What Are Important Determinants of Consumer Behavior?

by Todd Bowerman - Updated September 26, 2017

Predicting and understanding consumer behavior is one of the largest challenges a business can face. For every successful product or high-impact event, there are dozens of failures or mistakes. If you want to launch a new service, re-brand your business or simply improve your profitability, you will need a basic understanding of some of the things that control consumer behavior. Consumers can be unpredictable at times, but usually react to certain factors and concerns.

Culture and Society

As culture shifts its perception on certain topics, consumers follow. This can be good or bad for business, depending on what you sell. When movie stars and commercials glorified smoking as a way to look cool, cigarette sales surged. Now that more people are aware of the risks of smoking and society looks down on smokers, less people are smoking. Spotting culture shifts is an important skill in protecting your business, especially if you sell goods like clothing or entertainment products.

Family Life

All people are influenced by the way they were raised and the interests of their families. A child with open and liberal parents is probably more likely to buy blue hair dye or daring fashion items, while those from upbringings that are more conservative will stick with products their families will find acceptable. Many people make purchasing decisions based on personal tastes, but fail to recognize the degree to which their personal tastes were sculpted by their parents and other family members.

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Individual Concepts

Some of the decisions made by consumers are based on their idea of self. A person’s self-concept can play a major part in the things he buys, such as a businessperson’s desire to buy expensive suits or a musician’s desire to wear torn jeans. The way a person perceives your product has a major impact, as well; for instance, runners will be drawn to shoes made by notable athletic companies, while other consumers may take issue with the company’s manufacturing processes.

Politics and Religion

The political environment can play a large part in consumer decision-making. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, sales of American flags and products with patriotic messages soared. Consumer tastes can be modified by the important political topic of the day. Additionally, a person’s religious beliefs can be a huge factor in his decision-making process. The Catholic church bans members from seeing certain movies or reading certain books, while atheists are probably less likely to buy a self-improvement book steeped in spirituality. Understanding your consumers is a challenge, but necessary for improving your business.

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