4 factors influencing consumer purchases

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The purchasing needs of consumers are influenced by many cultural, social, personal and psychological factors. We will examine the 4 factors influencing consumer purchases as follows:

Cultural Factors

Consumer purchase decisions are deeply influenced by their culture, socio-cultural affiliations, and social class membership.

Culture

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From the day of birth, an individual learns behavioral patterns: a person assimilates the value system characteristic of their culture, which results from society’s past efforts to adapt to its environment, transmitted by various groups and institutions such as family or school.

International marketing managers must pay particular attention to cultural differences, as they can have profound impacts on the sale of their products and the implementation of their marketing plans abroad.

Subcultures

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Within any society, there are a number of cultural or subcultural groups that allow members to identify more precisely with a given pattern of behavior. These include:

  1. Generational groups.
  2. Nationality groups.
  3. Religious groups.
  4. Ethnic groups.
  5. Regional groups.

Social Classes

Every society establishes a system of social stratification (arranged in superimposed layers). This can take the form of a caste system (closed social classes) in which individuals cannot escape their destiny, or of social classes between which some mobility is possible.

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Several characteristics of social class are of interest to the marketing manager:

First, individuals belonging to the same class tend to behave more homogeneously than those belonging to different social classes; secondly, individuals’ positions in society are considered inferior or superior according to the social class to which they belong.

Social Factors

A second group of factors, centered on interpersonal relationships, play an important role in purchasing. These are reference groups and the statuses and roles associated with them.

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Reference Groups

In their daily lives, individuals are influenced by the numerous primary groups (family, neighbors, work, etc.) and secondary groups (associations, clubs) to which they belong. They are also admiring or critical of other groups to which they do not belong (e.g. movie stars); these various groups are referred to as ‘reference groups’.

Groups intervene in three ways:

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  • First, they offer the individual models of behavior and lifestyle.
  • Secondly, they influence the image the individual has of himself.
  • Finally, they generate pressures in favor of certain conformity of behavior.

Family

An individual’s behavior is heavily influenced by family members. It is useful to distinguish between two types of family units:

  • ‘Family of orientation’: composed of parents.
  • ‘Family of procreation’: formed by the spouse and children. In their family of orientation, an individual acquires certain attitudes towards religion, politics, or economics, but also towards themselves, their hopes, and ambitions.

The relative influence of spouses on the purchase decision varies considerably according to the products:

  • Products dominated by the husband’s decision: cars, repairs, etc.
  • Products dominated by the wife’s decision: cleaning products, children’s clothing, groceries.
  • Products whose purchase is dominated by either the husband or the wife (household appliances, men’s clothing).
  • Purchases resulting from joint decisions: apartments, vacations.

Note: Another trend concerns the increase in spending dedicated to children or influenced by them.

Statuses and Roles

An individual is part of numerous groups throughout their life: family, associations, clubs, etc. The position they hold in each of these groups is governed by a status corresponding to a role.

A role consists of all the activities a person is supposed to perform based on their status and the expectations of those around them.

Personal Factors

Purchase decisions are also influenced by the personal characteristics of the buyer, including their age, stage of the life cycle, profession, economic status, lifestyle, and personality.

Age and the Life Cycle

The products and services purchased by a person change throughout their life. Even if an individual consumes food until death, their diet changes: from baby food in childhood to a strict diet in old age. The same applies to clothing, furniture, and leisure activities.

The concept of the family life cycle allows for these changes in desires, attitudes, and values. There are 9 phases in the family cycle:

  1. Single: consumption type: clothing, drinks, leisure.
  2. Young couples without children: durable goods, leisure.
  3. Couples with children under six: housing, equipment, toys, medicine.
  4. Couples with children over six: education, sports.
  5. Elderly couple with dependent children: second residence, furniture, education.
  6. Elderly couple with no dependent children (working head of household): travel, leisure, retirement residence.
  7. Elderly couple with no dependent children (retired head of household): health, leisure.
  8. Single elderly person still working: travel, leisure, health.
  9. Single retired elderly person: health.

