Consumer Behavior

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Consumer behavior is the behavior that consumers display in searching for, purchasing, using, evaluating, and disposing of, products and services. The study of consumer behavior as a separate marketing discipline all started when marketers realized that consumers did not always react as marketing theory suggested they would. Many consumers rebel at using the identical products that everyone else used, instead they prefer differentiated products that they feel reflect their own special needs, personality and lifestyles.

Instead of trying to persuade customers to buy what the firm had already produced, marketing-orientated firms found that it was a lot easier to produce only products they had first confirmed, through research, that consumers wanted. Consumer needs and wants became the firm's primary focus. This consumer-orientated marketing philosophy came to be known as the marketing concept. (Consumer Behavior; Schiffman & L.L Kamuk).

In order for a company to decide what marketing program will work, the company needs to have an understanding of how consumers make decisions. Consumers are quite unpredictable. So what might have worked yesterday or today may not work tomorrow. Therefore the marketers need to constantly improve their understanding of consumers and their behavior and form that adapt their marketing strategies to the changes in consumer behavior.

Consumer behavior has interdisciplinary roots; it was a relatively new field of study in the mid to late 1960's. Because it had no history or body of research of its own, marketing theorist borrowed heavily form concepts which were developed in other scientific disciplines, such as psychology (the study of an individual), sociology (the study of groups), social psychology (the study of how an individual operates in groups), anthropology (the influence of society on an individual), and economics to form the basis of this new marketing discipline.

Many early theories concerning consumer behavior were based on economic theory, on the notion that individuals act rationally to maximize their benefits (satisfactions) in the purchase of goods and services. Later research discovered that consumers are just as likely to purchase impulsively and to be influenced not only by family and friends, by advertisers and role models, but also by mood, situation and emotion. All of these factors combine to form a comprehensive model of consumer behavior that reflects both the cognitive and emotional aspects of consumer decision-making. (Consumer Behavior; Schiffman & L.L Kamuk).

The decision making process can be depicted by the model of consumer decision making: Stages of the consumer buying decision are:
1. Need recognition.
2. Identification of alternatives.
3. Evaluation of alternatives.
4. Purchase and related decisions.
5. Post purchase behavior.

1. Recognition of an unsatisfied need:
Everybody has unsatisfied needs and wants that create discomfort. Acquiring and consuming goods and services can satisfy some of these unsatisfied needs. The process of deciding what to buy stems out when a need that can be satisfied trough consumption becomes strong enough to motivate a person. When there is the depletion of an existing product, the decision process is also triggered or by the dissatisfaction of a product currently being used. However there is competition among our needs due to the fact that we have limited amounts of time and money. Therefore becoming aware of a need is not enough to generate a purchase.

2. Identification of alternatives:
The next step is to identify alternatives capable of satisfying the need. Alternative products are identified first and then alternative brands. The search for alternatives is influenced by: Ø How much information the consumer already has form past experience and other sources. Ø The consumer's confidence in that information.

Ø The expected value of additional information....
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