Consumer behaviour is 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.

For a marketer to do their job properly they need to understand the consumer. To do this they should understand the following.

  1. Consumers use products to help them define their behaviour is a process –

Consumers interact with products and other aspects of the marketing system but for marketers to best meet consumer needs, they need to be able to understand their behaviour and categorize them into useful segments.

For some purposes, marketers find it useful to categorize consumers in terms of age, gender, income, and occupation. These are descriptive characteristics of a population, or demographics . In other cases, marketers would rather know something about  interests in clothing or music, and other information that falls under the category of psychographics. The conversations we have with others transmit a lot of product information, as well as recommendations to use or avoid particular brands. The use of market segmentation strategies means targeting a brand only to specific groups of consumers rather than to everybody—even if it means that other consumers who don’t belong to this target market aren’t attracted to that product. Brands often have clearly defined images, or “personalities,” created by advertising, packaging, branding, and other marketing strategies. The choice of a favourite Web site is very much a lifestyle statement: It says a lot about a person’s interests, as well as something about the type of person she would like to be. People often choose a product because they like its image or because they feel its “personality” somehow corresponds to their own. People often buy products not for what they do but for what they mean. The roles products play in our lives extend well beyond the tasks they perform.

  1. Consumer behaviour is a process.

In the early stages of development, researchers referred to the field as buyer behaviour. Marketers now recognize that consumer behaviour is an ongoing process, not merely what happens at one point in the transaction cycle.

We call the transaction of value between two or more an exchange. It’s an integral part of marketing but consumer behaviour recognizes that the entire consumption process is relevant for marketers.

The stages in the consumption process:

  Consumer’s Perspective Marketer’s Perspective
Prepurchase Issues How does a consumer decide that he/she needs a product?

What are the best sources of information to learn more about alternative choices?

How are consumer attitudes toward products formed and/or changed?

What cues do consumers use to infer which products are superior to others?

Purchase Issues Is acquiring a product a stressful or pleasant experience? What does the purchase say about the consumer? How do situational factors, such as time pressure or store displays, affect the consumer’s purchase decision?
Postpurchase Issues Does the product provide pleasure or perform its intended function?

How is the product eventually disposed of, and what are the environmental consequences of this act?

What determines whether a consumer will be satisfied with a product and whether he/she will buy it again?

Does this person tell others about his/her experiences with the product and influence their purchase decisions?


  1. Marketers need to understand the wants and needs of different consumer segments.

Marketers must understand the various consumer segments they are targeting in order to meet the segment’s needs. Many dimensions are relevant for understanding consumer needs and wants. Usage, whether heavy or light, can help to focus marketer’s energies. In addition, there are many demographic variables that can help in understanding groups of consumers. Demographics are statistics that measure observable aspects of a population. Some of the most common demographic measures are age, gender, family structure, social class, race or ethnicity, and geography. Even lifestyles can be useful to marketers in that consumers may share demographic characteristics but have very different lifestyles. Marketers try to understand their customers and develop lifelong relationships. Marketers who follow this approach are said to follow the philosophy of relationship marketing.

They may also utilize database marketing in order to track the buying habits of consumers.

  1. The web is changing consumer behaviour.

Access to the Internet is incredibly influential for consumer behaviour. It changes who you may interact with, the information you can find, the choices you see as available, and the time and energy you spend dealing with various decisions. The Internet has made it possible for businesses to use an additional channel of distribution (B2C e-commerce) but it’s also made possible C2C e-commerce, in the form of outlets like

You are likely at the forefront of the impact of the Web on consumer behaviour because you are a digital native. Digital natives grew up in a wired world.

The Web hasn’t just changed consumer behaviour by shifting our options in terms of channels of distribution. It’s also made possible a whole new form of media known as social media.


Social media have created what is known as the horizontal revolution. Because of the interconnectivity and the ability for consumers to participate actively in communities across the Web, social media have shifted the balance of power between consumers and marketers. Some of the most important developments for understanding consumer behaviour are the growth of user-generated content and our ability to communicate both asynchronously and synchronously.

Social media are made possible by something known as Web 2.0, the technological development of the Internet.

  1. Consumer behaviour relates to other issues in our lives.

In business, conflicts often arise between the goal to succeed and the desire to maximize well-being of consumers by providing them with safe and effective products. Sometimes consumers expect too much of companies. Thus, thinking about marketing ethics means considering how businesses may manipulate consumers as well as how consumers may manipulate businesses.

  • Marketing Ethics and Public Policy – Business ethics are rules of conduct that guide actions in the marketplace. It can be difficult to avoid ethical conflicts because our thoughts of what is right and wrong vary among people, organizations, and cultures. These cultural differences certainly influence whether business practices such as bribery are acceptable. Bribing foreigners to gain business has been against the law in the United States since 1977, under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), to which most industrialized countries belong, also outlaws bribery. Still, these practices are common in many countries.
  • Do Marketers Create Artificial Needs? – Marketing is commonly criticized as trying to convince consumers that they need something when they really don’t. This is an ethical issue. Marketers respond to this question by pointing out that the need already exists in the consumer, but marketers recommend ways to satisfy the need.
  • Are Advertising & Marketing Necessary? – Yes, we can say that advertising and marketing are necessary because consumers may not know that solutions to problems exist without the information provided by advertising and marketing. This is the view of the economics of information perspective. It points out that there is an economic cost to searching for information. Advertising helps consumers by reducing search time.