What Influences People to Make Shopping Decisions?

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Paria Ahmadi

Dr. Roudabush

UNIV 200

3 December 2015

“What Influences People to Make Shopping Decisions?”

We spend money daily and typically in multiple places a day. Most people don’t realize how much they spend in one day. For instance, a day’s spending may include morning coffee, gas, lunch, groceries and entertainment. We as humans, don’t think much about these spendings because they are natural everyday purchases as opposed to big ticket items. We rarely think about why and what causes us to make these specific purchases. People never stop and think, “Why am I buying this brand?” or “Should I try a different brand?” There are endless amounts of stores and brands to choose from therefore it’s always a mystery as to how people pick what yogurt to buy at the grocery or what brand of makeup to buy at the cosmetics store. Do we even know what the reason behind buying a specific item is? The majority of the time people go into the store picking up the same brand or mark without even considering the other options. In fact, many people will take the same route to navigate the store every time. The average shopper doesn’t have much of a thought process while in a store, they go in buy what they need and maybe some items that appeal to them and walk out. They assume they are simply buy an item because they have run out of it or need it, this is known as the law of supply and demand. However, studies have shown that supply and demand is not the only reason for making purchases. There are a few factors involved that people may never think about. In some way or another individuals are being influenced in everything they do including the purchases they make. The four most influential factors are cultural, social, personal, and psychological factors. They make up the decision making process when it comes to shopping. Even though all four factors play a role in the decision making process, cultural/social factors are the most influential factors.

Cultural Factors are factors that are specific to a group of people with the same values or beliefs. They include subcultures such as status, religion and cultural trends. According to Chand, “Culture is passed on from one group member to another, and in particular is usually passed down from one generation to the next; it is learned therefore both subjective and arbitrary” (Chand).These are all factors that are learned from society and those around us. Cultural factors are different in every country because every country has different behaviors as well as a way of life. An example of this in America is “such values as liberty, democracy, freedom, American Exceptionalism, working hard, making your own success, and family values”(Management Study Guide). These values are specific to the American culture and are different from every other countries cultural beliefs. No other country will have the same exact beliefs or values because these are a part of what sets countries apart from one another. The difference are not only values but in food and much more, “While fish is regarded as a delicacy in Bengal, and the Bengalis boast of several hundred different varieties , in Rajasthan fish is regarded as mostly an unacceptable” (Chand). A person may feel well respected when served fish in Bengal where as if fish were served in Rajasthan, they would feel disrespected and not worthy. Food is just one way cultures differ, as shown in the example certain foods can mean and have completely different impacts on two different regions. Another example of this is shown between American and Japanese purchasing behavior, “The consumer behavior of the Japanese (more quality service conscious, buying domestic made products) differed significantly from the American (more price conscious, buying products when they were on sale, and happy to purchase foreign made products) (Legoherel).” These two counties have very different behaviors when it comes to shopping and therefore are not attracted towards the same purchases. Due to the differences producers and stores would not market the same way in both countries. It is also important to consider types of cultural factors when it comes to marketing items a certain way. For instance, if there is a new trend within a culture, it could put an impact on purchasing habits. If a culture is shifting towards a healthier lifestyle, meaning there is more motivation to eat healthy and exercise, there will be a negative impact on junk foods. In that case, marketers would need to consider the type of approach they use to sell junk foods. New trends are always happening within cultures and it’s essential that markets keep up and make adjustments.

Similarly to cultural factors, social factors play a major unconscious role in purchasing behavior. A study conducted by Bingol University states that after advertisement, family and friends influence consumption. The results show that family influence is 16.8% and friend influence is 20.6% of all purchasing influences. (Tatliloglu) Family, friends, and social status makes up the effect society has on purchasing. It is known that you become like the 5 people you spend the most time with, and other than coworkers, those 5 people are most likely a persons loved ones. These are the people a person lives, dines, shops, and travels with. It is natural to pick up their actions, sayings, and even shopping habits unconsciously. Family, in particular plays a huge role in all of an individual’s life and decision making process. Individuals have grown up watching their families buy certain items or do things a certain way and they will most likely do the same. Even if individuals aren’t unconsciously being influenced, they may ask for their family and friends opinions as it is most likely valued and considered helpful to them. Additionally, purchases may also effect these loved ones therefore validation is needed. Whether it’s consulting their spouse on what to buy for their kid or asking a sibling what to get for a parents birthday, loved ones are always giving input on purchases. An individual’s social role which includes their income and occupation is important because it leads to their purchases. “The buying tendency of individuals depends on the role he plays in society”(Chand). It also effects their willingness to buy certain items as well as how much they spend on certain items. Different social classes may also differ in shopping style and method. Higher class individuals (high income) will shop more comfortably than lower class individuals (low income). As “the upper middle class women organizes shopping with purpose and efficiency, lower middle class women work more at their shopping and have more anxiety while the lower class women are the most impulsive and least organized” (Levy). People who have significantly different incomes are not going to have the same shopping habits or look for the same buys. “According to the approach and inhibition theory of power, low power individuals experience greater social constraints and more threats and punishment; thus they are more cognizant of others in the social realm and more likely to comply with the social norms”(Smith). Individuals with low statuses in society are more likely to try to fit in and buy items that are popular or desirable at the time. However, high status individuals only focus on their own desires because they already feel as though they have been accepted by society. Marketers and store owners should always be aware of their environment- the status of the people and perhaps the age groups of consumers for that product or store.

