Consumer Behavior Decision Making L’Oreal

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Consumer behavior is an important management field, the study and application of which can provide a lot of insight and value to the marketers. This research paper is based mostly on the existing theories and models of consumer behavior. The first part looks for external factors influencing consuming behavior at various stages and the second applies theories to a well known business organization, L’Oreal.

Consumer Behavior

Hawkins (2008) says that the consumer decision making process is often the result of a single problem however, at other times consumption decision is based on a number of factors. The example provided by Hawkins (2008) to explain the difference actually helps the reader in better analyzing the types of consumption requirement. Running low on gasoline while driving leads to a single factor consumption decision whereas the realization of an aging automobile, growing feeling of inadequacy or low self esteem lead to a multi factor consumption decision regarding a commodity or a service.

For the marketers of an organization, it is important to take into consideration both the types of consumption such that the overall sales of that organization are increased. Consumers are the end point of the supply chain processes. They actually are the magnetic force for all kinds of manufacturing, production and retailing processes that are taking place in a market or in an industry. The stronger the magnetic force in fact, the better will be the overall processes of production, manufacturing and retailing. It is therefore important for the organizations to capture as much of that attraction of the customers as possible. One simple reason for that is that customers are the ones that provide revenue to the business. An interesting quote by Jeff Bezoz, the CEO of Amazon.com says that it is actually the customers of the organization that give the business the money to operate and not the competitors of the organization and thus, all the strategies that the organization makes to improve the business performance (or market capitalization) should be oriented towards the customers (Stockport, 2009).

This idea then forms the core of the field of consumer behavior. Consumer behavior, initially stemming out of the study of micro economics has actually gotten extensive and intensive enough to be termed as a completely independent study of management sciences and one that can have serious policy implications for a business entity.

Consumer behavior holds that the purchasing decision of the consumer can actually be analyzed through various models and theories and using those findings, a business can orient its market plan to gain competitive advantage in the market. A number of external and internal factors become a part of understanding how and why consumers making purchasing decision, using decisions and disposing off decisions and how preferences and tastes as well as norms, cultures, peer pressures and traditions become a part of this decision making process (Lamb, Hair, McDaniel, 2011).

Since it has now been established that a number of internal and external factors play a role in influencing the consumers in their consuming decision, the breakdown of each factor is possible. As far as a business organization and more precisely the strategic managers or the marketers of the organization are concerned, external factors are the ones which they have the power over and thus they can influence the attraction felt by consumers for the product being marketed. However, before the marketing managers can actually pin point the external factors and manipulate them, each stage of the decision making process of the consumers needs to be analyzed.

Analysis of how external variables are used by marketers to influence consumer decision making at the various stages of the consumer decision making model. Illustrations through examples

Nominal Decision Making Process

Hawkins (2008, p. 561) identifies the nominal decision making process and defines it in the following words,

“Nominal decision making, sometimes referred to as habitual decision making, in effect involves no decision per se….A completely nominal decision does not even include consideration of the “do not purchase” alternative. For example you might notice that you are nearly out of Aim toothpaste and resolve to purchase some the next time you are at the store. You don’t even consider not replacing the toothpaste or purchasing another brand.”

According to Hawkins (2008) then a nominal decision making process can be broken down further into brand loyal decisions and repeat decisions.

For the marketers, development of brand loyalty is another arena that is receiving significant attention mostly because of its importance that has been highlighted through the theories of consumer behavior. The more the consumer feels loyal to the brands, the lesser he or she will actually consider buying another brand and thus the number of secure sales for the organization will increase and in the longer run, the provision of stability of revenue for the organization will also be enhanced.

The example for the nominal decision making process has already been highlighted by reviewing Hawkins (2008) however to provide another example is the purchase of soaps, bottled milk, tea brand, coffee brand or sanitary pads. Mostly, for all of these products, the consumer mechanically throw these products into the shopping cart without even considering that just right to the brand that they picked lies another, probably better brand. Development of this behaviour in the consumers requires effort and strategy from the marketing manager of the business organization.

