Behavior is a mirror in which everyone displays his own image. The term consumer behavior can be defined as the behavior that consumers display in searching for, purchasing, using, evaluating, and disposing of products and services that they expect will satisfy their needs. The study of consumer behavior is the study of how individuals make decision to spend their available resources (money, time, and effort) on consumption-related items. It includes the study of what they buy, why they buy it, how they buy it, when they buy it, where they buy it, and how often they buy it. The term consumer is often used to describe two different kinds of consuming entities: the personal consumer and organizational consumer. The personal consumer buys goods and services for his or her own use (e.g. shaving cream or lipstick), for the use of the household, or as a gift for a friend. In all of these contexts, the goods are bought for final use by individuals, who are referred to as ‘end users’ or ‘ultimate consumers’. The second category of consumer, the organizational consumer, encompasses profit and non-profit making businesses, government agencies, and institutions, all of which must buy products, equipments, and services in order to run their organizations. Manufacturing companies must buy the raw materials and other components to manufacture and sell their own products; service companies must buy the equipments necessary to render the services they sell; government agencies must buy the office products needed to operate agencies; and institutions must buy the materials they need to maintain themselves and their population. The person who purchases a product is not always the user, or the only user, of the product in question. Nor is the purchaser necessarily the person who makes the product decision. A mother may buy toys for her children (who are the users); she may buy food for dinner (and be one of the users); she may buy a handbag (and be the only user). She may buy a magazine that one of her teenagers requested, or rent a video that her husband requested, or she and her husband together may buy a car that they both selected. Clearly, buyers are not always the users or the only users, of the products they buy, nor are they necessarily the persons who make the product selection decisions. Marketers must decide at whom to direct their marketing efforts: the buyer or the user. They must identify the person who is most likely to influence the purchase decision. Some marketers believe that the buyer of the product is the best prospect, others believe it is the users of the product, which still others play it safe by directing all their marketing efforts to both buyers and users. The study of consumer behavior holds great interest for us as consumers, as students, and as marketers. As consumers, we benefit from insights into our own consumption-related decisions: what we buy, why we buy, and how we buy. The study of consumer behavior makes us aware of the subtle influences that persuade us to make the product or service choices we do. As students of human behavior, it is important for us to understand the internal and external influences that impel individuals to act in certain consumption related ways. Consumer behavior is simply a subset of the larger field of human behavior. As marketers or future marketers, it is important for us to recognize why and how individuals make their consumption related decisions so that we can make better strategic marketing decisions. Without doubt, marketers who understand consumer behavior have a great competitive advantage in the market place.
Every individual has needs; some are innate, others are acquired. Innateneeds are physiological (i.e., biogenic); they include the needs for food, for water, for air, for clothing, for shelter, and for sex. Because they are needed to sustain biological life, the biogenic needs are considered primary needs or motives. Acquired needs are needs that we learn in response to our culture or environment. These may include needs for esteem, for prestige, for affection, for power, and for learning. Because acquired needs are generally psychological (i.e., psychogenic), they are considered secondary needs or motives. They result from the individual's subjective psychological state and from relationships with others. For example, all individuals need shelter from the elements; thus, finding a place to live fulfills an important primary need for a newly transferred executive. However, the kind of house she buys may be the result of secondary needs. She may seek a house in which she can entertain large groups of people (and fulfill her social needs); she may also want to buy a house in an exclusive community in order to impress her friends and family (and fulfill her ego needs). The house an individual ultimately purchases thus may serve to fulfill both primary and secondary needs. Motivation can be described as the driving force within individuals that impels them to action. This driving force is produced by a state of tension, which exists as the result of an unfilled need. Individuals strive— both consciously and subconsciously— to reduce this tension through behaviour that they anticipate will fulfill their needs and thus relieve them of the stress they feel. The specific goals they select and the patterns of action they undertake to achieve their goals are the results of individual thinking and learning.