According to Kumar and Nayak (2019), consumer behavior studies all purchasing, usage, and disposal behaviors regarding individuals, groups of people, or even organizations. It is multidisciplinary, incorporating ideas from various fields such as behavioral economics, sociology, psychology, and economics, among others. Kumar and Nayak (2019) further remark that consumer behavior studies and analyzes how customer preferences, attitudes, and emotions impact their tendency to buy. Consumer behavior also analyses the entire process, from knowing about the existence of a product to the time when a customer decides to purchase and use/consume a given product. Nittala (2015) states that consumer behavior is affected by social, personal, psychological, and cultural factors that surround the customer. The marketers in an organization mainly study consumer behavior to understand what products customers want, when they want them, why they want them, how consumers want them, and how often they want them.
The study of consumer behavior helps an organization to understand how their customers think, feel and make a purchase; hence it can design the most appropriate method to promote/market their products (Kumar and Nayak, 2019). In addition, marketers can forecast the likely reaction from customers and put in place appropriate measures to ensure maximal sales. Furthermore, an organization can organize its market into target groups, devise customer retention strategies and understand how to compete successfully in the market/industry (Nittala 2015). According to Kanagal (2019), consumer behavior can be complex, habitual, variety–seeking, or dissonance-reducing. The differences in these behaviors are determined by the consumer’s level of involvement and the level of risk involved in making a purchase decision. This paper aims to discuss the current trends in consumer behavior, consumer ethics, psychology of consumers, consumer decision-making, and make recommendations on how an organization can streamline the study of its consumers’ behavior.
Current trends in consumer behavior
The world is changing so fast, and the people in it are changing too. As the various factors affecting consumer behavior change, so is consumer behavior responding to these changes to help customers better satisfy their ever-changing needs (Kanagal 2016). According to Brinkmann (2004), consumers have changed from just buying any products offered in the market to purchase products that assure them better health and their families. In every transaction they make today, consumers are more health-conscious than they were twenty years ago ( Kumar and Nayak, 2019).In addition, customers prefer consuming healthy food products to guarantee better health rather than feeding on unhealthy food and trusting the healthcare system for quality treatment of likely ailments. For example, today’s customers would instead shop online rather than shop in a physical place with expected congestion due to the fear of contracting any infectious disease. The recent pandemic that swept across the world and claimed millions of lives has influenced such a change.
Additionally, more people are buying, studying, and learning online today than was the case five years ago (Kumar and Nayak, 2019). Having survived the hardships caused by the diminishing pandemic, many people have realized that they can do most of the things they like doing outdoor remotely from the comfort of their homes. According to Nittala (2015), organizations are experiencing a reduced number of walk-in customers today than before covid-19 while experiencing an influx in the number of customers requesting online services for the same goods and services. To tap this economic opportunity, organizations should ensure that the online platforms on which they display and sell their products are quick, effective, and easily accessible to their consumers (Brinkmann, 2004). Platforms such as websites and apps should not take too long to load, lest customers abandon them in favor of faster ones.
Furthermore, another change witnessed in consumer behavior is poor customer mental health. Hands (2010) notes that there has been an excessive increase in mental health issues in the country and worldwide due to increasing economic and health challenges. Organizations should be concerned about their customer’s mental health and offer appropriate support. While serving their clients, they should also provide them services such as counseling or provide information via different platforms on attaining and maintaining good mental health (Brinkmann, 2004). If an organization does not deal with mental health issues, it should partner with mental health organizations to ensure that their customers improve their mental health. However, Kanagal 2016 warns that, while trying to raise awareness and create platforms to discuss mental wellness, organizations should be careful not to exaggerate the situation or make unintended and unwanted outcomes to the consumers. In addition, companies should also seek to avail purchase icons on the most preferred platforms by the customers.
Consumer behavior ethics
One of the ethical issues in consumer behavior is providing unsafe products to consumers. Haberstroh et al., (2017) note that there have been increased cases of organizations providing substandard products that harm the health of their customers. Other products such as machinery and electrical appliances have also been substandard, exposing customers to danger when they malfunction. Cheung and To (2021) argue that most for-profit organizations aim at maximizing profit and sometimes foregoes safety concerns about the products they offer to their consumers. Thus, to remain competitive, organizations must ensure that the products they offer to consumers are of the required standards and have no possible known side effects. To ensure product safety, every organization should critically analyze the seriousness of the harm and the likelihood of harm occurring and monitor and review the entire manufacturing process regularly (Haberstroh et al., 2017).
Another ethical concern in consumer behavior is the provision of misleading information and unfairness in advertising. According to Cheung and To (2021), in an attempt to win more customers, some organizations resort to providing false information regarding the quality of their products and possible benefits of consuming or using the product and failing to reveal the products’ possible side effects. Such unethical behavior denies the customers a chance to enjoy the value of their money. The government should ensure that such organizations are severely punished and cancel their operational licenses (Brinkmann, 2004). Additionally, organizations should endeavor to create an overall good impression about their products by providing accurate and current information, backing up facts with evidence, and correcting any misunderstandings regarding their products. Consumers today prefer honest, consistent, and respectful sellers whose products satisfactorily meet their needs.
Furthermore, consumers today are concerned about the problem of price-fixing and price discrimination by various organizations. Haberstroh et al., (2017) argue that when firms in an industry agree to sell products at a given higher price, consumers lose because there are no alternative products with favorable prices, and they are forced to buy such products at the given price. On the other hand, some firms tend to sell the same products to different consumer groups at different prices or hide cheaper products from customers with a higher ability to pay. However, Brinkmann (2004) contests that price discrimination is acceptable in some cultures while illegal in other cultures. Therefore, an organization should consider society’s concerns regarding price discrimination and apply price discrimination with caution not to create an unintended impression that may lead to unbearable consequences for the business.