Five Step Decision Making Model

Next is the five step decision making process as studied by Lamb, Hair and McDaniel (2011). In this model, the first step is the recognition of need of a product or service by the consumers. The second is the information search, third the evaluation of alternatives and fourth the purchase of the commodity or service. Finally, the fifth step is the post purchase behaviour. In regards to the model however, the following has been said (Lamb, Hair and McDaniel, 2011, p. 189),

“The five steps represent a general process that can be used as a guide for studying how consumers make decision. It is important to note though that consumers’ decisions do not always proceed in order through all of these steps. In fact, the consumer may end that process at any time or may not even make a purchase.”

However, this model does provide important steps that can be used by the marketers to create external influence on the consuming behaviours of the customers. Baker (2003) says that these five stages together are affected by a number of external and internal factors. These factors include the cultural, social, individual and psychological factors and are actually applicable to all the stages of the consumer decision making process. Therefore, if the customers are to use factors to influence the consumer decision making process, these factors are to be manipulated. For the purpose of this section of the research report, only external factors will be analyzed for each stage of consumption of the goods and services.

The first step is the recognition of needs. This is actually the first and the most important step that the marketers can use to attract the customers and thus gain competitive advantage and even first movers advantage in the market. This is possible by making the customers realize the need for the product that the firm is offering. Hawkins (2008, p. 565) says that,

“Marketers often attempt to cause consumers to recognize a potential problem for which the marketer has a solution…this sometimes involves making consumers aware of problems well before they arise.”

The important word here is “potential”. The usual way through which the problem solving approach goes is to at first recognize the problem and then solve it. Providing external stimulus on the need recognition stage of the decision making process, marketers are actually making the customers create a problem in their head that they did not realize existed before. Obviously this can be both real and imaginary but there is no necessity that the consumer knew of the solution to the problem before. For example, the invention of diapers stimulated the need recognition stage of the decision making process. Before that for centuries, mothers and maids were using cloth and plastic panties for their babies and everything seemed to go fine. With the advent of diapers however, it became almost a necessity. Something without which bearing a child seemed like a serious problem.

Similarly, the marketers can influence the information search stage of the consumer decision making process by providing to the consumers the necessary information through various media. Nowadays, television advertisement, billboards and internet are the favorite sources of providing the consumers with the information about the product and how that product is the one that the consumers require in solving the problem. For example when proctor and gamble came up with the diapers, pampers, they needed to provide the useful information to the consumers about the product. So that the customers who have already realized this problem and were looking for a solution find it in the shape of pampers. This then can require free samples and other promotion techniques as well. As of today however, the techniques that remain dominant have been mentioned.

The marketers can influence the third step that is of alternative evaluation by allowing the customer, through efficient marketing strategies to realize that the product the firm is offering is the best one for the consumer.  The external factor used here can be the help of celebrities to promote a product. Knowing that a specific product works better than anything else for something well known and looked up to can actually lead the consumers to be inclined more towards the purchase of that product.

On the fourth stage of the consumer decision making model, prices are the factors that need to be considered and used by the marketers. The consumers should know that the price they are paying for the product is actually worth it. Here, the factor and consciousness of social class can play an important role. The effect of social class on consumer behavior, apart from the direct relationship of income levels and value of consumption, there is also a direct relationship till the upper class between the realization of social class and the desire to mobilize in the social class hierarchy and the value of consumption (Loudon, 2007). It has been noted that the upper, upper middle and the middle class seriously dreams of being recognized as the elite (how o not really care about the prices but about the quality) make more expensive purchases of the products or services to reinforce their social class image in the society.

Select a company or not-for-profit organisation that you are familiar with and critically evaluate how a specific consumer behavioral theory or model can aid in understanding consumers’ actions. Demonstrate how this then guides the practical implementation of marketing strategy in your chosen organisation.

