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What is Consumer Behavior?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Consumer behavior consists of the actions that consumers take in regard to making decisions about purchasing various goods and services. A study of this phenomenon will often focus on the psychological and other factors that motivate people to either buy a product or reject it in favor of some other option. In order to create a successful marketing campaign, it is necessary to understand these factors and utilize those behaviors in a manner that motivates consumers to make purchases.

One of the key elements that influences consumer behavior is the self-image of the consumer. People who crave admiration in order to feel good about themselves will often go to extraordinary lengths to receive validation from others. This will often lead them to purchase the latest trendy clothing and the newest car loaded with extras, and being seen in the right places can be extremely important. By contrast, people who are less concerned with what others think are likely to focus on making purchases they deem as practical and capable of providing them with the comfort and service they require.

Cultural factors can also play a role in shaping consumer behavior. For example, bargaining with a shop owner over the price of an item is a common practice in many places around the world. In some cultures, haggling over prices before buying is considered an essential part of the process. In other places, the idea of attempting to bargain with a shop owner is considered improper, and even rude. People who travel often adapt their consumer behavior to conform to the local standard, and thus be perceived as part for the social norm.

Social pressure is a related factor that has a considerable influence on consumer behavior. Consumers may be motivated to purchase specific brands because people they admire have bought those same products. The desire to fit into a social circle can influence the selection of clothing, food, the type of home and neighborhood, and just about any other buying decision. With social pressure, the focus is not to stand out and be admired, but to fit into the group of choice, and be recognized as a part of that group.

Education also plays a major role in determining consumer behavior. This relates to both formal education and learning in general. As people become more informed about their purchasing options, products that were once desirable may be cast aside in favor of other products that the consumer deems to be more attractive in some manner. For example, a consumer may be perfectly happy with a particular brand of canned soup until he or she learns that the product is loaded with sodium. At that point, the consumer locates and begins to favor a brand that includes a lower amount of sodium, while still satisfying the consumer’s desire for a tasty soup.

Consumer behavior is studied both in terms of sectors of the population as well as individuals. By understanding what can impact buying habits, businesses are able to create products that are likely to appeal to a large number of consumers, and advertise them in ways that catch the attention of the target market. This process of evaluating consumer behavior is ongoing, since consumer tastes and needs change over time. For this reason, companies are always evaluating the success of their current efforts, and implementing changes when necessary in order to maintain that success.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including SmartCapitalMind, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon356617 — On Nov 26, 2013

I find it difficult to understand economics.

By FernValley — On Feb 04, 2011

When the United States was attacked by terrorists in 2001, our then president's big speech of encouragement and motivation to the public was to go out and shop. I think this is a nutshell of how we see buying things in relation to our own self worth, not to mention the value of the things that surround us.

By Denha — On Feb 02, 2011

Another word for consumer buyer behavior is materialism. America has trained itself that buying things can improve mood, can give you more sources of fun or activity in your life, and even help you receive love and friendship from others in your life.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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