11 Consumer Behavior Models for Marketing and Business Professionals
Updated September 30, 2022
Business development and marketing professionals can often use data models to develop business strategies that affect consumers' responses in a target market. These data models, called consumer behavior models, often research ways consumers may behave in response to company actions. Learning about these behavior models may help companies improve their profits and consumer engagement.
In this article, we discuss what a consumer behavior model is and provide a list of 11 of these models for you to consider using.
What are consumer behavior models?
Consumer behavior models are theories that identify consumers' behavior patterns and explain why or how they make purchasing decisions. Buyer behavior includes factors such as their personal beliefs, interests, education, background and goals.
These models typically include mathematical constructs that describe common behaviors between groups of consumers and predict how similar consumers may behave. Many companies create these predictions by gathering data on their own consumers.
Companies often use these models to determine how consumers in a certain market may react to certain products, pricing and product features, advertisements and competitors. This often assists them in making certain marketing or business development decisions. Using consumer behavior models may also help businesses retain and satisfy customers.
11 consumer behavior models
Here's a list of consumer behavior models with explanations for how each model may apply to a marketing or business development professional's organization:
Traditional consumer behavior models
Economists developed traditional consumer behavior models to determine how consumers' wants and needs determine their buying behavior. Here's a list of the four traditional models:
1. Psychological or learning model
The psychological model, also called the learning model, bases its theory on psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which is a psychological philosophy that explains the physiological, psychological and self-fulfillment needs of every person. This consumer model explains that buyer behavior corresponds with a person's desire to fill these needs and their emotional requirements.
Most people address their basic needs first, then psychological and self-fulfillment needs. For example, a hungry person may buy food first before they buy a new hat.
The learning model typically applies to marketing and business development professionals who work for organizations that sell a wide variety of goods, such as grocery or department stores. These businesses may benefit from focusing on consumer experiences by organizing stores in relation to each level of the hierarchy. This may help consumers address their primary needs first before visiting other sections of the store.
2. Sociological model
The sociological model states that a person's social standing or interest group influences their purchasing habits. This could include a person's position in society or their involvement in friend, family, work and hobby groups. This also means that a person typically buys items that align with a group's values or expectations. For example, a member of a community hiking group may make purchases on activewear and healthy snacks, while a business executive may make professional attire and office supply purchases.
Most businesses typically benefit from this consumer model because they can create consumer experiences based on the group of people who typically purchase the business' products. They may use this by appealing to the common beliefs or actions of these groups.
For example, an instrument store may sell electric tuners that help musicians tune their instruments faster than traditional tools. This could show consumers in this group that the business sells tools that help them perform more efficiently within their groups.
3. Psychoanalytical model
This model also uses a psychologist's theories to appeal to a consumer's unconscious desires. The psychoanalytical model bases its theory on Sigmund Freud's thesis which explains that every person possesses conscious and unconscious motives that drive their behavior, and in this situation, their purchases. This model explains that a business' appearance and marketing may appeal to a consumer's conscious and unconscious motives, such as their social values or personal opinions about their appearance.
Marketing and business development professionals who work with companies that emphasize their brand or image may benefit from using this behavior model. Consider using this model in advertisements or in-store marketing campaigns.
For example, a luxury clothing brand may publish ad campaigns that show attractive people wearing their clothing. A consumer may have a desire to feel attractive, so viewing this advertisement could appeal to those desires and influence them to visit the company's store.
4. Economic model
The economic model explains that consumers typically evaluate the value of an item compared to its price, then spend as little resources as they can to buy the most value-efficient item. This model uses three key concepts to make predictions: price effect, substitution effect and income effect. The price determines the number of items a consumer buys, and the price of a substitute item affects the quantity of the original item the consumer buys. Income affects the quantity of both items.
This means businesses may analyze their potential sales by learning about their target consumers' spending habits and comparing them to the products' prices. A business that sets consistently low prices may receive a set amount of consumer traffic and profits. Marketing and business development professionals in most industries may use this consumer model to evaluate their own prices and competitors' prices on similar items.
Contemporary consumer behavior models
Contemporary models analyze the role of decision-making processes in consumer behavior instead of emotional wants and needs. Here's a list of seven contemporary models:
1. Engel-Kollat-Blackwell (EKB) model
This model outlines five stages of a decision process that many consumers use before making a purchase. Marketing and business development professionals typically use this model if they work with a company that has many competitors in the same market. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) practices often help businesses gain more visibility on the internet and social media, which often attracts more consumers. Here are the five stages:
Awareness: This is where consumers initially recognize their desire for a product or service. Advertisements usually initiate this stage.
Information processing: Consumers evaluate the value of the product and how it may meet their needs during this stage.