The Organization

The business entity selected for the purpose this section of the report is L’Oreal Paris. This is the largest beauty and cosmetics brand in the world. In 2009 L’Oreal completed its hundred years and recognizes its moves in the business world as that of being adventurous. L’Oreal (2011) notes that above and beyond that financial success that the organization has achieved, the journey of L’Oreal has been marked by a quest for innovation, a quest for excellence, a question for the purpose of actually existing in the market and finally a quest for diversity in regards to the range of cultures, preferences and tastes of women around the globe.

Consumer Behavior Decision Making L’Oreal
Consumer Behavior Decision Making L’Oreal

This organization has actually celebrated beauty around the globe. L’Oreal has a huge international presence and operates in five continents of the worlds excluding Antarctica and Australia from the list. By the global 100, this beauty brand was actually ranked amongst the world’s 100 most sustainable business organizations. Moreover, this organization in 2011 has been presented with the best financial performance by the Boursoscan (L’Oreal, 2011).

The overview of the organization notes that for a century the organization has been pushing back the boundaries of science to invest and meet the aspirations of millions of women and men (L’Oreal, 2011). L’Oreal seeks to provide the best cosmetics to the world in terms of quality, safety and efficacy. In 2010, the business had consolidated sales figure of 195 billion Euros. Currently, the organization is managing 23 global brands in 130 countries of the world and registered 612 patents in the year 2010 (L’Oreal, 2011).

Theory of Consumer Behavior

Behavioral School of Thought: Classical Conditioning

In regards to the core behavioral theories, Schiffman (2008) notes that there are a number of routes through which the conditioning of consumers to buy a particular product can be done. The first route is the classical conditioning in which the consumer links a certain response to a product. For example, in regards to L’Oreal, classical condition will be that using the Voluminous Mascara introduced by the organization, the eyelashes will actually look darker and prettier and the result will be similar to what Ashwariya Rai puts on her eyes. The conditioning stimulus here will be the darker, more volume eyelashes like the ones that Ashwariya Rai appears with. Through the advertisement then the unconditioned response of the consumer who needs to buy mascara turns into a conditioned one.

Behavioral School of Thought: Cognitive Associative Learning

Next, Schiffman (2008) studies the cognitive associative learning behavior. According to this view, the relationship or (congruity) between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus influences the expectations which in turn influences the behavior of the being. This theory believes that the actions that occur after certain stimuli have been provided are in fact learned and occur because of the increase in knowledge. For example in the example above, the purchase of mascara would occur because knowledge about the qualities of the product has been gained. Unlike the cognitive associative behavior however, the classical conditioning believes that the reaction that occurs is actually reflex.

Economic Theory of Consumer Behavior

Apart from these theories, one consumer behavior theory that actually stems out economics more than psychology is the theory of consumer behavior. Irwin (2005) says that the consumers according to the model provided in this theory consumes at a point where there occurs an intersection between the consumer indifference curve (the choice curve of the customer where combinations of consuming two alternative goods achieve the same level of utility or satisfaction to the customer) and the budget constraint of the individual (as understood mostly by the current income levels of the person or the saved up income from a previous period).

This model assumes that the consumers are rational individuals who are responsive to a price change of products and who also have complete information about the product and the alternatives. Also it is assumed that the individual under question is subject to a budget constraint and that he or she has to manage more than one thing in a given period of time speaking financially.

Attitudes in Consumer Behavior

Perner (2011) however studies the theory of consumer behavior which says that the problem solving approaches of the consumers are actually internal (made up of the memory and thinking process of the individuals) and external (made up of the word of mouth, the media, the store visits and the trials amongst others). In this theory then, the evaluating behavior of the individuals are made up either compensatory, non compensatory, hybrid or abandoned strategy. The first one is the decision based on overall value of alternatives. The non compensatory evaluation requires that the consuming decision meets at least one important criterion and the hybrid is a combination of compensatory and non compensatory evaluation types. Finally, the abandoned strategy is when the consumer finds the initial criteria unrealistic and proceeds to a less desirable solution to the problem. Next, Perner (2011) notes that the consuming behavior of an individual is seriously affected by the attitudes of that individual; and that in turn attitudes are affected by the intentions, the beliefs and the feelings about a particular brand.

