A definition of the term "consumer behavior" can vary, but simply defined, it refers the study of how and why consumers make purchase decisions. However, according to "Consumer Behavior" authors Wayne D. Hoyer and Deborah J. Macinnis, consumer behavior goes beyond buying the product or service, to include usage and disposal.

Studying Behavior

By studying the process consumers go through to make a purchase decision, marketers can identify and reach their target market, giving them an edge on where to advertise, how to advertise and mostly importantly, to whom to advertise. They meticulously collect, analyze, store and utilize consumers’ behavior patterns and idiosyncrasies to make decisions, using past behavior to predict future behavior.


Direct questioning of consumers about their buying habits often proves insufficient due to influences beyond the consumers' control, or even their recognition. Sometimes consumers don't fully understand why or how they make purchase decisions, as their behavior is a complicated combination of personality, culture, geography, socioeconomic status and exposure.

Marketing Cautions

Although consumers may not know what drives them to buy a product, they're often certain about what drives them away. Consumers easily swayed to make a purchase decision could just as quickly stop buying a product, reports "Science Daily," if companies alienate consumers by promising more than they can deliver.


In a study published in April 2011 issue of the "Journal of Consumer Research," authors Itamar Simonson of Stanford University and Aner Sela of the University of Florida, Gainesville, concluded that "heritable and other hard-wired inherent preference components play a key role in behavior and deserve much more attention in marketing and decision-making research." Marketers seeking an edge on where to advertise, how to advertise, and mostly importantly, to whom to advertise, could also focus on how consumers' genes influence their behavior.