Social Factors Affecting Consumer Buying Behavior

By: Tyler Berube

When it comes to a company introducing a new product portfolio into the market, the marketing team must analyze the overall reception of the product based on a myriad of factors relating to the buying motivations of the consumer. This article focuses on the importance of the social factors that drive buyer behavior. Within our society, we adhere to certain laws and social regulations that drive how we behave in public. The marketing community also centers on similar laws and regulations to try and understand how consumers buy, or in other words, what motivates them to buy. Marketers refer to these different social groups as Reference Groups, which can have multiple influences, both direct (face-to-face) and indirect. Let’s explore the various individuals that make up these Reference Groups.

  • The Initiator: as the name suggests, this individual starts the chain of command by suggesting or thinking about buying a particular product.
  •  The Influencer: unlike the initiator, the influencer gives a direct opinion of a product. This individual usually posses a certain know-how about the product and can use his or her influence to sway the opinion of a consumer.
  • The Decider/Buyer: this individual, usually the consumer, has the financial power to purchase a product and thus wants to make the final transaction.
  • The User: the individual who will use the product – can be the consumer or someone else.

Along with these basic Reference Groups, marketers also base their research on various family groups and social classes and which segment they should market their product to:

  • Bachelors: alcohol, vehicles, electronics
  • Newly married: home, car, furnishing
  • Families with Children: products geared toward family future
  • Empty nesters/Retirement/Old Age: medicine, healthcare products

When it comes to the social status of a consumer, the economic status of the consumer is often the main driving force behind buying behavior. We see this in the target markets of Walmart and Burberry; one focusing on the lower-income echelon and the other on the upper classes.


The Market, Media, Life. (2015). Retrieved December 9, 2015, from

5 thoughts on “Social Factors Affecting Consumer Buying Behavior

  1. Joe Velozo February 23, 2016 / 7:26 pm

    Great article, but I would have used a different comparison than Walmart to Burberry. Burberry is more of niche clothing store whereas Walmart sells much more than just clothing. Perhaps Market Basket to Whole Foods would have been an easier to follow comparison. I never really gave so much thought to the different reference groups and segments though, they really are spot on when you think about it.


  2. Courtney Bernard March 3, 2016 / 8:31 pm

    This was a great article on the idea of social and economic status that drives consumer behavior. Many store brands have been put in the hot seat when deciding their target market or price points based on economic status, when really it is just a realistic marketing objective. Successful stores realize that they are not going to attain a wide audience, and can zoom in more on niche marketing to really drive sales with their target market.


  3. Meg March 8, 2016 / 3:50 pm

    This creates a great basis for marketing, and I think that talking about the influencer is an important addition. There are people unrelated to the company who sway customers to purchase or not purchase goods, but we often forget them when describing the buying process. The stores tend to attract a certain economic status, as they balance quality and price. In turn, customers view stores in economic brackets as well. There is a difference between Walmart and Armani or Burberry, and they have a different place in the minds of consumers.


  4. Derek Lawton March 15, 2016 / 8:40 am

    I thought this was a great article. It clearly shows factors that influence a consumer’s buying behavior. This could be useful for many companies to convey or sell their product. I never realized the difference reference groups that made up consumers that was very interesting. We often over look this whole buying process and this is a great reminder as to all that goes into consumer buying behavior.


  5. Andie-Jane Phinney April 15, 2016 / 6:44 pm

    This article was very interesting as I learned a few new things. It shows a great job of the factors that do influence a consumers buying behavior. The reference groups were something I had not heard of before and was an interest read. It is important to know about the economic status of the consumer, because it is the driving force behind the buying behavior. Finding the target market within research of the groups is also another interesting point that was made in this blog post. “The marketing community also centers on similar laws and regulations to try and understand how consumers buy, or in other words, what motivates them to buy.” This is an interesting comment but I do believe to be very true.


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