The study of consumer behaviour focuses on how individuals make decisions to spend their available resources (time, money, effort) on consumption-related items. The field of consumer behavior covers a lot of ground. According to Solomon (1996), consumer behavior is a study of the processes involved when individuals or groups select, purchase, use, or dispose of products, services, ideas, or experiences to satisfy needs and desires. The marketer needs to understand 3 related aspects of consumer behaviour analysis : consumer motivations, consumer typologies, and the consumer purchasing process.
Most tourism and hospitality organizations have an imperfect picture of their customer, and few monitor patterns of consumer behaviour at a level of detail necessary to remain competitive. Many organizations consider that they are sufficiently close to their visitors and therefore do not commit resources to more formal consumer studies. Others are constrained by limited marketing budgets and by the fact that researching consumer motivation and the buying process can be a time-consuming and difficult procedure.
Figure 1 shows the 7 key factors that influence a consumer’s behaviour. Motivation is often seen as a major determinant of consumer behaviour, but cultural, personal, and social influences will also have an important effect on consumer purchases. Motivations are inner drives that cause people to take action to satisfy their needs. Understanding consumer motivation is one of the most effective ways of gaining competitive differential advantage. Understanding the key triggers that lead to the purchase of a tourism or hospitality product, such as a visit to an attraction or a hotel booking, is recognized as one of the main factors in the success of competitive organizations. Culture can be defined as the norms, beliefs and rituals that are unique to each person. These different factors influence how we live, communicate, and think about certain things; culture can also dictate how a person will act in a certain situation.
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Cultural practices include how we divide the day and our attitudes toward opening hours for shops or restaurants. Institutions, such as the church, the media, and educational systems will affect cultural. Finally, most societies comprise a number of subcultures that exhibit variations of behaviour as a result of ethnic or regional differentiation. Age and Gender. A traditional way of segmenting markets has been by age. For example, many travel suppliers are today targeting the growing senior market. After people retire, they may stay loyal to brand names they know best, but the price points will have to be suitable to a retirement income. Gender segmentation has long been used in marketing clothing, hairdressing, cosmetics, and magazines. But more recently it has been applied to tourism and hospitality products and services.
Travel industry experts say that women travellers are more demanding and discerning than their male counterparts. Their main concerns are safety and security, followed by comfort and convenience. Social Class is still considered to be one of the most important external factors influencing consumer behavior and it is determined by such factors as income, wealth, education, occupation, family prestige, value of home and neighbourhood. Social class is closely linked to the existence of social institutions. Marketers assume that people in one class buy different goods and services and for different reasons than people in other classes. As a rule, the higher the level of disposable income people have, the more likely they are to travel, and premium income earners tend to be those people who have studied at a higher educational level. Lifestyle. Marketers are increasingly segmenting their markets by consumer lifestyles. Life style analysis examines the way people allocate time, energy and money.
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Lifestyle analysis tends to exclude demographic traits, so researchers in marketing have combined demographic and psychological variables into a concept called ‘psychographics’. Psychographic analysis attempts to measure people’s activities, interests and opinions. By profiling the way groups of people live, it is possible to predict their travel motivations and purchases. Life Cycle. The concept of the family life cycle – the stages through which families might pass as they mature – is based on the premise that when people live together, their way of life changes. Single people are likely to behave differently from couples, and if couples subsequently have children, their lifestyle changes more radically, as do their levels of financial and other commitment. Many authors have applied the life cycle model to tourism, suggesting that travel patterns and destinations vary as people move through their life cycle. Tourists may also change their behaviour patterns over time, so if the life cycle model is used to predict behaviour, then trends in consumer behaviour need to be monitored.
Reference Groups. Learning also takes place through sharing values and expectations with others in a variety of social reference groups, including the family, college, workplace or church. This brings exposure to a normative set of values, i.e., those that set a tone as to how we should behave morally in society. For example, experienced travellers, who have been exposed to other cultures and to people who are less fortunate than they, are influencing the new trend of volunteer tourism. Travellers can take a ‘volunteer vacation’ and give their time and expertise to help in projects in developing countries. One of the major trends in tourism today is the desire of the tourist to have a learning experience as part of the vacation. Educational travel has boomed over the past few decades.
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A recent survey found that half of North American travellers want to visit art, architectural or historic sites on vacations, while one third would like to learn a new skill or activity. Service quality has been increasingly identified as a key factor in differentiating service products and building a competitive advantage in tourism. The process by which customers evaluate a purchase, thereby determining satisfaction and likelihood of repurchase, is important to all marketers, but especially to services marketers because, unlike their manufacturing counterparts, they have fewer objective measures of quality by which to judge their production. Many researchers believe that an outgrowth of service quality is customer satisfaction. Satisfying customers has always been a key component of the tourism industry, but never before has it been so critical.
With increased competition, and with more discerning, experienced consumers, knowing how to win and keep customers is the single most important business skill that anyone can learn. Customer satisfaction and loyalty are the keys to long-term profitability, and keeping the customer happy is everybody’s business. There are a range of trends or demands in consumer behaviour that are influencing tourism and hospitality marketing today. These include the desire for learning and enrichment travel, concern for the environment, a more health-conscious society, the desire on the part of tourists to be active on holiday, requests for customized and personalized vacations, the increasing desire for convenience and speed, and the desire for experiences.