Most every business wants to know how consumers tick. In this lesson, you’ll learn about consumer buying behavior, including the standard model. You’ll also have a chance to take a short quiz after the lesson.

Consumer Buying Behavior Defined

Consumer buying behavior is the sum total of a consumer’s attitudes, preferences, intentions, and decisions regarding the consumer’s behavior in the marketplace when purchasing a product or service. The study of consumer behavior draws upon social science disciplines of anthropology, psychology, sociology, and economics.

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Standard Behavioral Model

The standard model of consumer behavior consists of a methodical and structured process. Let’s take a brief look at each step.

  1. Problem recognition – The first step is problem recognition. During this step, the consumer realizes that she has an unfulfilled need or want. Let’s use the example of a consumer who has just been informed by her mechanic that fixing her car will cost more than it’s worth. Our consumer realizes that she now has a transportation problem and wants to fulfill that need with the purchase of a car.
  2. Information search – The next step is to gather information relevant to what you need to solve the problem. In our example, our consumer may engage in research on the Internet to determine the types of vehicles available and their respective features.
  3. Evaluation – After information is gathered, it is evaluated against a consumer’s needs, wants, preferences, and financial resources available for purchase. In our example, our consumer has decided to narrow her choices down to three cars based upon price, comfort, and fuel efficiency.
  4. Purchase – At this stage, the consumer will make a purchasing decision. The ultimate decision may be based on factors such as price or availability. For example, our consumer has decided to purchase a particular model of car because its price was the best she could negotiate and the car was available immediately.
  5. Post-purchase evaluation – At this stage, the consumer will decide whether the purchase actually satisfies her needs and wants. Is our car purchaser happy with her purchase? If she is not satisfied, why isn’t she?

Types of Buying Behaviors

Let’s take a brief look at four different types of consumer buying behaviors.

  1. Complex buying behavior – This type of behavior involves a high degree of consumer involvement in the buying process with the consumer seeing a great difference among brand choices. The example of our consumer buying a car is an example of complex buying behavior.
  2. Habitual buying behavior – A typical consumer’s involvement in the buying process is low because the consumer doesn’t see much difference between available brands in habitual buying behavior. The purchase of a food commodity such as a sack of flour or sugar is a good example.
  3. Dissonance-reducing buying behavior – Here, the consumer will have a high level of involvement in the purchase but perceives very few differences among product choices. A classic example is a parent buying a child a toy such as a stuffed teddy bear. While the child is deeply involved in making the toy purchase, the frustrated parent doesn’t see any real difference between the stuffed bears on the shelf. Keep in mind that there may be differences, but the parent doesn’t perceive them. In order to end his frustration, the parent will just pick one based on price, convenience, or random chance, thus ending the dissonance or discomfort in making a frustrating decision.
  4. Variety-seeking behavior – In this type of consumer behavior, there is a low degree of consumer involvement in the purchasing process but a high degree of differences between brands. An example may be microbrew beer, where a consumer just picks a different microbrew each week for the variety.

Lesson Summary

Consumer buying behavior is the mix of a consumer’s attitudes, preferences, and decision-making process when the consumer is acting in the marketplace to buy a good or service. The standard behavioral model of consumer purchase decision making is problem identification, information search, evaluation, purchase, and post-purchase evaluation. Four typical types of consumer behaviors when making a purchase include complex buying, habitual buying, dissonance-reducing buying, and variety-seeking buying.

Consumer Buying Behavior – Associated Terminology

Consumer buying behaviors
consumerbuyingbehavior

Terms Explanations
Consumer buying behavior the sum total of a consumer’s attitudes, preferences, intentions, and decisions regarding the consumer’s behavior in the marketplace
Problem identification consumer realizes that they have an unfulfilled need or want
Information search gather information relevant to what one needs to solve the problem
Evaluation information is gathered and rated against the needs, wants, preferences, and financial resources available
Purchase ultimate buying decision is made
Post-purchase evaluation did the purchase meet the buyer’s needs
Complex buying behavior involves consumer involvement in the buying process with the consumer seeing differences among brands
Habitual buying behavior low involvement because the consumer doesn’t see much difference between available brands
Dissonance-reducing buying behavior a high level of involvement in the purchase but perceives few differences among choices
Variety-seeking buying behavior low degree in decision process but high degree of choices in brands

Learning Outcome

Work through the lesson, then prove your ability to accurately:

  • Define consumer buying behavior
  • Outline the steps of the standard behavioral model
  • Enumerate the four types of buying behaviors