consumer buying behavior

Consumer Buying Behavior: Definition, Types, Process, Factors

What is Consumer Buying Behavior?

Consumer buying behavior is the actions taken by consumers before purchasing, during purchasing, and post purchasing of goods and services for personal and family use. Simply, it is a buying behavior of final individual and household consumers who buy goods and services for personal consumption.

Consumer buying behavior is also known as a consumer buying decision. A careful study of customers’ behavior on buying helps to understand their actions and reactions in the best possible manner which ultimately increases the efficiency of the firms marketing plans and implementation.

Consumers are the decision-makers regarding the purchase of goods and services that satisfy their current and future needs. As different people have different needs and want, consumers purchase different products in different situations to meet their needs, and wants.

Some products are frequently purchased for daily use such as foods, clothes, shelter, etc., and which also require low cost. Some products are occasionally purchased such as high fashion clothes, an unfamiliar brand which requires to collect some information before purchasing those products and is higher cost than regular products.

Today consumer behavior towards the business firm’s products and services has a significant effect on its performance. A better knowledge of target consumer buying decisions and processes helps various businesses to tailor marketing strategies that lead to greater customer satisfaction, increases the firm’s profits, and provides greater sustainability.

Types of Consumer Buying Decision

Generally, there are three types of consumer buying decisions, they are:

Routine Purchase Decision. Routine purchase decision refers to the purchase of products we are daily or regularly used to use such as foods, milk, drinks, daily snacks, etc. It requires low involvement in purchasing as we already know the features, pros, and cons of the products and services. Here to purchase such products very little time is required and we do not need to gather any information. E.g. you always used to eat Mcdonald’s burgers, so whenever you feel hungry you might go looking for one near Mcdonald’s shop.

Limited Purchase Decision. In limited purchase decisions, there is a moderate level of involvement in the products and services which we occasionally used to purchase. Here, we may be a little bit familiar with a product however we need to gather some information before making an actual purchase. It requires to give more time on searching for information and spend some more money than a routine purchase decision to execute a purchase.

Extensive Purchase Decision. Extensive purchase decision requires a very high level of involvement while making any purchasing decision. It is the most complex consumer buying decision as compared to routine and limited purchase behavior. Consumers have to spend a lot of time on information and deciding. These types of products also require a huge amount of money. For example, cars, houses, etc.

Consumer Buying Process

The consumer buying process or consumer decision process is a set of sequential steps followed by consumers in the way of making any purchase. Although there are no hard and fast rules to go through some sequential steps before purchasing, however, a rational consumer usually follows the following five steps.

Consumer Buying Process

Need or Problem Recognition

The stages of the consumer buying behavior or process begin with the need recognition, the first step. First, a buyer recognizes his problem or need. The unmet need always insists consumers buy some products. It makes the consumer aware of want, desire, or problem without fulfillment of such he may become dissatisfied.

A consumer’s want or desire may be initiated by his self problem, by the influence of others, and advertisements on TV or any publicity of the products or services.

Mainly there are two types of consumer need, functional need – it is basic or actual need created by internal stimuli without fulfillment of such need may create a problem on consumer’s performance. The second is psychological need – it is an optional need created by maybe some advertisements which can be ignored in a particular situation.

For example, our want or desire is created by some events such as, in winter season we want to wear thick and warm clothes, and in summer season we prefer cotton clothes. Unless and until a desire or want is created, we will not initiate to buy any products. Thus, the first stage of the consumer buying process ended with the identification of desired product or service that satisfies our need, want, or desire when it is consumed.

Information Search

After the recognition of the need or problem, the consumer starts searching for information that may satisfy his or her need. While searching for information he may focus on products’ brand, quality, features, prices, warranties, suppliers, etc.

The searching and collection of the information depend upon the consumer’s experiences and the types of products. If he searches for regular products it may consume less time while expensive or unsought products require a little bit more time.

