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Course Code: MBA517

Student Name BRIAN ZUNGU

Registration Number R191298R

‘Every individual has someone around influencing their buying decisions’. Discuss this
statement with reference to social influences of consumer buying behaviour.

1. Introduction

Consumer buying behaviour is the outcome of the manners, choices, objectives and
judgments made by the shoppers in a market dwelling before purchasing an item. The
analysis of customer purchasing conduct is an interdisciplinary topic drawing broadly
from sociology, psychology, anthropology (Kardes, 2006)

Consumer buyer behaviour can also be described as the decision-making procedure

which involves the acquisition, assessment, use and disposal of goods or services
(Khan, 2006).This explanation openly denotes that it is not just the procurement of
goods that obtains attention in consumer behaviour but the process starts early before
the goods are acquired.

The actual process of purchasing originates from the minds of a consumer, which
leads to the discovery of options amongst services which can be acquired with their
relative pros and cons. This triggers internal and outward research which is followed
by a process of decision-making for purchase of the services and subsequently the
post-purchase behaviour (Khan, 2006).

The 5 stages of consumer buying

Engel, Blackwell and Kollat in 1968 developed a model which outlines consumer
purchasing decision process in five key steps. These include need recognition,
information search, evaluation of choices to meet this need, purchase decision and
post-purchase behaviour (Adam Sarner, 2007). The buying process is further outlined
in detail below,

Problem recognition, at this juncture the buyer realises an immediate need. A need
can be sparked by internal or external stimuli. Internal stimuli are comprised of
rudimentary needs such as appetite and craving while external stimuli may include
peripheral forces, for example an individual can observe a new brand of a phone and
immediately the desire to purchase is triggered. Another scenario , this could be a
truck driver on a highway who discovers that the fuel gauge is running low and a need
to refuel arises (Kotler, 2009).
The role of a marketer is to identify conditions that spark a certain need. This requires
collection of information from numerous consumers concerning how stimuli catalyses
a desire in products. Based on the collected information, the salesperson can develop
marketing tactics to prompt consumer attention.

Information search, at this moment a buyer collects information required to make a

well-informed purchase. As soon as a need is identified, the consumer must obtain
intelligence about probable answers to the problem. A consumer will search more or
fewer information dependent on the difficulty of the decisions to be made but also
his/her level of participation. For instance, purchasing salt requires fewer information
than when purchasing a car.

Pre purchase evaluation, all the possible alternatives are assessed against the
consumer’s needs, preferences, financial muscle among other key possible
considerations. The assessment of options will differ with consumers and in some
cases, consumers make slight or no evaluation but they proceed to make their buying
decision by means of on impulse and instinct (Wright , 2006).

Purchase, this is when a decision to make a certain selection is made. The selection
is perhaps influenced by cost and availability.

Post purchase evaluation, this is when the consumer evaluates the utility derived
from the product against the perceived value of money. When buyer feels
dissatisfaction, it means expectations regarding the service/product have not been
met (Khan 2006, p. 168). However, when the service is in line with expectations, the
buyer will be satisfied and is prepared to pay more on this particular product in the
future. Moreover, buyers’ high level of gratification can be translated into brand loyalty
especially when consumers’ expectations have been surpassed (Kardes, 2011)

2. Social Influences

Social dynamics impact consumer behavior significantly. Every consumer has

somebody around them influencing their purchasing resolutions. The critical social
elements involve reference groups, family, responsibility and status. (Perreau, 2014)
Buyer behavior is a part of mankind behavior hence by examining the historical
purchasing behavior, sellers are able to approximate how purchasers may behave in
the near future when making buying decisions (Kotler, 2010)

2.1. Family

Members of the family play a pivotal role in shaping an individual’s desires and
behavior. Family presents a platform where an individual develops character and
attain morals. A baby acquires his/her purchasing behavior by observing his/her
parents and is inclined to buy similar products or services during his/her adulthood.

