A variable can be defined as “something that can be changed, such as a characteristic or value” (Cherry, 2011, online). There are various types of variables, but for this paper marketing variables can be divided into two groups: psychological and market related.
Baker and Hart (2007) inform that psychological variables are the type of variables that are related to a process such as perception, motivation, personality, attitude, lifestyle etc. Each of these variables are complex on their own and are utilised by marketing professionals in order to achieve a desired outcome that is naturally to make a sale. At the same time it has been stated that “behavioural psychology ignores the complex mechanisms of the mind by dumping all the psychological variables into a ‘black box’” (Smith, 2003, p.84)
The integral components of motivation as a psychological variable, according to Klein (2007), are needs, wants, and drive. If this concept is applied to furniture business it can be understood that furniture manufacturing and selling companies first attempt to arise a need for their products in the minds of perspective customers. Then the ‘need’ can be transformed into ‘want’ through the application of various marketing techniques. Consequently, an appeal to the ‘drive’ will be made by marketers through specific techniques, for instance indicating to the affordability of their products by introducing monthly instalment payment plans.
For instance, in Habitat furniture stores in UK occasionally a member of staff offers a free glass of Champaign to customers upon entry to the store. Coupled with calming music or song, and motivating shopping environment this strategy often motivates customers to make a purchase from the store.
Kozami (2002) links motivation to the theory of Hierarchy of Needs introduced by Abraham Maslow. According to the theory, the need of an individual is divided into five layers: physiological, safety, belonging, esteem and self-actualisation. Accordingly, a person will be motivated to do undertake a specific task on a best possible manner only by helping to satisfy immediate need of that individual.
Learning as an important psychological variable is divided by Raab (2010) into two categories: behavioural and cognitive. Behavioural learning takes place through drive, signal, response and reinforcement, whereas cognitive learning is comprised of problem identification, information search, alternative evaluation, purchase, and post-purchase assessment stages. Both types of learning are used by marketers in furniture industry in order to increase the level of customer attraction and retention.
Perception is another important psychological variable that is affected by marketers. “The term perception is usually applied to the way one comes to know the world or the way one experiences of the world of objects and events” (Weintraub and Walker, 1966, p.4). Marketers in furniture industry usually attempt to ‘install’ the perception quality associated with their products, regardless the actual state of quality.
Evaluating alternatives can be highlighted as a psychological variable that that plays significant role in furniture industry as well. The most important point to address by marketers in that aspect would be to analyse the evaluative criteria of customers and attempt to evoke a set of criteria that would result in the sale for the company (Varey, 2002).
The impact of psychological variables of beliefs and attitudes on customer buying behaviour has been long understood by marketers in furniture industry. Kurtz et al (2009) make distinction between beliefs and attitudes in a way that beliefs are easier to change compared to attitudes. At the same time, it has been acknowledged by marketers that if beliefs and attitudes of customers are influenced effectively, increased level of customer loyalty can be generated.
As one of the important psychological variables “lifestyle variables permit consumers to be analysed in terms of how they spend their time, what areas of interest they envision as the most important, and their opinions of themselves and their environment” (Elmore-Yalch, 1998, p.50). Lifestyle variables relate to the furniture industry in a way that marketers attempt to position their furniture as necessary attributes of the lifestyle customers are aspiring to.
Spencer-Wood (1987) specifies the major market-related variables to be the number of buyers, income levels, personal preferences, price, availability and quality of products and services. All of these variables affect consumer behaviour in furniture industry according to the rules of supply and demand and other principles of market economy.
There is no argument between business researchers that the level of income of individuals is one of the most important market-related variables. Kozami (2002) informs that the level income of population is positively correlated with the amount of their expenses. This statement relates to furniture industry in a way that the more amount of income people have, the more they will be willing to spend to various products and services, including furniture.
The role of individual personal preferences as a market-related variable is highlighted by Kurtz et al (2009). The importance of this variable is positively correlated with the rate of competition in the marketplace. In other words, in markets where there is an abundance of offers the consumers will have more bargaining powers, and accordingly the role of their preferences increases. Currently, there is a fierce competition in furniture industry in UK with such market leaders as Homebase, Habitat, John Lewis and others competing with each other with their chosen strategies. Therefore, it can be stated that individual personal preferences are one of the most important market-related variables in furniture industry.
Moreover, it is obvious that price is another important market-related variable. The importance of price of products is dictated by the law of supply and demand. Each of the furniture companies in UK have formulated their own approach towards pricing policy that is according to the overall corporate strategy. For instance, one of the market leaders in UK Habitat have chosen a pricing strategy according to which the company sells highly priced furniture items that are perceived to be associated with high quality. Another company among market leaders, IKAE on the other hand, has pursued an alternative pricing strategy according to which the company sells furniture items in discounted prices, and the profitability of the company will be ensured by large amount of sales.
Availability of products and services as market-related variables has been referred to in the work of Smith (2003). Again this issue is related to the fundamental principle of a free market economy that is a law of supply and demand. Specifically, in occasions where there is a shortage of supply producers will possess more bargaining power. However, there is an opposite situation currently in the furniture industry in UK, where there is an increased amount of supply in the marketplace, therefore businesses have to be more proactive in terms of dealing with the behaviour of their existing and potential customers.
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