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What key factors influence consumer buying behaviour?

Sometimes when you’re making a new purchase it can feel like a difficult process, based on research, reflection and evaluation. You can spend hours poring over similar products, judging their merits, their costs, and reading reviews about them. Other purchases feel simple. Almost automatic. You see, you buy, and don’t observe any real decision-making process. Or do you?

Every purchase you and your customers make is the result of a number of influences and factors. Sometimes they’re obvious, sometimes they’re subconscious. Regardless, the better you understand these influences, the more effectively you can sell your product by tailoring your marketing to account for and even embrace these influences.

We’ve put together this article as an introduction to customer buying behaviour, exploring the process of why your customers decide to buy certain items and not others. 

What is consumer buying behaviour?

‘Consumer buying behaviour’ may seem like a complicated term but it refers to something universal. Something everyone does, even if they don’t realise it. It simply refers to the steps that someone takes or the things they consider before they commit to a purchase. 

Consumer behaviour is “the process and activities people engage in when searching for, selecting, purchasing, using, evaluating, and disposing of products and services so as to satisfy their needs and desires” (Belch, 1998). So, consumer buying behaviour theories revolve around explaining the searching, selection and purchasing stages of goods and services.

Understanding consumer buying behaviour is of interest to academics, but it also helps advertisers, marketers and businesses to attract, connect with and target their customers effectively. Research in this area over the years has led to many consumer buying behaviour theories and models being developed. Let’s take a look at a couple of those models.

Consumer buying behaviour research

One of the earliest models of consumer buying behaviour was proposed in 1969 by Howard & Sheth. This influential model suggests that buying behaviour is impacted by a wide range of influences. These include various social, psychological and marketing factors, as well as existing brand and product knowledge. 

The model breaks down the buying decision process into three core steps: 

  • motives (such as buyer’s needs) 
  • alternative courses of action (such as alternative brands on offer)
  • decision mediators (such as how different brands meet the buyer’s needs differently)

Another influential model comes from Kotler & Armstrong (2008). They theorised a number of specific factors influence customer buying behaviour, which can be grouped together into four key categories: psychological, personal, social and cultural influences. Using these categories, Kotler & Armstrong highlight how different aspects of a person’s life, history and environment will lead them to choose a particular product.

With awareness of these consumer buying behaviour models, businesses can be better equipped to make decisions on marketing and positioning their brand. The models can open your eyes to understanding customer decisions, and how you can influence them, accounting for motives, needs, psychological and social factors, and more.

5 key factors that influence customer buying behaviour

There are many factors that can influence buying behaviour, though they can be categorised into five main groups. These groups and factors never stand alone - most customers will be influenced by many factors at once. These key factors come up time and again in many different consumer buying behaviour models:

  1. Psychological factors

man with shopping bags

All human behaviour is influenced by psychological factors. This includes buying behaviour. The main factors that often influence it are:


One well-regarded motivational theory groups psychological needs into tiers or stages. The theory states that you act on needs in progressing stages. Once lower needs are achieved (basic needs like food, shelter and security), you are then motivated by higher needs such as social needs and self-esteem. 

When it comes to buying behaviour, customers who are confident their basic needs are already met are more likely to splash out on additional purchases or more expensive options.

Beliefs and Attitudes

Everybody has ingrained attitudes and beliefs that will influence their buying decisions. When marketing a particular product to a particular demographic, taking the time to understand those attitudes can help you make a product more appealing.

For example, a friend could believe that aesthetics are the most important factor for clothing, whilst you believe ethical manufacturing is most important. You would both, therefore, choose different products and brands.


We absorb a lot of messages, information and ideas about products from adverts, promotions, customer reviews, social media, and even news stories about the company.

Through this information, we build an image or ‘perception’ of a brand, product or service that will affect our buying decisions. For example, if you hear that a company is really supportive of its staff, you may choose to buy from them over competitors, rather than comparing the products.


Once you purchase a product or service, you will start learning about it through use. When the time comes to re-purchase, this knowledge will affect whether you decide to repurchase, go with another brand or not to replace the item at all.

Similarly, when you’re looking to buy something for the first time, you may spend time learning about it beforehand. You may read a restaurant’s reviews or check out a service company’s rating on TrustPilot. This learning could directly impact your purchasing decision.

2. Personal factors

couple browsing home refurbishment goods

Personal factors specifically affect an individual, rather than a wider group. These factors are personal to you and, therefore, can vary greatly between individuals. You are often more actively aware of personal factors than some other factors.

Life Stage & Age

Whilst age does have a large influence on consumer behaviour, a more comprehensive take is ‘life stage’. A 28 year old’s influences may not be much different from a 29 year old’s. However, the life event of buying a first home and moving house will have a huge impact on decisions and buying behaviours.

