If you’re involved in marketing, it can be helpful to know what is fueling consumer decisions so that you can better target them and solve their problems. Read on for all the details of the factors that inform consumer decisions.
Psychological factors are the most influential but also the hardest to pinpoint in consumer behavior because they’re mostly influenced themselves by the external factors that shape your mind as you grow up.
Psychological factors that influence consumer behavior can be broken down into: motivation, perception, learning and attitudes and beliefs.
Motivation, if you follow Maslow’s theory of hierarchy covers safety needs, social needs, esteem needs and self-actualization needs. A lot of these will be covered further down the line, except self-actualization, which in layman’s terms, means your potential. So, the Army or colleges are good at using self-actualization to gain new recruits and sell tuition. As do the likes of health and wellbeing brands.
Perception is shaped by collecting information and creating our own image of a certain product. Think about celebrity culture for a good example. You don’t know what’s going on in these people’s lives, but their PR teams are drip feeding you anecdotes in order to cultivate an idea of them as people.
Learning can cover everything from practical use of an object or service and learning from it. If you haven’t tried the product getting sold, you can look at reviews and shoutouts from influencers.
Attitudes and beliefs are harder to sway, depending on how fundamental they are. If you believe tea has less caffeine than coffee, that might influence you, either way, on what you drink. Harnessing what the general public believes, or shocking with an alternative, is a powerful marketing move.
Humans are a very social species, to the point that it permeates just about everything we do, including what we purchase. Social factors that influence consumer behavior can be broken down into: family, and reference groups.
Obvious examples of using our social tendencies can be seen in everything from social media presented as a means of keeping in touch with loved ones to camera phones emphasizing how you can capture social moments with friends. It’s almost overused, since it plays into to the concept most that the Mad Men of the past and present would use: present a lifestyle, not a product. You’re not buying a camera phone; you’re buying an opportunity to spend the day at the beach with your friends and capture it in a photo.
However, different marketing strategies can come from the different relationships we have. Our families play a big role in our behavior, even in our purchasing behavior, and consumers are likely to stick to what they know was used in their own home if they have no strong opinions on the product.
But there is also reference groups, which can be from clubs, friends, co-workers, churches, etc. These all tend to have an opinion leader that will influence purchases. In the age of digital marketing, that is most clearly seen in micro influencers, who lead over a community online, especially on TikTok where you are presented with your people, be them LGBT, vegan, feminist, goth or alt, gamers, etc.
Personal factors are those that are personal to us as a person. These vary from person to person, but common factors that can be used include age, income, occupation, and lifestyle.
Age is a primary factor that influence our preferences on what we buy. This might be due to lifestyle differences, health, or simple tastes. For example, a retiree enjoying their life at home aren’t going to be as easily swayed about the idea of the literal flashing bright lights of a rave. People who are middle-aged might be more interested in buying houses and vehicles than travelling, etc.
Age ties into a lot of other factors, like income. It stands to organically be the case that people earn more as they grow older, in fact for the first era of their life it’s mandatory. Income will force consumers to rethink what they spend their money on, which we go into more detail on in the economic section.
Occupation is another factor, since people will tend to buy items that are relevant for their position. On the most basic level, clothes, for example. Are you working on the farm with boots and body warmers, or are you in Wall Street in your business suit?
Lifestyle is one of the biggest factors, since marketers are often trying to sell a lifestyle that they pose the consumer doesn’t have. Lifestyle factors that might have an impact without the input of marketers might include whether they are a stay-at-home mum, what diet we’re on, our approach to exercise, whether we have higher education, what occupation industry we’re in, etc. But marketers often pose the idea of, for example, “Are you stressed?” when everyone is stressed to some degree, and then pose a solution to their stress. “It’s caused by cleaning, try this cleaning product,” etc.
It stands to be the case that the biggest influence on whether a consumer will buy something is whether or not they feel they can afford it. A lot of different elements can go into the decision, including personal income, family income, income expectations, consumer credit, liquid assets, and savings.
Personal income is split into discretionary and disposable personal income, or what you assign to your financial responsibilities and what is leftover. It is the basest of influence. Would this purchase come under a “need” (discretionary) or a “want” (disposable) and can you afford it no matter what you land on?
Family income is the total sum income of the household, and more comes into a factor when it comes to purchases that aren’t necessary as there are more incomes backing the buy. Income expectations also aid our decisions, like if we expect a plunge in the future, we’ll be more careful with our spending.
When it comes to marketing, a big factor is making the payment process as easy as possible for the customer, which means automating a lot of the process. Read this guide on automation step by step to see where else in your customer service operations you can automate.
There are a few ways we can go with culture. There is national culture, subculture, social class and then the effects of large changes that might cause changes in culture.
For an example of national culture, it’s easy to look at McDonalds, which famously has premises all over the world. They tailor not only their marketing but even their items to the country they reside in. So, you can order a bacon, mac, and cheese toastie in Hong Kong, and tomato and mozzarella turnovers (essentially mini calzones) in Italy.
Subcultures can cover just about any culture within a nation, so while you might immediately think of aesthetic cultures like punks, religion also comes into subculture, geographical location, interests, sexual preference, etc. Platforms like TikTok and Facebook have actively encouraged finding your own subculture with communities and groups, which marketers can target and infiltrate.
And then there are the big changes worldwide. They can be bold and horrifying, such as the recent pandemic or the war in Ukraine, which is has affected everything from finance to brand loyalty when it comes to marketing, but there are also the more subtle results from these events. For example, Covid caused a lot of people to look at their social medias a lot more, making for a lot of changes in habits, including the idea of finding what you want to buy and then buying it directly from social media.