‘Consumer purchases are influenced strongly by cultural, social, personal and psychological characteristics’ (Kotler, Armstrong, Wong & Saunders). This report will investigate the characteristics that affect consumer behaviour and the consumer decision-process as it relates to the purchase of an Apple iPod. This report will be describing and explaining how consumers go through five different stages to reach a buying decision and outlining the consumer decision-making process when a consumer buys a product. The Apple iPod is a brand of portable media players and was launched on October 2001. There are four different types of players, which can play both music and videos, including the ‘iPod Classic’, ‘iPod Touch’, ‘iPod Nano’ and the ‘iPod Shuflfe’. The Apple ‘itunes’ software can be used to transfer music to the iPods from computers. Both the Sony Walkman and Samsung YP-P2 are the iPods biggest competitors and have the same touch screen control panel. They both can hold similar amount of music to that of an iPod. ‘Mintel forecasts that the UK audio equipment market will grow by an estimated 8% to reach a value of £2.2 billion at current prices over the period 2007-12. In real terms, with massive price deflation for electronics taken into consideration, this equates to 100% rate of growth until 2012.’ (mintel, accessed at 19th November 2009) ‘Market growth since 2006 for the Apple iPod has been in decline due to the high pricing scheme of the devices although price cuts like those applied to the iPod shuffle on Tuesday and cheaper Internet –capable models down the line should help the company reverse course and maintain a steady rate of growth through 2009, says one Wall Street analyst’, (http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/08/02/20/growth_potential_seen_in_steadily_maturing_ipod_market.html 20th February 2008). The Apple iPod is aimed at young adults aged between 12-25, both males and females. The Apple iPod is aimed at people in the middle/high class and for those who have a particular interest or passion in music. The report will also provide a discussion of the type buying behaviour related with Apple iPods and compare the process with a less complex product, such as a bottle of water in this report. Marketing recommendations will then be given for the purchase of an Apple iPod.
The Characteristics that Affect Consumer Behaviour
It can be seen that cultural, social, personal and psychological are the four characteristics that influence consumer behaviour. This section will describe how some of the characteristics associate with consumer behaviour when purchasing an Apple iPod. For the social characteristic influence, this can be that the person who is buying an iPod can be influenced by friends, family or any other groups the person is part of, a friend of the person may recommend an iPod to be the best portible audio player to purchase, which would then give the consumer more confidence to buy an iPod. Inspirational groups, such as celebrities who could be seen using an iPod, might have also influenced consumer behaviour. This may influence a consumer, due to the status of a celebrity. Personal characteristics such as the age of a person can affect consumer behaviour. In this case a consumer may be in an age group where it is cool and common to have an iPod, so this would be more of a want for the buyer to have the product.
An Outline of the Consumer Decision-Making Process
Type of Buying decision behaviour
This section of the report will discuss the type of buying decision behaviour associated with the Apple iPod. The decision behaviour for the buyer of an iPod would be complex buying behaviour due to the high cost of the product and is mainly purchase infrequently. It could be said that the consumer has much to learn about the product and may have little knowledge about the product before making a decision to purchase it. For example, an iPod buyer may not know what functions of the product to consider. ‘Many product features carry no real meaning to the great majority of potential purchasers’ (Kotler 2008 page 263, p1). This can relate to the iPod when looking at the memory size and price of the product, a customer may not know the difference between a ‘10GB iPod and a ‘160GB’ iPod. ‘So the buyer will pass though a learning process, first developing attitudes, and then making a thoughtful purchase choice’ (Kotler 2008, page 263, p1). So for marketers of an iPod, they must understand the way a consumer gathers information and the evaluation behaviour of a high involvement product. The advertising and size of the iPod may be used to help make it easier for a consumer to understand what the memory size is of an iPod. Dissonance-reducing buying behaviour can be associated with the buying of an iPod, due to how expensive the product is and how infrequent it is purchased. For example, consumers buying an iPod could face a high involvement decision because of the high price of an iPod compared to a low involvement product such as a toothbrush and how the product can express the consumer, such as the which style and colour of iPod suit the consumer best. The Consumer may evaluate and do some research into the types iPods, prior to the buying decision to make give them more knowledge of the product.
An explanation of each stage of the decision-making model
This section of the report will explain each stage of the decision-making model for a buyer of an iPod. Below is the five-stage decision making process, buyers go through when they purchase a product.
‘The buying process starts with need recognition – the buyer recognising a problem or need’ (Kotler 2008, page 265, p4). The first stage of the decision making model is where the consumer has recognised a problem or a need. Need recognition In relation to the iPod, is where the consumer has recognised that the product is available to buy and may have dissatisfaction with their current portable audio player. The iPod is not necessary a need, such as food or water. It is more of an individual want and the consumer may have more income spare to purchase an iPod. The purchase of an iPod could be mainly because of its appeal. ‘A need can also be triggered by external stimuli. Anna passes a bakery and the smell of reshly baked bread stimulates her hunger; she admires a neighbour’s new car; or she watches a television commercial for a Caribbean holiday’. (Kotler et al 2008, page 266 p1). This statement states that external stimuli can trigger a need. In relation to the iPod, the external stimuli could be an advert on television or someone in the public using an iPod, who seems to be having a fun with the product. The second stage of the decision-making model is the information search stage. This is the stage where a consumer is aroused to search for more information about the product they have been attracted too in the need recognition stage. ‘The consumer may simply have heightened attention or may go into active information search’ (Kotler et al 2008, page 266 p2). Heightened attention simply means the consumer becomes more receptive to information about a product. The consumer may pay more attention to adverts and products used by friends. Active information search is where the consumer gathers information, such as searching reading material or phoning friends to gather information, this usually depends of drive of the consumer to search for information about a product. ‘The amount of searching she does will depend upon the strength of her drive, the amount of information she starts with, the ease of obtaining more information, the value she places on additional information and the satisfaction she gets from searching’ (Kotler et al 2008, page 266 p2). This statement explains that the more a consumer wants a product, the more searching for information about the product will occur. In relation to the Apple iPod, a consumer may have been aroused by external stimuli such as an advert on television and then may go through active information search, where the consumer can obtain information from any of the following sources:
* Personal sources: Family, friends, neighbours
* Commercial sources: Advertising, salespeople, the Internet, packaging, displays * Public sources: Mass media, consumer-rating organisations * Experiential sources: Handling, examining, using the product Personal sources can be the most effective for some products, as friends and families recommendations can be more reliable than an advert on television. As more information has been gathered from the above sources, the consumer’s knowledge of the iPod increases. The consumer may know the different types of iPods available and their features that best suit the consumer. The third stage of the decision-making purchase is the information evaluation or evaluation of alternatives. This is the stage of the decision-making process, where the consumer uses information from the previous stage to evaluate other brands, products and services. The consumer also evaluates the benefits and features of the product they are going to buy. For high-involvement products such as the Apple iPod, the consumer is more likely to carry out a more extensive evaluation. Such as evaluating the advantages and benefits of the product they are interested in purchasing.