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«Module 6: Understanding food purchasing Consumer Behaviour Learning outcomes On successful completion of this module you will be able to: Have a ...»

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Module 6: Understanding food purchasing

Consumer Behaviour

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

Have a broad understanding of consumer behaviour in relation to food

Understand the consumer decision making processes that consumers may

undergo when making food purchases

Discuss the concept of consumer involvement in food purchasing decisions

Understand the process of segmentation, targeting and positioning • Learning resources Lawley, M. 2011, Understanding the Australian seafood consumer (and chefs) – Overview of current CRC consumer research, PowerPoint Presentation, presented at the Seafood Directions Conference, 23 – 25 October, Gold Coast – Available as PDF file attached with module.

Readings 6.1 Introduction Food purchases comprise a fundamental means of satisfying the basic physiological need for nourishment. Yet, decisions surrounding the purchase of food are not always based on the fulfilment of simple physiological needs. Consumers make many purchase decisions based on wants, or specific ways of satisfying needs as deemed acceptable by society (Solomon et al. 2014). Food purchase decisions are no different. Therefore, it is important for marketers to think beyond the notion of food satisfying simple physiological needs, in order to develop a more holistic understanding of what drives consumers to make the food purchase decisions they do. Studying consumer behaviour provides a foundation for understanding the processes involved when individuals or groups select, purchase, use or dispose of products, services, ideas or experiences to satisfy needs and desires (American Marketing Association 2007). Accordingly, the purpose of this module is twofold. The first part of the module focuses on what drives consumer behaviour in the food industry, as related to the process of consumption.

Following on, the second part of the module discusses the importance of the target marketing process as comprised of segmentation, targeting and positioning in the food industry. Taken together, an understanding of consumer behaviour and target marketing helps marketers develop strategies to enhance the appeal of food products.

Before we begin this module, take a moment and think back to some of the most recent food purchases you made or the last time you went grocery shopping. Why did you decide to buy what you did? Was it an impulse type buy? Did you think about your decision a lot and compare Activity product brands? Did you buy what you always buy because that’s what you have always bought? How were you planning on using the product that

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6.2 Understanding consumer behaviour As stated in the introduction to this module, the study of consumer behaviour explores the processes that drive humans to make purchase decisions. Consumer behaviour encompasses a broad range of disciplines namely psychology, sociology, and economics—all which influence the marketing discipline. Consumer researchers work for manufacturers, retailers, marketing research firms, governments and non-profit organisations, and of course colleges and universities (Solomon et al. 2013). Indeed, it is easy to see how each of the latter industries could be demonstrated in the context of food marketing. For example, it would be important for an organisation to have a clear understanding of how to improve the efficiency of supply chains between manufacturers and retail outlets. If consumers want increased traceability of their food, then manufacturers and retailers need to work together to satisfy this consumer desire.

Another example, given the health issue of obesity, may be governments trying to encourage consumers to improve their diets through social marketing campaigns aimed at encouraging behaviour towards more health conscious food purchases. Thus, consumer behaviour is vital to fulfilling needs and encouraging change in food marketing initiatives.

For marketing organisations to change consumer behaviour, it is imperative to understand that consumption is a process. The consumption process consists of three stages: pre-consumption, consumption and post-consumption (Solomon et al. 2013, see pp. 3-5).

Pre-consumption involves how and why consumers initially decide that they • need a product.

Consumption involves the experience of actually purchasing the product;

• including the roles that consumer plays and how the purchase may reflect their self-identity.

Post-consumption involves the consumer’s assessment of whether a product • performed or was the experience expected; and how the product is disposed.

A ‘consumer’ is anyone who identifies and attempts to fulfill a need or desire via making a purchase and then disposing of the product, therefore partaking in the consumption process (Solomon et al. 2013). Based on the consumption process, the goal of marketers is to understand consumer behaviour so that value can be created with the consumer across the entire consumption process, not just during the consumption phase. This is also known as value co-creation (see Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004; Vargo & Lusch 2004). Part of co-creating value across the entire consumption process is to differentiate between consumer needs and wants. A need is the difference between a consumer’s ideal state and actual state (e.g. “I’m hungry”); whereas a want is a specific form of consumption to satisfy a need based on cultural and societal influences, e.g. “I feel like eating a banana!” (Solomon et al. 2014). Consumers may have similar needs, but the ways in which they want to satisfy their needs differ. Value is created when marketing organisations offer propositions in the form of wants, which satisfy consumer needs across the consumption process.





Referring to the consumption process stages, think about the last time you had a memorable food experience. It could be with something you bought at a grocery store, experienced at a market or a restaurant. What was your basic need? In what particular way did you want to satisfy your need?

Activity Were these thoughts building over a period of time or did they occur in a small time frame? Did the consumption stage live up to your expectations?

Was the food product or experience everything you desired? And, how did the process end in the post-consumption disposal period? Will you be a repeat customer? Did the experience or product provide you with an opportunity for value creation in the post-consumption period? Overall, was value created across the entire consumption process?

6.3 Consumer decision making processes All consumers are not the same. As suggested above, consumers may have the same needs, but the way in which those needs are satisfied with wants, differs on an individual basis. Thus, we experience various types of decision making process when deciding how to satisfy needs most appropriately. Food consumers may simply want to satisfy hunger with the first piece of food that they can get into their hands. This decision would be more simplistic and satisfies hunger in a utilitarian sort of focus. But what would drive a consumer to think more about the way in which they want to satisfy their hunger?

