Consumer Buying Behavior

Marketers should have a thorough understanding of how their "consumers think, feel, and act" and must offer a clear value to each target consumer (Kotler & Keller, 2015, p. 157). Consumer buying behavior is the "the study of the process involved when individuals or groups select, purchase, use, or dispose of products, services, ideas, or experiences to satisfy needs and desires" (Solomon, 2017, p. 6). Consumer buying behavior is strongly influenced by personal, cultural, and social factors. Of these, cultural factors have the most profound influence. Accordingly, marketers pay close attention to the cultural values of consumers in their markets to promote sales of their current products and identify opportunities for the future (Kotler & Keller, 2015).

Marketers should understand how their consumers make buying decisions and who is involved in such decisions. Consumer buying behavior is a five-step process that involves problem recognition, information search, evaluating alternatives, purchase decision, and post-purchase behavior. Each step must be fully understood by the marketer. The five-step process does not necessarily occur in this sequence, and consumers may skip or reverse stages as they alternate between buying offline and online (Kotler & Keller, 2015). Brands play an important role in consumer buying behavior, conveying information about the product and reassuring the consumer's buying decision (Marshall & Johnston, 2011).

The marketplace has been dramatically changing in the past decade thanks to advanced and cheaper communications technologies, which enable consumers to make better choices and share their buying experiences with others worldwide. The newly acquired consumer capabilities include the following (Kotler & Keller, 2015, pp. 16–17):

  1. Consumers are increasingly dependent on the internet to acquire information and make informed decisions when buying.
  2. Consumers search, communicate, and buy on the move.
  3. Consumers tap into social media to exchange opinions and express loyalty.
  4. Consumers are increasingly interacting with companies.
  5. Consumers may reject marketing efforts if they find them inappropriate.
  6. Consumers can easily shift brands if they believe that they have not been treated fairly by a certain company.

Consumer behavior is also characterized by the actions that individuals take in buying and using products or services, including the "mental and social processes that come before and after these actions" (Kerin & Hartley, 2017, p. 123). A study of consumer buying behavior is important in helping companies plan and execute better business strategies (Khaniwale, 2015). Social norms and situational factors often influence a buyer's final decision. Where group pressures to comply are strong, influence from social norms is expected to override multi-attributed evaluation. The force of social norms involves two aspects: (1) social forces, or pressures and normative suggestions, and (2) motivation to comply, or the willingness to listen to others (Johansson, 2009).

The country-of-origin effect also plays a role in the buying decision. This term refers to the impact a branded product or service's perceived country of origin has on customers (for example, "made in" labels). Products or services from countries with a positive image tend to be favorably evaluated, while those from countries of lesser status tend to be downgraded. For example, the entry of Japanese cars into the United States in the 1970s was more a product of positive associations with Japan rather than with specific firms. American drivers sought to buy a Japanese car, and not necessarily a Datsun (now Nissan) or a Toyota. Evidence suggests that this effect, which influences sales, does not stop over time (Johansson, 2009).

The growth of multinational production has changed the importance consumers ascribe to "made in" labels. The perception of Sony is unlikely to change, regardless of where its product is produced. The influence of the country-of-origin effect also depends on whether or not the country in question produces at widely different quality levels. For example, Germany, Japan, Sweden, and Switzerland have very high quality standards in general, which help to guarantee the quality of their products, and Korea seem to be working on joining this group. However, products from the United States, Italy, and China have widely varying quality levels, which can make it harder to judge quality based on the "made in" label alone (Johansson, 2009).


Johansson, J. (2009). Global marketing (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Kerin, R., & Hartley, S. (2017). Marketing (13th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Khaniwale, M. (2015). Consumer buying behavior. International Journal of Innovation and Scientific Research, 14(2), 278–286.

Kotler, P., & Keller, K. L. (2015). Marketing management (15th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Marshall, G. W., & Johnston, M. W. (2011). Essentials of marketing management. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Solomon, M. (2017). Consumer behavior: Buying, having, and being (12th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.