The bulk of purchase decisions are driven by an individual’s interaction with his/her
family, friends, kinsfolks and associates. There are specific responsibilities in the
spouse’ decision procedure. To fully understand customer preferences, marketers
should establish who contributes more input into the buying decision (Ferber, 2017).

There are variants by service in the spouse buying roles and this require dealers to be
knowledgeable of these duties and social powers. It is generally believed that for gym
equipment, the demand is triggered and influenced predominantly by men but for
refrigerator and lounge suites it emanates mostly from wives with the final decision
and payment being done mostly by male members. This also depicts the cultural role
of men who are regarded as the head of the family hence entrusted with key decision
making. It however key to understand that children also play an increasingly important
role in purchasing decisions in the family, which may be attributed to the sociological
transformations happening.

Consumer behaviour scholars identified spouses in the household to be the most
critical decision makers. A substantial portion of utilisation decisions takes place
around the family context and is therefore shared rather than singular in nature.
Children have been conceded as playing a crucial role around buying decisions.
Primary studies by early researchers on household decision making only measured
the roles of parents in influencing buying dynamics and decision process making
(Quallls, 2002). Marketing to children has come under mounting scrutiny with critics
accusing corporations of deliberately manipulating children to nag their parents for
certain products especially the technique of displaying sweets and toys by the till side.

2.2. Roles and Status

Social status reveals the position that personalities occupy in social groups based on
such belongings as cash and wealth, education or profession. In numerous groups
status is imperative and individuals desire the appreciation of others. Societal prestige
can be attained by being prosperous in life or being born in a rich family. Product
,service and brand selection more often than not reflect the social role and status. A
person's role in the society also influences his purchasing patterns. In Harare a person
holding a top position in a company is expected to carry out shopping in Borrowdale
to advocate their status. Salespersons must aim to appreciate the individual’s status
and the role prior to endorsement of the products on offer.

Individuals from elite class normally have a habit to spend on lavish items such as
expensive gadgets, cars, dresses and jewellery. In Zimbabwe there is a special group
of these individuals who are popularly known as socialites, they are well known for
splashing cash on cars, clothing and holiday. The female counterparts of this class are
better known as “slay queens”, they also trend on social media where they showcase
their expensive brands. On the other hand, it is rare to find an individual from a lower-
class usually from high density suburbs spending money on luxurious products. A
person who finds it tough to make ends meet would rather prefer to spend on items
necessary for survival. People from middle class segment are more concerned about
buying products which would make their future secure, these items may include
residential stands and apartments.

2.3. Reference Groups

A reference group is a unit through which an individual would like to be associated

with. Typically, there are two broad types of reference groups which are primary and
secondary. Primary groups are formed by family, close friends, neighbours or other
individuals that consumers interact with. On the contrary, secondary groups are mainly
constituted from formal settings such as cultural, religious , political affiliations and
social media forums.

Reference groups usually impact a person at least in three ways. Initially the individual
will be introduced to new lifestyle, secondly the ideas and imaginations that affected
individual’s interests will be incorporated to the reference group. Finally, the created
compulsive conditions may have influence on the selection of product brands (Kotler,
Armstrong, 2006).

It is imperative to understand the functions inherent in a reference group that

influences the behavior of group members. This may include knowledge of
Initiator (who originates the purchasing choice), Influencer (whose view influences
the purchasing choice), Decision-Maker (who has the power to make the buying
decision) and Buyer (who eventually purchases the product).

The reference group influences the self-image of purchasers and consumers’

behavior. It is perceived, that members of a reference group share mutual purchasing
behavior and carry strong effect over one another. It also offers some points of
similarity to consumers about their behavior, lifestyle or traditions.

