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Personal factors affecting consumer behavior

Consumer behavior is affected by several factors including economic, cultural, psychological, and personal factors. According to Wikipedia, consumer behavior involves all activities associated with the purchase, use, and disposal of goods and services, including the consumer’s emotional, mental, and behavioral responses that precede or follow these activities. The term consumer can refer to individual consumers or organizational buyers.

In this post, we will discuss the personal characteristics that affect consumer behavior in the case of individual buyers. Several personal factors affect consumer behavior in the case of individual buyers. For example, when buying a car, factors like your occupation and economic condition can impact your choice. Apart from that, age and education can impact the type of media you consume and the type of movies you like to stream. Overall, personal factors can have a solid impact on consumer behavior. It is also why there is so much focus on personalization in marketing nowadays. Marketers try to understand consumers personally to form stronger customer relationships and provide them with the best experience possible.

The main personal factors that affect consumer behavior in the case of the individual consumers include occupation, age and life stage, economic situation, lifestyle, personality, and self concept. 

Occupation and its impact on consumer behavior:

A person’s occupation affects several things in his life, including how he spends his time, lifestyle, and choices in various aspects of life. A blue-collar worker’s choices in terms of fashion and food may differ widely from an executive. While executives would buy more business suits, blue-collar workers would like to buy more rugged work clothes. 

A person’s occupation and wages affect his buying power but they also affect the type of goods and services he might be interested in and the type of fashion he selects to buy. For example, a person would like to buy the type of clothes that suit his status and occupation. It also extends to other products like automobiles and types of electronics products an individual wants to buy. For example, a high earning programmer buys a Mac and an entry level technology engineer buys an affordable Windows laptop for his personal and professional use. Apart from that, the type of conditions that someone works in will also affect his choices in various areas.

Age and Life Stage:

People’s taste in food, fashion and other things changes with their age during their lifetime. Their choice of food, fashion, furniture and recreation are often related to their ages. Apart from that, the stage of the family life cycle also affects buying decisions. The stages through which families pass as they mature over time also affects important buying decisions. Life stage changes mainly result from demographics and life changing events. Such events can include marriage, having kids, buying a home, kids growing up and going to college, retirement etc. It is why marketers use the life cycle stage to select and categorize their target markets and create appropriate products and marketing plans for them.

Nielsen Prizm lifestage group systems is one of the leading lifestage segmentation systems. PRIZM Premier’s 68 segments are defined according to socioeconomic rank, including income, education, occupation and home value as well as 11 Lifestage Groups and 14 Social Groups. LifeStage groups are based on age, affluence, and the presence of children. The Social Groups are based on affluence and whether they live in a city, second-tier city, the suburbs, or small towns and rural areas.

The leading lifestage groups include “Striving Singles,” “Midlife Success,” “Young Achievers,” “Sustaining Families,” “Affluent Empty Nests,” and “Conservative Classics,” which in turn contain subgroups such as “Brite Lites, Li’l City,” “Kids & Cul-de-Sacs,” “Gray Power,” and “Big City Blues.” The young achievers group includes hip, 20 somethings, single who rent apartments in or close to metropolitan neighborhoods. While their incomes may range from working class to well to do, most of them tend to be politically liberal, listen to alternative music and enjoy lively nightlife. 

Lifestage segmentation offers the marketers across all industries a powerful marketing tool to better find, understand and engage customers. Marketers armed with data related to consumer life stages can create targeted actionable and personalized campaigns based on how people consume and interact with brands.

Economic condition:

The economic condition of a person will affect his choice of products and the stores he shops from. Therefore marketers take a keen interest in spending, personal income, savings and interest rates. As consumers have grown more value conscious, the companies are redesigning, repositioning, and repricing their products and services. For example, to attract and engage customers, Target Corporation, a leading US based retailer has focused on reducing the prices of products sold in their stores.  Its positioning promise is Expect More. Pay Less. However, the focus is now higher on making the consumer pay less than on expect more.

Changing economic trends worldwide have led to consumers growing more price conscious. Smartphone makers in the United States and other markets including the emerging markets have released a large range of smartphones that does not just include premium smartphones but also competitively priced and entry level smartphones. Particularly, in the case of the emerging markets and other less affluent markets, the smartphone brands are expecting to expand their consumer base through competitive pricing and lower priced models.


Lifestyles of the people from the same subculture, social class or in the same occupation can be widely different. For example, two doctors may not necessarily love the same lifestyle. Lifestyle means a person’s pattern of living expressed in terms of his or her psychographics. It includes measuring the consumer’s activities, interests and opinions. Lifestyle does not just capture a person’s social class or personality but more than that. It profiles a person’s entire pattern of actions and interactions in this world. Marketers can use the lifestyle concept to understand changing consumer values and their impact on consumer buying behavior. Instead of buying only products, consumers buy the values and lifestyles the products represent. 

Take for example Nike. Consumers do not buy Nike products just because of their quality or durability but for the values and lifestyle they represent. Nike represents an athletic and active lifestyle.

Marketers serve various lifestyle segments with special products and marketing approaches. Apart from family characteristics, outdoor interests, these segments may be defined by people’s choice of foods. 

Personality and self concept:

Each person has a distinct personality that affects his or her buying behavior. Personality refers to the unique psychological characteristics that define a person or a group. Generally, personality is defined in terms of traits including self confidence, dominance, sociability, autonomy, defensiveness, adaptability and aggressiveness.

 The main idea behind this concept is that brands also have personalities and people would choose brands that match their personalities. 

A brand personality refers to the mix of human traits that may be attributed to a specific brand. Research has identified five brand personality traits:

Sincerity: Down to earth, honest, wholesome and cheerful.

Excitement: Daring, spirited, imaginative and up to date.

Competence: Reliable, intelligent and successful.

Sophistication: Glamorous, upper class and charming.

Ruggedness: Outdoorsy and tough.

According to consumer behavior experts, personality determines what people consume, the TV shows they watch, the products they buy and the other decisions they make. Most of the leading  and well known brands are strongly associated with one or another personality trait. For example, Apple is associated with excitement, while Gucci is associated with class and sophistication. Many brands build their personalities and brand stories around these personality traits. 

Most marketers use self-concept or self-image in marketing. The main idea behind it is that people’s possessions contribute to and reflect their identities.  It implies that people are what they consume. To understand consumer behavior, marketers must first understand the relationship between self-concept and possessions. Brands will attract customers that rank high in terms of similar personality traits. Take, for example, MINI, a brand owned by the BMW group. MINI has a clever, sassy, and powerful personality. The MINI owners feel a strong social connection with their cars. MINI does not target specific demographic segments but personality segments. It targets personality segments like individualistic, adventurous, creative, open-minded, and young at heart just like the car.