To put it simply ...
"Buying is a profound pleasure."
―Simone de Beauvoir
What do you look for when you buy something? What are the 'things' that urge you to get that perfect bag or the gorgeous pair of shoes? As a consumer, there are many factors that affect our purchasing decisions. Most people are conditioned a certain way to choose from millions of alternative products and make alternate purchasing decisions. We may not know it, but the factors that influence buying decisions help the consumers in recognizing needs, and finding ways to solve these needs. The decision processes and acts involved in buying and using products is known as buying behavior, or the buying decision of the consumers.
The factors that affect these decisions may be different for each individual. For example, even though your friend and you may share same interests, when you are out shopping for something, like shoes, your friend may love ballerinas, while you may love wedges. The choices vary because influenced by the different factors in life, each person learns to create mental shortcuts that provide a systematic way to choose among alternatives.
Key Factors that Influence Buying Decisions
Culture is one of the key factors that influences a consumer's buying decisions. These factors refer to the set of values, preferences, perceptions, and ideologies of a particular community. At an early age, buyers learn to recognize acceptable behavior and choices when selecting products. For example, it is our culture that teaches us that, as a buyer, we need to make payments and honor contracts, pay on time, observe rules, and assume responsibility when seeking information. Sometimes 'cultural shifts', due to the influence of different cultures indicate the need to introduce new products.
Each culture is further divided into various subcultures based on age, geographical location, religion, gender (male/female), etc.
Social factors, which includes the groups to which the customer belongs, and his or her social status, also affect purchase decisions. Human beings are innately social. They need people to interact with, and make decisions. Social groups, like families, can influence the buying decisions of consumers. These factors are further divided into:
Family is one of the most important buying organizations in our society and, is thus, the most influential group. Family has a direct or indirect influence on the behavior and attitude of a buyer. In the traditional setting, it was the wife in a husband-wife model relationship who was responsible for making buying decisions related to product categories such as household products, food, and clothing. However, with more women opting for full-time professional careers, these roles have changed. Today, it may be a man doing the household shopping. So, it is important to have a marketing mix that targets these consumers as well.
Social class or status can also influence buying decisions. The members of a social class are one that share similar behavior, values, and interests. Apart from income, people in the same occupation, neighborhood, or educational system can belong to a shared social classes.
A person's buying choices are influenced by four factors namely:
Every person has different needs. There are physiological needs, biological needs, social needs, etc. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, human needs are arranged in a hierarchy, from most pressing to least pressing. These include physiological needs such as food and water, safety needs, social needs, esteem or ego needs, and self-actualization needs. Based on the nature of the needs, some may seem more important than others at some point in time. Once basic physiological needs are fulfilled, a person moves on to acquire other needs in the same order. This is when the need becomes a motive, and urges the person to seek satisfaction by getting it.
With experience, a person's behavior can change. This is learning. According to the learning theory, when a person is exposed to strong motivations and positive reinforcements, their buying decisions are altered.
Perception is how a buyer selects and interprets the information that he or she is exposed to. A motivated person is ready to do something, but what he does is influenced by his perception. Perception can be different for different individuals. So, even when their needs are the same, the difference in perception can make them buy different products. For example, although you and your friend both went to buy shoes, she picked ballerinas because she felt more comfortable in them, while you picked wedges because you felt it looked much more comfortable.
Beliefs and Attitudes
A consumer has specific beliefs about various products. These are usually descriptive thoughts of how the product is. These thoughts can be acquired or learned over time. This, in turn, affects consumer buying decision.
Personal characteristics such as the consumer's age, occupation, economic circumstances, lifestyle, and personality have great influence on the buying decisions and behavior.
Gender, Age and Life-cycle Stage
Do you remember the difference in the clothes you bought when you were 15, and the clothes you bought when you were 25? Age has an impact on a person's tastes and buying motivations. As people age, they buy different goods and services. Gender also influences what we buy. This is the reason you find beer ads on sports channels, and household items ads during prime-time television series.
Occupation and Economic Circumstances
A person's occupation and economic circumstances affects the product choices he/she makes. For example, a manager is more likely to buy a business suit as compared to a blue-collar worker in a factory. Similarly, economic stability, income, and savings, all contribute to how a consumer makes a purchase decision.
Lifestyle and Values
How a person lives in society, and his values and interests affect his purchase decisions. Lifestyles may differ even if people belong to the same social class, subculture, or occupation. Some people buy based on their views of the world, while others may want to purchase influenced by the opinions of others. There are some who have a desire for variety and risk taking, and thus, buy accordingly.
A distinct personality, which includes unique psychological characteristics, is an important determinant of consumer decisions. Some common personality types include aggressive, social, defensive, dominant, etc.
Marketing strategies including a great market mix are one of the best ways of influencing consumer behavior. Clever marketing campaigns persuade people and influence what they buy. Consumer decision-making process and behavior is highly unpredictable. For marketing companies, knowing the factors that affect buying decisions can help in assessing the impact of their marketing strategies, and how they can further improve them to appeal to the consumers.