The characteristics of each individual, known as a personal factors, also influence their decision to make purchases. Personal factors are the most apparent influencing factors to a consumer because they are most likely aware of these factors about themselves. They include age, lifestyle and personality. This means that people will buy items appropriate for their age group, way of life or personal characteristics. Individuals of different ages are attracted to different things. A 6 year old girl may spend her money on American Girl Dolls where as an 18 year old girl would rather spend that money on clothes or shoes. As people age, the items they are willing to spend their money on also changes. They also go through a family life cycle which effects shopping habits. The stages include young singles, married couples, unmarried couples, and couples with kids. In each stage of the family life cycles, couples are driven towards different purchases and spending. However, age isn’t the only thing that contribute to personal factors, lifestyle does as well. What a person does in their everyday life controls what they buy. As proposed by Alfred Adler in 1929, “Lifestyle refers to the way an individual stays in the society”(Management Study Guide). A person who is into fitness and healthy eating may spend $200 on a fitbit while a person who is tech savvy would rather spend that money on the latest gadget. Every individual has their own values and preference. No two people have the exact same way of life as well as interests. Personality comes into play when it comes to how a person reacts to advertising. For instance, “some studies have shown that sensation seekers or people who exhibit extremely high levels of openness, are more likely to respond well to advertising that’s violent or graphic”(Bearden). Not every individual is the same therefore, it is hard to please everyone with an ad. Based on an individual’s sense of humor and emotions they will respond differently to forms of marketing. One shopper may think that an ad is hilarious and be drawn to the product while another shopper may find the same ad to be disturbing and be pushed away. Again all of this is based on an individual’s personal liking and preference.

Psychology is the science or study of the mind and behavior or the way a person thinks (“Psychology”). It has to do with an individual’s perception, cognition, motivation and emotion. In terms of shopping, consumers buy items based on motivation, perception, and learning. Marketers need to make packaging so that it appears as though it is fulfilling a certain need. Consumers will buy a product with less hesitation knowing that there is a reason for needing it. Therefore, it is smart for marketers to seek a certain need and respond to it. Hyundai exemplified this during the 2008 economic crisis. They “ran a campaign that assured car buyers they could return their vehicles if they couldn’t make the payments on them without damaging their credit”(Lasn). This campaign motivated car buyers to shop from their company because of their deal. The store environment can also motivate a person to purchases items from that store. Customers either have an approach or an avoidance behavior towards a store according to the Mehrabian- Russell Model. The model states that, “Approach behaviors relate to a willingness or desire to move towards, stay in, explore, interact supportively in, perform well in, and return to the environment. Avoidance behaviors relate to the opposites of above; deteriorated performance and dissatisfaction; feeling of anxiety or boredom; unfriendliness to others; and a desire to leave the environment and not return”(Durmaz). If a consumer doesn’t even want to go into the store, has avoidance behavior towards it, then he/she won’t even see the merchandise and its marketing. So, on top of having advertising that motivates the customer to buy a specific item, store atmosphere matters too. “Perception is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment” (“Perception”).Every individual has different perceptions based off of their beliefs and experiences. Perception can be thought of as the way an individual see the world through his or her eyes. It causes everyone to see things differently. Learning can also cause a person to make a purchase or not make a purchase. Humans are actively learning with every move and action they make. From every action and experience we learn and know to make the same action or to not make the same action based off of experience. The different types of learning include conceptual learning and experiential learning. Conceptual learning is based on concept and organizing whereas experiential learning is based on experience. These types of learning as well as learning theories will help marketers in the long run. “The practical significance of learning theory of marketers is that they can build demand for a product by associating it with strong drives, using motivating cues, and to the same drive as competitors and providing similar cues because buyers are more likely to transfer loyalty to similar brands then to dissimilar ones”(Donovan) . By using consumers learning to their benefit, marketers can strategize their techniques.

