Cultural and Social Factors in Consumer Behaviour

The Various Cultural and Social Factors that affect the decision making process for a consumer are:

  1. Culture

  2. Sub-culture

  3. Social Class

  4. Reference Group 

  5. Opinion Leaders 

  6. Family

(1) Culture refers to the way of living of a group of people. It includes knowledge, belief, traditions, morals, values, customs and other such habits that are acquired by humans as members of a group. These habits have been passed to members of a society from generations to generations and influence the thinking pattern, consumption and living pattern and decision making of individuals.

It forms a boundary within which a person can think and act.

Culture may be divided into two distinct components –

  1. Internal/Mental Culture – Ideas, knowledge, beliefs, values, norms etc.

  2. External/Material Culture – Tangible products and services that bring cultural change e.g. books, movies, clothing etc.

(2) Sub- Culture refers to a group of people within a large culture with unique behaviour and beliefs. Essentially a culture can be divided into several heterogeneous groups or segments which are homogeneous within called sub- culture. A culture may be segmented into subcultures on the basis of demographic characteristics, geographic regions, political beliefs, ethnic background etc.

(3) Social class refers to divisions of members of a society on the basis of education, occupation, income etc. Every individual holds a social position in the society according to which he behaves. In India, the social hierarchy consists of three classes the Upper class or High class, Middle Class and Lower class on the basis income and buying characteristics.

The behaviour of each social class is unique and the members of a social class share similar lifestyle, opinions, interest and usually involve in similar activities. The buying behaviour of people is strongly influenced by the social class to which they belong. Therefore it is important for marketers to relate a product to the social status of a group and position products and services targeting distinct income groups and social classes.

While studying the cultural and social factors affecting an individual it is important to understand group influences on behaviour and buying pattern of an individual.

A group refers to a collection of two or more individuals who share common norms, values, beliefs or interests.

(4) A Reference Group refers to a group of people that serve as a point of reference or comparison for a person, while making a purchase decision. A Reference group influences the behaviour of an individual by imparting information, building aspirations for the individual or by conformity pressures. Conformity pressures refer to the pressure on a person to comply with the norms and standards of the group.

(5) Usually marketers focus on key individuals in a group who influence their group called Opinion Leaders. Opinion leaders are innovators or early buyers having high credibility in a group, who influence the group by transmitting relevant product and service information to the members of a group.

An Opinion leader seeks relevant information from various mass media, makes early purchases and helps a person choose the best product, best brand and the best store to buy on the basis of his experience.

(6) A family is an important element that affects the consumption and disposal of products by an individual. A family may be defined as two or more people living together, related by blood or marriage who share a common house, common income and similar status and values. Family influence on consumer behaviour can be understood by studying the buying roles, family dynamics and life cycle stage of a family member.

It is important for a marketer to know the family structure, family compositions, buying patterns, Buying roles and motives of family members, life cycle stages etc. in order to efficiently market a product.

The cultural and social factors along with various other personal and economics factors influence a consumer`s decision making process due to which all consumer exhibit a unique buying behaviour in the marketplace.  

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