 As far as L’Oreal is concerned, consumer behavior can be understood critically through these four theories and the findings can be further used to design a strategy to expand the consumer market and the competitive advantage of the market.

Recommended Marketing Strategies

Starting with the attitudes of the consumers, L’Oreal can be added by understanding what beliefs individuals have about the products and services that the brand itself and that the competitors of the brand provide. This can be measured and analyzed through the attitude measure developed by Perner (2011). Next, the feelings of the consumers can be understood through this attitude model. For example, a fan of Ashwariya Rai, or Penelope Cruz (the brand ambassadors of L’Oreal) will feel a push for consuming the product after aggressively understanding how they feel for the product. Also, being there for a century, this brand is also a name through the generations. Understanding those feelings of the consumers will help steer the marketing plan of the organization towards a greater organizational performance overall.

Next, the theory of consumer behavior includes the importance of prices of the product. This is actually one of the core consumer behavior theories and is the most detail about the behaviors of the individuals. In this regard the organization can use the theory to understand what effect a price change of the products and services has on the sales of the organization and the demand of the consumers. Make up, after a certain limit is usually a luxury for individuals and L’Oreal is an expensive brand.

To keep up its market share and to not lose to organizations which are charging a lower price for similar products through the substitution and the income effect it is important for the management of the organization to carefully consider the underpinnings of the theory of consumer behavior. For this purpose, if the price of the good is actually not that far away from the actual investment put into the product in terms of research and development and manufacturing, the organization can actually use the coin of high quality. The perception of consumer about the quality of the product is a vital asset when an organization is designing its price and marketing policies. The better the consumer perceive the quality of a product to be, the more he or she will be willing to spare for that product because they will know that the money is being well spent and that there will be no hazardous consequences of using a particular product.

Conclusion

Nelson (1970) studies that the consumers are continuously busy in the choice making between different products however, the consequences of these choices are dimly known by them. One of the reasons is that they lack full knowledge about the price and quality of the product. The marketers of a business organization then can utilize the consuming behavior and the attitudes of the consumers for the purpose of attracting the maximum share of revenue for the organization.

This research paper studied how the marketers can actually use external factors including the social class, peer pressure, celebrity following and fashion trends to influence the consuming behavior of the consumers.

The second part of the research report analyzed the various theories of consumer behavior. Those theories then were in critically used to apply for the case of L’Oreal Paris, one of the largest multinationals in the world. Dholakia et al (2010) says that in the case of multimedia and multi channel organization like L’Oreal, the analysis of consumer behavior is different than the usual analysis. Finally, for the applied consumer behavior theories, a number of marketing strategies were recommended for L’Oreal.

References

Baker, D. (2003) Consumer Decision Making. 4th Ed. USA: South Western.

Dholakia, H. et al. (2010) Consumer Behavior in a Multichannel, Multimedia Retailing Environment. Journal of Interactive Marketing, Volume 24 (2), Pages 86-95.  

Hawkins (2008) Consumer Behavior. 6th Ed. India: Tata McGraw Hill

Irwin (2005) Theory of Consumer Behavior. USA: McGraw Hill.

Lamb, C., Hair, J. and McDaniel C. (2011) Essential of Marketing. 7th Ed. USA: South Western.

L’Oreal. (2018). L’Oreal Website

Nelson, P. (1970) Information and Consumer Behavior. Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 78 (2), pp. 311-329

Prener, L. (2011) The consumer Behavior: The psychology of marketing.

Schiffman, L and Kanuk, L. (2007) Consumer Behavior. 9th Ed. India: Pearson Education Inc

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Steve Jones

My name is Steve Jones and I’m the creator and administrator of the dissertation topics blog. I’m a senior writer at study-aids.co.uk and hold a BA (hons) Business degree and MBA, I live in Birmingham (just moved here from London), I’m a keen writer, always glued to a book and have an interest in economics theory.

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