Key life stages such as moving house, getting married, having children, going to university and retiring will impact quite heavily on what you buy. They will also shape attitudes, behaviours and decisions. Accounting for life stages in your business’ marketing campaigns is a smart way to segment audiences and deliver relevant messages. 

TwentyCi can help you understand buying behaviour of the homemover audience. By identifying when and why changes in behaviour occur, we can help you target the right customers at the right time. 


Your profession is influential and can feed into many other factors, such as social ones. The clothing needs of an office worker are very different to those of a tradesperson, for example. Professional knowledge may also influence decisions - a chef may place more value on a quality set of knives for their home kitchen than your average home cook.


Lifestyle is a powerful influence, whether it’s specifically sought or a natural fit. Any lifestyle will bring behaviours, attitudes and distinctive buying patterns. An easy example is someone who chooses to live an ‘ethical lifestyle’. This could go on to affect:

  • Food (buying more vegetables or plant-based alternatives)
  • Clothing (avoiding fast fashion or buying secondhand)
  • Household, cosmetics and cleaning choices (products not tested on animals, eco-friendly materials, solvent-free etc)

3. Social factors

large family on beach

Humans are naturally very social, so it follows that we take a lot of influence from the people around us when it comes to buying decisions.

We can be influenced by a desire to fit in with perceived expectations, or aspirations to be like another. These are likely to be subconscious influences rather than deliberate factors.


The influence of our family can have a long-reaching impact on our purchasing behaviour. Regular exposure to certain brands or products throughout childhood can directly influence the choices we make as adults. If our parents only ever shopped at Sainsbury’s, we might find ourselves gravitating towards this supermarket over Tesco or Aldi, without really thinking about it.

Reference Groups

You don’t choose your family but you may choose other social groups like your friends, clubs, religious and professional groups. Many reference groups will influence each other and have similar patterns of buying behaviour. Group leaders’ attitudes and choices can hold extra influence. For example, when a team captain champions a certain sports brand, other team members may follow suit assuming it’s superior quality.

Roles And Status

Our position in society can make a significant impact on our buying behaviour, though this is often heavily interlinked with other factors. The owner of a large business will follow a different purchasing pattern to their lowest level employee - and this will be down to more than just economic considerations. Brands can align themselves with status or take care to project a certain image to help reinforce customers’ buying behaviour and patterns.

4. Cultural factors

pride festival crowd

As well as social influences, the broader culture we live in has a deep effect on buying behaviour. Smart companies capitalise on this by updating their offering in different areas, regions or nations. 

For example, multinational fast-food chains like McDonald's or Pizza Hut vary their menus across the world according to cultural eating requirements. In the Middle East, you won’t find sausage or bacon on a pizza as eating pork is ‘haram’ (forbidden in Islam) and this is a Muslim region. Instead, they offer beef or chicken sausage meat.


We absorb a lot of our values, preferences and behaviours from observing and learning from those around us. Cultural norms will often come from family and significant people in our lives.


Within our culture will be several smaller groups, or subcultures, based on shared beliefs or values. This could be based on religion, politics or even regional differences. 

Social Class

Globally, many societies are still separated into social classes. This is often decided or demonstrated by a combination of where we live, our jobs, our education and even our family background. 

5. Economic factors

piggy bank saving money

Economic factors were included under ‘personal’ factors by Kotler & Armstrong (2008). However, with their large and unavoidable impact on any consumer buying behaviour, others split economic factors into their own category.

The economic situation of your country will play an overarching role in influencing buying decisions. Prosperous nations and strong economies lead to consumer confidence and increased spending. Restrictions or freedoms created by economic factors are usually straightforward: the more money you have, the more you are likely to spend on items big or small. 


Both our personal income and our overall household/family income will play a part in what we decide to buy. The higher your income is, the more likely you are to spend more on individual purchases, or buy more items. It can also affect how much effort goes into the buying process, for example, those with fewer financial resources may be more likely to spend their time seeking out a ‘good deal’.

Overall household income impacts decisions too. If the other people in your household or family don’t earn as much as you do,  your own income will need to stretch further, however big or small it is.


The amount of money that we filter away into savings will also impact our disposable income. More saving leads to less buying behaviour. Saving could be to accommodate fixed-term goals, like saving for a new car, holiday or a new home. This could, in turn, be followed by a period of increased expenditure as you redecorate, buy new belongings, or insurance and protection products.

Consumer Credit

In the same way that buying behaviour will be affected by income, anyone with access to easy consumer credit may be able to make more expensive, extravagant purchases. 


We hope this blog has given you some insight into the myriad of influences on consumer buying behaviour. As property and homemover data experts, TwentyCi can help you target consumers according to key influences, such as the home moving lifestage, demographics and location factors. Our behaviour insights help you learn more about the homemover audience, including when is the best time to reach out to these consumers. Just get in touch to find out more.