What Causes Changes in Consumer Behavior?

N. Madison

Many types of influences stimulate changes in consumer behavior. Among these are household makeup and impulse buying. Financial crisis can also influence consumer buying. Additionally, education can have an effect on consumer buying habits and behaviors.

Education about the harmful effects of certain products may have an effect upon consumer buying habits and behaviors.
Education about the harmful effects of certain products may have an effect upon consumer buying habits and behaviors.

Household makeup often influences changes in consumer behavior. For example, a single person may exhibit very different behaviors compared to a person who is married or cohabiting. Children in a household also cause changes in consumer behavior, as can divorce or the end of cohabitation. For instance, if a formerly married parent has the job of raising his children and providing for their needs by himself after a divorce, his behaviors may change in the sense of seeking out furniture and clothing that costs less. He might also look for less-costly shelter, vehicles, and food because his household income and dynamics have changed.

Education about ingredients can cause changes in consumer behavior.
Education about ingredients can cause changes in consumer behavior.

Impulses can also cause changes in consumer behavior. For instance, an individual may have well-defined standards and habits when it comes to making purchases. If he enters a store on a given day and gives in to an impulse, however, he could dramatically change his normal consumer behavior on this trip. For example, if he normally purchases only healthy foods and avoids processed foods but one day gives in to buying a frozen dinner that is prepared by heating in a conventional oven or microwave, this is a change in his consumer behavior as a result of an impulse.

Financial crisis can also bring about changes in consumer behavior, and this can include both personal crisis and crises in the region or around the world. For instance, the loss of a job or a debilitating expense can dramatically change a consumer's buying habits, encouraging him to take more care with his spending, look for discounts wherever possible, and keep purchases to a minimum. In times of regional, country, or worldwide crisis, consumers may behave in much the same way, putting a lot of thought into buying decisions and avoiding luxury purchases. They might also put off purchases of high-priced items, such as homes and cars.

Education can also have an effect on consumer behavior. When people become aware of issues that can threaten their health or longevity, threaten others, or hurt the environment, they often decide to make changes in what and how they buy. For instance, if a person learns that an ingredient used in many processed foods causes cancer, learning disabilities, or impotence, this may change his interest in purchasing and consuming these types of foods. Likewise, if a consumer receives evidence that a product or process is harmful for the environment, he might choose to make more environmentally sound choices.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


Having children caused me to behave differently as a consumer. I did not like spending money and only bought what was necessary as a bachelor. After getting married and having kids though, everything changed. First of all, our needs increased greatly because of the baby items-- baby food, diapers, clothes, carriages, toys, etc. And we started buying things we don't need. Does my son need twenty children's books and ten different stuffed animals? No. But he wants it and we buy it.


@ddljohn-- I'm not sure, it might depend on the individual. If I had to mention one factor though, I would say that it's money or income. When people's income changes they behave differently as consumers. Sometimes they have no choice, for example if they are making less money then before. Other times, it may be out of choice, because income has increased.

But even the influence of income on consumer behavior can be difficult to predict. For example, when I was doing my master's degree, I did not make a lot of money. Despite this, I was buying organic food which costs more than regular food. This was because people around me were buying organic and I felt that eating organic was better for me and would improve my health. So those factors outweighed the income factor. As a consumer, I was not behaving as expected.


So what is the biggest factor influencing consumer behavior?

Post your comments
Forgot password?