Consumer buying behaviour

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Consumer buying behaviour is the study of individuals and how they select and consume the product/service to maximise their utility and how this affects the consumer and the society. It involves also the thought process, feelings and the underlying motives that a customer has or takes when buying a product or service. It includes three streams of science namely, individual psychology, social psychology and cultural anthropology.

Understanding consumer behavior

Buying behaviour is the concept which answers these questions:

  • Who is the market and what is the extent of their power with regard to the organisation?
  • What do they buy?
  • Why do they buy?
  • Who is involved in the buying?
  • How do they buy?
  • When do they buy?
  • Where do they buy?[1]

Consumer buying process

The purchasing process means thinking about what to buy, which brand to buy, from where should it be purchased, what is the worth of the product, and if the product is to be purchased again. This results in the final decision of the customer which includes the product, brand, dealer, time, amount etc. The 5 sequential steps of the decision-making process of the consumer are[2]:

  1. Problem/Need Recognition: it arise when the individual realizes differences between the actual state and the desired one.
  2. Information Search: consumer starts to search product-related information before the purchase setting alternatives
  3. Evaluation of Alternatives: After collecting information, the consumer starts to compare and evaluate alternatives in order to make the right choice.
  4. Purchase Decision: once the consumer already reviewed all the alternatives, he/she makes the final purchase decision.
  5. Post-Purchase Evaluation: the final stage is the evaluation by the consumer which is important because it affects the future decision making process of the same product.

Factors affecting the process

Cultural factors: are critical to the buying behaviour of a customer, which means that it is important for marketing professionals to segment the market on the basis of the cultural needs and wants of the customer. It helps in determining the basic parameters that affect consumer behaviour patterns and also in distinguishing between various subcultures which are large market segments and have great opportunities.

Psychological factors: buying behaviour is also affected by the psychological factors that include perception, motivation, learning, beliefs and attitudes. The utility of a product or service for any individual depends on the perception the buyer regarding it, the attitude he/she has toward it or their belief about it and what motivates his/her purchases. Hence, it is necessary to give the adequate information to cause changes of consumer behavior concerning the concrete product. Feelings (Positive or negative) and their knowledge influence humans’ perception and consequently decision making and buying behaviour of consumer. Therefore, the marketers should not ignore these factors when studying the buying behaviour.

Personal factors: the process of purchasing is highly influenced by the personal factors, and every individual has unique set of factors. Personal characteristics affect the buying behaviour of the buyer/customer, of which the age and stage of life are especially important, and they cross factors such as sex, occupation, financial status, lifestyle, personality and opinion of self.

Social factors: our behaviour patterns, likes and dislikes are influenced by the people around us to a great extent, We always seek confirmation from the people around us and seldom do things that are not socially acceptable. Therefore, factors such as reference groups, family, role and status, have an impact on the consumer behaviour shaping the buyer's perceived relationships with other people and social norms. Hence, studying these factors will affect the marketing effectiveness of the firm.

Economic Factors: factors showing the level of sales in the market and the consumer's financial position, i.e. how much an individual spends on the purchase of a certain category of goods that contribute to the overall sales of the company. They are factors such as personal income, family income, income expectations, savings and consumer credit[3]

The Science of understanding customer's mind

Companies are looking to understand in a better way the human mind and being in order to manipulate/trick them. Therefore, they use different methods to collect data about their habits or even their brain activity[4] They can use the consumer phone for example, to know if the time spend per client in their store influence them to purchase more or less. Also the "Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging" (FMRI) allows a deeper study of our brain to understand directly our subconscious thanks to scanners which detect which part of the brain is active when we see a product. Thus, if we are going to buy it or not.