Sometimes a consumer may be hungry, but if they are withholding the gratification of a need to seek more than a utilitarian or functional benefit; they are seeking a more pleasurable experience. In this case, the consumer would think in more depth about how to fulfill their hunger need. They may decide to go out to a nice restaurant, or they may decide go to a gourmet grocery store to purchase fresh ingredients for an elaborate meal they want to cook. The risk associated with the type of decisions should also be considered. Risk is the belief about whether or not purchases a product will have negative consequences. Most food products are relatively low on risk; however this can vary on an individual consumer basis. Thus, consumer decision making processes can be very simplistic or very complex, and are influenced by a number of factors.

Consumer decision making can be organised into three main types: extended, limited and habitual. Figure 8.1 illustrates these three types of decision making.

Habitual decisions Habitual decisions (or routine response) are characterised by little or no conscious effort.

These purchases tend to be automatic in nature, and sometimes we make them without even knowing (Solomon et al. 2013). Many food purchases, in particular, staple purchases, tend be very habitual. Think about when you purchase bread or milk. Do you buy the same brand every single time? What about when you purchase breakfast cereal?

Overall, these types of decisions are said to be behavioural in nature, with minimal thinking involved; and therefore can be very hard for marketers to break through and influence.

Limited decisions Another type of decision making is limited decision making (or problem solving). Most types of consumer purchase decision making fall under the category of limited decisions (Solomon et al. 2013). These types of decisions are made with some minimal thought, as opposed to the automatic nature of habitual decisions. In particular, consumers often rely on heuristics or simple rules of thumb to make these decisions (Solomon et al.

2013). Often limited decisions using heuristics are based on not necessarily what the product does, but how it makes us feel. Some examples of heuristics are price, brand and place of origin. Let’s take breakfast cereal for example again. Do you rotate through three or four cereals that you like depending on which one is on sale? What about if a new Kellogg’s cereal is introduced, would you be inclined to try it just because you feel that Kellogg’s brand cereals are always tasty and nutritious? Now shift to purchasing fish, for example. If you buy salmon, do you only purchase Tasmanian salmon because you feel it is superior salmon originating elsewhere? These types of would be illustrative of a limited type purchase decisions.

Extensive decisions

Extensive decision making is the most complex decision making process. It involves consumers moving through a series of steps when deciding what product to purchase.

This concept is framed by the Engel-Kollat-Blackell (EKB) (1982) model of consumer behaviour. Figure 8.4 (Solomon et al. 2013, p. 258) illustrates the EKB model.

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As seen in Figure 8.4, the EKB model posits that consumers go through five stages while making their purchase decisions. While most food purchases fall within the habitual or limited type of decision making processes, it is worth noting that raised consumer awareness of food trends (e.g. organic purchases or certain types of diets as illustrated in Figure 8.4) require more extensive decision making. Using some academic studies as an example, Rainbolt, Onozaka and McFadden (2012) and Pearson et al. (2011) contend that the decision process for local food purchases are more complex. In addition, Hollebeek and Brodie (2009) suggest wine purchases often required more involved decision making. On the whole, it is important to recognise that what is a habitual decision for some, may be more of limited type decision for others, or even a more elaborate or complex decision for other people. And finally, it is important to understand that intended decisions do not always result in actual purchases. Consumers may go through the entire extended decision making process, only to decide that there are not options that satisfy their desires. Thus, decision making outcomes depend on individual consumers as well at other factors that influence purchase decisions.

Importantly, decision making processes are influenced by various internal, social and situational factors (Solomon et al. 2014, p. 164). These factors are highlighted below with some food marketing examples given.

Internal influences Internal influences consist of perception, motivation, learning, attitudes, personality, age groups and lifestyle (Solomon et al. 2014). If a consumer says, “I’m hungry”, this is an example of internal stimuli driving the consumer to satisfy their need (motivation). If the consumer then sees an ad for fish and chips, it would fall within their sensory range and therefore create perceptual exposure. If the consumer had been conditioned to the brand in the ad and liked their food in previous experiences, they have learned to affiliate that brand with good fish and chips and have a positive attitude toward the brand. Furthermore, if the brand conveys an image that connects with the consumer’s personality, demographic status and lifestyle pursuits, then it is likely that the consumer will automatically decide to purchase fish and chips from them.

Social influences

Social influences consist of culture, subcultures, social class and group membership (Solomon et al. 2014). While internal factors influence the psychology of consumers from within, social factors influence the psychology from external sources. Following on from the example above, if a consumer lives near the coast and their family has regularly had fish and chips once a week with the local surf club members, this will have a large and likely positive impact on their decision to eat fish and chips to satisfy their hunger. This example would be considered a ritual.

Rituals in particular are one type of social influence that is linked to culture and • is particularly associated with how and why consumers make food purchases.

Rituals can be defined as symbolic behaviours that occur in fixed sequence and are usually repeated at a fixed time interval (e.g. once a day or once a year) (Rook 1985). Think about how you consumer food. Do you eat the same thing every morning for breakfast? Do you always have a big breakfast on Saturday or Sunday mornings, or big family dinner on Sunday night? What sort of specialised foods are consumed on special occasions. Most Australians have cake at birthdays and weddings. When consumers go to sporting events they may have a sausage and beer. In other words, the food consumed at rituals becomes symbolic of the ritual itself.



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