Decision Making

Consumer Decision Making: External Factors of Choice

Consumer decision making is made up both of internal and external factors. Internal factors occur within the customer and have to do with who the customer is and his demographics. External factors are anything in the world around the consumer that may influence his product decisions. These external factors include psychological receptors, social pressures, and specific situations.

Psychological Receptors

Decision Making

Marketing is all around us, and it is affecting the psychology of every person who sees an ad, whether it’s on the television, the Internet, or a city bus. The main kinds of psychological receptors are motives, attitude, perception, and learning.

  • Motives: Motives drive consumers to seek satisfaction for their needs or wants.
  • Attitude: An attitude is a customer’s evaluation of feelings toward a product, service, or idea. Attitudes are learned and environmentally based. They can also change on a dime. For instance, a mother instills a love of a particular soda product in her child and only buys this soda product for beverages. As such the child loves this product as well and continues this pattern and buys these products into adulthood. But if one day that can of soda bursts all over the customer, his attitude toward the product may change.
  • Perception: Perception is tied to culture, environment, and it influences how we view color, symbols, and so on. How we perceive a product affects whether we want it or not.
  • Learning: Learning affects both perception and attitudes. As we gain more information from external sources, our attitudes and perceptions may change to fit the new data.

Social Factors

Our family, friends, and other people who are consistently around us have the ability to influence our decisions either consciously or unconsciously. The main influencers are family, reference groups, and culture.

  • Family: Families often decide on products or services as a group, if they are all participating or buying together. For instance, a family may compromise on restaurants or a family game system based on the wants of all of the individuals in a family. Being raised in any given family also affects us, as children often use products that their parents used when they were growing up.
  • Reference Groups: Reference groups are people who we compare ourselves to either positively or negatively and can include any person who we come in contact with. Other people’s perceptions of what we buy affect us almost as much as our own perceptions of what we buy because other people have the ability to provide information on a product, give rewards (as simple as a compliment) for purchasing a product, and influencing self-worth (i.e., people buy from high-end stores in New York to make others around them know that they are wealthy).
  • Culture: Cultures are like massive reference groups. Large places where we spend our time including our country, city, or university can affect how we feel about different products. You may be more likely to buy American made if you’re from America or to want only Georgia peaches if you’re from Georgia.

Specific Situations

Decision Making

Situational factors are important because sometimes a specific situation may override our normal psychological or social inputs temporarily. There are three main types of specific situations: purchase situations, shopping situations, and temporal change situations.

  • Purchase Situations: Sometimes we make decisions that override our psychological or social choices. A Coke lover who is desperately thirsty will not forgo a Pepsi simply because there isn’t any Coke to be had. But it won’t prevent him from buying Coke when he has the choice outside of the situation.
  • Shopping Situation: Sometimes what occurs in a shopping experience can affect a choice previously made before shopping. A customer may go into a store wanting a particular type of flour and then find that there is a promotional brand of flour that is cheaper and change his mind. Or a customer may leave a store without buying anything because of bad customer service.
  • Temporal Change: Not every one is a morning person or a night owl. The time of day and how you feel will affect your purchase decisions. Positive moods positively influence purchases and vice versa.

The external factors that affect a consumer’s buying decisions are psychological, social, and situational. They are different from the internal factors.