Internal & external factors of consumer behaviour

Written by rob callahan
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Internal & external factors of consumer behaviour
People may be influenced by their peers in the choice of what to buy. (Fashion image by Yvonne Bogdanski from Fotolia.com)

Consumer behaviour can be influenced by factors such as motivation, learning and perception. Those factors are known as internal factors or personal factors. In addition, factors like social norms, family roles and cultural values make up external or social factors. Those factors, especially the external ones, can be influenced by trends and the environment.

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Internal Factors

Internal factors--also called personal factors--represent the consumer's ability to benefit directly from the product in question. A person's motivation to purchase or consume any given product is an internal factor, and it may rely on a person's desire to achieve goals related to other internal and external factors. Perception greatly determines a consumer's behaviour, allowing them to justify one action or another based on the perceived outcomes. Use of perception to motivate a consumer can be as simple as showing young and attractive people who are obviously very happy and successful and who are using the product in question.

External Factors

Social norms are a prominent external factor influencing consumer behaviour. The prevalence of brand-name clothing or new trends in design and fashion, for example, affects what any individual consumer will choose for themselves. Cultural values are an increasingly tapped factor in influencing consumers. Advertising campaigns that boast American-made or sweatshop-free products are a common example. Some companies have begun to include such ideals not only in their advertising but also as an aspect of the products themselves. Some examples of the inclusion of cultural values in ownership of a product include Tom's Shoes, who donate a pair of shoes to children for every pair of shoes purchased, and the Purina One Hope Network, which donates a portion of profits from pet food sales to pet adoption efforts. In those cases, consumers are not only purchasing a product but also engaging in social activism.

Positive and Negative Effects of Advertising

Just as internal and external factors can be used to promote social change in the case of Tom's Shoes or Purina One, they can be equally as effective in marketing campaigns designed to discourage consumers from engaging in certain behaviour. An advertising campaign that appeals to both the consumer's internal and external concerns can genuinely reward them, as in the case of private gyms advertising the increase in both social acceptance and general health that can be achieved through membership. In other ways, advertising can lead consumers to adopt unhealthy lifestyles or live beyond their means. In both positive and negative applications, marketing and advertising that appeals to the above factors can have a powerful impact on the consumer.

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