The consumer buyer decision process is composed of three interlocking parts: the characteristics affecting consumer behavior, the different types of consumer behavior, and the actual decision process itself. To further explain and connect this concept to the real world and my personal life, I will discuss how the consumer buyer decision process can be applied to myself and the restaurant and food industry.
CHARACTERISTICS AFFECTED CONSUMER BEHAVIOR
As the graphic above shows, a buyer is influenced by cultural, social, personal and psychological factors when they are making decisions as consumers. Each factor can be broken down into future subcategories that help determine how and why consumers make the decisions that they make. First I will go over the cultural factors and the subcategories that are within the factor itself.
The cultural factor is composed of three subcategories that have a broad influence on a consumer’s buying behavior: culture, subculture, and social class.
Culture is the most basic aspect of a consumer’s life that influences the values and beliefs that they live their life with. The culture that an individual is exposed to teaches that individual what values, behaviors, perceptions, and wants they must take into account when making purchasing decisions. Family and friends are also factors that have a sizable influence on a consumer’s buying behavior. Personally, I have grown up believing in the values of hard work, individualism, compassion, originality, achievement and success, as well as being healthy. All of these values stem from my upbringing in a work printed family and growing up in a generation that is focused on being healthy and making more nutrition conscience choices. Due to these values, I tend to find myself choosing to eat at restaurants that are run by entrepreneurs who care about the food and the quality of the product they are producing.
A consumer’s subculture is a smaller, more defined category that influences buying behavior. Because subcultures include factors like nationality, religion, racial groups, and geographic region affiliation, these factors can often not be changed (or changed with a level of ease) by consumers. Marketers have found that it is beneficial to target consumers based on their subculture because they are often the reason that consumers belong to the market segments that they do. An example of a subcultural factor that influences a customer’s behavior in the food and restaurant industry is religious beliefs. Those individuals who are part of the Orthodox Jewish subculture must eat according to a kosher diet, and therefor must chose restaurants that fit their religious needs.
There are seven different social classes that the member’s of society can belong to in America: Lower Lowers, Upper Lowers, Working Class, Middle Class, Upper Middles, Lower Uppers, and Upper Uppers (p. 141). The social class that a consumer is a part of is difficult, but not impossible. A consumer can use his or her income, occupation, education, and wealth to move throughout the different levels of social classes. Social classes encourage consumers to keep up with the trends that are affiliated with their classes, and therefor have a notable influence on the decisions a buyer makes. As a member of the Upper Middles due to the attained social class my parents have achieved, I feel the pressures of my social class and feel it is necessary to eat at nice restaurants rather than go to fast-food drive thru establishments like lower class individuals view as “a night out.”
Social factors like groups and social networks, family, and roles and status influence how a consumer forms their individual buying behavior.
Groups and Social Networks
Groups that consumers are a part of influence their buying behavior in the aspect that the consumers feel as thought they have to justify the purchases they make to the group members they associate with. Similarly, the social networks that a consumer is a part of offer the consumer a way to communicate and show off the buying decisions they make. As a resident of the Southern California area, I live in class proximity to Los Angeles that has a diverse assortment of high class restaurants and fun eateries. When my peers or myself go to one of these establishments, we feel it is necessary to share the experience with every social network and group we belong to. If one restaurant will impress more people in their social networking groups, a consumer will most likely chose the restaurant with the more impressive reputation. Growing up in a generation that is obsessed with social networking, I fully understand the influence that a consumer’s groups have on buying behavior.
One of the most influential factors to buying behavior is a consumer’s family. Whether it is a supportive or unsupportive influence, the opinions of family members greatly shape the decisions a consumer makes. Rebellious children often shape their buying behavior around opposition to their parents’ advisement on buying certain products; husbands and wives often form their behavior around decisions that will promote unity and peace within the relationship; and parents try to use their buying behavior as a responsible “role model” for their children to follow in the future. Personally, I find myself mimicking the buying behavior of my parents when it comes to restaurants and the food industry. I value establishments the provide quality products, with little thought to the cost because food is important part of our lives.
Roles and Status
Roles and status refers to the positions held within the groups and social networks that a consumer is a part of. When purchasing products, consumers often pay attention to their roles and status because they feel as though the products they buy should reflect their positions. Consumers can hold many different roles at one time. For example, when I am supporting my favorite sports team, the Los Angeles Kings Hockey team, I wear clothing the reflects the support I have for the team. My role as a future bakery owner affects the buying decisions I make when I shopping. While my peers are spending their money on clothes and going out, I am spending my money on cookbooks, baking supplies, and items that will helped me further my dreams.
Personal factors are the factors about a person that that come together to make up their individuality such as age, life-cycle stage, occupation, economic situation, lifestyle, and personality and self-concept.
Age and Life-Cycle Stage
Age and life-cylce are commonly used tools to help marketers identify a consumer’s buying decisions because as a person ages and moves throughout the different life-cycle stages, their tastes change. The changes in taste that consumers experience often have a direct influence on the buying decisions they make. Marketers can market specific products to segmented age groups that will adopt the product to ensure success. An example of how my age influences my buying behavior in the restaurant industry is my level of taste. As a person ages, their taste and palette changes. With age, I have noticed myself going to nicer restaurants than I would have gone to with friends in middle-school or high-school.
