What Is the Scope of Consumer Behavior?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2019
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The scope of consumer behavior is the wide variety of activities consumers engage in as they research, buy, use, and dispose of products. This is a topic of interest for marketers and other researchers who examine how consumers behave in the market. This information can be important for the development of products and ad campaigns that meet the needs of consumers effectively. Psychologists and anthropologists study consumer behavior for more theoretical reasons, with an interest in how it interacts with other aspects of human behaviors.

Consumers move through a variety of steps as they buy products. The scope of consumer behavior examines the decisions consumers make and how they make them, looking at the what, when, where, why, and how of product consumption. For example, companies want to know why consumers buy products, and what kinds of needs are satisfied through consumption. These can include basic needs like hunger and shelter along with the desire for psychological fulfillment through products that provide pleasure or meaning.

Companies also want to know when consumers make purchases, looking at the frequency of purchases and the conditions under which they occur. Study on the scope of consumer behavior, for example, informs the use of endcap displays near cash registers to tempt people into last-minute purchases. Research on consumers shows that small items like candy bars that may not have been on a consumer's list of planned items might be added to a shopping basket if presented at the end of the shopping process.


Likewise, the scope of consumer behavior looks at how consumers make purchasing decisions, including the process of research as well as planned and unplanned purchases in store environments. The “what” of consumer behavior can also be critical for marketers, who want to know what kinds of things consumers buy. This can be determined by socioeconomic class as well as psychological factors, like pressure to purchase a particular item to fit in with a given group.

Studies on the scope of consumer behavior also look at disposal methods, which can include gifting hand-me-downs, recycling, or throwing products away. The psychology behind these decisions can be complex. Understanding when and how consumers dispose of items can help companies position themselves to appeal to consumers. For example, stores can provide recycling buy-back services for cans and bottles to allow customers to turn in products from previous visits and get money back, encouraging them to spend that money in the store.


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Post 3

@SkyWhisperer - Credit card companies have a treasure trove of information on us. They not only know what we buy, but what brands and how often.

They can sell this information to marketers who view such information as gold. Some companies claim that they don’t sell the information but I don’t believe them personally.

I get junk mail specifically targeted to me, and I believe the credit card companies had a hand in getting me on someone’s mailing list.

Post 2

@nony - It’s remarkable but I think some people spend more time researching when a pair of shoes goes on sale than whether they should buy a certain house or a certain car.

That’s called being penny wise and pound foolish. Not everyone does this, but how do you explain this behavior among people that do? My guess is that it’s human laziness or that people simply feel they have a better “grasp” of smaller things like shoes and clothes than they do of larger items.

Post 1

I know there’s a reason that they put those tabloid magazines at the cash register. Your eyes can’t help but notice them and they are impulse items. They cater to our deepest desires to believe in gossip (whether we admit it or not) and spy on the private lives of celebrities.

Instinctively we know that at least half of what we’re reading in these publications is not true, but we buy them anyway. Marketers understand this – even the tabloid publishers understand this.

It’s almost a kind of exploitation, really, the way that they are able to use our faults against us to prod us to make these purchases. Oh well, such is the nature of the modern consumer.

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