Social media forums where individuals with common interests meet online to share
communication and sentiments using various electronic media Kaplan and Haenlein
(2009) help to spread information instantaneously to a wide online audience. The
information circulation is much quicker than any other media as it stimulates the users
to share thoughts and viewpoints on any specific subject matter. Customers interface
with various social media platforms such as Fakebook, Twitter, Instagram including
instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp which are also key in viral information
Most companies worldwide are now owning social media handles which they use for
brand awareness and advertising their products. Due to the advancement of
technology through data analytics sites such as Facebook are now able to profile user
preferences such hobbies, sport ,fashion, food etc. allowing companies to push
relevant pop up adverts on the user timeline thereby manipulating them to enquire on
specific products. This concept is key for brand awareness as happy customers will
immediately share will their peers although this backfire if customer feedback is

As highlighted in the decision- making process the influence of social media remains
critical in the stages involving information search, alternative evaluation and post
purchase evaluation. Social media has extended the time taken by the consumers to
buy the products since they can now search online for information to make a buying
decision and do not necessarily depend on the information availed through online or
print media advertisements. In hotel industry customers before confirming a hotel
booking, they can check online reviews customers on Trip Advisor, Booking.com or
Hotel.com to verify how other customers rated the premises.

The quality of cyber product evaluations characterised by persuasiveness together

with the perceived quantity of reviews are found to have a substantial positive stimulus
on purchasers’ buying intentions (Zhou , 2013). Social media is considered as a more
dependable source of information in comparison with commercial advertisements.
According to Constantinides (2014), there is a typical impression of scepticism
regarding mainstream media. Therefore, customers are moving away from
conventional media such as television, magazines, and newspapers as bases to
inform their purchases (Mangold and Faulds, 2009).

However, information overload is a fundamental subject concerning online decision

making. Social media is associated with sheer amount of data which has led
consumers to a state of analysis paralysis which makes it difficult to navigate all the
available information (Powers, 2012).

Cultural reference groups with common beliefs which distinguish them in a society
also have a huge influence on how member purchase goods and services. For
example, at Belvedere shopping centre in Harare majority of the food outlets are Halal
certified and they do not sell pork products due to Muslim community surrounding the

Successful sales strategies must be entrenched in an understanding of the cultural

dynamics which affect customers‘ buying trends. Past experience has shown clearly
that cultural influences affect so many facets of customers’ daily life as well as their
buying behaviour.

Cultures affect what people eat, wear , where we live and travel to. It is also recognised
to influence how customers buy and use products as well as the satisfaction derived
from them. All these aspects have necessary implications for product development,
pricing, distribution and promotion.

Consumers’ opinions about product packaging, size, shape, colour, material and
branding depend principally on their cultural backgrounds and should therefore be the
foundation of the company’s marketing strategy. Customers in different social cultural
formation have a distinctive tendency of consumer morals and consumer needs. Thus,
marketers need to formulate exclusive initiatives to satisfy regions whose consumers
exhibit differences in culture.

3. Conclusion

Familiarity with buyer behaviour is essential for the development of effective marketing
strategies. To some extent, customers in the same societal class display comparable
purchasing behavior. Most market academics believe a person’s family to be one of
the principal determinants of consumer buying behavior. Members of a family
influence the decision-making process in the purchase of different products hence the
real target for the salesperson is not an individual member but the entire family. In the
majority of households family needs have to be met from limited funds .It is therefore
important for the marketer to be cognisant of the intra-family dynamics and inter-
personal relationships at play in the purchase of a consumer goods in order to decide
the optimal marketing-mix.
The level of diversity and uniformity within culture is another key factor that affects the
consumer behavior . A culture that values diversity it will not only accept a wide array
of personal behaviours and attitudes, but it is also likely to embrace variety in terms of
consuming food, clothing, and other products and services.

Collective cultures tend to place a strong value on uniformity (Mooij, 2004) whereas
more individualist cultures tend to emphasise diversity. For example, research shows
that in China people tend to use products that everyone else is consuming, whereas
in Unites States people are more inclined to make their own distinct decisions based
on personal preferences and tastes.


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