Group Influence on the Purchasing Decision
Consumers belong to or admire many different groups and are often influenced in their purchase decisions by a desire to be accepted by others. One form of group that has a definite impact on consumer behaviour is the reference group. A reference group is “an actual or imaginary individual or group conceived of having significant relevance upon an individual’s evaluations, aspirations, or behaviour.” Reference groups have a normative influence (that is, the reference group helps to set and enforce fundamental standards of conduct) and/or a comparative influence (where decisions about specific brands or activities are affected). Groups now appear on the Internet. A virtual community of consumption is a collection of people whose online interactions are based on shared enthusiasm for and knowledge of a specific consumption activity.
Individuals have influence in a group to the extent that they possess social power. Types of power include: information power, referent power, legitimate power, expert power, reward power, and coercive power. The chapter explores each of these power formats and gives examples that apply to the contemporary study of consumer behaviour.
We conform to the desires of others for one of two basic reasons. People who model their behaviour after others because they take others’ behaviour as evidence of the correct way to act are conforming because of comparative influence. People who conform to satisfy the expectations of others and/or to be accepted by the group are affected by normative influence. Although people often like to compare their judgments and actions to those of others, they tend to be selective about precisely whom they will use as benchmarks. This choice of models is of interest to the marketer. On the other hand, there can be resistance to conformity or there can be a loss of individuality. These side effects are some of the consequences of group