Consumer Behavior Study Guide
Consumer Behavior Study Guide

Consumer Behavior Study Guide

Source: University of Minnesota Libraries

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An introductory marketing study guide from the University of Minnesota.

Consumer Behavior - Study Guide

Situational influences are temporary conditions that affect how buyers behave. They include physical factors such as a store’s buying locations, layout, music, lighting, and even scent. Companies try to make the physical factors in which consumers shop as favorable as possible. If they can’t, they utilize other tactics such as discounts. The consumer’s social situation, time factors, the reason for their purchases, and their moods also affect their buying behavior. 

Your personality describes your disposition as other people see it. Market researchers believe people buy products to enhance how they feel about themselves. Your gender also affects what you buy and how you shop. Women shop differently than men. However, there’s some evidence that this is changing. Younger men and women are beginning to shop more alike. People buy different things based on their ages and life stages. A person’s cognitive age is how old one “feels” oneself to be. To further understand consumers and connect with them, companies have begun looking more closely at their lifestyles (what they do, how they spend their time, what their priorities and values are, and how they see the world). 

Psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized that people have to fulfill their basic needs—like the need for food, water, and sleep—before they can begin fulfilling higher-level needs. Perception is how you interpret the world around you and make sense of it in your brain. To be sure their advertising messages get through to you, companies often resort to repetition. Shocking advertising and product placement are two other methods. Learning is the process by which consumers change their behavior after they gain information about or experience with a product. Consumers’ attitudes are the “mental positions” people take based on their values and beliefs. Attitudes tend to be enduring and are often difficult for companies to change.

Culture prescribes the way in which you should live and affects the things you purchase. A subculture is a group of people within a culture who are different from the dominant culture but have something in common with one another—common interests, vocations or jobs, religions, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and so forth. To some degree, consumers in the same social class exhibit similar purchasing behavior. Most market researchers consider a person’s family to be one of the biggest determinants of buying behavior. Reference groups are groups that a consumer identifies with and wants to join. Companies often hire celebrities to endorse their products to appeal to people’s reference groups. Opinion leaders are people with expertise in certain areas. Consumers respect these people and often ask their opinions before they buy goods and services.

​Consumer behavior looks at the many reasons why people buy things and later dispose of them. Consumers go through distinct buying phases when they purchase products: (1) realizing the need or wanting something, (2) searching for information about the item, (3) evaluating different products, (4) choosing a product and purchasing it, (5) using and evaluating the product after the purchase, and (6) disposing of the product. A consumer’s level of involvement is how interested he or she is in buying and consuming a product. Low involvement products are usually inexpensive and pose a low risk to the buyer if he or she makes a mistake by purchasing them. High-involvement products carry a high risk to the buyer if they fail, are complex, or have high price tags. Limited-involvement products fall somewhere in between.

​Discussion Questions 

D1

Why do people in different cultures buy different products? Discuss with your class the types of vehicles you have seen other countries. Why are they different, and how do they better meet buyers’ needs in those countries? What types of cars do you think should be sold in the United States today?


D2

What is your opinion of companies like Google that gather information about your browsing patterns? What advantages and drawbacks does this pose for consumers? If you were a business owner, what kinds of information would you gather on your customers and how would you use it?


D3

Are there any areas in which you consider yourself an opinion leader? What are they? How are companies getting information about opinion leaders?


D4

What purchasing decisions have you been able to influence in your family and why? Is marketing to children a good idea? If not, what if one of your competitors were successful in doing so? Would it change your opinion?


D5

Name some products that have led to postpurchase dissonance on your part. Then categorize them as high- or low-involvement products.


D6

Describe the decision process for impulse purchases at the retail level. Would they be classified as high- or low-involvement purchases?


D7

How do you think the manufacturers of products sold through infomercials reduce postpurchase dissonance?


D8

Explain the relationship between extensive, limited, and routine decision making relative to high- and low-involvement decisions. Identify examples of extensive, limited, and routine decision making based on your personal consumption behavior.


D9

Why is understanding consumer behavior so important for companies? Think of examples where you do not think companies understood their consumers.

​Activities 

A1

Go to http://www.ospreypacks.com and enter the blog site. Does the blog make you more or less inclined to purchase an Osprey backpack?


A2

Select three advertisements and describe the needs identified by Abraham Maslow that each ad addresses. Find an international version of an advertisement for one of the products. What differences do you detect in the international version of the ad?


A3

Break up into groups and visit an ethnic part of your town that differs from your own ethnicity(ies). Walk around the neighborhood and its stores. What types of marketing and buying differences do you see? Write a report of your findings.


A4

Using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, identify a list of popular advertising slogans that appeal to each of the five levels.


A5

Identify how McDonald’s targets both users (primarily children) and buyers (parents, grandparents, etc.). Provide specific examples of strategies used by the fast-food marketer to target both groups. Make it a point to incorporate Happy Meals and Mighty Kids Meals into your discussion.

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​Principles of Marketing by [Author removed at request of original publisher] is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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This content is from ​University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing edition, 2015 - Chapter 3 Key Takeaways, Discussion Questions & Activities. Modifications were made as follows:

  • ​Removal of references to the chapter's associated readings

The University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing edition, 2015 is adapted from a work originally produced in 2010 by a publisher who has requested that it not receive attribution.