Examples of Consumer buying behaviour

  • Need Recognition: Need recognition is the first stage of the buying process. It is when the customer recognizes a need or a desire for a particular product or service. For instance, a customer might see an advertisement for a new phone and realize they need to upgrade their current device.
  • Information Search: After recognizing a need, the customer then enters the information search stage. This is when they look for more information about the product or service to decide if it would be a good fit for them. For example, a customer might search online for reviews, watch videos, or read product specifications.
  • Evaluation of Alternatives: Once the customer has gathered all the necessary information, they enter the evaluation of alternatives stage. Here, they compare the different products or services to decide which one best meets their needs. For example, a customer might compare the features and prices of different phones to decide which one would be the best for them.
  • Purchase Decision: The customer then enters the purchase decision stage, where they make a decision about whether to purchase the product or service. Here, they consider factors such as price, features, brand reputation, and customer service. For instance, a customer might decide to purchase a certain phone based on its reputation and customer service.
  • Post-Purchase Evaluation: Finally, the customer enters the post-purchase evaluation stage. Here, they assess their satisfaction with the product or service and whether it meets their needs. For example, a customer might evaluate the phone they purchased and decide if it was worth the money.

Advantages of Consumer buying behaviour

Consumer buying behaviour provides a range of advantages to businesses and marketers. It helps them to understand the needs and wants of their customers and enables them to design and develop products and services that meet their requirements. The advantages of consumer buying behaviour include:

  • Gaining Insight: Consumer buying behaviour helps businesses to gain insight into the decision-making process of their customers. By understanding what drives customers to make purchases, businesses can develop better strategies that will attract and retain them.
  • Improving Marketing Efforts: By studying the behaviour of their customers, businesses can create effective marketing efforts that target the right audience and make them take action. This helps to improve the ROI of marketing campaigns and increase sales.
  • Identifying Trends: Consumer buying behaviour also helps businesses to identify trends in the market. By understanding the current trends, businesses can adjust their strategies to meet the changing needs of their customers.
  • Developing Strategies: Consumer buying behaviour helps businesses to develop strategies that will increase customer loyalty and satisfaction. By understanding the needs and preferences of their customers, businesses can create strategies that will increase customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Limitations of Consumer buying behaviour

  • Consumer buying behaviour is limited by the available information that the individual has about the product/service. Consumers may not have access to all the necessary information to make an informed decision.
  • Consumer buying behaviour is also limited by the amount of money they can spend. This can make it difficult to purchase the item they want, either due to financial constraints or because of the scarcity of the product.
  • Consumer buying behaviour is limited by the availability of products. If the product is not available in the market, then the consumer will not be able to buy it.
  • Consumer buying behaviour is also limited by the cultural and social norms of the society. Consumers may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed if they do not conform to the cultural norms of the society.
  • Consumer buying behaviour is also limited by the amount of time they have available. If they do not have enough time to research the product and make a decision, then they will not be able to make the purchase.

Other approaches related to Consumer buying behaviour

  • Consumer decision-making process: It is the process in which the customer goes through when selecting a product or service. It is a cognitive process involving a series of steps such as problem recognition, searching for the information, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision and post-purchase behaviour.
  • Consumer behaviour models: These are models that explain the behaviour of customers when they make a purchase decision. It includes models such as the rational decision-making model, the psychological decision-making model and the economic decision-making model.
  • Factors impacting consumer buying behaviour: These are factors that influence the decisions that customers make when buying a product or service. It includes factors such as culture, lifestyle, social class, personal values, beliefs, attitudes and perception.
  • Consumer behaviour research: This is the study of different methods used to collect and analyse data in order to gain a better understanding of consumer behaviour. It includes techniques such as surveys, focus groups, interviews, observation and experimentation.

In conclusion, consumer buying behaviour is the study of individuals and how they select and consume products/services to maximise their utility. It involves three streams of science, namely, individual psychology, social psychology and cultural anthropology. Additionally, it is also influenced by other approaches such as the consumer decision-making process, consumer behaviour models, factors impacting consumer buying behaviour and consumer behaviour research.

Consumer buying behaviourrecommended articles
Nicosia modelConsumer decision making processFactors influencing consumer behaviourHierarchy of effects modelHoward Sheth model of consumer behaviourSegment of the marketGroups of consumersAnalysis of customerFishbein model


  1. • Sa, Mohamed & , Ali & N, Ramya.(2016). Factors affecting consumer buying behavior
  2. Peter, J. Paul, Jerry C. Olson, and Klaus G. Grunert.(1999) Consumer behaviour and marketing strategy. London: McGraw-hill.
  3. Sa, Mohamed & , Ali & N, Ramya.(2016). Factors affecting consumer buying behavior

Author: Alex Chiesa, Rémi Caussin, Arnav Agarwal, Sanchit Goyal