Factors Affecting Purchasing Behavior
Purchasing behavior is the consumer's behavior, understood as any individual who buys products or services for personal use, motivated by a series of cultural, personal, social, and psychological factors. These are studied in marketing precisely to understand what, where, and why consumers buy different products. The study of purchasing behavior aims to analyze consumer behavior both individually and collectively, that is, by investigating how groups (family, friends, associations) affect the purchasing, consumption, disposal, and product search habits.
This multidisciplinary research area, of great importance for the marketing sector concerns the analysis of each activity carried out before the purchase (information search, visit the store, etc.), up to post-consumer behavior. This type of analysis provides companies with important data on the market and on the target audience, allowing identification of consumption trends for the different types of customers.
Factors Affecting Purchasing Behavior
To understand where, when, how and why consumers make a certain purchase it is useful to refer to knowledge belonging to different areas such as psychology, sociology, social anthropology, and behavioral economics, since the factors that affect the behavior of purchase of the consumer can be very different in nature. In the book "Marketing Principles," Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong distinguish different types of factors.
The culture has a strong impact on values, desires, and the way we perceive reality, reaching even to influence households' purchasing behavior, which in turn affects the entire range of stimuli to which individuals are exposed from an early age. Culture affects the eating habits, clothing, the type of activity, or services that people need more or less, with consequent implications in the choice of products and brands. Companies operating internationally must pay close attention to this type of factor to adapt its communication and its products to the various cultural and even religious contexts: a successful branding strategy cannot fail to take into account the value and identity aspects that influence people's behavior.
The social factors can greatly influence the purchasing behavior: think, for example, the influence that family, friends, community, and social status can have on people's choices. Each individual can be conditioned by different groups of belonging, by governmental institutions and social structures that can vary according to culture (if you belong to the middle class, working class, etc.).
Currently, social networks also have a strong influence on consumer purchasing behavior, and the power of word of mouth has been amplified by these platforms and by the strength of influencers, who, in fact, share their purchasing choices with the follower community, also conditioning their decisions. Therefore, the study of purchasing behavior must also analyze all these interveners to try to understand consumer choices.
Obviously, factors such as age, sex, personality, economic condition, and lifestyle must be absolutely taken into consideration. As explained in the book by Kotler and Armstrong, the family life cycle also affects people's purchasing behavior. While traditionally, the family life cycle included "unmarried young people and married couples with children, "currently, the companies are increasingly attentive to the growing number of unmarried couples, single parents, homosexual couples, and couples with adult children, for example.
Individuals' profession, the time they spend at home and at work affect the choice of products: think of the tendency to buy more and more prepackaged food, for example, by those who return home late from work and have little time to prepare meals.
Of course, the economic situation also has a major impact on purchasing behavior and lifestyle. The latter - which concerns the activities, hobbies, interests, and opinions of individuals - offers important insights to marketers on the values of consumers and on which concepts and models of life must focus the communication of a brand since, in the case of products such as Harley Davidson, more than buying a product, feeds a lifestyle. Obviously, people's personalities also have a great influence on their choices: "the basic idea is that brands also have a personality and that consumers are led to choose those with a similar personality.
Elements such as motivation, perception, learning, beliefs, and attitudes can affect our purchasing choices, as described by Kotler and Armstrong. In this regard, Maslow proposed the pyramid of needs, which, despite some criticisms, still remains one of the most widely, used theories to explain people's motivation. According to Maslow, there is a specific hierarchy of needs that tend to guide individuals' behavior.
As for the motivation that drives people to buy, more and more marketing experts agree that there are factors that guide purchasing behavior, and the consumer is not aware. It is that is, of the unconscious factors that can affect the propensity to buy or not a certain product or brand. In this regard, various researches highlight the impact of emotions on purchasing decisions and how, for example, the emotional bond towards a brand can affect consumer preferences and brand loyalty.
These unconscious factors can affect the perception of reality, consequently being able to condition consumer choices: think in this regard of cognitive distortions and how these can condition attention and memory of an advertisement or a brand, pushing an individual to buy or not, without realizing it. It is no coincidence that the use of research techniques such as neuromarketing is growing, aimed at understanding consumer behavior through the study of unconscious processes that affect choices.
How Marketing Affects Buying Behavior
It is necessary to take into account all the factors mentioned in order to be able to implement marketing strategies capable of affecting the consumer and guiding his choice towards the purchase of a product. Therefore, consumer behavior depends on many factors, ranging from psychographic characteristics to culture, from employment to lifestyle. However, a lot depends on the company's commitment throughout the entire customer journey and on the way it interacts with people at every single touchpoint.
In this perspective, the marketing, branding strategy, and the overall communication strategy of the company can influence not only the consumer's perception of a brand or a product but also that of the relative competitors and the product category in a broader sense. There are many ways in which marketing stimuli can influence purchasing behavior. From mere (repeated) exposure to brand communication to content marketing strategies, from efforts to optimize the customer experience to the involvement of online users: the consumer's purchasing behavior also depends on all these elements.
Types of Purchasing Behavior
Depending on the degree of consumer involvement with a brand, it is possible to distinguish different types of purchasing behavior, as explained by Kotler and Armstrong in their book. Obviously, this involvement tends to vary a lot, depending on the type of product. There are categories that can be described as "high" or "low" involvement, and therefore there are purchases that are made in a routine manner and others that require "to more" from the consumer.
- Complex purchasing behavior.
There is talk of this type of behavior when there is a high involvement by the consumer in the purchase in question and a significant difference between the brands available. As explained by the two experts mentioned above, we speak for example of "products with high prices, with risk elements, characterized by an infrequent purchase or with a high degree of self-expression, "towards which consumers tend to be particularly involved, making the purchasing behavior "more complex," since it takes more time for the consumer to collect information and to evaluate the choice.
- Purchase behavior aimed at reducing dissonance.
It is recorded when there is a high degree of involvement with the purchase (because it is expensive or infrequent), but there is little difference between the brands available. In this case, the purchase is made relatively quickly, considering that the consumer does not find it difficult to choose between taking action. In this case, since these are still high-involvement purchases as explained by Kotler and Armstrong, "consumers could face a post-purchase dissonance (post-sale discomfort) If they become aware of any weaknesses of the product purchased or of any advantages of competitor products. For this reason, post-sales communication for this type of purchase should be able to reassure consumers by providing "support and positive confirmation of the purchase choice.”
- Habitual buying behavior.
We talk about purchases with low consumer involvement and with the low difference between the brands to choose from. Think, for example, of inexpensive products, such as table salt, for which brands tend to be purchased in an almost undifferentiated way. In these cases, any loyalty to the brand will be determined by the familiarity with it and the purchasing habit.
- Purchase behavior aimed at the search for variety.
When we talk about purchases with low involvement and a significant difference between the brands to buy, there is a tendency on the part of the consumer to want to try other brands: think, for example, buying fruit juices or biscuits. In these cases, considering that these are usually low-cost products, the consumer tends to change brands very easily, even for the simple desire to try something new.
Author: Vicki Lezama