Social Factors and Their Effects on Consumers’ Behavior
The consumer market is a constituent of individuals and or households who buy or acquire goods and services for personal consumption (Kortler, 2007). A consumer will most of the times go for the commodity that will satisfy his or her needs at that particular moment (Kortler, 2007). However, this is coupled by the purchasing power of the consumer. Variations of consumers may be from age, income, education level, mobility patterns, and tastes. Therefore, consumer behavior can be considered as an effort to study and understand the buying tendencies of consumers for their final use (Dooe & Lowe, 2008). The buying decisions of consumers can be influenced by a number of factors but let us look at the social factors and their effects to a consumer with reference to two sub cultural groups willing to buy a car. Sub cultural groups are smaller groups of a culture (Kazmi, 2009). Persons within subcultures possess distinctive sets of values, beliefs, customs, and traditions. The values and beliefs, as customs and traditions that are possessed by members of a certain sub culture, set them apart from members of other sub cultures. Take for example the music culture having the reggae and the hip-hop, music sub cultures; the belief of a reggae musician is different from that of a hip-hop musician (Dooe & Lowe, 2008). Primarily people are social beings and thus would need people around to talk and or discuss several issues to realize better ideas and solutions. Any society has its laws and regulations, and since we live in it, we need to adhere to these laws. This will essay will look at some of the social factors that influence consumer behavior. In doing so, reference will be attached to the behavioral learning theory in discussing how these factors influence behavior (Duane, Lusch, & Carver, 2010). Behavioral learning theory holds that behavior of a person changes according to it immediate consequences.
Consumer reference groups:
Reference groups are groups that have a direct or indirect influence on a persons’ behavior. They can be people whom individuals compare themselves with since every individual has other people in society who are their idols/mentors in due course of time. Family members, relatives, friends, and co-workers, form reference groups (Kazmi, 2009). When it comes to the buying decision of the consumer in this case the car, this group has a significant influence. This agrees wit the behavioral learning theorists who argue that behavior is affected by influential forces in the environment. In this case, workers, friends can directly influence a person to buy a car (Kortler, 2007). They have much knowledge about the features of the car. If most of the co-workers or friends owns or drives Mercedes Benz, then the consumer may be compelled to buy one (Kortler, 2007). On the other hand, if it is for case of the musicians sub culture group it might so happen that the consumer will buy a car that the family members or fellow musicians advises him or common with them (Dooe & Lowe, 2008).
For the married individual members of the family can exercise a strong influence on the individuals buying behavior. Some of the factors that a family member would consider include basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. On the other hand, if the consumer were to buy the car, then he would buy one, which will benefit his family members (Kazmi, 2009). The buying will also depend on the size of the family, for example, will all the members fit when going for a picnic, holiday etc. This is unlike a bachelor who may not need a spacious car (Dooe & Lowe, 2008).
Secondary groups are groups sharing an indirect relationship with the consumer. They are more informal and there is no regular interaction with the individual. These groups include religious associations, political parties, and clubs (Henry, 2008). The effect of this group on the consumer is not critical as compared to the primary group because the interaction is minimal. The religious association or club an individual belongs may expose him to new behaviors and life styles. A car owned by a fellow musician may be conspicuous because he may be the only one owning such type of car. This may compel the consumer to buying such type because it may look luxurious or because it reflects the true picture of the beliefs and cultures of that particular musician group. If one is commended for a brand, then chances of purchasing the same in future a high.
Role in society:
An individual may participate in many groups like clubs, organizations, family. Therefore, the individual’s position in each group can be in terms of the role. A role consists of the activities a person is expected to perform depending on the people around him or her (Henry, 2008). A president of a country would for example be driven in a Mercedes Benz and not a Toyota primo when compared to musicians who may drive any type of car they feel like. This is according to the role-play in the society i.e., as the head of the nation or a musician. In this case, here the consumer is influenced by the kind of society he is in and the role he plays in that particular society.
For each role there is a status reflecting the general esteem accorded to it by the society. In this case, an individual may choose a car to communicate his status in the society. For example, a hip-hop musician performing in executive arenas may drive an expensive car than a reggae musician performing in a less expensive arena. This is actually like a status symbol in the society and the type of group he is representing (Kortler, 2007).
As the years advance, people tend to change the goods and services they buy. Take the case kids, teenagers, adolescents, adults, and the aged who have different values and beliefs. All these sub groups give varying priorities to daily lifestyles, activities and interests, food etc. For example an aged musician would not spend a lot of time browsing for a brand new cars in the market the way a young musician would do. Likewise, a married musician will have a different taste to new cars in the market to that of a bachelor (Kortler, 2007).
Men and women differ in fundamental aspects other than physically e.g. the way women process information is different from the way men do (Majumdar, 2010). The gender in the sub music culture may as well differ and the type of cars they may own. A female reggae musician may have a different taste to the type of car she may own as compared to the male counterpart. A female musician may buy a certain brand of a car simply because another one has it (Henry, 2008). In this case, women may tend to value possessions that enhance personal and social relationships depending on the type of music she may perform. Marketers may therefore find it useful to develop different marketing strategies for male and female consumers (Blythe, 2008).
People of different income levels tend to have different values, behaviors, and lifestyles. It is typical that income can be used by marketers to segment a group of people defined on some other characteristics such as age (Ferrel & Hartline, 2010). Big earners tend to lead a luxurious life than low earners. Education can sometimes contribute to the kind of lifestyle one may lead. In this case, a learned musician may compose more meaningful music than a less learned one. This may mean more sales, hence more income. Therefore, the type car a musician with high-income drives may be more luxurious than that of a less-educated one (Blythe, 2008).
All human societies exhibit categorization in social class that may take the form of the caste system where the members of different castes are reared for certain roles and cannot change their caste membership (Majumdar, 2010). Income is not the only factors that indicate social class but can be measured as a combination of occupation, income, education, wealth, and other variables. The ranking of people can be those occupying inferior or superior positions according to their social class. In some social classes there are preferences for particular products or brands like clothings, automobiles, and furnishings. A musician of hip-hop from a royal family may have a big taste to luxurious automobiles than the same musician from an inferior group (Ferrel & Hartline, 2010).
In conclusion, the automobile marketers need to have a marketing strategy, which should be designed not only to appeal to the specific needs of each group, but also to those they have influence over. In this case, behavioral learning theory is critical since it holds that immediate circumstances can influence behavior of consumers. For instance, the affluent people in society will use their earning to purchase luxurious cars. However, they also have a direct influence on their peers or those they are related in one way or another. The reverse is also true. Marketers need to realize that the buying behavior of consumers is a complex mix of different variables. Although a marketer might not have a complete control of these factors, they are useful in guiding them in identifying and influencing the behavior of consumers. Marketers should understand behavior of consumers so they can use this knowledge in their marketing effort.
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