Influences on Consumer Decisions

Learning Objectives

  • Describe situational factors that influence what and when consumers buy
  • Describe personal factors that influence what and when consumers buy
  • Describe psychological factors that influence what and when consumers buy
  • Describe social factors that influence what and when consumers buy

What, Exactly, Influences a Purchasing Decision?

While the decision-making process itself appears quite standardized, no two people make a decision in exactly the same way. People have many beliefs and behavioral tendencies—some controllable, some beyond our control. How all these factors interact with each other ensures that each of us is unique in our consumer actions and choices.

Although it isn’t feasible for marketers to react to the complex, individual profiles of every single consumer, it is possible to identify factors that tend to influence most consumers in predictable ways.

The factors that influence the consumer problem-solving process are many and complex. For example, as groups, men and women express very different needs and behaviors regarding personal-care products. Families with young children tend to make different dining-out choices than single and married people with no children. A consumer with a lot of prior purchasing experience in a product category might approach the decision differently from someone with no experience. As marketers gain a better understanding of these influencing factors, they can draw more accurate conclusions about consumer behavior.

We can group these influencing factors into four sets, illustrated in the figure below:

  • Situational Factors pertain to the consumer’s level of involvement in a buying task and the market offerings that are available
  • Personal Factors are individual characteristics and traits such as age, life stage, economic situation, and personality
  • Psychological Factors relate to the consumer’s motivation, learning, socialization, attitudes, and beliefs
  • Social Factors pertain to the influence of culture, social class, family, and reference groups
Factors Influencing Consumer Decisions. Situational factors: buying task, marketing offerings. Personal factors: demographics, life stage, lifestyle, personality. Psychological factors: motivation, learning, attitude and beliefs. Social factors: culture/subculture, social class, family, reference groups. The consumer decision-making process: 1, Need recognition. 2, Information searching and processing. 3, Identification and evaluation of alternatives. 4, purchase decision. 5, post-purchase behavior.

Each of these factors will be discussed in greater detail in the next four readings.