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Consumer Behaviour

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1. Introduction

Consumer behaviour is an essential concept that marketers need to understand to be able to successfully segment target markets in order to market products. It is the holistic what, why and how consumers think which results in their purchasing process and decisions. Traditionally, consumer behaviour has been viewed as the manifestation of the five conceptual stages of the consumer decision-making process in practise, particularly influenced by situational, group and individual factors. However, with the evolvement of marketing research, consumer behaviour has become an intricate and multi-dimensional idea that has formed the basis of successful modern marketing if utilised properly. Its intricacy stems from what consumers perceive to need as material possessions, a sense of linkage to the external world and the desirable goals derived from products to obtain a sense of stability and continuity.

2. Literature Review: Multi-Dimensional Consumer Behaviour

2.1 The Consumer Decision-Making Process

In theory, consumer behaviour is a result of this five-stage process: need and want recognition, information search, evaluation of options, purchase and post-purchase evaluation (Sheth et al. 1995). It is this process that explains how and why people purchase what they do, although not all behaviour can be simply observed. This review intends to attest that consumer behaviour is much more intricate, resulting in processes of values, motivations and goals whilst continually influenced by ranging factors and intends to provide answers for the overt behaviour of the consumer as a result.

2.2 Recognising Valued Material Possessions

Consumers, in essence, are purchasing values that are offered by firms that relate to their specific value system. Understanding what consumers' value offers insights into the subtle attitudes that deride from values and drives behaviour, how consumer's values may change over time and how marketers can take advantage of this change. As Durgee et al. (1997) alludes to, the new method of means-end research conducted exemplifies how simple values such as 'good health' can manifest in cleaning products along a series of tapes. By simply recognising consumers needs, wants and values and using this means-end approach ensued interesting results as to the everyday purchased products that are able to stem from deep-rooted values. Concluded in Durgee et al. (1997), the most common values can translate into the needs for surrounding material possessions, reflected in the consumer purchase of such products as a result of this translation. It allows marketers to recognise the forces behind consumption and turns values into physical products. Similarly, consumers exhibit psychological effects in their valuation process of a product. Behaviour is directly related to the intangible effects of the control of psychological needs that consumers reach to when responding to advertising and purchasing, such as emotional and intellectual entrances (Dichter, 1949). Marketers should capitalise on these psychological appeals, such as gratification, that consumers hold in order to be able to 'sell' these values. Although there is a significant time difference as to when these articles were published, they both still underline the importance of values and psychological needs as a dimension in consumer behaviour and how consumers actually value material products.

2.3 The Process of Motivation: Sensing a Linkage

While consumers have become aware of a need or specific value, a motivation arises as a driving force in order to create a linkage to the observable world and also in the consumer behaviour process. Once brand knowledge is established, a consumer seeks to form a relationship with the brand due to the psycho-social-cultural context the consumer is apart of. According to Esch et al. (2006), consumers will actively seek out a brand relationship in relation to cognitive and affective motivational elements and brand-loyal purchase behaviour. The attachment to these brands is not deliberate and has meaning for the customer; an underlying motive to satisfy the need or value previously recognised. Motives also relate as to what brand particular consumers buy and what the underlying motive is for purchasing this type of brand is. Such motives are labelled patronage motives and consist of decisions to choose particular product, brands, prices and through particular outlets.

Motivation is also theorised by Maslow's theory of hierarchy, where the most basic lower order needs such as hunger are fulfilled first before other motivations, such as esteem, which are manifested in purchased products. Processing the relationship factors of motives is also evident in how consumers will conform and purchase products that are associated with general norms of society. This is part of the motive of consumer behaviour to create a linkage to the observable world, as said before in brand relationship, as well as with other humans. As argued by Sheth et al. (1995), consumers look to others to guide their behaviour, labelled the 'reference group theory'. The two main ideas behind motivational aspects of reference groups are human aspirations and reducing the perception of risk. The actions of consumer behaviour directly relate to these two motivations. In the former, conforming to a reference group symbolises human aspirations while in the latter dissociating yourself can reduce the perception of risk (Sheth et al. 1995). The motivation to establish relationships and the influence of social groups displays the fact that consumers create a sense of linkage to the concrete and external observable world having realised their potential values. Understanding consumer behaviour in relation to motivation is necessary for marketers as the link between the two is powerful, interdependent and elusive.

2.4 Goal-Orientated Behaviour: Stability and Continuity

Once a consumer's needs, values and motives have been recognised, the manifestation of consumer behaviour in product purchase is realised by engaging in goal-orientated behaviour. According to Sheth et al. (1995), a consumer's goal is to reduce the uncertainty of risk and enormity of outcomes. Stability and continuity is gained with the development of long-term brand relationships due to reducing perceived risk, as well as the minimisation of cognitive dissonancy by developing self-confidence in the purchase by fulfilling previous values and motives. Furthering the notion of cognitive dissonancy, Sheth et al. (1995) additionally adds that individuals endeavour



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