By Carlos Fernandez and Lina Urrego
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (2015) states that in 2012, Australian households spent an estimated average of AU$9.5 billion on gadgets, AU$8.3 billion on medical services, AU$8 billion on beauty and AU$2 billion on education. Additionally, during the same year they spent an average weekly household of AU$9 on childcare in contrast to AU$7 on shoes. Do these facts surprise you? Why do we spend more on luxury items rather than satisfying basic needs? Don´t worry, these are just average numbers anyway. However, have you ever thought about what drives our decision-making at the moment of buying goods or services? Answers to these questions could be found on what marketing scholars name: Consumer Behaviour. The aim of this article is to make you think about the decision process when you buy goods or services, in order to be aware from the stimulus and techniques that marketers use to persuade customers into buying specific products.
So what is Consumer Behaviour?
When we talk about consumer behaviour we refer to the process of why and how consumers make a decision when they purchase goods or services. Louden and Bitta (1993) defined consumer behaviour as ‘the decision process and physical activity, which individuals engage in when evaluating, acquiring, using or disposing of goods and services’. Almost every academic definition for consumer behaviour you can find is about the process of people making decisions when choosing goods or services. Nevertheless, when you go deeper on the study of human behaviour, you can find that scientific knowledge at this point can help to predict what motivates people, their reactions and behaviour. Likewise, it seems that when purchasing, we don´t make conscious decisions; in contrast are products the ones who choose us. We believe they can do it, by persuading consumers due to the way they are strategically created and advertised, stimulating buyers with special characteristics like colour or smell, that influence us to act in an automated way as a customers.
How do marketers know what do we want?
According to Iacobucci (2014), marketers start by classifying the type of purchases on four different types:
- Mindless purchases: standard purchase with not much time to planning it, such as bread or petrol.
- Impulse purchases: Purchase you make for impulse, like candy or magazines
- Shopping purchases: require some time to plan it, such as going to a restaurant to celebrate a special moment.
- Specialty purchases: occasional purchases that require more time to plan it, like buying a car.
For all these, there are techniques used for marketing managers to influence and stimulate customers. For example, it is common to find candies and magazines when you are at the checkout in the grocery store because these are classified as impulse purchases. Also, marketers know that when you are looking for a car, you will invest as much time as necessary to investigate, learn and analyse all the information until the point you feel confident with your choice. That is why they offer technical information, specialized web sites and tests drives, in order to make you feel with enough information because they know it is a specialty purchase.
Marketers know what we want, but how can they persuade us?
Do you remember the smell last time you went to the movies? The sound of that Ferrari that not only looks great on red but it also sounds awesome? There is a marketing science of consumer behaviour that uses perception and sensation to stimulate particular behaviours in customers. Marketers use this to build associations of experiences and emotions with specific products. That is how they influence us to link, for example a motorcycle with freedom and a perfume with romance. Have you noticed that if you are interested in a specific product like a car or a bicycle, you tend to see it more often on the street; in contrast, if you are no looking for something special, you hardly notice the advertising about it (Iacobucci, 2013). Therefore, be aware that marketers can stimulate you by using sounds, colours, tastes, smells and shapes that can have different meanings depending on the context. In an Iacobucci´s (2013) example, the red colour in India conveys purity and it is used for brides but it is not common in western countries brides, as it conveys danger or passion.
Let´s make this blog interactive, a simple experiment for you
Finally, we have seen how people behave as consumers and a basic overview of how marketers can design strategies to persuade our choices. Moreover, to make this article a little more interactive, we invite you to do a simple experiment at home: first, make sure that you have salt at home (If you don´t have it, it will be a regular purchase to fulfil a need and it won´t have the expected result). Second, within that week buy a different brand to the one that you usually buy. Then, show it in your home as a casual purchase and notice the first reaction (which we expect it is negative, something like: what did you get salt for, we have enough). After a moment, say that you have found this salt had 50% discounted and be very careful to note the reaction after your comment (which we expect it will be a positive reaction like, umm ok!) neutralising the situation. If this happens, we can use the Consumer Behaviour theory to support that, because we believe that salt is a low-involvement purchase and according to Iacobucci (2013), low-involvement purchases usually don´t build brand loyalty, instead of this, they can attract consumers with price discounts techniques.
You are welcome to post your results on this blog to see if that specific behaviour (both reactions) is as predicted as we think, also with your toughs about this article. Are we automated buyers influenced by marketers? Do you agree or disagree, share your comments.
Referencing for this article:
Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC), 2015, Money Smart: Financial Guidance you can trust, ASIC, retrieved 20 March 2015, <https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/managing-your-money/budgeting/ spending/ australian-spending-habits>
Iacobucci, D 2013, Marketing Management 4, student edn, South Wester-Cengage Learning, Mason-Ohio.
Loudon, D & Della Bitta, A 1993, Consumer behavior: concepts and applications, 4th edn, McGraw-Hill, New York. Picture taken from:
Picture taken from http://www.ipmcinc.com/industries/consumer-products/