Buyer and buying behaviour is one of the more fervently studied subjects in marketing. To understand buyer behaviour is the ultimate goal of all marketers. Buyers are crucial in managing the relationship between an organization of the company, the enterprise, and its suppliers. Effective marketing plans and programmes must be based upon a sound and thorough understanding of the buyer, the buyer's behaviour, and the buyer's values. While complete knowledge of buyer behaviour is unattainable, this has not prevented many marketers, academics, and psychologists from attempting to model repeatable buyer behaviour.
Buyers in consumer markets
Philip Kotler (in his book Marketing Management) identified several types who can play a role in an overall buying decision in a consumer market:•The Initiator who can first suggest the idea of buying a product or service;•The Influencer whose personal authority or knowledge can influence the outcome of the buying decision;•The Decider who eventually decides on whether to buy, what to buy, where to buy from, and how to buy;•The Buyer is the person who actually makes the buying transaction;•The User is the person who actually uses the product or consumes the service.
•The Initiator who can first suggest the idea of buying a product or service;
•The Influencer whose personal authority or knowledge can influence the outcome of the buying decision;
•The Decider who eventually decides on whether to buy, what to buy, where to buy from, and how to buy;
•The Buyer is the person who actually makes the buying transaction;
•The User is the person who actually uses the product or consumes the service.
A marketer, equipped with knowledge of the various roles that people play in the buying process, can shape his marketing programmes around these buyer types. We see, for example, huge effort expended on marketing toys to children during children's television commercial breaks, in the complete knowledge that the child is unlikely to be either the decider or buyer, but is most certainly going to be the initiator, possibly the influencer, through pestering the parent, and certainly the final user.
Kotler also outlined a five-stage model for the buying process:•problem recognition, the first stage of the buyer's decision process in which the consumer recognizes a problem or need. The recognition of the need becomes a drive to satisfy that need. The task for the marketer at this stage is to identify the circumstances and stimuli that trigger that particular need and use this knowledge to develop marketing strategies and plans to develop consumer interest.•information search, the stage of the buyer decision process in which the consumer is aroused to search for more information. The intensity of the information search is partly determined by the level of the consumers' drive to satisfy their need. For example, the consumer may simply have heightened attention or may conduct an intensive information search. The task of the marketer is to decide which major information sources the customer will use at this stage: for example a) personal sources (such as friends, family, neighbours, workmates), who may be the most trusted sources but may not be the most expert; b) commercial sources (such as salespeople, websites, dealers, advertising or marketing information), which may be the most expert sources but not necessarily the most trusted; c) public sources (such as published studies that evaluate various products on behalf of consumers); d) experiential (such as personal use of the product during a demonstration or a trial period); this could be the final stage when the buyer decides to ‘see for himself’.•alternative evaluation, the stage of the buyer decision process in which the consumer searches out and uses information to evaluate alternative brands. It is vital for the marketer to know what attributes are important to the buyer during this stage. In fact it is possible, if the knowledge is deep enough, to segment buyers according to the importance they place on each product or service attribute. Also, some marketers attempt to predict, using statistical probabilities and game theories, what the buyer will actually choose given a set of options and variables. The actions that professional marketers might follow at this stage in the buying process are to obtain as much information directly from potential buyers about what attributes that they value in specific branded products and services. Having analysed the responses, the marketer can:a) modify the existing brand by altering beliefs about the brand (repositioning);b) alter beliefs about the competitor's brands (competitive depositioning);c) alter the buyers' weighting of attributes by trying to persuade the buyer to attach more importance to the key attributes of their company's brand;d) call attention to attributes that have been neglected, perhaps because of imperfect information or knowledge, or, most difficult of all;e) attempt to shift the buyer's ideas, beliefs, and perceptions of the brand (psychological repositioning).•purchase decision, the final stage in the buying process. The purchase decision follows from the evaluation of alternatives stage during which a purchasing intent is made. Between the formation of a purchasing intent and the completion of a purchasing decision the buyer can again change course and make different choices. Another party can influence the buyer, either positively or negatively, and this can result in a changed choice of brand. Unanticipated factors can also occur that did not exist when the purchasing intent was made, such as a change in financial circumstances. Kotler points out that a buyer making a final purchasing decision actually makes five decisions, or sub-decisions: they choose a brand; they choose a retailer or dealer; they make a decision on quantity; then the timing of the purchase; finally the payment method.•post-purchase behaviour, the stage of the process in which the buyer takes further action after purchase based on their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their purchase. If they are dissatisfied, they may return the product, complain, or else avoid repurchase; if they are satisfied, or if their initial expectations are exceeded, then they may repeat the purchase, or, in a best case for a marketer, become a living advert for the product and spread the word to their friends and associates. Buyer satisfaction depends upon the alignment of initial expectations and the perceived product or service performance. In some cases the buyer expectation could have been set too high (for example by the salesman ‘overselling’ the product or service). The marketer's role must extend into this period, as it is a crucial determinant of the buyers' repurchase decisions. They ought to be aware of the ways in which buyers express dissatisfaction and be prepared to handle the various ways in which a buyer will demonstrate dissatisfaction. Post-purchase communication with the buyer is vital.