Approaches to Consumer Behaviour

By John Dudovskiy

Approaches to Consumer Behaviour The most popular approaches to consumer behaviour can be divided into cognitive, behaviourist and psychodynamic categories. Cognitive approach to consumer behaviour focuses on information processing capabilities of consumers (Schmitt, 2003). Specifically, according to cognitive approach environment and social experiences provide individuals with abundant information to be processed, and the outcome of information processing results in individuals behaving in certain ways as consumers.

For example, individuals may receive information about forecasted economic downturn in a national level and this information can serve as a stimulus to behave in certain manners. Specifically, according to cognitive approach although the forecasted economic downturn has not happened yet, nevertheless consumers may reduce levels of their spending budgets as a response to the stimulus.

Behaviourist approach to consumer behaviour, on the other hand, is associated with the impact of external events. Lantos (2010) link this approach to infamous experiments of Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov and these experiments involved developing certain behavioural patterns via external factors. Practical implementation of this approach in the field of marketing can be observed in relation to Nescafe products. Specifically, integrated marketing strategy of Nescafe attempts to foster a specific pattern of behaviour amongst target customer segment whereby consumption of a cup of Nescafe coffee has to be the first thing to do in the morning.

Importantly, Loudon et al. (2010) make a clear distinction between cognitive and behaviourist approaches to consumer behaviour in a way that in cognitive approach information from external sources are processed by consumers in apparent manners, whereas in behaviourist approach consumers may not be fully aware of the impact of external environment. Accordingly, Loudon et al. (2010) consider behaviourist approach to be superior compared to cognitive approach in terms of motivating perspective consumers to commit to the purchase.

Lastly, psychodynamic approach “includes all theories in psychology that see human functioning based upon the interaction of drivers and forces within the person, particularly unconscious, and between the different structures of the personality” (McLeod, 2007, online).

Within the boundaries of consumer behaviour in particular, psychodynamic approach relates to behavioural approach to a certain extent, however, the former approach covers greater scope compared to the latter.

Moreover, consumer behaviour can be categorised on the basis of the nature of purchase. East et al. (2013) divide type of purchases into two categories: routine and impulse. There are some differences in marketing techniques applied to affect consumer behaviour in relation to these two alternative purchase patterns.

Routine purchases relate to products and services consumed regularly with varied frequency according to their nature. For example, consumption of grocery products, as well as, transportation and hairdressing services belong to routine purchases. Specific consumer behaviour traits related to routine purchases are marked with very little time spent on decision-making and high levels of customer loyalty. Sales promotions, discounts and coupons are the most popular marketing techniques employed in relation to products and services purchased in a routine manner.

Impulse purchases, on the other hand, relate to purchases that were not pre-planned. Effective appeal to customer wants at psychological levels and effective point of sales displays play an important role in terms of triggering impulse purchases. However, in certain instances an impulse purchase of a product or service may result in the same product or service to be purchased in a routine manner.



East, R., Wright, M. & Vanhuele, M. (2013) “Consumer Behaviour: Applications in Marketing” 2nd edition, SAGE

Lantos, G.P. (2010) “Consumer Behaviour in Action: Real-Life Applications for Marketing Managers” M.E. Sharpe

Loudon, D., Stevens, R. & Wrenn, B. (2010) “Marketing Management: Text and Cases” Routledge

McLeod, S. (2007) “Psychodynamic Approach” Simply Psychology, Available at:

Schmitt, B.H. (2003) “Customer Experience Management: A Revolutionary Approach to Connectign with Your Customers” John Wiley & Sons

Category: Consumer Behaviour