Cultural and Social factors, in many ways go hand in hand. These two are also the factors with the greatest effect on consumer behavior. They are uncontrollable and influence even more than purchasing. In a sense, they control and effect every action a person makes considering they are everything around us – environment, people, language etc. These factors have had an effect on every individual since they were a child whether people realizes this or not. Growing up a person is impacted by their families as well as their actions and behaviors, the culture around them (whether it be a person’s native culture or the culture of those they grew up around), and the beliefs that are held in their household. They help shape a person as they grow. All these factors (surroundings, beliefs, family, and friends) later form an individual’s lifestyle, and preference. Therefore, it is hard to make a personal decisions. With so many factors influencing a person in today’s society it is hard to tell if any decision is truly based on personal preference. Even when a person feels as though they are making a personal decision, they are most likely making that decision for a reason or based on an influencing factor. It may not be obvious to the person or the people around them but if they think back to previous experiences and encounters, they may see where the thought process to make that purchase is coming from. With that being said, even psychological and personal factors relate back to social and cultural factors. Everything revolves around what has previously impacted a person or what currently impacts a person in society such as other people or the environment. This claim was reiterated by professor Yakup, Mucahit, and Reyhan at the Adiyaman University in Turkey. After conducting an experiment on consumer behavior they found that culture belief and tradition was the most important followed by the environment, friends, and social groups. As mentioned before, these factors are very significant in a person’s shopping behavior. They are relevant and apparent in individual’s everyday lives and affect more than we as humans realize. Social and Culture factors make us who we are today.

However personal preference does play a role in the shopping experience. A major contribution to social factors is personality. If a person is stubborn, they may not let anything or anyone change or influence their decision. For instance, if there is a new trend in society, and they do not like it, they simply will not participate. It wouldn’t matter to them how many people are participating in it or how much their friends encourage them. Some individuals do not care about others opinions and will do or buy whatever they are comfortable with. Additionally, lifestyle (which is another contribution to personal factors) can easily change and an influencing factor. A person can change their lifestyle at any given moment based on their own needs and interests which will cause them to potentially buy different products. This does not need to be influenced by anyone in particular. If an individual does not feel happy in their current situation, they can easily change their way of life which effects their purchases. The last contribution to social factors is a person’s age. Although this is could potentially have no impact at all, it could also have a strong impact. Even though, not all consumers in the same age group will be attracted to the same purchases, the majority of them will be attracted to similar purchases. For example, as kids grow up, the clothes they wear (style) or type of toy they play with change to fix their age. As exemplified, purchases aren’t always influenced by social and cultural factors. Personal factors are influenced by oneself and oneself only. Consumers typically buy items for themselves so it is important that they personally like and approve of their purchases.

It is critical for markets to take into account the physiological and personal factors but most importantly the cultural and social factors as they play a bigger role. These factors are used to draw in potential buyers while keeping in mind every individual is unique. If all these are taken into consideration, marketers will know how and who to direct their products to. It is also to a consumers benefit to know what factors are influencing them. They can now answer the question “why am I buying this brand?” Customers can now be more aware and double think about the purchases they make in a store. For a marketer, analyzing these factors is an important factor of their job and if done right can lead to success. “Brands are able to develop a strategy, marketing message, and advertising campaigns more efficient and more in line with needs of and ways of thinking of their target market.” (Management Study Guide) Not marketing a product correctly while result in low sales which is why it is crucial to study these appropriately. These factors differ in every environment and setting which is also important to keep in mind. Companies that understand the factors will have more of an opportunity to grow as a result of making the necessary changes. By doing so, they could potentially be much more successful.

Work Cited Page

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Chand, Smriti. “5 Factors Influencing Consumer Behavior Explained”. The Next Generation Library. N.p., 26 Dec 2013. Web. 15 Nov 2015

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Donovan, Robert and John Rossiter. “Store Atmosphere: An Environment Psychology Approach.” ResearchGate, N.p, n.d. Web 15 Nov. 2015

Durmaz, Yakup. “The Impact of Cultural Factors on the Consumer Buying Behaviors Examined through an Empirical Study.” ResearchGate. N.p., n.d. Web 15 Nov 2015

Durmaz, Yakup. “The Impact of Psychological Factors on Consumer Buying Behavior and an Empirical Application in Turkey.” Canadian Center of Science and Education, 26 Feb. 2014. Web 15 Nov. 2015

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