Understanding the consumer’s purchase behavior is very important for companies to develop effective marketing strategies. There are a number of factors like cultural, social, personal and psychological that influence consumer behavior. Social factors such as reference groups, family, social roles and statuses have a major impact on consumer buyer behavior.
Reference groups are groups that serve as direct or indirect points of reference in forming a person’s attitude or behavior. Reference groups expose consumers to new behavior and life styles. They influence their attitudes and self concept resulting in a significant impact on their product and brand choices. Reference groups that influence general or broadly defined values or behavior are called normative reference groups and reference groups that serve as benchmarks for specific or narrowly defined attitudes or behavior are called comparative reference groups.
The three significant types of reference groups that can have an impact on a consumer’s buying behavior are friendship groups, work groups and shopping groups. Friendship groups are unstructured, informal groups that have a significant impact on consumer purchase behavior. Friendships provide companionship, security and are a sign of maturity and independence. The opinions and preferences of friendship groups are an important influence in consumer’s product and brand choices especially in products like clothing, cosmetics, jewelry, snack foods etc.
Work groups are very significant today as people spend a great amount of their time at the workplace and influence each others purchase behavior with respect to brand and product choices. For example companies like Tupperware reach working women at the place of their employment rather than their residences for better sales. Shopping groups comprise of two or more people who shop together and are offshoots of family or friendship groups. A shopping group may be formed with a motive of time sharing, risk reduction in making important purchase decisions or for the confidence of a collective decision.
Schiffman, Lean, G and Kanuk, Leslie, L. 2006. Consumer Behaviour. Singapore:Pearson
Education Inc. pp. 23-24.