Evaluation: This stage involves researching the product and evaluating whether better alternatives exist in the market.
Purchasing decision: This is the stage where consumers buy the product that demonstrates the best value, such as the lowest price or the best quality.
Outcome analysis: Consumers analyze the positive and negative aspects of their purchasing experience during this stage. After using their product for a period of time, they typically decide if they want to return the product or buy another product from the company.
2. Hawkins Stern impulse buying model
This model challenges the learning model by asserting that consumers don't always make rational decisions before buying a product. It also categorizes different types of impulse buying:
Escape purchase: This type of purchase involves items with visual appeal that a consumer didn't initially write on their shopping list.
Reminder purchase: This type of purchase involves influencing a consumer through in-store promotions or reminders of a certain product's existence, such as a set of bag clips in the potato chip aisle.
Suggested purchase: This type of purchase involves suggestions from social media ads, store employees or family and friends. For example, a consumer may receive a suggestion from a website that states that other customers also bought a lens cleaner and glasses case with their initial purchase of a pair of glasses.
Planned purchase: This type of purchase involves a consumer buying a product they want when the store offers a discount or promotion deal.
Most business professionals may use this consumer model because consumers who often make impulse purchases don't limit their purchasing tendencies. Marketing and business development professionals may use this model by emphasizing in-store marketing campaigns, product packaging design and strategic discounts. This also often works with online shopping when businesses edit their algorithms on the company website.
3. Howard Sheth model
This consumer model asserts that purchasing behavior involves a specific decision-making process with certain variables that often affect it. Marketing and business development professionals may use this model in most industries because consumers may use this process when buying any product or service. This decision-making process includes three levels:
Extensive problem-solving: At this level, consumers don't have any information about their desired product or the companies that manufacture it. They use their problem-solving skills to learn more about their available resources and the market.
Limited problem-solving: At this level, consumers learn more information about the desired product and compare the value of competitor companies' products.
Habitual response behavior: At this level, consumers possess extensive knowledge of the product they want to purchase and the available purchasing options.
Certain variables also affect these levels. Here's a list of the four most common variables:
Inputs: Inputs are the ads a consumer may view for a certain product and even opinions from online reviews, family members and friends.
Perceptual and learning constructs: This includes the consumer's personal needs and beliefs.
Outputs: Outputs combine inputs and learning constructs, which results in the consumer's final decision about a product or brand.
External variables: These variables include unrelated stimuli that may still influence a consumer's purchase decision, such as the weather.
4. Nicosia model
The Nicosia model focuses more on the company and its marketing techniques, asserting that this is what influences consumers' purchase decisions. Even though marketing techniques do influence consumers, other factors also contribute to a consumer's opinion about a product and their final decision. This is why some business professionals may use this model in conjunction with another model. The Nicosia model includes four concepts:
Business and consumer characteristics: This involves the initial advertisement's messaging and the consumer's opinion of that message based on their own beliefs and interests.
Search and evaluation: This involves the consumer's comparison of one business' product to another based on their advertisements.
Purchase decision: This involves the consumer's final decision after evaluating their choices.
Feedback: This involves a company's decision to alter its marketing message after receiving feedback from consumers.
5. Webster and Wind model
This business-to-business (B2B) model explains four variables that may influence a company's buying decision. Business development and marketing professionals in any industry may use these variables to determine a buying pattern for target customers. Here's a list of those four variables:
Environmental: These external variables, such as consumer demands, technology and suppliers, may affect a purchasing decision.
Organizational: These internal variables include business goals, company culture and how they evaluate purchasing decisions.
Buying center: This includes consideration of who makes final business decisions and signs contracts.
Individual: These variables include demographic information of members of a business, such as their education level.
6. Pavlovian model
This model uses factors similar to Pavlov's famous study involving dogs and a bell. In this study, the dogs associated a ringing bell (the continuous stimulus) with the meat paste Pavlov fed them (the unconditioned stimulus). After time passed, the dogs began salivating after hearing the bell even if the scientist didn't feed them the meat paste.
Comparing this study to consumer behavior, an unconditioned stimulus may include a popular company's logo and any assumptions associated with that brand (the unconditional response). Business development and marketing professionals may use this model if they work with popular companies.
7. Black box or stimulus-response model
This model recognizes that consumers respond to internal and external stimuli when making purchases. A consumer internalizes an external stimulus, such as a company's advertisement. They then process this information and compare it to their personal interests to form a purchasing decision.
For example, most consumers buy products after understanding how they benefit their lifestyle. Marketing and business development professionals may use this model if they work with a company that makes products for certain lifestyles, such as fitness products or services that benefit people who require accessibility assistance.
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