For marketing professionals interested in advancing their careers, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree offers a number of advantages, and it can be a sound investment. Courses in microeconomics, business research, accounting and financial management remain core elements of any competitive MBA program, but the addition of even more specialized knowledge, like consumer behavior, distinguishes the most effective degree programs.
At its core, consumer behavior is the study of how people make buying decisions. It attempts to understand how buyers choose, use and dispose of products and services, as well as the various stages people go through before making a purchase.
There are several key factors that affect buyers' decisions: cultural, psychological, social and personal. The study of consumer behavior examines demographics and how groups — such as friends and family — and the media influence people's decisions.
By understanding how buyers think, feel and decide, businesses can determine how best to market their products and services. This helps marketers predict how their customers will act, which aids in marketing existing products and services. It also enables innovative businesses to identify new opportunities before others do.
One way that marketers look at consumer behavior is by analyzing demographics. Knowing statistics such as age, income and education level can help predict behavior. For example, a 2022 survey of buyer preferences found that millennials respond best to word-of-mouth recommendations.
Moreover, Insider Intelligence reports, "Most consumers now proactively avoid advertising, whether by using ad blockers, paying for ad-free digital media experiences or skipping ads." Specifically, younger adults (Gen Z, millennials and the brunt of Gen X) are "more likely to use ad blockers." So, marketers know that a push (outbound) marketing campaign is generally not a good online marketing strategy for these age groups.
Marketers attempt to identify buyers' needs through various research methods such as surveys and interviews that probe how often consumers buy, where they shop, where they get their information, how they share this information with others and so on. Knowing the right questions to ask, and how to ask them, is an important part of consumer behavior research.
Marketers also leverage modern analytics technologies to better understand and predict various aspects of consumer behavior. Such technologies can aggregate and analyze vast amounts of data on consumers, drawing relationships between demographics, buying habits and targeted marketing techniques. The power of modern analytics enables the scalable, personalized marketing methods consumers have come to expect, from automated product recommendations on ecommerce platforms to direct engagement through social media marketing.
Understanding buyers can help marketers connect with consumers and influence their behavior. This approach to marketing is important today because in the competitive global market, personal relationships can mean the difference between sales and wasted advertising dollars. In many ways, the world is smaller now than it was a few decades ago, but the behavior of consumers has only grown more complicated.
While an MBA can help you develop your career, selecting a graduate program that will allow you to study consumer behavior specifically will equip you with specialized, in-demand skills. A background in consumer behavior is useful for market research analysts, for example, and research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that employment for market research analysts will grow much faster than average — 22% between 2020 and 2030.
MBA programs that offer courses in consumer behavior — such as Southeastern Oklahoma State University's online MBA in Marketing — can help you develop useful skills and expertise in understanding and analyzing today's global consumers.
Learn more about the SOSU online MBA in Marketing program.
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Consumer buyer behaviour is considered to be an inseparable part of marketing and Kotler and Keller (2011) state that consumer buying behaviour is the study of the ways of buying and disposing of goods, services, ideas or experiences by the individuals, groups and organizations in order to satisfy their needs and wants.
Buyer behaviour has been defined as “a process, which through inputs and their use though process and actions leads to satisfaction of needs and wants” (Enis, 1974, p.228). Consumer buying behaviour has numerous factors as a part of it which are believed to have some level of effect on the purchasing decisions of the customers.
Alternatively, consumer buying behaviour “refers to the buying behaviour of final consumers, both individuals and households, who buy goods and services for personal consumption” (Kumar, 2010, p.218). From marketers’ point of view issues specific aspects of consumer behaviour that need to be studied include the reasons behind consumers making purchases, specific factors influencing the patterns of consumer purchases, analysis of changing factors within the society and others.
Example of previous research used to define consumer behaviour
Moreover, the following popular definitions have been proposed for the term of consumer buyer behaviour:
Although the definitions given above are various, they all lead to common view that consumer buying behaviour is a process of selecting, purchasing and disposing of goods and services according to the needs and wants of the consumers. However, there is a general consensus among the researchers and academics that this process is subject to continual change over time as the purchase characteristics of the customers change due to their physical and psychological needs.
In the mean time, Kotler and Keller (2011) highlight the importance of understanding consumer buying behaviour and the ways how the customers choose their products and services can be extremely important for manufacturers as well as service providers as this provides them with competitive advantage over its competitors in several aspects. For example, they may use the knowledge obtained through studying the consumer buying behaviour to set their strategies towards offering the right products and services to the right audience of customers reflecting their needs and wants effectively.
Another valuable argument is provided by Egen (2007) on the importance of understanding the consumer behaviour. According to the author, better awareness of consumer buying behaviour is a positive contribution to the country’s economic state. The author further argues that the quality of goods and products are exceptionally good in countries where buying behaviour of consumers is well understood. This in turn increased the competitiveness of the products and services in international market increasing the export potential of the country. Meanwhile, high quality of domestic products and services lead to sophisticated domestic customers’ base (Blackwell et al, 2006).
In addition to efforts of better understanding the consumers’ buying behaviour, companies also engage in advertising and promotion activities to influence the consumers’ purchasing decision. However, when they are engaging in such types of activities, they need to consider other external factors such as the overall economic conditions of the country, politics, technology and ethnic culture all of which are beyond the control of both the company and consumer Lancaster et al (2002).
To sum up all the arguments stated above, it is clear that better understanding the consumer buying behaviour through studying and identifying their needs leads to huge long term benefits to the businesses. However, as stated by Kotler et al (2005) it is essential to mention that despite the great efforts to learn and understand the buying behaviour of consumers, it is very difficult to identify the exact reasons why a consumer purchases and prefers one product or service over another one. This is because consumers sometimes make purchasing decisions based on their emotional beliefs which they even themselves are not well aware of.
Blackwell, R., Miniard, P. and Engel, J. (2006) “Consumer behavior”, Mason: Thompson
Egan, J. (2007) “Marketing Communications”, London: Cengage Learning
Enis, B.M. (1974) “Marketing Principles: The Management Process”
Gabbott, M. and Hogg, G. (1998). “Consumers and services”, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
Kotler, P. and Keller, K. (2011) “Marketing Management”(14th edition), London: Pearson Education
Kumar, P. (2010) “Marketing of Hospitality & Tourism Services” Tata McGraw-Hill Education
Schiffman, L., Hansen H. and Kanuk L. (2007) “Consumer Behaviour: A European Outlook”, London: Pearson Education
Solomon, M. (1995) “Consumer Behaviour” (3rd edition), New Jersey: Prentice Hall
Stallworth, P. (2008) “Consumer behaviour and marketing strategic”, online, pp.9.