Consumer behavior is a complex topic, and it's hard to know where to start.

There are four main consumer behavior theories that every business owner needs to consider to improve their customer engagement and marketing campaigns.


This article will explain the basis and meaning of these theories and how to apply them to your marketing strategy. It also includes factors that influence consumer behavior, such as culture and personality traits, when developing your marketing plan.

Finally, it discusses the benefits of implementing these theories in your business, including increased customer loyalty and retention rates. 


What is a consumer behavior theory?

A consumer behavior theory is a type of theory that explains why, how, and what consumers buy. It explores the relationship between marketing and consumption and how it affects consumer habits.

The theories are based on formal research, surveys, observations, and practical experience. The majority of them are based on classical economics, which focuses on the rational approach to purchasing decisions.

Consumer behavior theories range from explaining why consumers buy to how marketers can influence consumer choice. Consumer behavior theories predict what products consumers will buy in the future so they can develop strategies for marketing them accordingly.


Types of consumer behaviour theory

This section will review the four principal models, namely: The Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA), The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), and Integrated Model of Behavioral Prediction (IMBP).

Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA)

This theory, developed in the 1960s by Martin Fishbein & Icek Ajzen, suggested that people decide to either do or not do a behavior mainly based on their attitude towards the behavior. Attitude is based on an individual's belief about the likely consequences of performing the behavior.

The TRA suggests that beliefs are influenced by attitudes toward behaviors, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control. Thus, through communication with others' expectations about how they want you to behave, you can change your attitude towards the behavior and, in turn, change your behavior.

This theory has been applied extensively in marketing campaigns for well-known brands such as Visa, AT&T, and Pepsi.

The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB)

This theory suggested by Icek Ajzen in 1985 builds on the TRA and uses a similar attitudinal model to explain behavioral intention. Behavioural intention is seen as the immediate determinant of actual behavior. Under this model, subjective norms are replaced with social influences.

Social Cognitive Theory (SCT)

This theory suggests that people influence one another through modeling or persuasion. Therefore, individuals cannot be passive recipients of communications from others' SCT states that individuals regulate their thoughts, feelings, and actions by cognitive processes such as attention, perception, knowledge, and memory. 

Thus an individual's behavior is controlled more by what they know about a product than how they feel about it.

Integrated Model of Behavioral Prediction (IMBP)

Ajzen integrated SCT & TRA in 1991 to propose an integrated model of behavioral prediction. The IMBP suggests that behavior results from both intention and attitude toward the behavior, along with subjective norms.

Further motivation for performing or not performing a particular buying behaviour is determined by personal factors such as attitudes towards achieving the behavior and self-efficacy (i.e., our belief in our ability to perform certain behaviors). 

This theory has been used for understanding consumer behavior in buying organic food, British airways' customer service issues, and recycling habits among teenagers.

How to market to each consumer behavior type

Marketing to Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA)

When consumers follow the TRA, they know that they are being influenced by advertising or peer pressure. They will weigh up their options before purchasing a product if it aligns with their personal beliefs. If their peers promote an unpopular opinion about a product, people may feel under pressure to conform.

For example, when surveys show falling sales in a social media platform among young people due to popularity perceptions, platform companies take deliberate steps to try and influence young peoples' attitudes towards their platform. Their strategies are aimed at strengthening behavior based on subjective norms to satisfy the need for social conformity.

Their marketing strategy should increase awareness of positive effects or endorsement of this platform to strengthen the subject norm. The message should translate to "Everyone is doing it, so I will too," which can be achieved by campaigns highlighting the attractiveness of using that social media platform.

Under the TRA, messages must be clear and direct for people to understand them and weigh up their options before deciding.

Marketing to The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB)

People following the TPB are more likely to do something if they understand how it will benefit their lives. They are also less influenced by others' opinions as they are more motivated by personal factors such as attitudes towards behavior, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control.

Their marketing strategy should provide transparent information about how the product or service will improve consumers' lives. It is essential that consumers feel in control of any purchasing decision, so marketers should highlight ease of purchase and demonstrate convenience. The message should be clear and direct to encourage people to act on their intentions.