Consumer search information helps him to reduce uncertainty and make the basis for alternative evaluation. He may search information in two ways, first, internal search – by retrieving the knowledge and information stored in his memory. Second, external search – he can gather various information from various sources other than his memory. He may contact his friends, relatives, associates, reads journals, advertisements, etc.

The consumer tries to gather as much as relevant information of related products from all the possible sources for better evaluation of the alternative.

Alternative Evaluation

Once the possible information is gathered of alternative products, they are analyzed, evaluated to find out the best possible product that can satisfy the consumer to a great extent. Usually, the careful evaluation of alternatives products goes through four-tiered tasks:

  • Cost Criteria: It may include cost, repairs, installment, operating cost, and cost of extras.
  • Performance Criteria: It may include durability, efficiency, economy, materials used, and dependability.
  • Suitability Criteria: It may include brand style, size.
  • Convenience Criteria: It is related to the comfort of the consumer while buying. It may include from where to buy, which store, which supplier, pay through check or cash, etc.

Most of the buyers do not go through this lengthy process. You may simply evaluate product alternatives through cost, benefits, importance, beliefs, function, satisfaction level, etc.

After all these activities now the consumer has a clear picture of all alternatives. And, this stage of consumer buying decision ended with the collection of the best products that have the potential to satisfy the consumer’s need or want.

Purchase Decision

After the proper evaluation of product alternatives, now a consumer will go for a purchase decision. A purchase decision means selecting the best alternative from all available.

Simply understanding, in this stage of consumer buying behavior the consumer makes an actual purchase.

At this stage, the consumer also faces many decisions problems such as how to travel from which store to buy, what brands to buy, what prices are acceptable, what products lines are desirable, etc.

It is not necessary that the consumer should purchase the product after the evaluation of alternative products. If the consumer feels that the evaluated products do not perform well as they are supposed to do, he may either repeat the purchase decision on another product that satisfies his need or buy it.

Post Purchase Decision

The post-purchase decision is the last step in the consumer buying process. It refers to the comparison done by consumers as the purchased product either or not meets the expected expectations.

But most of the typical buyers do not evaluate the performance of products purchased and consumed. But a rational consumer usually evaluates the product in terms of product performance and the satisfaction derived from the product. The level of satisfaction may be judged on the basis of several criteria such as:

  • Taste of the product
  • Quality of the product
  • Product performance
  • Service delivered by the seller
  • Shopping convenience
  • Cost different

If the consumer is fully satisfied with the above criteria, he will re-purchase the same product. A satisfied consumer not only makes repurchases but he may also motivate the other potential customer to make the firm’s products and may create several satisfied customers. While making re-purchase of the product, the purchase decision process directly affects his buying decision; he does not have to repeat gathering information and evaluate alternatives and vice versa.

If the consumer is not satisfied with his purchase decision, he may make a new purchase decision. In this situation, a consumer has to go through the whole buying processes again. A dissatisfied consumer not only cancels a new purchase decision but can damage the goodwill of the firm and distract several other potential customers of the firm.

Factors Influencing Consumer Buying Behavior

Consumer buying behavior or decision is influenced by various factors. A short explanation of these factors affecting consumer buying behavior ar as follows:

Economic Factors. The economic level or income level of the consumer largely affects his pattern of buying goods and services. The higher the income level of the consumer, the higher purchasing power may he have and make purchases more. A consumer’s family income also affects his buying behavior.

Socio-Cultural Factors. It is related to the consumer and his family, society beliefs, values, spending patterns, and so on. One simple example, various cultures, and festivals have greatly influenced the buying behavior of the consumer.

Psychological Factors. It is related to the consumer’s various psychological matters such as motivation, perception, personality, learning, personal beliefs, and attitudes.

Demographic Factors. The demographic factor of consumer buying behavior is related to age structure, sex group, family size, occupation, education, marital status, religious group, etc.

Psycho-Analytic Factors. Last but not least, a psycho-analytic factor of consumer buying behavior related to consumers intrinsic need, his id, ego, and superego.

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