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Consumer Behaviour

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In the early 1900s, marketing was governed by classical economic theory. This Western school of thought viewed consumer behaviour as both rational and highly predictable. However, by the 1950s, this theory had become unstuck. The so-called 'Cognitive Revolution' in the field of psychology, proved consumers were wholly irrational. This meant marketing firms had to analyse consumer's customs, to gain a practical insight into purchasing motives. Thus, the term 'consumer behaviour' was conceptualised. Marketing stopped relying solely on economics and became a more integrative field, blending elements of psychology, sociology and anthropology.

1950's motivation research marked the birth of consumer behaviour as a marketing concept, laying the foundation of present-day consumer behaviour as a discipline. Companies realised that through analyzing both personal and organisational consumers, they could work out what products consumers' wanted. This allowed companies to produce new products, market and pre-empt buying trends per customer needs.

So what is modern consumer behaviour? Why is the study of consumer behaviour important for my business? What are the cultural, psychological, personal and social aspects of consumer behaviour?

What is consumer behaviour?

Marketing is so much more than a witty slogan or company catchphrase. Businesses need to understand their customer base and study consumer behaviour. Consumer behaviour studies how people buy, what people buy, when people buy and why people buy. It looks at consumers' decisions and thought processes before, during and after purchasing a product. It involves analyzing how consumers perceive products, and how exterior impetus may affect their buying routine.

Through anticipating consumer behaviour, companies can pre-empt buying patterns and increase market share. A current example of a shift in consumer behaviour would be the increased need for vegan food products. Businesses that analyzed the changing eating patterns of the general public realised the increased need for vegan products. They sought to fill this void in the market place by producing vegan products themselves, thus increasing their market share. Companies that didn't analyse consumer behaviour didn't anticipate the need for vegan products, thus were left behind.

Why consumer behaviour is key for business

Utilising consumer behaviour data is key to any businesses marketing strategy. If a business fails to read the consumers mind, it's product or service will end up failing. So, what can consumer behaviour analysis do for your business?

Marketing Strategy

It's simple, understanding your customers allows you to provide more bespoke services and products. Simply tailoring an email or suggesting a specific product goes a long way. Through analysing consumer behaviour, businesses can anticipate consumer needs, attract new customers and understand how best to market their products. You can better meet the needs of consumers if you know what they're buying and why they're buying it.

Customer Retention

Competent business strategy isn't just about gaining customers, it's about keeping them. Through analyzing customer behaviour, you may notice a decline in custom from a certain demographic. Through recognizing the problem, a business can take steps to understand why they're not appealing to that demographic and solve the issue quickly and efficiently.

Builds Customer Trust

Nowadays, brand loyalty is more important than ever. Brand trust is essential in turning idle consumers into loyal customers. Without understanding consumer behaviour, businesses cannot connect with specific target markets and therefore cannot build brand loyalty. Companies that understand how their customers think and feel have a greater chance of understanding their purchasing needs. After-all, every sale begins with customer understanding.

Product Creation

Consumer behaviour is particularly important when a company is launching a new product. Through analyzing consumer behaviour, you can glean how consumer's use and interact with your products. This information is vital when deciding what products to produce in the future. Furthermore, through studying how customers react to specific advertising, you can tailor your upcoming marketing campaign to best suit your customer base.

The four aspects of consumer behaviour?

So what drives consumer behaviour? As humans, we all have extrinsic and intrinsic motivations when it comes to purchasing. Specifically, we can split these motivations into four: Cultural, Psychological, Personal and Social.


Culture is inherent in all aspects of society. It plays a significant role in the buying behaviour of the consumer. For any business, it's important to understand the cultural factors apparent in different markets. McDonald's is an example of how a successful business adapts to cultural specificities: They sell the Chicken Maharaj in India, the McBaguette in France and the Mega Teriyaki in Japan. It's also possible for products to become 'cultural trends.' Services like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all become cultural norms through their sheer popularity and usage.


What we purchase is largely determined by how we feel before, during and post the purchase. The Psychological factors of consumer behaviour can be split into four key influences: Motivation, Perception, Learning, and Attitude. Motivation relates to the personal needs of the customer and what lies behind their purchasing habits. Perception is how a consumer judges a brand or company and what external stimuli the customer reacts to. Learning relates to a customer changing their buying habits based on previous experience. For example, if a customer got food poisoning after eating certain brands food, they associate the brand with the feeling of discomfort. Attitude relates to the set of values that dictates individuals buying habits. This set of values is formed by previous experience and external stimuli.


Personal factors include age, gender, occupation, upbringing and lifestyle. Businesses need to market to specific demographics and understand a brand simply can't resonate with everyone. A perfect example would be Steve Jobs' vision of Apple. Through professing values of innovation, uniqueness and creativity, Apple identified on a personal level with people who held these qualities.


External motivations play a huge part in our buying behaviour. If one of your friends or your favourite celebrity recommends a certain product to you, you're more likely to buy it. This is because you trust that person's judgement. Even a simple quote or customer review can sway people towards buying your product. Social class also plays a huge part in consumer behaviour. Someone from a working-class background in more inclined to focus on price, whereas a customer from an upper-class background will be more focused on quality.


Nowadays, customers are bombarded with product choice. They are faced with a vast selection of products and services from competing companies. In such a competitive, globalized economic system, understanding consumer behaviour is vital for any successful business. Consumer behaviour doesn't just occur at the moment of purchase, it's an on-going process, occurring before, during and after a purchasing decision. To keep up with the ever-changing behaviour of the consumer, business' marketing techniques must also constantly evolve. Through constantly analyzing consumer behaviour, a company can outperform its competition and increase its market share. Through understanding what, why and how customers consume, companies can pre-empt consumer needs; designing, producing and marketing a product in a way that suits their customer base.

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