Profession

The profession a person engages in leads to many purchases. For example, a construction worker needs work clothes, shoes, and perhaps a lunchbox for eating on the construction site, while a director buys more luxurious clothing, travels by plane, and frequents private clubs.

Economic Status

An individual’s economic position largely determines what they are able to buy. This position depends on their income, assets, borrowing capacity, and their attitude towards savings and credit. Manufacturers of luxury products pay close attention to the evolution of the standard of living, savings, and credit. If economic indicators suggest a deterioration in purchasing power, they can reposition their products and prices.

Lifestyle

Another factor affecting purchasing behavior is the lifestyle a person has chosen. Lifestyle can be defined as a system of identification based on an individual’s activities, interests, and opinions.

Personality and Self-Concept

Every individual has a personality that is expressed through their purchasing behavior. Personality is defined as a set of distinctive psychological characteristics that generate a stable pattern of response to the environment.

Psychological Factors

Four key mechanisms influence an individual’s psychology: motivation, perception, learning, and the formation of beliefs and attitudes.

Motivation

An individual’s perceived needs are of a very diverse nature. Some needs are biogenic, arising from states of psychological tension such as hunger, while others are psychogenic, generated by psychological comfort such as the need for recognition.

Most latent or conscious needs do not necessarily drive the individual to act. For action to take place, the need must have reached a level of intensity sufficient to become a motive.

Many psychologists have proposed theories of motivation; the three most famous are those by Freud, Maslow, and Herzberg. They have very different implications for understanding purchasing behavior.

Perception

A motivated individual is ready for action. The form this action takes depends on their perception of the situation.

Perception is the process by which an individual chooses, organizes, and interprets elements of external information to construct a coherent image of the surrounding world. Three mechanisms explain why the same stimulus can be interpreted in multiple ways: selective attention, selective distortion, and selective retention.

Selective attention: a person is exposed to a very high number of stimuli at every moment of their life. Of course, most of them do not cross the threshold of consciousness. However, some are retained more than others:

  • An individual is more likely to notice a stimulus that concerns their needs.
  • An individual is more likely to notice a stimulus they expect to encounter.
  • An individual is more likely to notice a stimulus with high intensity compared to the norm.

Selective distortion: noticing a stimulus does not mean it will be interpreted correctly. Selective distortion is the mechanism that drives individuals to distort received information in order to make it more consistent with their expectations. When a consumer already has a strong preference for a brand, they may distort information in a way that favors that brand.

Selective retention: individuals forget most of what they learn. They tend to better remember information that supports their beliefs. The selectivity of perception demonstrates the power of internal filters and explains why marketing managers often need to repeat a message while striving to make it as convincing as possible.

Learning

When an individual takes action, they are subject to the direct and indirect effects of their actions, which influence their subsequent behavior:

Learning refers to the changes that occur in a person’s behavior as a result of their past experiences.

Most of our behaviors are learned. The theory of learning is based on five concepts: need, stimulus, cue, response, and reinforcement.

Beliefs and Attitudes

Through action and learning, individuals form beliefs and develop attitudes. These, in turn, influence their behavior.

A belief corresponds to a descriptive element of knowledge that a person holds about an object. Such beliefs may be based on objective knowledge, opinion, or an act of faith. They may or may not be accompanied by emotions.

An attitude summarizes the evaluations (positive or negative), emotional reactions, and predispositions to act towards an object or idea.

Attitudes allow an individual to establish consistent behaviors towards a category of similar objects. They do not need to reinterpret reality every time: their attitudes provide a framework, while also introducing rigidity of behavior.

A person’s attitudes accumulate in logical networks, and attempting to modify one of them may require a disruption of the whole.

Conclusion

Consumer behavior is a multifaceted interaction of perception, culture, psychology, economics, and individual characteristics. Companies that understand these complex dynamics can tailor their strategies to resonate better with their target audiences, thereby increasing sales and brand loyalty.”

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