Psychology of consumers
For a customer to purchase a given product, they are motivated by the urge to satisfy their internal needs. Motivation is the inner force that pushes a customer to buy and can range from physical, social to psychological needs. For example, a customer may want to buy food because they are hungry, while another may want to buy a house in a given place to fit in a given social group. According to Park and Kim (2003), motivation can emanate from different human needs that a person wants to satisfy. Psychologist Abraham Maslow classified these needs into five levels, from the most basic to the highest level of human needs. To win more customers, marketers in an organization must understand the basic principles of Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, understand the needs that a customer wants to satisfy, and then tailor their products to satisfy those needs (Nittala, 2015). Customers only buy those products they are convinced that their consumption/use will satisfy their needs as they intended.
Customers’ perception of a given product is critical in making a purchase decision. According to Kumar and Nayak (2019), a consumer’s perception is affected by selective attention, selective retention, and selective comprehension concerning the information provided about a particular product. He adds that if a consumer interprets the information retained about a product and concludes that it favors their beliefs, they may tend to be loyal to that brand even when there are better products. Therefore, marketers must endeavor to influence their customers’ perception through good advertising, better convincing strategies, and correct and honest information about their products. When customers develop a good perception, the marketers will have an easy time in the market as less advertising is required due to continued brand loyalty (Park and Kim, 2003).
The attitudes and social beliefs that a customer has toward a given brand also affect their perception and motivation to make a purchase. Attitudes are socially informed and influence a consumer to view a product according to how the society of those around them views it. On the other hand, beliefs are an individual’s view regarding a product they develop based on facts about the product (Nittala, 2015). Therefore, customers may be influenced to purchase a product that is commonly accepted by society or in which they have positive beliefs even when the brand does not fully satisfy their needs. Kumar and Nayak (2019) remark that marketers need to analyze consumer attitudes and beliefs and endeavor to correct any false beliefs and negative attitudes through clear and positive advertising. To minimize the likely good of negative attitudes and beliefs, the marketers should conduct proper market surveys before introducing products. In addition, they should ensure that the product’s quality and benefits as advertised are accurate and verifiable (Kumar and Nayak, 2019).
Consumer decision-making process
According to Kaganal (2016), the first step while making a purchase decision is problem recognition. In this step, the customer identifies a need that results in a want that needs to be satisfied. Having a wants that requires to be satisfied triggers the customer to start searching for a good or service appropriate enough to satisfy the want. Nextil Group should endeavour to influence customers at this stage through advertising by building trust and making potential customers feel that the organization is the only one that can satisfy their wants.
The second step is searching for information regarding various products that can satisfy his wants. In this step, Kaganal (2016) notes that the customer consults sources such as print media, company websites, social media platforms and colleagues to inform his decision. Nextil Group should ensure that all relevant information about their sportswear is readily available and accessible to customers. The company should also include reviews from other customers to earn trust from the customer and increase the chances of customers choosing them over other competitors.
After completing the information search, the customer starts comparing alternatives. In this step, the customer compares his likely choices and other comparable alternatives to identify the product that is likely to offer more benefits to him apart from satisfying his wants. Nextil Group marketers should ensure that the promotions done in the market are enough to convince potential customers that their products are superior to competitor products.
The fourth step is making the purchase decision. After comparing alternatives, a customer will finally choose the product he is convinced will deliver maximum value for their money in satisfying their wants and preferences. Marketers who provide a quality product accompanied by clear, consistent and convincing information will win the customer.
After the purchase, both the consumer and the seller make post-purchase evaluations. In this step, the customer evaluates whether the product has delivered the value he expected and whether he would make a second purchase in future. On the other hand, the seller evaluates whether the product met the customer’s needs as intended and the impression the customer got from the consumption of the product.
One of the strategies Nextil Group should implement is developing a clear, informative and convincing advertisement approach. This strategy aims to improve the perception, beliefs, and attitudes that its customers and potential customers have towards its clothing sportswear. According to cognitive theory, a customer’s prior knowledge about a product, perception, beliefs, and attitude condition the stimulation of want in him. Long-held beliefs and attitudes are hard to overcome and can only be changed through well-designed advertisement programs that provide factual and appealing information regarding the products. To design such a strategy, the company will require to critically analyze the prevailing beliefs, perceptions and attitudes regarding their sportswear. They will also need to understand the factors that created such results and tailor their marketing and promotion activities toward correcting any misconceptions and misunderstandings that previous advertisements may have created.
Another strategy Nextil Group should adopt is the continuous improvement of its brand to satisfy the needs of its consumers better. According to Marginal utility theory, consumers will continue to buy a given product as long as the satisfaction they deliver from that product increases at relative pieces. Ensuring that the value a customer derives from a product is increased will help the company earn customer loyalty and maintain a large customer base. To improve its sportswear, the company should regularly conduct market surveys to establish the various customer concerns about the product. The company should use the result from the surveys to manufacture products that meet their set standards and satisfy their consumers’ needs. In addition, the Nextil Group should establish a solid product strategy and ensure there is an effective quality management system in all of its operations. Every time the company creates an improved product, it should run a product and market test before launching it to fix possible errs and ensure the product meets customer needs as intended.
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