Consumer behavior: why we buy

Published on August 26, 2013 Reviewed on December 29, 2016   72 min

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Welcome to the Henry Stuart program on Consumer Behavior: Why We Buy. Consumer behavior is a subset of marketing discipline. It's a very interesting and exciting field to be in because it's very much a hybrid. It's a combination of scholarly work in a number of areas, most notably psychology, economics, sociology, and anthropology. So it really is a fascinating juxtaposition of just about everything that we know about human behavior and trying to find ways to apply that to understand how people behave in the market place.
I would like to start with a definition of the field of consumer behavior. It's particularly important for us to take a closer look at this definition, because for many years people working in the field, both as practitioners and as academics, have tended to confuse consumer behavior with the much narrower focus on buyer behavior; that is what happens when a person in a store exchanges money or credit card and goes home with some item in his or her basket. That's certainly a part of what we look at, but our field has expanded to include many, many other aspects of people's interactions with the market place. So let's look at a long-winded sentence that really encapsulates many of the issues that we need to grapple with, when we want to understand consumer behavior. We can define the field as the study of the processes involved when individuals or groups select, purchase, use, or dispose of products, services, ideas, or experiences to satisfy needs and desires. So again, that is a very long-winded definition. But there are several words or phrases in there that are worth noting as we move forward. One of those is that we are studying processes. In other words, consumer behavior is not something that happens instantaneously. It is the culmination of actually a fairly complex set of behaviors, and cognitions, and emotions. And we may only see the surface of that when a person actually makes his transaction. But the reality is that to truly understand consumer behavior, we want to look at the process that's involved. We want to remember that we often speak of individual consumers but, in fact, in many cases a consumption decision or a consumption experience is actually something that is done in a group, that is it maybe done in a dyad, like a married couple, or a very large group such as the buying center in a major corporation. It's also about not just purchasing as I noted earlier, but also how we select the product initially. How we use it after the purchase, which has become increasingly important. And in today's society how we dispose of the product is an equally crucial question. We want to remember that it's not just about products like a can of peas, but rather we can apply the same principles to think about services, like financial services and so on, ideas such as democracy, or religion, or politics, and certainly experiences, such as the thrills that we might get on a jungle safari or perhaps appreciating a painting. And finally, we want to satisfy needs and desires, so we come back full circle to marketing one-on-one that is the basic marketing principle, which is that marketers are all about satisfying needs and desires.