Consumer Behaviour

Why we have an interest in consumer behaviour?

The first thing we need to recognize is that marketing and especially marketing practitioners are interested in consumer behaviour mainly because their are interested in predicting behaviour and by doing so decrease the uncertainty of not being chosen in a product category.

Any attempt to predict consumer behaviour will be furnished with a complexity of interrelated factors which are interdependent and subjective in its influence to an individual so that prediction becomes a rather difficult pursuit. The only thing a researcher or marketing practitioner is able to foresee is a likelihood of occurring behaviour if certain events appear or particular communication methods are used. If one allows than this is comparable the principle of Heisenberg has postulated with his uncertainty principle in quantum theory meaning that as closer one comes to an individual consumer, it is more unlikely to predict behavioural pattern. Models can help to determine a generalized prognosis and a likelihood but one will fail on an individual basis.


Despite the mentioned constraints in explaining consumer behaviour, motivation is a key component that induces behavioral change within a consumer. This force of change is driving him/her from the current stage (not having a product) to a different stage (he/she is in possession of a product) that was caused either by intrinsic or extrinsic motives.

Those motivates that change his/her behaviour and adapting to the environment (for example buying a product, divest in a product etc.), economists explain behaviour by using extrinsic motivational factors (price, cost, time, taxes etc.) where on the other hand psychologist and sociologist see intrinsic factors such as values, beliefs and attitudes as main contributer on why consumers engage in a buying process. In both cases, consumer behaviour can only be described in its appearance of distinct situational factors.

Having said that, the study of consumer behaviour is nerveless an essential part of marketing and with the help of decision making models, researchers try to interpret behavioural pattern in consumers.

Decision-making process

Using the widely cited Engel Blackwell Miniard model which sees the foundation of consumer behaviour in solving a problem, a consumer at first has to recognize that their is problem and that a solution is needed in order to resolve the problem.

In general a problem arises due to an uneasy feeling (something that disturbs the equilibrium between satisfied and being unsatisfied, desired vs. actual state, also called optimum stimulation level) about a not full-filled need (physiological shaped perception) or want (psychological shaped perception). So as long as the consumer do not identify (recognized) that he/she has a problem, he/she will not start to look for a solution.

Discussing consumer behaviour in more detail at this place doesn’t seemed to be valuable as there hundreds of textbooks that rather nicely explain the cognitive and behavioural process on how a consumers goes through a purchase cycle in order to reinstate the equilibrium of his/her optimal stimulation level (Raju, 1980; Zentall, 1983).

Rather going through the process and explain consumer behaviour, how about going through some questions that one can pick-up along with the discussion on consumer behaviour.

Content related topics

Further Reading:

Hereafter you can find a selection of textbooks and chapters that by no means claims to be exhausted but can help to see through the topics on hand and indicate a starting point further individual research. Another area is that most university courses describe their source material in detail.

As for the time being, I could not really find an extensive list of East-Asian (China, Japan, Korea) originated research material but as for American scholars and European influenced scholars, one should keep in mind their work on consumer behaviour have interpretive differences.

Consumer Behaviour (In general)

Margaret Hogg, Michael R Solomon, Gary J Bamossy, Soren Askegaard, (2006) “Consumer Behaviour: A European Perspective”,3rd, Financial Times/Prentice Hall .BibTeX

Consumer Behavior by Roger D. Blackwell, Paul W. Miniard and James F. Engel (Mason, OH, Southwestern, 2001).

Peter, J.P. and J.C. Olson Consumer behavior and marketing strategy. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005).

Comprehensive Chapters

A rather comprehensive chapter 3 about consumer behaviour in Jim Blythe, (2005) “Essentials of Marketing”,3rd Edition, Financal Tmmes Management .BibTeX

psychological perspective

Frank Kardes, Paul Herr, Curtis Haugtvedt, (2008) “Handbook of Consumer Psychology”, Routledge .BibTeX is a more academic text on particular psychological issues related to consumer behaviour.

Economic perspective

A review from a economic point of view on consumer behaviour and the influence of tax proposals, the effect of credit constraints, real interest rate changes is undertaken by Richard Blundell, (1988) “Consumer Behaviour: Theory and Empirical Evidence–A Survey“, The Economic Journal, Vol. 98, No. 389. (Mar., 1988), pp. 16-65 BibTeXScholar

Optimal Stimulation Theory / Level

P S Raju, (1980) “Optimum Stimulation Level: Its Relationship to Personality, Demographics, and Exploratory Behavior“, The Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Dec., 1980) (pp. 272-282) BibTeXScholar

Sydney Zentall, Thomas Zentall, (1983) “Optimal stimulation: A model of disordered activity and performance in normal and deviant children“, Psychological Bulletin, 1983 BibTeXScholar

Websites, Lars Perner, Ph.D., Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California


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