As a marketer, my regular professional activities have often brought encounters with customers that clearly portray the need to, at least, ‘teach’ some aspects of new behaviours to them. I tend to mix what comes into play here with consumer behavior, a concept which comes the way of most marketers. Please assist me in unraveling this confusion, and proffer some hints on how customers could be influenced for more positive response – Samson A. Onyekwelu
While highlighting at this juncture preference for using both customer and consumer interchangeably here, even where the ‘thin line’ of distinction between both has been made known earlier, factors influencing consumer behaviour no doubt apply directly to customers too. Being aware of these factors provides suitable starting point in any efforts aimed at influencing customers, for any favourable positive response to the marketer.
Consumer’s buying behaviour and the resulting purchase decision are strongly influenced by these factors:
(a) Cultural factor – This comprise sets of fundamental values perceptions, wants, and behaviours imbibed from the family, the society as a whole, and even other relevant institutions. It must be noted that culture (which every group or society has) remains the foundation of a person’s wants and behaviour, its influence on buying behaviour remains germane. It is not out of place in this clime to assume that what appeals to a Hausa prospective buyer may likely not be applicable to his or her Igbo counterpart, based on their cultural inclinations. So, giving a thought to likely disparities which such divergence would likely throw up is a good starting point for influencing customers.
(b) Social factor – Here, consideration should be given to groups, the family, roles and status which encompass components of this factor. The marketer must realize that two or more people who interact to accomplish individual or mutual goals (as a group) are easily influence by what this entity stands for. Who says customers cannot be favourably influence, using the effects of organizations which they belong to (e.g. professional associations, trade unions, and religious groups)?
The place of the family as a major influence of consumer buying behaviour is well known; hence marketers are often highly interested in the positions and influence of the husband, wife and children within family settings. This, no doubt, has impact on the procurement of assorted products and services. In a nutshell, the awareness that family members can strongly influence buyer behaviour must be played up. This also tallies with the place of roles and status as parts of this factor. Remember that people often belong to clubs, organizations, groups, even families; and their position in any of such can be defined in terms of both role (i.e. the activities people are expected to perform in accordance with the position they occupy among those around them) and status (someone’s standing in a society or group).
(c) Personal Factor – This includes, (i) age and life cycle stage (people, as they age, change in their preference for goods and services over time – The saying that “buying is shaped by the stage of the family life cycle” is relevant here; (ii) occupation (someone’s occupation often affects the goods and services bought – Grounds for the trend in software companies’ coming up with designs aimed at accountants, engineers, lawyers, doctors, etc); (iii) economic situation (who doesn’t know that a person’s economic situation clearly affects his or her product choice?); (iv) life style (one’s pattern of living, such as interest, work, activities, opinions, etc, clearly influence preference for products or services offering); (v) personality and self concept (personality, the unique and distinct psychological characteristics of someone, has bearing on how one responds to his or her environment. This, no doubt, has lots of influence on peoples’ buying behaviour).
(d) Psychological Factor – This factor is made up of motivation (that need which is pressing enough to propel someone to seek satisfaction of such need); perception (the process of using the senses to obtain information about one’s surrounding or situation); learning (changes in someone’s behaviour which stem from experience); then belief and attitudes (belief being the descriptive thought which someone holds about something, while attitude depicts a person’s consistently favourable or unfavourable appraisal, feelings, and tendencies towards something)
Taking cognizance of the above factors which influence consumer behaviour, by way of stimulating inclination for product and brand preferences, I am still quite aware of the place of the mass media (e.g. television, radio, the internet, outdoor, etc) as tool of swaying customers. A marketer working with the factors here in mind is in an advantageous position, especially where they complement tools of personal selling in any marketing strategy. Even where many of these issues highlighted as factors cannot be controlled by the marketer, understanding their impact is vital. These words of Philip Kotler (an authority, many of us look up to, in marketing) stand to buttress my reasoning in this regard – “The marketer needs to know which people are involved in the buying decision and what role each person plays, so that marketing strategies can also be aimed at these people”.
In conclusion, you should always remember that whatever efforts intended for teaching new behaviour to customers will be made easy with the above in mind, coupled with the need to understand the reasons behind the purchases which consumers make, along with what goes on in a society ‘loaded’ with demands which are fast changing.