Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Personal judgement, values and consumer behaviour

The service sector plays a major part in Bangladesh economy. Firms now constantly look for new ways to differentiate their services and offers to achieve competitive advantage. Measuring service quality and customer satisfaction is a means to determine a service firm's deficiencies as well as to decide on the course of its improvement. While this approach has become ubiquitous amongst firms, firms continue to search for other means to gain differential advantages. Building more intimate relationships with customers has emerged as a key strategy towards this end.
Through an understanding of the values of the customers, firms may be able to determine how they make judgments about the quality of the services they receive and then redesign their service to maximise positive judgments. The services literature underscores the connection between quality management and relationship building. Clearly, the impetus behind developing measures of service quality is rooted in trying to understand the relationship that the customer perceives with the service provider. Quality measurement in different service sectors has tended to focus predominantly on attributes of the service provider such as reliability, responsiveness, empathy, etc.
Marketers know that personal values play an important role in buying decisions. For example, an individual who defines himself as someone who is concerned about the environment will probably buy a different car than someone whose primary goal in life is to have fun and to enjoy.
Dibley and Baker (2001) suggest that personal values determine, regulate, and modify relationships between individuals, organisations, institutions and societies. Personal values are often defined as beliefs and relatively stable cognitions that strongly impact emotions. Values are regarded as "enduring beliefs that a particular mode of behaviour or end-state of existence is preferable to opposite modes of behaviour or end-state" (Rokeach, 1973). According to Schwartz and Bilsky (1990), they can be conceptualised as cognitive representations of universal human requirements which include social interaction requirements and social institutional demands experienced by the individual. 
Although the possession of these values is universal, the importance attached to each one is likely to vary to some degree according to the culture that shaped the individual. Value systems represent the whole range of values that describe human beings. Marketers have long acknowledged the importance of attitudes and attitude change in the study of marketing and consumer behaviour, but the role of values has received relatively little attention. Even though the marketing literature reflects an emerging interest in the topic, personal values have not been widely used to investigate the underlying dimensions of consumer behaviour. This is surprising considering the importance typically assigned to values by a wide variety of social observers and businessmen alike. While it seems that personal values have important implications for marketing practitioners and researchers, values and the ways in which they influence the behaviour of consumers who look at and choose brands, product classes, and product attributes is not clear. In order to investigate these relationships, it is necessary to operationally define what values are, and to indicate empirical methods available for examining the connection between personal values and consumer behaviour. The role of personal values as a standard or criterion for influencing evaluations or choices regarding persons, objects, and ideas suggest the relationship of values to behaviour.

Knowledge of consumer value orientations provides an efficient, measurable set of variables closely related to needs which expand the marketer's knowledge beyond demographic and psychographic differences. If large market segments can be identified on the basis of value profiles, the marketing strategist could develop programmes which would maximally enhance the important values of consumers in each market segment. Business should be concerned with assessing changes in the size and composition of value segments and the implications of these changes for marketing.
In case of product planning, careful assessment of value orientations and emerging value trends will allow the identification of new product opportunities and the repositioning of existing products. Changing importance of global values such as pleasure, an exciting life, a comfortable life, and self-respect may very well signal the need for products having brand names, colours, and designs which enhance these important values in their use and consumption. The existence of value segments containing significant numbers of consumers suggests that products can be positioned by designing products with the attributes which are connected to the global values distinguishing that particular market segment.
In case of promotional strategy, since global and consumption values appear to be connected to the importance of product attributes and the appeal of different product classes, a promotional strategy designed to create and reinforce a preference by appealing to centrally held values may be highly effective. Thus, the promotional messages for a product or service could be developed to not only refer to the desirable attributes of the product but also to enhance these global and consumption values associated with the product attributes. Additionally, the appeal to closely held personal values might have the effect of making consumers even more aware of an attribute of a product which previously may not have been considered salient or of which an awareness may not have existed. 

Over the past few years as the global economy has dipped into recessionary levels, consumers have been forced to make major adjustments in their purchase behaviours. Given the continued economic uncertainty and less discretionary income, consumers are reevaluating not only their spending but the true value of their purchases. For instance, the value of store brands continues to gain in the consumer's eyes. Beyond this, consumers in general are becoming more experimental across brands and less brand loyal. This new value-conscious consumer behaviour is also reflected in how consumers view advertising as well as the shopping experience. They are increasingly sceptical of companies telling them "what they need," and instead seek more control over decisions for themselves and their families. Keep in mind that this desire for an "experience" manifests itself in many aspects of consumer purchase behaviour. Consumers are motivated and take action through their goals. In order to reach their goals, they undergo some intellectual, emotional and behavioural processes. These lifelong activities become a part of life and create style of shopping when the consumer determines the way that provides the best satisfaction.
Decision-making style is defined as the emotional and cognitive tendencies which have permanent and constant effects on consumer's purchasing decision. This style is effective on the consumer's all kinds of product and service preferences. Consumers are divided into groups according to their decision-making style, for example, consumers who expect information, excellence, novelty or modernism, or the consumers who are sensitive to price or aware of high quality and brand, the consumers who are habitual or have brand loyalty or confused.
Values are centrally held cognitive elements which stimulate motivation for behavioural response. They exist in an interconnected, hierarchical structure in which global values are related and connected to generalise consumption-related values which are, in turn, similarly associated with product attributes. Learning describes changes in an individual's behaviour arising from experience. Through acting and learning, people acquire their beliefs and attitudes. These in turn influence their buying behaviour. A belief is a descriptive thought that a person has about something. Marketers are interested in the beliefs that people formulate about specific products and services. If some of the beliefs are wrong and prevent purchase, the marketer will want to launch a campaign to correct them.
People have attitudes regarding religion, politics, clothes, music, food, and almost everything else. An attitude describes a person's relatively consistent evaluations, feelings, and tendencies toward an object or idea. Attitudes put people into a frame of mind of liking or disliking things, moving toward or away from them. Today's consumers are rethinking values based on new measures and beliefs. While monetary cost will always be a factor consumers are increasingly evaluating the real value of products as they expect more return on their personal investment. Corporate social responsibility, sustainability, functionality and fortification are just a few of the differentiating factors which may boost the consumer's perceived value. Understanding how these value differentials affect consumers purchase decisions is increasingly important in today's uncertain economy.

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