Factors influencing the consumer decision process

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Several factors influence the decision-making process of consumers. The way the product is marketed, how consumers think, what situations they are put into, and how society runs all impact consumers’ decisions to buy. Understanding what influences and persuades consumers to buy can help any business boost their sales and marketing spend in the right direction.

Here are the factors you should learn to get a better understanding of the influences affecting how consumers make their purchase decisions.

Marketing Mix

Marketers focus on multiple areas to increase the appeal of their product or service. The marketing mix includes the four Ps: product, price, placement, and promotion.

Product – a product or service that a consumer decides whether it satisfies his or her needs or wants. Marketers emphasize the differentiation in their product to help influence consumers’ decisions.

Price – what is the product or service valued at and what are consumers are willing to pay for it. Must consider the value-based pricing but also cost-based pricing.

Placement – includes placement in the marketplace, but also which stores and specific product placement in a physical store, online, or both where consumers would come across the product or service.

Promotion – where and how consumers see your product or service. Marketers must decide the best mediums to use to reach their target market.

Psychological Factors

The way people receive a marketing message is influenced tremendously by different psychological factors. These factors include motives, attitudes, perceptions, learning, and lifestyle.

Motives – a need or want that is strong enough to cause the person to seek satisfaction. When a need is not satisfied, it motivates us, or drives us, to get satisfaction. Marketers can motivate consumers through physiological needs, safety needs, love needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization.

Attitudes – a person’s enduring evaluation of his or her feelings about behavioral tendencies toward an object or idea, consists of three components: cognitive, affective, and behavioral. Cognitive reflects what a person believes to be true. Affective reflects what a person feels about the issue at hand – his or her like or dislike of something. Behavioral comprises the actions a person takes concerning the issue at hand. Marketers can change consumers’ attitudes through persuasive communications and personal experiences.

Perceptions – how consumers select, organize, and interpret information to form a meaningful picture of the world. Marketing influences our acquisition and consumption of goods and services through our tendency to assign meaning to such things as color, symbols, taste, and packaging.

Learning – change in a person’s thought process or behavior that arises from experience and takes place throughout the consumer decision process. Learning affects both attitudes and perceptions. Each time consumers are exposed to information about a product or service they learn something different that affects their perception.

Lifestyle – the way consumers spend their time and money to live. For many consumers, they choose between whether the product or service fits with their actual lifestyle or their perceived lifestyle.

Social Factors

External factors from the social environment such as family, reference groups, and culture all influence a consumer’s decision to buy.

Family – many purchase decisions are made about products or services that the entire family will consumer or use therefore, consumers often consider the needs of all family members. Children and adolescents play an increasingly important role in family buying decisions so, it’s vitally important to have control over influencing this group.

Reference group – whom an individual uses as a basis for comparison regarding beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. These groups affect buying decisions by offering information, providing rewards for specific purchasing behaviors, and enhancing a consumer’s self-image. A reference group can include family, friends, co-workers, famous people, etc.

Culture – the basis of social factors that influence consumer behavior and affect buying decisions. Culture can be as small as a reference group or as big as the country in which you live, or the religion you practice.

Situational Factors

Factors specific to the situation that sometimes override or at least influence the other two factors, psychological and social issues.

Purchase situation – customers might be predisposed to purchase certain products or services because of some underlying psychological trait or social factor, but these factors may change in certain purchase situations. For example, Lucy considers herself a thrifty shopper. Her best friend’s birthday is coming up, and she wants to get her a watch. If the watch was for herself, she would probably go to JC Penny. But since it’s for her friend, she went to Michael Kors because she wanted to get something fitting for the special occasion.

Shopping situation – consumers might be ready to purchase a product or service but be completely derailed once they arrive in the store. Marketers can use several techniques to influence consumers at this stage of the decision process. These techniques include store atmosphere, salespeople, crowding (customers and shelf packing), in-store demonstrations, promotions, and packaging.

Temporal state – consumers’ state of mind at any particular time can alter their preconceived notions of what they are going to purchase. Time of day, mood, weather, etc. can all affect a consumer purchasing decision.

Information gathered from Grewal, Dhruv, and Michael Levy. Marketing. 5th ed., McGraw Hill Education, 2017.