In this essay it will be argued that consumer buying behaviour is in fact more emotional than rational, although consumers would believe that their own buying behaviour is more rational. Rational buying behaviour is where the consumer purchases a product because they believe it has a high level of value to them. This is on the contrary to emotional buying behaviour where the consumer buys a product for them to feel happy or as a 'treat', being something that they didn't necessarily need to purchase. This essay will highlight three different theories, the EKB model which looks into emotional buying behaviour, Maslow's hierarchy of needs and also Hawkins impulse buying theory. These theories will shed light on how the world has changed over the years and the techniques companies use in order to encourage consumers to purchases their products/service.
In support of consumer buying behaviour being rational is the EKB model, created by Engel, Kollet and Blackwell. The model itself involves five phases, the first being problem recognition, this is where a consumer is consciously or unconsciously combing the internet, media and other marketing materials and compares this to past experiences either positive or negative (Ashman, Solomon and Wolny, 2015). In the decision-making stage just before a purchase, the consumer is most likely to look at the products and choose ones that are in their price range and own personal criteria, before maybe trying on the products in-store or browsing the products online. In the decision process, the consumer actually makes a decision on the purchase, however in more recent times this decision has become easier as the transaction can be seen as a prolonged trial due to the current ease of product returns and offers (Ashman, Solomon and Wolny, 2015). This model thus suggests how consumer buying behaviour is more rational decision making, based on what things they need, then finding the best deals, and trialling the product before committing fully. However a limitation regarding this theory is that, firstly the first stage can be influenced by other people such as wish lists and recommended purchases (Ashman, Solomon and Wolny, 2015), furthermore with sponsored ads in social media that will put their product always in the back of your mind and more likely for you to choose it, therefore making it a less rational buying behaviour but now emotional due to the exposure.
On the other hand, during 1943 Maslow's hierarchy of needs came into play. With his theory suggesting that people's actions are done in order to achieve their needs in a tier priority system containing of five parts; Physiological, Safety, Social, Self-Esteem, Self-actualisation (Oleson, 2004). What we can learn from Maslow when linked with Consumer behaviour is that a business should place its product somewhere within Maslow's hierarchy of needs in order to then have the best success for the product (Fred van Raaij and Wandwossen, 1978). This supports that consumer buying behaviour is emotional, as if companies are using this then although consumers have the feeling that they are choosing of their own free will, where in fact companies are using proven techniques and using Maslow's needs to help push consumers towards their product. For example, when advertising a new motorbike or vehicle, the company will focus on the filling the lower stages of the hierarchy of needs, such as safety where they focus on how the vehicle can protect its occupants etc., instead of focusing on its price etc., therefore consumers are lead to think that the more expensive the vehicle, then the safer it is for the occupants. Overall what we can learn from this is that consumers are more likely to buy products if they are in the lower end of the hierarchy, therefore for the more luxurious and higher end products that are not in these lower tiers, they will need to push a message or have key values that at least relate to these bottom tier ideals.
Similarly, another academic theory that supports my argument that consumer behaviour is more rational than emotional, is Hawkins impulse buying theory. Whilst Maslow's theory above suggests how consumer buying theory is due to wanting to fulfil their needs and also how many theories focusing on consumer behaviour is impulse behaviour. The Hawkins impulse buying theory suggests that purchases are largely by external factors and is further away from 'traditional decision making' (Bhakat and Muruganantham, 2013). He established that there were four categories of impulse purchasing. Impulse purchases, such as chewing gum by the till. Reminded impulse purchases, such as throw away barbeques next to the meat section. Suggested impulse purchases, for example a specific warranty for a TV. Finally, planned impulse purchases, where the consumer is looking at a range of products that do the same thing, but is yet unsure to which one to get (Bhakat and Muruganantham, 2013). This supports the theories that consumer buying behaviour is more rational than emotional because Hawkins theory presents data to businesses to design their product and how they market to their consumer in the best way in order to have an impact on to what the consumer buys through a means of impulsive control, to help manipulate their decision to close the sale with the most success and without the consumer realising that they had less control than they originally perceived.
In Conclusion, on looking upon many different theories that cover a variety of techniques and studies looking into consumer buying behaviour, the theory such as the EKB model was probably true back in the 19th century to early 20th, however I believe that because of the constant changing world, and the fact that marketing has now become heavily focused on impulse purchasing such as with Hawkins theory, but also with Maslow's hierarchy of needs where products are now focusing on fulfilling a consumers needs almost 'tricking' consumers in a way to buy their products, consumer buying behaviour is more rational than emotional.
Ashman, R., Solomon, M. and Wolny, J. (2015). An old model for a new age: Consumer decision making in participatory digital culture. Journal of Customer Behaviour, 14(2), pp.127-146.
Fred van Raaij, W. and Wandwossen, K. (1978). MOTIVATION-NEED THEORIES AND CONSUMER BEHAVIOR. Advances in Consumer Research, 5, pp.590-595.
Oleson, M. (2004). Exploring the relationship between money attitudes and Maslow's hierarchy of needs. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 28(1), pp.83-92.
Bhakat, R. and Muruganantham, G. (2013). A Review of Impulse Buying Behaviour. International Journal of Marketing Studies, 5(3), pp.149-160.
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