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Principles of Marketing

3.1 Understanding Consumer Markets and Buying Behavior

Principles of Marketing3.1 Understanding Consumer Markets and Buying Behavior

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • 1 Define consumer buying behavior.
  • 2 Explain the nature of the buyer’s black box.
  • 3 Describe how consumer behavior is characterized into types.

Consumer Markets and Consumer Buying Behavior Defined

How many buying decisions did you make today? Perhaps you stopped on the way to work or class to buy a soft drink or coffee, went to the grocery store on the way home to get bread or milk, or ordered something online. You likely make buying decisions nearly every day and probably don’t give most of those decisions much thought. But the way you make those decisions is significant for marketers, because if they can understand why you buy what you buy and when you buy it, they can use that information to boost revenue.

Consumer buying behavior refers to the decisions and actions people undertake to buy products or services for personal use. In other words, it’s the actions you take before buying a product or service, and as you will see, many factors influence that behavior. You and all other consumers combine to make up the consumer market.

The Buyer’s Black Box

It stands to reason that the hundreds of millions of people who make up the global consumer market don’t all buy the same products and services. Why do certain people prefer different items than others? The answer lies in the factors that influence consumer buying behavior. One model of consumer buying behavior is what’s known as the buyer’s black box, which is named as such because little is known about what goes on in the human mind. It’s also known as the stimulus-response model.

As illustrated in the model shown in Figure 3.2, consumer buying behavior is based on stimuli coming from a variety of sources—from marketers in terms of the 4Ps (product, price, promotion, and place), as well as from environmental stimuli, such as economic factors, legal/political factors, and technological and cultural factors.

These stimuli go into your “black box,” which consists of two parts: buyer characteristics such as beliefs and attitudes, motives, perceptions, and values, and the buyer decision-making process, which is covered later in the chapter. Your response is the outcome of the thinking that takes place in that black box. What will you buy, where, when, how often, and how much?

Marketing stimuli (Product, Price, Place, and Promotion) and Environmental stimuli (Economic, Legal Political, Technological, and Cultural) affect your buyer characteristics and buyer decision-making process. The outcome of this thinking is your buyer response, which includes product or brand choice, retailer or dealer choice, purchase timing, purchase amount, and purchase frequency.
Figure 3.2 Stimulus-Response Model/Buyer’s Black Box (attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC BY 4.0 license)

Types of Consumer Buying Behavior

Buying behavior is not influenced solely by the external environment. It’s also determined by your level of involvement in a purchase and the amount of risk involved in the purchase. There are four types of consumer buying behavior, as shown in Figure 3.3.

The four types of consumer buying behavior are shown along an x and y axis. The x axis is labeled Level of Involvement and the y axis is labeled Perception of Differences between Brands. Dissonance-reducing buying behavior is a buying behavior with a high level of involvement but a low level of perception of differences between brands. Habitual buying behavior has both a low level of involvement and a low level of perception of differences between brands. Complex buying behavior has both a high level of involvement and a high level of perception of differences between brands. And variety-seeking buying behavior has a low level of involvement but a high level of perception of differences between brands.
Figure 3.3 Types of Consumer Buying Behavior (attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC BY 4.0 license)

Complex buying behavior occurs when you make a significant or expensive purchase, like buying a new car. Because you likely don’t buy a new car frequently, you’re highly involved in the buying decision, and you probably research different vehicles or talk with friends or family before reaching your decision. By that time, you’re likely convinced that there’s a significant difference among cars, and you’ve developed your own unique set of criteria that helps you decide on your purchase.

Dissonance-reducing buying behavior occurs when you’re highly involved in a purchase but see little difference among brands. Let’s say you’re replacing the flooring in your kitchen with ceramic tile—another expensive, infrequent purchase. You might think that all brands of ceramic tile in a certain price range are “about the same,” so you might shop around to see what’s available, but you’ll probably buy rather quickly, perhaps as a result of a good price or availability. However, after you’ve made your purchase, you may experience post-purchase dissonance (also known as buyer’s remorse) when you notice some disadvantages of the tile you purchased or hear good things about a brand you didn’t purchase.

Habitual buying behavior has low involvement in the purchase decision because it’s often a repeat buy, and you don’t perceive much brand differentiation. Perhaps you usually buy a certain brand of organic milk, but you don’t have strong brand loyalty. If your regular brand isn’t available at the store or another brand is on sale, you’ll probably buy a different brand.

Variety-seeking buying behavior has the lowest customer involvement because brand switching is your norm. You may not be unhappy with your last purchase of tortilla chips, but you simply want to try something new. It’s a matter of brand switching for the sake of variety rather than because of dissatisfaction with your previous purchase.

Knowledge Check

It’s time to check your knowledge on the concepts presented in this section. Refer to the Answer Key at the end of the book for feedback.

You’re considering buying a widescreen TV. You’ve researched different features, looked up and reviewed models on the Internet, and even asked a few friends for their recommendations. What type of buying behavior are you exhibiting?
  1. Dissonance-reducing buying behavior
  2. Variety-seeking buying behavior
  3. Complex buying behavior
  4. Habitual buying behavior
In the buyer’s black box, external stimuli that are planned and created by the producer and/or seller are known as ________ stimuli.
  1. economic
  2. marketing
  3. technological
  4. social
Samantha sees a TV commercial announcing that a mattress she’s been considering is on sale through the holiday weekend and makes plans to visit the store the next day in order to take advantage of the sale. In terms of the buyer’s black box, how would this TV commercial be characterized?
  1. Product choice
  2. Brand choice
  3. Social stimuli
  4. Purchase timing
You’re at the grocery store buying potato chips for a barbeque you’re having this weekend. You normally buy Lay’s potato chips, but you notice that Ruffles are on sale, so you pick up a few bags of Ruffles. What buying behavior have you displayed?
  1. Dissonance-reducing buying behavior
  2. Habitual buying behavior
  3. Variety-seeking buying behavior
  4. Complex buying behavior
The decisions and actions people undertake to buy products or services for personal use are known as ________.
  1. the consumer market
  2. the buyer’s black box
  3. consumer buying behavior
  4. complex buying behavior
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