The occupation that a consumer has affects the goods and services that that consumer will want or need to purchase. A consumer’s occupation is what defines them usually. An example that comes to mind is my father. As a project manager for a mechanical engineering company, it is important that his clothing purchases reflect his occupation and authority. In contrast, when I own my bakery one day, I will not be buying suits and business attire to wear everyday. Instead, I will be purchasing clothes that make it easy for me to move around and that I do not mind getting dirty. On the other hand, I still want to look professional so that I attract high quality customers
As defined by Kotler and Armstrong in the textbook used for my class, “lifestyle is a person’s pattern of living as expressed in his or her activities, interests, and opinions” (p. 147). The generation I am a part of is starting to lean more towards the health conscious and are buying products that support their lifestyles. For example, I am a person who tries to and enjoys eating healthy foods that taste good. Because of this lifestyle that I live, I am more inclined to make purchases at stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s as opposed to Grocery Outlet or Safeway. Although the stores that I shop at usually cost more, I believe that the value of the products I’m purchasing are worth the extra charge.
Personality and Self-Concept
Personality is more well-known as the individual qualities of a per on that make them who they are and set them apart from their peers. A consumer is defined by certain personality traits that affect their buying behavior. When it comes to restaurant choices and food preferences, I feel as though I am more sophisticated than a large majority of my peers. I would rather spend $30 for a dinner in Pacific Grove, than spend $10 at Buffalo Wild Wings Happy Hour as opposed to most of my peers. Also, the level of excitement that a consumer adapts into their personality affects the way they make choices about food. My family and myself are all pretty adventurous food connoisseurs who find it exciting to try new foods. On the other hand, my older sister is more reserved in all aspects of her personality, and has difficulty in trying and liking new foods.
Psychological factors are best defined as the factors that influence a consumer’s mind on the buying behavior they engage in. The factors within the psychological category are motivation, perception, learning, and beliefs and attitudes.
Motivation is made up of the subconscious factors that push a consumer to buy a product. Motivation often drives consumers to buy one product rather than another which does not satisfy their needs as well. One of the best ways to interpret a consumer’s motivation is through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
The pyramid explains how consumers are influenced by different motivators. From the most basic survival level at the bottom to the top level which focuses on being content with one’s self, consumer’s subconsciously rely on this pyramid to shape their buying decisions.
Perception is the way that different consumers interpret information. Every consumer interprets information differently and therefor every consumer’s buying behavior is unique to the perceptions they have. Perception can also be categorized into subcategories like selective attention, selective retention, and subliminal advertising. When it comes to my own buying behavior in restaurants, I tend to exhibit selective retention which means that I only focus on the good things about a restaurant. Using selective retention is what causes me to become “a regular” at so many restaurants because my mind choses to focus on the positives the restaurant displays, rather than the mistakes they make.
A consumer’s learning is the way in which they alter the opinions or behavior they have when buying. The buying behavior of a consumer is constantly changing due to the new information they are being exposed to. As I educate myself about food and restaurants though reading cookbooks, experimenting with recipes, and endlessly watching the Food Network and Cooking Channel (my family members and friends can attest to this), I am learning and reshaping my buying behavior as a consumer.
Beliefs and Attitude
The beliefs and attitudes that a consumer lives with shape not only their buying behavior, but every aspect of their lives. Both factors are extremely difficult to change and are often pulled from the family and peers of the consumer. An attitude is a predetermined feeling that a consumer has towards a product or service and either drives them to purchase more from a company or avoid them completely. When it comes to restaurants and fast-food chains, both factors have a large influence. For example, many consumers have a bad attitude that is associated with McDonald’s establishments and refuse to eat their product regardless of the circumstances. On the other hand, these factors can be beneficial to a company. My family and I have a very positive attitude about the Red House Cafe in Pacific Grove and are now considered “regulars” even though they live five hours south of the location.
TYPES OF BUYING DECISION BEHAVIOR
Once a consumer’s decision behavior is determined using the factors above, it is necessary for marketers to identify which kind of buyer that individual is categorized as. There are four types of buying behavior that consumers can be a part of: complex buying behavior, dissonance-reducing buying behavior, habitual buying behavior, and variety seeking buying behavior. The four different types of behavior are expressed in the graphics below:
As you can see, the different types of buying behavior are dependent upon the level of involvement they chose to put forth into the buying decision, as well as the level of differences between the brands being analyzed. Every consumer has different behavior and can even identify with different behavior when buying different products or services.
BUYER DECISION PROCESS
After identifying the factors that influence consumer behavior and the different types of behavior that consumers can approach purchases with, marketers can analyze the process of the actual buying decision. There are five steps that buyers follow: need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision, and post purchase behavior.
Rather than explaining the different steps with definitions, I will use a real life example of a purchase decision to explain what each step involves. As a person who hopes to be a well-known competitor in the bakery and dessert industry one day, I will analyze a consumer’s decision process when they are looking for baked goods.
As you can se, the consumer buyer decision is not simple. Although it may feel like there is nothing more involved in making decisions than seeing a product that you like, there are factors that affect every way, shape, and form that a consumer views a product or service that is marketed by a company. In order to be successful, it is important that companies hire marketers who understand the complexity that is involved in every step of the consumer buyer decision process. Before this class I would have never been aware of the steps that are taken in order to make an appropriate and well informed buying decision as a consumer.