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Guide to Consumer Behavior in Marketing

Consumer behavior allows you to understand what drives individuals to make purchases. Read on to learn how to use consumer behavior to your advantage.

Consumer behavior is the art and science of understanding why different types of consumers do what they do when deciding to buy something. Marketers study what motivates an individual to buy in order to get their product in front of said individual and turn them into a customer. The reason why it's considered an art and science is because people's buying behaviors are not easily predictable, yet everyone has predictable patterns of behavior.

Businesses of all sizes need insight into buying behavior to effectively sell their products to people. Learning about consumer psychology makes it easier to anticipate someone's buying behavior because the company knows why someone is interested in their company. This methodology comes from looking at customer behavior analytics that provides insight into the thoughts of an individual consumer from a given demographic.

The study of consumer psychology consists of multiple inputs that help you target your marketing efforts and build your brand identity with your targeted demographic. Your business uses information provided by the ideal customer to sell to them.

  • What is consumer behavior?
  • Importance of consumer buying behavior
  • What impacts consumer behavior?
  • Types of consumer behavior
  • How to use consumer behavior in marketing campaigns
  • Wrapping up: Consumer behavior

What is consumer behavior?

Consumer behavior consists of studying individuals to learn more about their buying habits and what motivates them to make a purchase. It draws from different sciences, such as economics, chemistry, psychology, and biology. The study of consumer behavior is known as an applied social science. The information collected from the study of consumers is processed into data easily understood by marketers and used for marketing efforts like behavioral targeting.

Importance of consumer buying behavior

The importance of customer behavior can't be stressed enough when it comes to marketing and selling your products. Understanding the psychological factors that influence purchasing helps you grow your business and boost your profits because you know the kind of customer that will buy your product. It's also used to attract new customers that are similar to your existing clients in terms of mindset and desires. Additionally, targeted marketing can boost customer retention because you have insight into what your customer will most likely buy from you in the future.

Knowing how consumers make buying decisions allows you to create better campaigns focused on the types of consumers you're seeking. When your marketing efforts speak directly to your desired customer, you're more likely to convert consumers into customers that buy from you.

What impacts consumer behavior?

There are several factors that can influence consumer behavior, including:


Marketing affects consumer behaviors the most as it's the act of telling your targeted audience about your product. In order to sell your product, you have to let people know it exists and explain why they need it in their life. Getting your message in front of consumers, particularly consumers likely to buy your product, is the most effective and direct way to impact consumer behavior and get someone to buy what you're selling.

A good marketing message can influence customer behavior, tempting consumers to switch from their regular brand to yours. Another effective type of marketing message is encouraging the impulse buy of a product that they may not otherwise have considered.

Personal experiences

Personal experience, opinions, or tastes affect consumer buying behavior as much as marketing does. It's also why behavioral targeting is an important part of a campaign. Everyone has different tastes and preferences built into their psyche, morals, and even bodies. Someone raised to hold onto a specific mindset won't be easily swayed by marketing that contains something that goes against their morals.

Social influences

Social influences, also known as peer pressure or group behavior, are powerful drivers of consumer behavior. Buyers like to feel equal or better than their peers or groups and will go out of their way to achieve that feeling of equality or superiority.

For example, a style of purse is popular with teen girls across the country, but it's expensive. The only teens usually capable of buying the handbag are those from higher socio-economic backgrounds. The initial group of teen girls has easy access to the purse, thus managing to obtain it easily. Girls from a lesser socio-economic background will find ways to earn money to buy the bag–even if it takes a while.

Cultural values

Cultural values are similar to social influences in that they're a group behavior. The difference between the two comes down to the fact that one may be a lifestyle instilled into the consumer from birth, and the other can be a response to a trend. Individuals raised to behave a certain way and engage in cultural norms may or may not buy your product if they feel it does or doesn't align with their cultural values.

Types of consumer behavior

Learning how to identify consumer behavior allows you to create effective, targeted marketing campaigns that meet the shopping needs of customers. There are different types of consumer behavior you should be aware of. This includes:


Variety-seeking behavior is defined by the seeking and purchasing of items that are similar to one another. For example, a consumer likes a specific style of coffee cup, and the coffee cup comes in slightly different designs, is part of a series, or is available in different colors. The variety seeker, while not strictly a collector, is someone who likes their original coffee cup and wants to own multiple versions for a unique benefit, design element, or usage.

Complex buying

Complex buying involves purchasing expensive items not bought frequently, such as high-end electronics, vehicles, houses, and so forth. A consumer contemplating the purchase of a costly item wants to be sure that their money is well-spent. In order to achieve satisfaction with their decision to buy, they'll spend time researching the item, determining if it's a good fit for their needs and if it has long-term value.

Dissonance-reducing buying

Dissonance-reducing buying is a thought process riddled with anxiety and an inability to decide between one brand and another. This type of customer behavior involves studying two similar products and hoping that the one you choose will meet your needs and make you happy. However, it can lead to uncertainties after the purchase and make the consumer wonder if they missed out on a desired feature.

Habitual buying

Habitual buying is the repeated purchase of a specific item, such as soda, without thinking about what's being bought. The familiarity of the drink is enough to propel the consumer to buy the same brand every time they're at the store and need to restock. It's also an opportunity for another soda brand to draw the attention of the habitual buyer to try something new because loyalty to a brand doesn't play a role in the decision-making process.

How to use consumer behavior in marketing campaigns

Businesses use data derived from consumer behavior analysis to create effective campaigns and for audience segmentation. Segmentation consists of using 6 primary types of audience segmentation that include:

  • Seeking the benefits of a product
  • Occasion, need, or timing
  • Rate of use
  • Brand loyalty perception
  • User status or type of user
  • Buyer readiness or stage of the customer journey

Each segment helps you identify why a customer wants to buy a product. The customer begins by looking for a product that fulfills a need or delivers a benefit. They may also consider how frequently they need to buy, how fast they use the product, their loyalty to the brand, their socio-economic status regarding buying power, and their readiness to purchase. All of this information helps you specifically market your product to fulfill each of these needs.

These segments also help you create what's known as a marketing funnel. The marketing funnel starts after a consumer has done their research, found your product, and is in the process of making up their mind to buy. The funnel begins with awareness, moves into interest, then desire to own builds, and leads to the action to buy.

The overall goal of understanding consumer buying behavior is to create effective campaigns, know more about your customers, learn how to appeal to their needs, and attract their attention.

In general, people are creatures of habit and are likely to respond to familiar marketing efforts that are slightly different each time. Not only does this help you streamline your marketing, but it also generates loyalty among your target audience and builds your brand reputation as being trustworthy.

Wrapping up: Consumer behavior

All businesses that sell a product to consumers will benefit from learning more about consumer behavior. Understanding consumer behavior and why people buy your product helps you create effective marketing strategies and build brand loyalty.

Not only does it build a loyal customer base for your business, but it also helps draw in new customers through word of mouth, obtain new and returning customers through the introduction of a new product, and provide the opportunity to boost sales through promotions.

At Mailchimp, we offer a free marketing library full of valuable resources to help you understand consumer behavior and how to use the information for effective marketing campaigns. You don't necessarily need a degree to comprehend consumer psychology, but having insight into this methodology helps you grow your business regardless of its size. Our consumer behavior resources provide in-depth information on topics that include how to find your customers and how to market to them in a timely and appropriate manner that encourages them to buy.

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