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Module 5 Presentation Readings Assignments

Go on to Part 4 - How Consumers Make Choices - External Factors
Go back to Part 2 - Developing a Consumer Culture

How Consumers Make Choices

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One main reason consumers consume is to fulfill their self induced "needs." Another is to find solutions to problems they either have or think they have.

Cathy shopping
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©2011, Cathy Guisewite

External Factors Influencing Consumption

There are at least six major external factors influencing what you consume:

1) The general culture

2) Your bounded culture

3) Your economic class

4) Your social group

5) Your reference group

6) Your family and friends

1) The General Culture

This refers to material and nonmaterial elements surrounding you. Material elements include the products, the stores, and the advertisements. The rise of the "big box" stores like Super Wal-Mart and the popularity of SUV's are examples of material elements.

Nonmaterial culture includes the way people shop and the way they respond to the advertisements. The rise of TV shopping or on-line shopping would be examples of nonmaterial elements.

And our culture is constantly shifting.

For example, the growth of the mall and the superstore and the decline of individual stores has increased consumption. Instead of going to the store to buy a specific item, we now go to the mall or superstore to "shop". Convenience is an important asset to consumption.

"Others, however, decry the essence of Costco. Teri Franklin, a mother of two in Seattle, said that Costco fed American consumerism and waste. 'Instead of a single board game, you're offered seven shrinkwrapped together,' she said. 'You'll probably end up playing with a couple and the rest will sit in the closet. But you really only wanted one.' She said she was not tempted to buy anything beyond bottled water and diapers at Costco. 'How many things do you need 42 of, really?' she asked."

Click here to read "24 Tolls of Toilet Paper, A Tub of Salsa and a Plasma TV."

As the general population has become comfortable with Internet purchases, consumption has increased through that channel as well.

Click here to read "Broad Gains in Online Shopping" for a look at a paradigm shift in retailing.

2) Your Bounded Culture

Different strategies are needed to reach different subcultures since, by their very nature, subcultures reject the conventions of the general culture. Examples would be ads for clothing aimed at the "sk8ter boy" culture or for Christen bookstores.

The ad to the right appeals to a very narrow subculture of shoe buyers.

The European ad below, for Jolt, appears to appeal to the traditional youth market. But there is a very obvious appeal to a non-traditional sexual subculture.

Called "micromarketing", the trend is to design appeals to an ever narrower range of culture. The ultimate goal is to craft a unique message aimed at the smallest possible bounded culture, the individual.

"The progress of micromarketing appears to be inexorable, favored as it is both by economics and demographics. Certainly there is no stopping media proliferation, for it is providing consumers with what they crave: a wealth of new content and innovative modes of consuming it. The mass market will not disappear, nor will the mass media. But the fortunes of many of America's best-known companies now will rise or fall depending on how well they adapt to what is shaping up as a long and chaotic transition from the fading age of mass marketing to the dawning era of micromarketing."

Click here to read "The Vanishing Mass Market"

3) Your Economic Class

Economic classes have similar lifestyles and purchase patterns. People develop a sense of "belonging" to their economic class.

Economic class tends to be a more powerful motivating influence than subcultures. For example, middle class blacks are more similar to middle class whites in attitudes than they are to urban blacks. The economic class "middle class" seems to have more influence than the bounded culture "black".

Advertising that speaks to broad audiences minimize culture and emphasize economic class. The success of the following ad campaign is a testament to economic class issues overriding cultural issues such as race. The race of the actors in this commercial is irrelevant.

As more and more shopping is done on the Internet, knowing who that shopper is and how they differ from "traditional" shoppers is critical to the survival of "e-business".

This "white paper" discusses some key differences between the internet and the "brick and mortar" customer.

"Insider's Guide to Delighting the Internet Age Customer"

"As much as Web browsing and email are making it easier than ever to communicate with customers, they're also creating enormous challenges in customer service as expectations rise exponentially. Organizations that understand the new rules for customer service quickly differentiate themselves from those that don't. That differentiation ultimately helps determine who wins in the new digital economy and who loses."

How Consumers Make Choices - External Factors

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This is an official FGCU web page. Revised 01/01/2011
©2011, Terry Dugas

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