Sunday, November 19, 2006

Auditing Consumer Behavior: A Process for Building Marketing Strategy

A complete understanding of the influences that affect consumer behavior is an essential foundation for building a marketing strategy. Hawkins, Best, and Coney (2001) suggested a process for identifying information associated with the critical decisions that marketing managers must make about major elements of marketing. The outline for auditing consumer behavior has been simplified and generalized below, but the execution of the process can be invaluable for identifying challenges and opportunities for improving marketing strategy.

Marketing Decision Areas

Market segmentation – division of all possible product users (i.e., consumers) into groups with similar needs to satisfy for product development and media selection.

Product positioning – determination of a desirable product or brand position in the mind of the consumer relative to competing brands.

Price – pricing policy consistent with the determined product position. The price is the all inclusive set of consideration that the consumer must tender in exchange for the product or service, such as time, patience, learning, and money.

Place (Distribution Strategy) – channel or distribution strategy, such as retail, wholesale, or Internet, etc. consistent with the determined product position at which title to the product is relinquished or the service is performed.

Promotion – advertising, visual packaging, publicity, promotion, website, telemarketing and direct sales force activities.

Product – physical product characteristics or service to be experienced for each market segment.

Customer satisfaction – post-purchase policies to promoted customer use, loyalty, reference and repeat purchases.

Customer Influences

External influences

  • Culture, subculture, and values

  • Demographics, income, and social class

  • Reference groups and family / households

  • Marketing activities by the company (e.g., product attributes, packaging,
    advertisements, sales presentation, and retail outlet)

Internal influences

  • Needs, motives, and emotions

  • Perceptions, learning and memory

  • Personality and lifestyle

  • Attitudes

Situation influences

  • Physical features

  • Time perspective

  • Social surroundings

  • Task definition

  • Antecedent states and situations (e.g., product or offer communications, purchase, use, or definition)

Decision process influences (i.e., stages)

  • Problem recognition

  • Information search

  • Alternative evaluation

  • Outlet selection

  • Purchase

  • Post-purchase processes (e.g., use, disposition, and evaluation)

By interweaving the decision areas with the relevant customer influences listed above, it is possible to outline the areas in which data should be gathered in order to construct a complete consumer behavior audit template as follows:

  • Step 1: Market segmentation (…) Identify customer influences
  • Step 2: Product positioning (…) Identify customer influences
  • Step 3: Price (…) Identify customer influences
  • Step 4: Place (Distribution strategy) (…) Identify customer influences
  • Step 5: Promotion (…) Identify customer influences
  • Step 6: Product (…) Identify customer influences
  • Step 7: Customer satisfaction (…) Identify customer influences
By completing the above steps and answering all the associated questions regarding customer influences at each of the stages, the marketing manager should have a thorough understanding of the influences on consumer behavior and the key decision areas in which the influences are activated.


Hawkins, D.I., Best, R.J, & Coney, K.A. (2001). Consumer behavior: Building marketing strategy (8th ed.). New York: Irwin McGraw-Hill.

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