The different types of consumer behavior determine how consumers make purchasing decisions. Though there are many influences on buyer behavior, four main categories are often cited as the primary factors in a purchasing decision. The four major types of consumer behavior are habitual, variety, complex, and dissonance-reduction. Each of the different types of consumer behavior may be motivated by a variety of influences, including need, cultural influence, and psychological factors.
Habitual buying habits are the most common and the simplest purchasing decisions for most consumers. Choosing to buy a bunch of bananas rarely requires much extensive research on brands and product offering, and may be done on a regular or habitual basis. Since a bunch of bananas from one brand is likely to be quite similar to one from another brand, there is not a high level of distinction between product choices. Habitual buying behavior is most often found with low-cost products for which a consumer has a regular need; price, convenience, and brand loyalty may sometimes affect habitual purchasing decisions.
Varietal buying, also called limited decision making, involves a little more thought than habitual behavior. This type of behavior also requires little research on the part of the buyer, but may exist in markets where there is a high level of product variety. When buying ice cream, for instance, a consumer may have to choose between a hundred different flavors, often from different brands. Varietal buying is frequently motivated by the desire for a change from habits, or the search for a better product.
Complex or extensive decision making behavior requires research and significant difference exist between products. Dissonance-reduction decisions, by contrast, also may require research, but occur in markets where there is little difference between products. Both of the categories tend to apply to markets where products are high value and irregular purchases, such as houses or jewelry. Buying a car is often a complex decision, because there are many different brands and models that offer distinct features. Buying a one-carat pair of diamond earrings, however, might be a dissonance-reduction decisions, since most one-carat earrings will be roughly similar, regardless of brand.
The motivating factors behind the different types of consumer behavior can be extremely complex. Need typically motivates most habitual purchases, such as food and gasoline. Cultural or social influence may affect decisions by giving a consumer a set frame of reference by which purchases are judged; for instance, a person may buy a certain style of jacket because it is said to be “in style” for the season. Personal and psychological attitudes or preconceptions may significantly alter some types of consumer behavior: a person who is against pesticides will likely buy only organic produce, for instance.