is, they do not want to be left alone when their friends take growth strategies. More so the bank loan does not involve a lot of complexities in securing it. That is, there are no detailed procedures for one to undertake the loan. One is only supposed to have an account with the bank and a stable salary.
It is therefore important for marketers to understand the things that motivate consumers to choose and buy different products to incorporate them in their marketing strategies. This information can be derived from market research and surveys conducted directly or indirectly by customers.
A consumer goal refers to the aspirations that a consumer intends to achieve when he or she undertakes a purchase decision. That is what an individual achieves through the selection and purchase of goods and services (Chernev 2004). Individuals always have pre-purchase goals that they hold on to before undertaking a purchase. Pre-purchase goals are set to reduce the chances of incurring losses as a result of making a purchase decision. Consumers do plan before purchasing any goods or services to avoid impulse buying. As a matter of fact, most purchasing decisions are goal-oriented.
It happens that some people emphasize the evaluation of products before purchasing them than others. These individuals may fast investigate the features of a product like how it is packaged, its ingredients, and even its durability and quality. On the other hand, there are those individuals who would purchase commodities just because they appeal to them. Consumer goals differ depending on the individual perception, personality, social status, and economic status. In essence, most consumer goals are dictated by the ability to achieve these goals, that is, the financial position of the consumer (Ligas 2000).
One type of consumer goal that would influence consumer behavior is the social goal. A consumer would for example buy a personal vehicle to fit in his or her social class. To achieve this goal the consumer is bound to get motivation from individuals of his or her social class. Another type of consumer goal is time. Consumers will make purchase decisions triggered by time. In that, some commodities are only available in a specific period of time. Failure to buy these products the consumer will be time burred (Ratneshwar, Pechmann & Shocker 1996).
An illustration of how consumer goals influence the purchasing decision of individuals is elaborated by making a purchase decision between two options. That is, getting commonwealth bank services or purchasing a Coca-Cola soft drink. To start with, for an individual to seek the bank’s services she or he has to be motivated by certain goals. In this case, a consumer may seek a mortgage loan from the bank. This decision would for example be triggered by the intention of an individual to achieve a personal goal of building a house.
On the other hand, a person may embark on purchasing a Coca-Cola soft drink to achieve prestige. That is the individual wants to feel the pleasure of taking soft drinks from a leading soft drink company. Otherwise, it is important to indicate that consumer goals differ with different individuals. Moreover, a purchase decision to buy a common product by different consumers satisfies different goals.
Consumer behavior is a comprehensive term that covers all the consumer aspects that influence his or her consumption behavior. It is evident that consumer needs, motivation, and goals hold connectivity in influencing consumer behavior. That is for a consumer to satisfy a certain need there has to be a motivating factor that compels him or her to repetitively seek satisfaction. It is also important to note that every consumer’s purchase decisions are driven by the intent of achieving a certain goal. It is at this juncture that marketers are supposed to get detailed and adequate information to understand the customers’ needs. In addition, they should explore the motivation factors and intended aspirations that compel consumers’ purchasing decisions.
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