Consumer Buying Behavior and Market Segmentation

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Understanding the need!

According to the marketing guru Phillip Kotler, a human need is defined as a state of felt deprivation. A human want on the other hand is a need shaped by the individuals culture and society. Understanding what consumers need and how these needs can be made into wants is what effective marketing is all about!

For instance a customer need may be thirst, and any drink such as a bottle of water could satisfy this need. However at the point of purchase effective marketing determines what the customer will want to purchase in order to quench their thirst. For example a good advertisement for coke could steer the customer away from the bottled water section and towards the fizzy drinks. On the other hand an effective ad for ice lollies, an indirect competitor, could steer the consumer away from the fizzy drinks. Therefore the more effective the marketing, the easier it will be to get the cash out of the customers hand!

It is then obvious that Marketing is all about understanding consumer needs and steering the customer toward Your product by creating certain wants in the minds of the customer. To do this marketers should be aware of the consumer buying behavior process:

1) Buyer recognition: the consumer has to realize there is a problem or need that needs to be fulfilled. The effective marketer will identify there is a difference between the actual state of the consumer and the desired state, and try to fulfill this state of deprivation.

2) Information search: in this stage the buyer considers all the alternatives present. For instance, according to the example above, the customer would look at all thirst quenchers such as fizzy drinks, bottled water, juices and ice lollies. The most information a customer gains about alternatives is through commercial sources, such as advertisements and campaigns. However information about intangible products in the service industry would mostly come from personal experience or experience from others.

3) Evaluation of alternatives: this is where all the information is gathered and evaluated to help make the purchasing decision.

These three stages are important, for marketers to understand consumer behavior and what influences purchasing of a certain product category and brand.

4) Purchase decision: this is the stage where purchasing of the most preferred alternative takes place. However the product category, brand, reseller, timing and quantity all play a role in the purchase decision.

5) Post purchase decision: good marketers maintain a good relationship with the customer even after the purchase has been made. This is to reduce any chance of cognitive dissonance that the customer may experience with the product. To reduce the negative effects of customer cognitive dissonance, good after sales services could be provided along with effective advertising. This will attract more customers via word of mouth and generate repeat purchases.

To be cost effective marketers should remember to target the potential customers of the company's marketing mix. There is no point in wasting time targeting those who will never purchase Your product. Therefore effective market segmentation is extremely crucial.

Market segmenting involves dividing the market into groups that share similar needs and wants. This can be done through market segmenting variables such as, geographic, demographic, psycho-graphic and behavioral groups. For instance the main market segment, based on these main variables, for a fizzy drink such as coke would be those mainly in dry and hot climate regions, within the age group 12 to 21, those who are relatively social and can afford a drink such as coke, and those who are aware a drink such as coke exists and are aware of its image around the world.

The buying behavior of consumers and identifying the segments to which they belong are two critical elements for effective and efficient marketing!

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