Marketing to Social Cognitive Theory (SCT)

When consumers follow SCT, they will be aware of positive or negative attitudes surrounding a product but feel more empowered than under TRA. The consumer decides on their own if the product meets their personal needs or not. This way, they can avoid impulse purchases. Messages can either directly target intention or indirectly target intent through altering the social norms about the behavior.

For example, when we want to encourage recycling among young people, we don't need to emphasize the harmful social norms because young people are already aware of this and feel empowered to make their own decisions.

 Another example is Coca Cola which uses online videos to positively influence consumers' attitudes toward recycling by encouraging them to question if we even need bottles at all?

Under SCT, celebrity endorsement can be used as a credible source for young people's behavior. Celebrities communicate to the consumer about their personal beliefs and values to follow suit with behaviors such as healthy eating, exercise, or environmentally conscious lifestyle choices.

Marketing to Integrated Model of Behavioral Prediction (IMBP)

When using IMBP, marketers must address both attitude and subjective norms to encourage behavioral change. The easiest way is to use an indirect strategy that increases awareness of positive attitudes or decreases understanding of negative attitudes.

If we want to encourage consumers to recycle, we could highlight the amount of energy saved and pollution avoided by recycling or diminish awareness of littering and landfill issues.

The IMBP model shows how consumer behavior is a combined effort between attitude and subjective norms and indicates that consumers need both motivation and the ability to perform a particular behavior.

Factors influencing consumer behavior

These are the factors that affect marketing theory. They are in three categories: personal characteristics, social factors, and environmental factors.

Personal Factors:

Personal factors include the consumer's gender, age, education level, financial status, occupation, personality traits & attitudes.

Social Factors:

Family & peer influences and media influences.

Marketers of children's products often give toys new characters similar to famous animated figures hoping that parents will buy them for their kids.

Peer pressure is the influence of groups on an individual.

Environmental Factors:

Consumers can be influenced by many different variables when purchasing a product, according to consumer behavior theory. A few of these variables include price, branding/marketing strategies, where the product is bought, and how it is used.


Benefits of implementing these theories

1. Efficient marketing strategy

When you implement customer behavior theories into your marketing strategies, you use consumer insights to communicate more accurately with your target audience. This increases the likelihood of successfully making a sale because you directly market their needs, interests, and wants.

2. Higher ROI

Marketers who use customer behavior theories aim for the highest conversion rates possible by changing consumers' attitudes. In addition, marketers can help influence consumers to understand how they benefit from purchasing their products or services, which will increase revenue in the long term and short term sales.

3. Increased customer loyalty

Understanding consumer behavior theories allows marketers to create a more loyal client base. By increasing customers' awareness of benefits, you will encourage them to be brand advocates and recommend your product or service to their family and friends, growing sales revenue.

4. Improved marketing strategies

By implementing consumer behavior theories, businesses can develop a more strategic and creative marketing strategy. By focusing on the right target audience for your product or service, you will be able to use customer insights to create a successful campaign that is both informative and persuasive.

5. Improved company image & reputation

When marketers understand their customers' needs, wants, beliefs, behaviors, etc., they are better equipped to represent themselves in an honest way that keeps them from appearing gimmicky or phony, potentially damaging the business's image and overall reputation.

This also creates increased brand loyalty because of superior services/products offered by these companies compared with competitors who do not implement consumer behavior theories into their marketing campaigns.


Use customer behavioral theories to grow your business

Consumer behavior theory is the study of how people make decisions and what motivates them to buy. The four consumer behavior theories we've covered in this article are The IMBP Model, Social Influence Theory, Personal Factors Theory (PFT), and Environmental Influences on Consumer Behavior (EICT).

Understanding these concepts will help you create a marketing strategy that will increase your ROI and improve customer loyalty by better understanding their needs. In addition, implementing consumer behavior theory into your marketing efforts can lead to raised company image and reputation and improved marketing strategies for success.


And if you’d like to learn how to apply behavior psychology to your business and create compelling customer experiences that drive your business to new heights, check out the free marketing resources at The Mindstate Group.

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Topics: Marketing, Business Owners, Shopping